I’m a newcomer to Ignatian Spirituality, and am learning quite a bit from Fr. James Martin’s new book, Jesuit Guide to (Almost) Everything. I’m about halfway through the book by now and it’s given me a lot to think about, as you can see from Exhibit A: Tape Flags.
|The colors correspond to categories.
Just kidding. The baby helped.
Fr. Martin provides an overview of the five-step prayer known as the Examen. From The Spiritual Exercises:
The First Point is to give thanks to God our Lord for the benefits I have received.
The Second is to ask grace to know my sins and rid myself of them.
The Third is to ask an account of my soul from the hour of rising to the present examen, hour by hour or period by period; first as to thoughts, then words, then deeds, in the same order as was given for the particular examination.
The Fourth is to ask pardon of God our Lord for my faults.
The Fifth is to resolve, with his grace, to amend them.
Close with an Our Father.
Fr. Martin focuses in particular on the third part of the prayer – the review of your day.
“Recall everything: sights, sounds, feelings, tastes, textures, conversations. Thoughts, words, and deeds, as Ignatius says. Each moment offers a window into where God has been in your day.
Now you may say: “I already know what happened today!” But without the discipline of the examen you could miss it.”
I’ll be honest – my first response was definitely not, “I already know what happened today!’ My constant struggle to stick to some sort of daily routine means that I usually lie in bed at night, wondering just what it was that I accomplished. And, of course, the Examen isn’t about tallying up your accomplishments at all. “It’s kind of like having Jesus sit next to you on the sofa, and putting your day into the video machine,” as Mary Albach explains in this nifty little video.
Joe Paprocki has an excellent, excellent format for teaching students about the examen. I definitely want to begin to incorporate the Examen into my prayer life, and I’m also thinking that a “mini-examen” on Wednesday nights might be just the structure I need to become a more reflective catechist.
First – giving thanks for the opportunity to work with these kids every week and to serve them. I always leave class so full of energy, even if the lesson didn’t go as smoothly as I’d envisioned – just being with these the kids, getting to talk to them about their faith, is such a blessing. And thankful for all the other blessings in my life that make it possible for me to even be there in the first place – my health, my husband (who watches the baby so that I can teach CCD), my education, etc.
Second – asking the grace to know my sins – here I’m thinking about the subtle ways in which I may have slipped into my default “flippant wisecrack” mode, for example, or my reluctance to talk about a difficult teaching because I’m concerned about being liked by the students.
Third – replaying the class, trying to envision how the students responded, what I was thinking, what might have gone better – I always tell myself I’m going to do this, but I generally move onto a new topic once I’ve loaded my own kids back into the van and am headed home.
Fourth – asking pardon
Fifth – resolving to amend my faults, and also thinking about what I’m going to do next time to follow up with the kids
What do you think? I’d love to hear from others who are more knowledgeable about Ignatian spirituality as to how its influenced you – either specifically as a catechist, or in a more general sense.
Oh, snap – here comes the usual disclaimer: Catechist Chat will be an ongoing series of posts for teachers in religious education programs. It is based on my personal experience and not on any statistical evidence of the effectiveness of my advice. Suscribe to my feed to follow along, and Caveat lector, which is Latin for “your mileage may vary.”
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