On this last day of 2016 I find myself truly wanting to reflect on this past year with an eye toward growing in love in the coming year. I don’t usually make “new year resolutions.” If I find something that needs to be “resolved” in April or September, I certainly am not going to wait until January 1st to take action! But today I’ve encountered the Jesuit practice of “Examen of Consciousness” twice in the last hour. There must be something to this that demands my attention.
Throughout this year the daily meditations from Fr. Richard Rohr at the Center for Action and Contemplation have focused on a single theme: Love. As a sample, here is yesterday’s reflection (I especially like the last 2 paragraphs). Although it sounds simple enough, this theme of love is the foundation of Christianity and all major religions, and it is hard to put love into practice in a world full of violence, hatred, fear, ego, and injustice. I must admit to more than one occasion where I purposefully avoided reading Rohr’s reflections because I just couldn’t love anymore. My own ego and sense of righteousness got in the way of my ability to see God in the faces of others. I was, in effect, wallowing in a kind of adolescent selfishness.
During the Advent and Christmas seasons I’ve also been getting daily reflections from Loyola Press and Ignatian Spirituality. Here the author Vinita Hampton Wright shares the 5-step practice of the Examen. I like Rohr’s simplified version from today’s meditative practice, too:
Practice: Examen of Consciousness
St. Ignatius of Loyola (1491–1556), founder of the Society of Jesus or Jesuits, proposed a daily exercise which he called the Examen of Consciousness or the Daily Examen—a simple exercise in discernment. Rather than focusing on what went right or wrong, how you failed or succeeded throughout the day, this exercise encourages you to reflect on moments when you were aware of God—when you were present to Love—and those times when you were forgetful or distracted.
Center yourself in silence and an awareness of God’s presence. Recall the day—or, on this New Year’s Eve, the entire past year—with an open spirit. Notice the emotions, sensations, and thoughts that arise as you review recent events. Let your attention settle on one of these instances and look for God’s presence within it, whether you were aware at the time or not. Pray from this memory and within this present moment.
Release the day (or year) with gratitude and rest in God’s love.
If I am truly honest in my necessary Examen of 2016, I think I may need all of January 2017 to reflect on this past year in order to make a plan for the new year. Hopefully I’ll learn new habits that will allow me to love others more fully, more readily, and more joyfully.
Happy New Year!
May we all find ways to love ourselves and others as God loves (1 Cor. 13).