The Daily Examen Proper
An outline for the daily examen follows below:
(1) God. How has God shown his love for me today/this morning/this afternoon? Thank God. Living the liturgy is a way of living with God. What feast does the Church celebrate today? What meaning does it have for me?
(2) Self. I pray for the grace of self-knowledge. I ask the Holy Spirit for guidance so that I see my day as God sees it. What is out of control in my life? Where is there too much or too little? What I say to myself is more important than what I say to others. “I do not understand my own actions. For I do not know what I want, but I do the very thing I hate” (Rom 7:15). I pause and reflect.
(3) Others. Did I thank others for their service or kindness? Was I unkind to others? Did I gossip? Did I judge others by their external actions when I cannot know what is really going on inside them? How much tolerance did I have for weakness in others? “See these Christians, how they love one another,” St. John the Apostle was fond of saying to his disciples. Love is a decision shown more by deeds than by words, by accepting people as they are rather than by trying to change them. I am called to love unselfishly those who need my time and energy, my patience, generosity, and wisdom. I pause and reflect.
(4) Circumstances. How strong is my belief in Divine Providence? How did I deal with today’s difficulties? Did I ask God for wisdom? To remove or resolve the adversity that is beyond my control? Did I cast my care on the Lord?
The most authentic manifestation of God’s creative plan reveals itself gently and infallibly in the external events of our lives much more than what we construe through our own discernment. God enters into the very act of our creative struggle – like a mother in childbirth, or like artists bringing forth their labor of love. For the most part, our struggle is not with God but with expectations of ourselves and of others.
When things are going poorly, two approaches present themselves. One is to build up expectations, legitimate in our minds, of ourselves and of others. When things do not follow our plan, conflict ensues and we appeal to anger, self-righteousness or matters of principle. We blame others and ask why they do not behave differently. The other approach is to do whatever possible to change the situation, but to avoid dwelling on expectations. We watch and wait for the events to unfold in God’s creative time. When we notice something that needs our response or intervention, we should plan and act accordingly. The events are there for us to shape, events that will need our creative energy. During difficult times, we need to pray for and practice common sense, balance, and joy.
(5) I express sorrow for my faults, and resolve to do better this afternoon/tomorrow.
(6) I pray for inner peace.
The Importance of Being Earnest
(Column continues below)
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In Early Christianity, it was a crime to be followers of Jesus because they would not bow to paganism. For this affront, the Roman gods were displeased. The disciples believed with implacable faith that Jesus was the way who promised future life. His message defended the dignity of slave and free men and women. This subversive Christianity cared for others, supporting the needy–one could say, as in the first welfare system. They were considered intolerant, exclusive, and dangerous. They had to be destroyed.
It was inconceivable that such a stray minority living in danger of their lives, especially at Eucharistic worship, would overcome paganism. When one thinks that three-quarters of them were slaves, why did they succeed? Their faith remained unbudgeable. In private and in public, they lived quietly and without proselytizing. They went about their work externally blending with others, but internally, their hearts belonged exclusively to the Lord. Christianity spread by example, and they won over the mighty Roman Empire. Many shed their blood, and the heroism of Sts. Anastasia, Perpetua, Lucy, Agnes, and countless others are the Church’s pride and joy.
The moral is all too obvious. The year 2013 begs us resolve that every day will be a fresh beginning for faithful living. Such is the importance of being earnest in public as well as in private. St. Francis of Assisi used to tell his men to go out preaching, and if necessary, to use words.
The Letter to Diognetus
The remarkable second-century letter, written by one Methetes to a disciple Diognetus, has often been quoted to exemplify the thoughts offered above: “For the Christians are distinguished from other men neither by country, nor language, nor the customs which they observe. For they neither inhabit cities of their own, nor employ a peculiar form of speech, nor lead a life which is marked out by any singularity. The course of conduct which they follow has not been devised by any merely human doctrine. But, inhabiting Greek as well as barbarian cities, they display to us their wonderful and confessedly striking method of life.”
They are pilgrims on this earth: at home nowhere and at home everywhere.