This post is based on Week Two of An Ignatian Prayer Adventure.
When I was in second grade, I kept a diary. It had a shiny purple cover, a tiny lock and key, and lined pages where I diligently listed what I did each day. This diary became the first of many I would later fill, and I would gradually add worn and well-loved journals (and a few empty ones) to my bookshelves. This collection of journals contains both the mundane, ordinary happenings of daily life as well as my deepest wonderings.
Because this second week of An Ignatian Prayer Adventure focuses on the Examen, I find myself wanting to review my filled diaries and journals. The Examen invites us into a similar process as journaling does—to look back over the raw material of our everyday lives, to reflect on God’s presence in it, and to choose to cooperate with God through our concrete, lived experience. As we make this a daily practice, we begin to see patterns, threads, and our role in the larger story that we are co-authoring with God.
When I was a senior at Boston College, I took a theology course called Praying Our Stories, which explored God’s presence in the everyday experiences and circumstances of our lives. Our capstone project for the class was to write a spiritual autobiography, our own story of faith. An avid journaler at the time, I turned to my entries to guide my story and was suddenly disappointed by their mundaneness, wishing I had a more interesting or action-packed story to share with my class.
This week, during my reflections, I have remembered how often I still fall into this thinking—that God is only found in extraordinary moments of dramatic transcendence. But I have also found renewed consolation. The Examen reminds me that God meets us just where we are: around the table, in the line at the grocery store, in our relationships, while walking to the bus stop, in the silence of the morning or evening, and throughout all our “coming and going” (Psalm 121).
May we be attentive to the Creative Writer who is the author of our stories and who is with us in all things.
I have been journalling since my late 20s.it helps me on my spiritual journey.
Great stuff, Jessie. Ive been journaling since diaconal formation in the 70’s. Your comments reminded me about not just writing but also and more importantly, being grateful.
On New Year’s Eve 1994, I was alone at home, thinking about the year that was just ending, picked up a pen and paper and started writing. That was the beginning of my journal that continues to this day. With a computer, I can write faster and in more details now. It is my daily conversation with Jesus, and I address him directly. Since I am a chronic complainer, I can whine as much as I want and know He won’t mind. I joke with Him, tell Him even the most mundane details of my day. When something happens during the day, good or bad, sad or happy, I can’t wait to talk to Him about it. My journal has become a combination of examen, diary and prayer. I enjoy reading my old entries and seeing in a new way how Jesus is involved in every aspect of my life. I end each entry with thanksgiving and expression of my love for Him. I hope my son would read this when I am gone and perhaps surprise and inspire him.
Spiritual writing, I believe, is writing like no other. For within the composition, you are trying to explain an event within an intimate relationship and like any relationship,an intimate relationship will have the quiet day to day as well as the dramatic turns of fortune. But our Creator so loves our relationship, loves how we are reaching out to the Divinity, that every moment has its own important space in our spiritual growth.
Contemplative ‘Writing ‘ . in prayer and in time and reflection in the ‘silence ‘ .
Thank you for this. I am attempting to write a spiritual autobiography and not finding it easy, maybe because unconsciously I am looking to make it sound interesting in the conventional sense and forgetting to wonder at Gods presence in the everyday minutiae of life. God bless.