Sunday, June 23, 2024

Consciousness Examen: Inspecting Our Attentiveness to the Holy Spirit

Many years ago, when I was teaching elementary school students in northeastern Pennsylvania, I was humbled by the fact that I had absolutely no clue how my students thought. You see, I had been a teacher in the South Bronx for eight years prior to this; I knew how those students thought! But, by obedience to God, I found myself that school year in a Pennsylvania school that was not as diverse as the South Bronx. The first few days of the school year, it became apparent to me that I had no idea what these kids were “into” or how they thought.

In the middle of a religion class that focused on the call of Abraham, one of my students raised his hand and asked, “How did Abraham die?” I responded, “Ah, the Bible does not tell us anything about his death.” A few moments went by and someone in the class retorted, “Sister, wasn’t he shot?” I still had no clue why this was being asked! I asked one of my favorite questions, “Why do you think that?” A third student answered, “Didn’t a guy named Booth do it?” Ok, now I understood! I corrected their misunderstanding that they were thinking about Abraham Lincoln and not Abraham from the Bible. It was all about their perspective!

I cannot help of thinking of this story as I continue my series on prayer as suggested in the book “13 Powerful Ways to Pray” by Father Eamon Tobin. The next type of prayer, which we’ll uncover here, is the Prayer Consciousness Examen. Father Tobin writes, “The purpose of this spiritual exercise is not to tally up the failures or successes of the day, as we often do in the traditional examination of conscience, but to help us to grow in our sensitivity and responsiveness to the voice of the Holy Spirit. The exercise helps us to see how attentive and responsive we were to the Holy Spirit in the encounters and events of a given day. It also helps us to become conscious of how our sinful side may be luring us away from the Father’s loving call and leading us to live a life according to the flesh.”1

Father Tobin’s version of this prayer contains three steps. The steps are his; the explanations are mine.

Step One: Pray to the Holy Spirit for guidance and courage. To begin this type of prayer, it is often beneficial to center oneself and become aware of the presence of God within and around ourselves. Pray to the Holy Spirit at this moment, because the ability to truly see ourselves, our weaknesses and strengths, comes from a grace received by Him. It is a true grace to change our perspectives to those of God! Courage to look at our personal defects is truly needed!

Step Two: As led by the Holy Spirit, reflect on a particular event or encounter. Allow the day to “pass” before you. Stop over conversations, actions or attitudes that surface when you do this. Were these encounters times in which you gave glory to God, or were they moments of failure? Where can you improve, or where did you achieve in following Jesus throughout the day?

Step Three: Offer prayers of thanks, repentance, healing, and petition. Having reflected on your day, its challenges, defects and graces, it is now time to chat with our dearest God about them. For the items of your day that were a blessing for you, share words of gratitude. For the moments that you fell because of personal character flaws, ask for pardon and healing. Bring to Him any concerns you might have at that moment.

Ideally, this prayer should be said before going to bed. But, it can be said at any time of day or night.

Socrates’ old adage, “The unexamined life is not worth living,” is a true gem of practical advice. This type of prayer allows us to do exactly that: examine our life!

1Tobin, Eamon. 13 Powerful Ways to Pray. Beacon Publishing, 2016. Pg. 116.

By Sister Geralyn Schmidt, SCC, The Catholic Witness

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