Discombobulated

I don’t know about you but the weather this month has left me sort of confused, out of sorts, discombobulated. I find that the lack of a normal schedule, caused by these incessant storms, disrupts my routine such that I fall out of my normal routine and for me that can spell disaster. 

Waking up early to plow the snow from the driveway, or scraping off the icicles from the gutters, will most often disrupt the rest of my day. My morning prayer in the Breviary may be forgotten. Even a meal or two may be passed over. Masses on campus have had to be cancelled. We don’t see the students as much and that begins to affect everything else. I think this semester, so far, feels like we’ve been off campus more than we have been on! We all love a snow day, but at this point, I’ve heard many students say, “Enough is enough!” So, from a post I read on Facebook, I’ll restate the sentiment, “Please, whoever is praying for snow, please stop!”

I miss my usual routines. Routines are patterns of behavior that we repeat often. We all have them. We’re all creatures of habit. Some routines are positive and some types of routines drain us and rob us of a good life. Sometimes our routines can get disrupted and it can throw us for a loop as these snowstorms have. Other times, a life situation or a change can cause us to abandon our routine or perhaps begin a new one. 

This weekend I am on retreat with young adults from the diocese and from UMass Dartmouth. We are on the “Who Do You Say I Am — The Jesus Retreat.” Stepping away from my regular routine, as well as this crazy weather pattern, has given me an opportunity to think about routines, specifically about making room for God in our lives. That somewhat worries me and I want to be sure to keep Him in mind as old routines end and new routines develop in the months ahead. After all, this is the time of year that the weather changes (for the better, hopefully!) and daylight is extended. As a result of these and other changes, we may find our daily routines changing a bit.

I mention this to you because I’ve noticed in the last month with all of the snowstorms, and in my life in general, I can sometimes replace good routines with a less worthwhile routine and then wonder what happened. What about you? Will you get out of the routine of studying since so many classes and school days have been disrupted? With the great number of snow days did you pick up a bad habit as a result of having so much time on your hands or did you use the extra free time on snow days to improve a part of your life by reading a book or going to the gym. 

As the spring approaches, and daylight is extended, we’ll have more time in the day for activities. Will you hang out with others who may build you up or bring you down? Will you make more room for God in your life or will you place Him on the shelf until you need Him?

So, how do things stand between you and God? Where are you coming from, and where is your life in Christ growing? We can answer such questions satisfactorily only if we take time to reflect. A retreat is a perfect opportunity to break the ordinary routine of our lives and open us up to new opportunities. The Charis Jesus Retreat that we are currently experiencing is a retreat program here in the Diocese of Fall River, specifically for young adults. It is a Jesuit retreat built on the teachings of St. Ignatius of Loyola. 

During this retreat we have an opportunity to learn and pray the Examen as one of many prayer types we will experience this weekend. The Daily Examen is a technique of prayerful reflection on the events of the day in order to detect God’s presence and discern His direction for us. I have utilized this form of prayer routine each evening for a number of years. Sometimes we just don’t know how to pray and as a result we revert to the rote prayers of our youth and that becomes our routine. Because we aren’t actively engaged in conversation with God, we may soon just say the words without much thought. I know that’s what happened to me. I have found this Examen format a good daily “just before bedtime routine” for me. It keeps me engaged and thoughtful. It’s a routine but it isn’t rote. It changes daily depending on what I’ve done and what God wants me to learn. I find it worthwhile, easy to follow and powerful. It doesn’t take a lot of time either. There are five simple steps to the Examen, which should take about 15 minutes to complete. This prayer can be made anywhere — on the beach, in a car, at home, in the library. I present it here for your consideration.

This short prayer exercise, Adapted from Joseph Tetlow’s “Choosing Christ in the World,” seeks to increase our sensitivity to God working in our lives and to provide us with the enlightenment necessary to cooperate with and respond to God’s presence. 

Step 1: Giving thanks — I take time to thank God for the good things that came into my day. I review the many details of the day in no particular order. For instance, I thank God for sunshine, for getting an article written on time, for feeling good, for my family, for having the ability and energy to complete my work. In this process, I may well come across some action that I did or some emotion or desire that I entertained for which I cannot thank God, since it was offensive or sinful.

Step 2: Asking for light — I then ask the Holy Spirit to show me what God wants me to see and how I am growing more fully alive in God as a result of all that He has given me.

Step 3: Finding good in all things — Then I look over the events of the day. I ask the Holy Spirit to show me where God has been present in my life, either in me personally or in others, and in what God has been asking of me. I try to look over my moods, feelings, and urges to see what stands out even slightly. I look for such things as joy, pain, turmoil, increase (or decrease) of love, anger, harmony, anxiety, freedom, presence of God, or isolation. In what general direction do I think that God is drawing me? How have I been responding to these experiences or situations that draw me toward the Lord and which invite me to be more like Jesus? 

Step 4: Responding to God in dialogue —  Now it’s time to chat with God. I try to determine if there is any one area that I’m being nudged to focus my attention on, to pray more seriously over, to take action on? This is where my energy needs to be exerted instead of on the many other things I may think are important. I discuss this with Jesus, expressing what needs to be expressed: praise, sorrow, gratitude, desire for change, intercession, etc.

Step 5: Asking for help and guidance for tomorrow —  Here I ask God to give me what I need for tomorrow. I place my trust in God and not in myself. He never lets me down.

Since I began utilizing this prayer routine I feel that it has helped me see God working in my life and it helps me recognize and receive God’s care and assistance. St. Ignatius told his Jesuit brothers that the Examen is the one prayer they should not eliminate; it is the one prayer they absolutely must engage in every single day. The Examen is a simple prayer, a prayer for busy people who are continually seeking to do the Lord’s will, like me. In any case, in whatever way you choose to engage and dialogue with God, be sure to make room in your routine for Him each and every day.

Well, it’s time to go downstairs to join the retreatants for our first experience of the Examen prayer this weekend. I hope that it is as helpful to them as it has been to me, and helps you and them to learn about themselves and about how God is working in their life. 

The weather has disrupted our routines and perhaps time dedicated to prayer each day. Spending some 15 minutes with God before bed can help us detect God’s presence in our lives and to discern His direction for us. It’s one routine worth having.

DeaconFrankLucca@comcast.net

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