Lent starts this week…already…wow. Wasn’t Christmas just yesterday? Time seems to fly lately..faster than usual. I am not complaining, though…I really LOVE Lent and Easter…maybe even more than Christmas (gasp!), because of the focus on the greatest gift that was ever given, our Savior’s life for the redemption of sinful man. I have not been striving this year to come up with a plan for Lent, but one has kind of fallen into place nonetheless.
I have recently been challenged to participate in the daily examen, that is, a daily exercise in praying backward through my day and examining myself, my actions, thoughts, motives…my awareness of God’s hand in my day.
I am still not sure I am doing it right. Before becoming Catholic, I heard very little about self examination, other than the teaching of my dear Mother on the instruction of making sure I was right with God before receiving communion. She had a deep understanding of the danger of receiving Holy Communion unworthily, or with unrepented sin.
I am still learning how to keep an informed, clean conscience; and the practice of a daily examen has been a wonderful tool to aid in this, but my self-discipline (or lack thereof) has prevented me from truly apprehending it in the way it was designed. Part of my Lenten sacrifice this year will be to focus on this Examen at least once a day. I have been working on my spiritual reading and devotions to make them the first part of my daily routine, and have been wanting to add something to the end of my day, kind of a sandwich effect, I guess…implementing the examen before my regular bedtime prayers just sounds like an effective way to do that.
I have found a couple really good apps to aid in praying the Examen. The first is a guided Examen, with video instruction on how to pray each section. There is a journal feature on this one that is invaluable for me, as I am an outward processor of information, that is, I feel a need to hear myself think, and often talk to myself or the nearest trusted friend I can find to gain understanding and clarity in a given situation. Journaling is like a friend, and while I much prefer the handwritten kind of journaling, I have found that the privacy of a password to allow me to more fully develop my thoughts, without fear of an unintended audience…also, I cannot write as fast or as clearly as I think, so typing allows me to get more of my thoughts in before they flit from my mind, or I forget why I had that thought spark in my head in the first place. Anyway, you can check out this app here, and I would love to know if you are using it, how do you like it?
The second is a collection of different meditations in the examen format. My spiritual director introduced me to this website, and I found an app for it as well. The variety of thoughts and prayers keep my poor brain from feeling stuck in a rut. While I much prefer the format of my first suggestion, I still plan to use this app for when I feel the need to change things up. It does not have the journal feature, so I keep a page in my regular paper journal for recording my prayers and thoughts through this examination. Again, because of the nature of a handwritten journal, I am not comfortable going too deep or detailing like I can in the first, so while I love the format of this and the variety, because of the way I am wired, it is not my first choice….but it may be just the right thing for one of my readers :).
For Lent, I also plan to incorporate more reading into my day. I have two books on my list for right now, the first, St. Faustina’s diary. Ever since one of my favorite bloggers talked of this resource, and I was introduced to the Divine Mercy Chaplet (right around the same time, isn’t the Holy Spirit awesome like that!?) I have been fascinated (and not a little overwhelmed) with St. Faustina and her message of the Divine Mercy. I have had this book sitting on my shelf for over a year, and had forgotten I had it, actually…Fr. Ken Geraci’s session on the Divine Mercy at our recent parish mission re-ignited the desire to get more acquainted with St. Faustina, and I pulled the book out to try to read again. I will be reading it through Lent, and praying the Divine Mercy at 3pm as suggested.
I am praying that this Lent will develop spiritual discipline into my routine, and bring me closer to Jesus through the lives and teachings of His people. What are your Lenten plans?