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 Part 1: Where Am I Spiritually?

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Begin by placing both feet on the floor and moving your neck in small circles.  Focus on your breathing.  
Breathe in the calm of this moment.  
Breathe out the pressures of your day.  
Breathe in energy.
Breathe out disappointment.  

Lent is like going to the doctor for an “annual physical.” But rather than check our heart, lungs, and reflexes Lent invites us to check our commitments, our prayer lives, and our friendships with God and others.  The Lenten season is a great time for an “annual spiritual.”

St. Ignatius, the founder of the Society of Jesus, learned a way to pray that he calls an examen.  It’s a short way to examine or test our attitudes.  Ignatius didn’t grow up taking time and praying this way.  He got stopped by a cannonball.  At 30, a cannon ball shattered Ignatius’s right leg below the knee in a battle to save a Spanish city from the French.  To recover, he returned to his home in Loyola.  When a doctor discovered that his leg had been set wrong on the battlefield, Ignatius ordered him to break his leg again and set it properly.  

During his long painful recovery, Ignatius had only the Life of Christ and the Lives of the Saints to read.  He read them in the way he loved to read adventure stories—with his full imagination, pretending that he was a part of the action.  His reading awakened in Ignatius a desire to begin a new life.  The examen became one of his simple, basic ways to pray.

In the examen (pronounced ex-aye-men) we take our pulse by asking two basic questions about the events of the day—a positive and a negative set of questions.  The examen is not an examination of conscience, in which we ask what I did wrong or what I failed to do.  It is an examination of consciousness—the way I think, feel, and see.

You can make an Examen in many ways.  Here is one:

At the end of the day, take a few deep breaths and center yourself.  Think back on your day and ask yourself these questions:

First, the positive:
What in the happenings of the day energizes and excites me?
What makes me feel I belong?  What connects me with others?  With creation?
How is God stirring in my life and speaking to me?  (Relive that event and receive life again from that moment.)
Give thanks to God for all that happened today.

Second, the negative:
What troubles or threatens me?
What do I replay or regret in the happenings of the day?
Experience again that event or moment without trying to change it or fix it in any way.  Acknowledge sad or painful feelings and hear how God is speaking to you through them.  Give thanks to God for all that happened.

To conclude, reflect on what God is asking of you today.  Make a commitment to pray the examen of consciousness every day.


Prayer

On Ash Wednesday Catholics begin Lent by receiving ashes in the sign of the cross on their foreheads.  This is a visible sign of the season and our recognition we are human, made of dust and the Spirit of God, and need to grow new life each spring.

Make the Sign of the Cross on your forehead and pray:
Loving God,
Help me remember
I am human.
You made me,
And you love me
Just as I am.

Turn to Part 2: Giving My All


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