Examen Yourself!

About six weeks ago my spiritual director suggested I start making the Ignatian Examen each night. I’ve been finding myself in a rut when it comes to prayer and he thought this might be a good avenue to take.

The daily Examen calls us to take a look at our day with God. It asks us to sit for a few moments with him to review our day, thank him for the goodness we’ve experienced in it and the sins we may have committed. It’s very much like an examination of conscience yet I have found myself spending more personal time with Christ then I do when I go through just my sins.

I find myself spending more time trying to see where God has been working in my life or at least where he has been trying to work in my life. It requires me to strive to see his presence and grace in every aspect of the day. Many faults and failings might come through yet there are many instances in which I am reminded of how God showed himself to me.

The smile of a coworker, the kind words from a patient, the moment which seemed bothersome all reveal God to me. And then there are the instances in which I may recall where I did not fully live up to the life I am called to both as a Catholic and an Oblate. The rushing through prayer, the forgetfulness of God in the business and chaos of life. Each instance calls me to look with Christ at these moments where I could have cooperated with him better and to make the resolution to do so.

The ending of the Examen asks me to look forward to the next day with all the challenges and all the joys I might experience and to place them in God’s hands. I resolve to do better with that difficult individual or to speak kinder with the one the tests my patience. I resolve to go a bit slower in prayer and to see his presence in all situations and all people that come my way.

How does this relate to my life as an oblate? In a variety of different ways. Making the Examen helps me to see the graces God has given me through my life as an oblate. I have grown closer to God as I strive to live out the monastic idea in my secular life. I find myself each day trying to be not only Catholic values but monastic values into my life and the lives of others. It also helps me to see where I have failed at times to not live up to the promises I made years ago.

I have also found that this time is an intimate moment with God. It allows him in to the humdrum moments of my life and to sanctify them. It allows him to teach me in ways I would never have been taught if my life was not examined.

Although this practice might be “Ignatian” I think it fits quite well into the monastic life. The monastic promise of conversatio morum calls us to a life of conversion and a life of dedication. One cannot grow if that life is not examined in the light of Christ.

Silence – Life for the Soul

Silence is a prerequisite to hearing the voice of God. Actually, it is the only language he speaks. Life is filled with so much noise – iPhones and iPads. Laptops and game consoles fill my life and pull my attention away to readily. In turn the voice of God is pushed out of my life and I struggle at times – like most people – with being able to put them down.

What others call communication I am easily seeing as only distraction. These tools which can be used for so much good are also too readily used for hatred and violence. Speech which very few would have face to face is easily typed out without thought.

St. Benedict reminds us that even good speech should be measured because it can and will eventually lead us into sin: “Indeed, so important is silence that permission to speak should seldom be granted even to mature disciples, no matter how good or holy or constructive their talk, because it is written: In a flood of words you will not avoid sin.” (RB, 6:3-4).

It is difficult for us oblates to find silence in the chaotic world we live in. My day at work is spent in talking to patients and coworkers. Communication is not only needed but excellent communication is required for the safety of others. By the time I hit the road for home I am exhausted from speaking to others and try to remain in silence on the trip home. This is not only a moment of respite for me but also an opportunity to prepare myself to speak again but this time in the Liturgy of the Hours.

The nights are spent in more silence as I try to read for a few hours but even this is not true silence. At times I find this too pulling me away from prayer and instead filling up the mind so that random thoughts might not cross it.

Because of my need for a greater time of silence I have begun visiting Christ more frequently in Eucharistic Adoration. It seems to be the only place in which I can be present to nothing other than Him. It is a time in which I can simply be without having to do and I have found it to breathe life into my soul.

These cherished moments of adoration are not spent in reading or much prayer. In all honesty when I see others reading in the adoration chapel I’m a bit annoyed. If Jesus were physically in front of me would I pick up a book to find something to say to him or would I simply speak? That’s my thought on it but I recognize that others have their reasons too.

When I do not find the time for silence I recognize it in my daily life. More agitation and anxiety creep in and instead of peace, chaos pervades. St. Benedict is wise in instructing his followers for the need of silence, not only to avoid sin but to be more present to God and to others. If we cannot speak by our actions then maybe we should also keep our mouths shut.