Tuesday, January 03, 2012

Starting over

One great thing about starting a new year is that feeling of getting a fresh start. This is the secular equivalent, you might say, of that call to conversion we hear at every Mass: the moment to acknowledge our sins and so prepare ourselves to praise God. Our publishing house just released a new book on this very theme. Well, technically it's on the Ignatian practice of the "examen," but I am finding it quite helpful in clearing up some of my own misconceptions about conversion in the spiritual life. I'm only on chapter 1, so I can't give you a very good summary of the book (sorry about that).

I am looking forward to seeing how this book can help me take advantage of the moments of recollection built into my day to keep up with all that God is doing in my life. It may be a little like following someone on Twitter: the more you keep up with their tweets, the more of a sense you have of who this person is and how he or she responds to life as a whole. The examen helps us follow God's tweets in our life, helping us develop a continuing awareness of God's presence, yes, but also of God's "take" on the things that we encounter through the day.

Just from the one chapter I am still reading, I get an image of this life of communion with God through the day's ups and downs as one of rowing a boat with Jesus. As we row together, I begin to sense how he responds to the waves; where he braces one foot against the floor of the pirogue to keep moving ahead against the winds, or how he leans in when we go through someone else's wake. I am learning the maritime "rules," not as regulations, but as an absorbed wisdom. By accepting that wisdom, I will live a communion with God that is not contrived or superficial, but really "life." I think that it is this communion that is the real point and goal of the examen. (At least, that's my motivation for making it a spiritual practice!)

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