Do you like history class? It was one of my favorite subjects (along with anything that wasn't math), but I've heard from a lot of people that they didn't enjoy it much. Friends of mine have told me it's too dry, too boring, and too old. But here's a tough one for you: would history be more interesting if you got to live it? Experience it? Because that's what we're all doing right now.
Make no mistake about it, 2020 will be a year that some kid has to study 50 years from now in their history class. This has been a CRAZY year, with each month seemingly bringing another world-upending event. Political upheaval, Covid-19, racial unrest; you name it, 2020 has had it. Do you ever wonder what people who lived during important historical events thought or did? How they felt, what they changed? What they learned from these monumental events and periods?
News flash: we're those people. We are at a crossroads, a time where we have big choices to make that can significantly impact our lives for years to come. I'm sure you've all heard someone say "I hope we don't go back to normal," or some variant of that once or twice. While it's definitely cliché, it's based in truth. We have an opportunity to use this craziness to change our lives for the better moving forward.
Pre-Covid life was pretty busy, right? We were running back and forth, filling up our schedules with who knows what and leaving little to no time for intentional recharging. But now that being busy isn't a reality for many of us right now, what are we left with? Strip away the sports, the clubs, the office, the school, and what's left? Reminds me of that line from The Avengers: "Big man in a suit of armor. Take that off, what are you?"
Now that all of the distractions are stripped away, we have to figure out what to do with ourselves. I propose a self-examination, and I'm not talking about playing doctor. I'm talking about an examination of your soul, life, and conscience. Sound familiar? It should! An Examination of Conscience is a great way to prepare for the Sacrament of Reconciliation, and hopefully most of us have at least heard of this form of self-examination.
One of those people you likely heard about (but have perhaps forgotten) in history class was Socrates. He was a Greek philosopher who is widely considered to be the father of Western philosophy. While Socrates has many teachings that could fill entire blog posts (or history classes), I want to focus on one of his more popular dogmas: "The unexamined life is not worth living."
What does this mean? Socrates implies that life is deeper, more fulfilling, and more "worth living" if it is examined. But how do we examine our life? It's simple; you look at what is important to you as reflected in your words and actions. In Batman Begins, Batman tells his friend Rachel that "it's not who I am on the inside, but what I do that defines me." He's half right. Who we are on the inside DOES matter, but your actions go a long way in showing what's important to you!
Socrates argues that this type of examination vastly improves one's life, and you know what? He's absolutely right. While Socrates was not Catholic (Jesus had not come into the world yet during his time), he can still offer us insights that help us to grow spiritually. But he's not the only historical figure we're taking a look at this week...
St. Ignatius of Loyola is another proponent of examining oneself. He goes a step further, however, suggesting that the Daily Examen (a way of revisiting the day's events to search for God's presence and direction in our lives) was vital to a strong spiritual life. While we won't go through the whole Examen here, I will share with you its 5 steps if you're interested in trying:
Step 1: Become aware of God's presence
Step 2: Review the day with gratitude
Step 3: Pay attention to your emotions
Step 4: Choose one feature of the day and pray from it
Step 5: Look to tomorrow
Personally this is an effective tool for me. But whether the Examen itself works for you or not, the idea of a daily examination of our lives to find God's presence and purpose for our lives is a solid one for any serious Catholic. The bottom line is that you try! God doesn't ask for perfect prayer, perfect self-reflection, or even perfect Children. He just asks that we try.
I urge you to take this moment of reprieve from the busyness of the outside world to examine yourself. What do you value? What's important to you? Do your words and actions show what's important to you? Only you can answer those questions, and there's no time like the present to do a deep dive into your life and values.
I hope to see you all soon. God Bless,