I am writing this on Ash Wednesday, but you will not see it until the First Sunday of Lent. As I write it, there is talk of snow on Sunday, so maybe you won’t be reading it! Lent is always one of my favorite times of the liturgical year since it gives me the motivation to practice some discipline and pay attention to what is most important in life: listening for the promptings of God deep within my heart.
I am greatly influenced by the spirituality of St. Ignatius. One of the highlights of my life was doing a 30 day silent retreat with a Jesuit trained in giving the Spiritual Exercises of Ignatius. One of its main purposes is to teach us true freedom so that we may use the things of this world wisely. Ignatius says, “Consequently, as far as we are concerned, we should not prefer health to sickness, riches to poverty, honor to dishonor, a long life to a short one. The same true is true in all things.”
When sickness, or a fractured knee comes, we learn that God can come to us in vulnerability and change. The secret is to keep your eyes and ears open for his presence in your dally life. The more you watch for the Lord, the more you see his presence. One of the most powerful means to notice the Lord in your life is the daily examination of consciousness. There are many ways to do this prayer. Here is one from Fr. Jim Blumeyer, S.J. found in his article “Finding God the Ignatian Way.” In this prayer you review your day either in twelve or 24 hour blocks. First you ask the Lord to show you where He was in it all. Then review the day as if seeing it on a video. Blumeyer suggests asking yourself these questions:
1. What energies dominated your mind and heart this day? Did they bring you closer to or further away from God?
2. Where was I inattentive to the sense of beauty, truth, and goodness in my life today?
3. Where did I fail to respond to the needs of others?
4. Did I experience any regret about this day?
5. What am I most grateful for this day?
Doing this exercise each day will lead to a significant Lent. The better your Lent, the more joyful your Easter!