This has been an ‘other-worldly’ sort of Lenten journey. I wonder if this is just what happens sometimes…where a person feels somehow ‘vacant’. My prayers are not deeply profound or full to the brim with imagery. They are of the ‘simple’ variety. I know that sometimes writers and great spiritual people of history have experienced what they call the desert….perhaps I am in a desert. I just don’t know.
In Le Petit Prince par Antoine de Saint-Exupery, the desert is a place where a huge narrative unfolds. The story is child like in its flavour, but in its simplicity are found the profundities of life. The taste of water, for example, is so much better with the hard work if one is collecting that water from a well. Sometimes, at the turning of a tap, we have no appreciation for that water and can easily take it for granted.
Another insight, “It is only with the heart that one can see rightly. What is essential is invisible to the eyes.” In faith, there is so much that is not clearly evident to all. This truth is echoing what the writer gleaned from John 20: 29. New International Version (©2011)
Then Jesus told him, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”
So, the meeting in the desert between the Little Prince and the pilot offer the reader many inspired thoughts, meant for us to see our lives differently and to place value on ‘matters of consequence’ as they are…not as we, in this earthy experience, believe them to be.
Jesus meets his father in the desert. He experiences ridicule and temptation. He transcends and comes to acceptance in the desert. Some days I know that I’m not so great at imitating these and think that this must be because ‘my desert’ is different…but no, they are one in the same. And…the ball is in my court. I have a will…I make choices…and it is in me to, without being self-righteous, to do the right thing.
For me, a guide through the desert, is simply expressed through the five steps of St. Ignatius of Loyola’s spirituality. I collected this summary from a talk given by Dorothea Marie Epple PhD. LCSW. I am most interested in her publications because she has explored the topics of senile dementia of the Alzheimer’s type and what this means for families, communities and our future together. There is no desert that compares to the one where my mother and father find themselves, struggling together on a daily basis and seeing face-to-face the matters of consequence that I mention briefly above.
The Daily Examen in Five Steps
I assume that there are three kinds of thoughts in myself. That is, one kind is my own, which arises strictly from my own freedom and desire; and the other two come from outside myself, the one from the good spirit and the other from the evil.” (St. Ignatiusas cited in Ganss, 1991, p. 132) The daily examen is a simple prayer, with five steps, to examine your day for signs of God’s presence (Martin, 2010). The prayer is about finding God in your life and letting God find you. The first step is giving thanks for the good things in your day – gratitude. Savor the moment: the sunshine on a cold winter snowy day, the giggle of a child, the bloom of a flower, the kind word from a colleague, the unexplained and unexpected resolution to a difficult situation. To stop, notice, enjoy, savor and show gratitude slows us down. Martin (2010) quotes Anthony de Mellow, “You sanctify whatever you are grateful for” (p. 89). The second step in the examen is to ask for the grace to know where you acted contrary to better judgment. Martin (2010) states, “Today guilt may be undervalued. The voice of our conscience, which tells us we did something wrong and moves us to make amends, is a voice that can lead us to become more loving and ultimately, happier” (p. 89). He goes on to recognize that sins of omission or failing to bother to help another may be insights into a lack of responding to God’s invitation to grow. The third step of the examen is to review your day. Recall everything, thoughts words, and deeds. The fourth step of the examen is to ask for forgiveness from God for sins or omissions of the day. Decide if you will reconcile with anyone you have hurt. The fifth step is asking for the grace of God’s help in the next day. There is no one right way to pray the examen. Dorothy Day revised her daily examen to the following steps: thank God for favors, beg for light and grace to see clearly, survey, repent, resolve (Ellsberg, 2008). The examen helps you to realize the presence of God…by asking you to notice where God already exists in your life, where your yesterdays were beautiful. With that awareness you will begin to notice God’s presence more and more in your day. (Martin, 2010, p. 102)
“God looks at me, and I look at God” (Martin, 2010)