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Becoming a Better Person

One of my Lenten resolutions (well, actually, a New Year’s resolution, but that’s a different story) is to pray, on a daily basis, a prayer based on Ignatius of Loyola’s “examen of conscious.”

The “examen” encourages the person who is praying to search for the ways that God was present in the day-to-day events of our ordinary life.

At one point in the prayer, you’re encouraged to look back over the past 24 hours, recalling who you were with…what you said…how you might have been torn between different thoughts or courses of actions. In all this, you are to search for “the internal events of your heart.”

As the guide says, “Many situations will show that your heart was divided…moving between hope and hesitation, helping or disregarding, scoffing or encouraging, listening or ignoring, rebuking or forgiving, a word or silence, neglecting or thanking.”

I’ll say this: keeping that Lenten resolution -- to take a good honest look at the internal events of my heart -- is a heckuva lot more difficult than giving up alcohol or caffeine or excessive email/internet or sweets or anything else I’m doing or have done.

After all, we can go forty days and successfully complete those other Lenten resolutions, but at the end, never even have touched the nasty, self-centered, mean-spirited tendencies inside of us.

But the examen -- wow -- on a daily basis, I’m in touch with who I am, how I am with others, and therefore how far I have to go in the faith.

The other day, as a way to help me remember the prayer throughout the day, I re-wrote the paragraph in the style of the famous prayer attributed to St. Francis of Assisi. So with apologies to Assisi, here it is, in the hope it helps remind you, too, of the true meaning of Lent, namely, to be drawn closer to God and to become a better person:

Lord, make me an instrument of your grace:
Where there is hesitation, let me sow hope.
Where there is disregard, let me sow help.
Where there is scoffing, let me encourage.
Where there is ignoring, let me listen.
Where there is rebuking, let me forgive.
Where there is chatter, let me be silent.
Where there is neglect, let me be thankful.
Grant that I may not so much be full of resolve as desirous of rescue,
Work hard as to cooperate
Strive as to surrender
To your grace, love and mercy.


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