This post is based on Week Three of An Ignatian Prayer Adventure.
How does one write a short blog post on the interior sin that lies deep within a person’s heart? I remember the first time I entered into this exercise, I did it with my spiritual director, Jim, and—like a good Jesuit—he kept pushing me to go deeper. He asked questions like, “Why do you act in this way?”, “What draws you to these actions and behaviors?” and, my favorite, “Is that what you really think?”
The mediations that struck me this week were day five, “My Own History of Sin,” and day six, “Sorrow for Sin.” In these reflections we are asked to examine the sin present in our lives since childhood. St. Ignatius writes:
I will call to memory all the sins of my life, looking at them year by year or period by period. For this three things will be helpful: first, the locality or house where I lived; second, the associations which I had with others; third, the occupation I was pursuing. (SE 56)
At first I found this task to be impossible, but the more I sat with it, the more I became aware of sin in my life. I came to remember the house I was raised in, important role models, and even the random jobs I had. Surprisingly, I began to see how some of my sinful actions and bad habits were rooted in my childhood experiences and my longing to prove my own self-worth. I discovered attitudes, tendencies, and intentions that I never realized were inside me.
At the core of it all was a child who was scared to be alone and addicted to winning the approval of others. And at the same time, these deep anxieties were filled with a sense of self-centeredness, entitlement, and an ego that could fill the Grand Canyon.
Sin finds a way into the places we are afraid to go, and Jim brought me face to face with the interior “junk” that I never wrestled with. In fact, I found Jim at a point where my ego and self-centeredness were killing me and I didn’t even know it. These reflections and conversations reminded me that I wasn’t invincible. They instilled in me a healthy sense of shame, and my sense of sorrow was tangible and true.
And so this Lent, in my endeavors to recall my sin, I thank God for the strength to wrestle with my weakness—because coming face to face with sin is profoundly different when you know where it lives.
I give thanks to the God who has looked upon me with mercy.
I give thanks to the God who heals and restores me to His love and grace.
And I give thanks to the God who always remembers me as a loved sinner.
A challenging message it is, that we may know the gravity of our sins no matter how little they are…and turn to God for mercy.
This article has been so helpful to me. Digging into my sins from way back is, I should say, so “heavy” in my heart. Not that I murdered somebody, but those sins, big and small, amounted to a pile! Though I go to confession from time to time, It was unbelievable.
I live in Las Vegas, Nevada. How can I get in touch with Jesuit spiritual director. Perhaps that’s my real desire.
Thank you so much.
Thank you for this posting. I live in Westbury, New York. Is there a spiritual director in my area? I would like some help in finding my history of sin.
Hi Steven, I’m so grateful for your post. I took some time to do some research and you are actually not far from Fordham University. Take a look at this link (http://www.fordham.edu/mission/mission_and_ministry/campus_ministry/campus_ministry_at_f/explore_campus_minis/spiritual_exercises__80058.asp) and scroll all the way down. Sometimes all it takes is a good reference and some good direction. Best of luck… I’m happy to help if you need any more advice. You can find my contact info on my website!
Hi Steven, you might also find learning, support and challenge from Sacred Story Institute http://sacredstory.net. Fr. William M. (Bill) Watson SJ founded this institute for Ignatian Spirituality and wrote the book “Forty Weeks: An Ignatian Path to Christ with Sacred Story Prayer” (2012) for use as self-study and for parish small faith community development. Twenty one parishes in the Archdiocese of Seattle are participating in the program this year. I lead the process in my parish. The central focus is on the individual as a “loved sinner”. Best wishes.
Thank you, Jurell, for a well-written, heartfelt post on a difficult subject…and for the reminder that we are ‘loved sinners.’ Mary
Thanks for always stopping by to my blogs!!! 🙂
I forwarded this to beloved friends.
The Catholic Church is bigger on the inside than it appears to be from the outside.
This blog eloquently offers a peek into the beautiful enormity of that reality.
Thanks for forwarding Barbara. I agree with you when you say there is so much more when we deeper into our Catholic hearts. For this reason, I love Ignatian Spirituality for challenging us to go deeper and deeper.
Grace and Peace,
This post really speaks to me. It is never easy to examine our sin and to name what lies behind our sin; however, the result is so freeing and God is right there with us. Thank you.