The Colloquial Examen

August 2nd, 2020 Posted in Uncategorized | No Comments »

Saint Ignatius of Loyola was convinced of the value of what is called the Examen, a way of searching one’s day in order to become aware of where God was operating and ask how I could improve my praise, reverence, and service of God.

The Examen can be made in a very formal and organized fashion, starting by putting oneself in God’s presence, invoking the Holy Spirit, reviewing the day, looking to the next day, and ending with an Our Father.

But Ignatius suggested other ways to pray, for instance using our imaginations by imagining ourselves in a situation or gospel story often ending with making a colloquium with God. A colloquium is a way to pray in which a person would speak to God in a familiar way, like friends talk with each other.

Last summer I was working at a parish in Omaha, and almost every day for six weeks a very good friend of mine and I would either meet for lunch or take a break in the day to sit outside at a coffee shop, enjoying the day, a cup of coffee, a roll or ice cream, and talk — often starting out by one of us asking the other something like, “So, what’s been happening in your life today?”

I wondered if my Examen could be done in a similar way, and I have found that imagining God and I meeting up like that, asking each other what we’ve been doing or thinking about, is a good way for me to pray the Examen. And since (no surprise!) God and I and seem to be not always thinking about the same things, it helps our relationship grow.

If you practice the Examen, you may prefer the more traditional and formal way; but you might also want to try what I’ve come to call the “colloquial Examen.” I’ve never been disappointed when I pray the Examen that way.

Commands and Desires

July 3rd, 2020 Posted in Uncategorized | No Comments »

In third grade religion class, we memorized the Ten Commandments, which contained the “do”s and “don’t”s we were supposed to follow if we wanted to go to Heaven.

The “do”s were to worship God alone, honor our parents, keep holy the sabbath and rest on it. The “don’t”s slightly outnumbered the “do”s: don’t steal, don’t lie, don’t murder, don’t use God’s name in vain, don’t bear false witness, don’t covet things that aren’t rightfully yours, and don’t commit adultery (we weren’t quite sure what adultery was until the later grades, just that we shouldn’t do it).

We learned the things to do and the things not to, but that was about it. We didn’t know that what we were learning were not God’s orders for us but his desires for us and the world he wanted us to live in, where God was respected, people were cared for and kept each other safe and people could be trusted to keep their word. Thus, the Ten Commandments are, at heart, not so much a matter of obedience but love: God’s love for us and our love for God.

Faith Hope and Love Today

May 17th, 2020 Posted in Uncategorized | No Comments »

These three are linked together as virtues that mark a Christian’s life. They are virtues of heart, mind and soul that we need in order to make it through the challenges of life

Faith is not just about having a correct understanding about God’s existence and attributes, but also about putting our trust in God, in effect saying to God, “We believe it when you say you love us and will hold fast to your promise to always love us.”

Hope is depending that God’s power and care can “do infinitely more than we can ask or imagine.” (Ephesians 3: 20-21). Even when we do not know precisely when or how that will happen, we know that it will.

Love, according to St. Paul, is the greatest of God’s gifts, opening our hearts to love God, our neighbors and ourselves. It lets us see that we are all brothers and sisters to one another and that we are one family.

Truly, we need to ask God to continue to bless us with faith, hope and love. But we also need to practice “doing” them by consciously and frequently entrusting our lives to God, putting our hopes and desires into his hands, and being patient and kind, not being inflated, pompous or rude.(1 Corinthians 13:4-6)

Then, even in difficult times like our own, we may live gracefully and with peace.

In the Darkness…Pandemic 2020

April 13th, 2020 Posted in Uncategorized | No Comments »

In the book of prayers and readings a priest reads each day, i sometimes run across a phrase or sentence that catches my attention. I lately came upon these words from the Book of Exodus: [on Mount Sinai] Moses drew near to the thick darkness where God was.

But what struck me were the words “where God was.” Moses stepped into the thick darkness, encountered God there and was given the Law that would define define Israel’s identity and destiny.

We can certainly resonate with the notion of “thick darkness” for it describes our days living through the present pandemic with all its suffering, fear, uncertainty and mourning of the dead.

Though few of us, whether individuals or families, cities or nations, look forward to being in darkness. But if we trust that God can meet us in our darkness, then we can, perhaps, find the darkness becoming less dark, and we may even emerge with a clearer sense of who we are and what we need to do and to be in the future.

So, may our future days be brighter, and may we continue to look for God in all our days with faith, hope, courage and love for one another. We may have to look hard, but God is there for us as he was for Moses.

Hidden Blessings

March 28th, 2020 Posted in Uncategorized | No Comments »

When we look back over these last few days, weeks and months many of us can’t help wondering, “Where did this virus and pandemic come from?” and “What does it mean?”  The first question may not have a clear answer, but we want to know how it got here because such knowledge may help us understand it now and give us a handle on what signs we need to look for in order to prevent a recurrence. The answer will surely come from the disciplines of science, medicine and demographics.

But the question of what it means for us is not so easily answered, and certainly not by science, because each individual will respond based on his or her experiences. Some people may experience the virus and pandemic as God’s punishment for sin, while others may feel it is a “ test.”

I prefer to think the virus and pandemic are opportunities, and as such, have something positive to give and teach us. For instance, the social distancing that has come with the virus has made me see how important my friendships are, especially those which span many years but which I sometimes take for granted. The virus has motivated me to learn skills like FaceTime and WhatsApp, which let me not just think about people but actually see them and talk with them. I would probably never had done so without the virus.

A second gift that the experience of the virus has given me  is that I am more aware of people I haven’t really noticed or paid attention to before. Previously I would be aware of them but not really see them. Now  when I go into a grocery store or pharmacy I’m more likely to  see the employees  as individuals, each one facing the same kind of challenges that I do, and I realize that we do all share a kinship, whether spoken or unspoken. And what we are experiencing right now has been the experience of many people in other countries throughout the world. We are truly all in this together. 

Lastly, the virus gives me the reminder that I need to put into God’s hands myself, the ones I love and people I don’t even know. Then I find it easier to take seriously Christ’s command to depend on God and not be afraid. We may not be able to attend church right now, but at every moment God works in the way we need, and will be walking with us and, when necessary, carrying us —- all of us —- in his arms.

So, are these difficult and challenging times? Absolutely! But God is still able to meet us and bless us, even there. 

Frank Majka, S.J.