Our own personal history, made up of so many diverse experiences, becomes blessed when, after sufficient remembering and listening with the heart to the mystery of these various experiences, I begin to discover God present and working with me through all of it! The following is a way of opening one's self to this constant presence of God in my life history. Each aspect may take some time for reflection and analysis.
Grace: A deep felt awareness and appreciation of how God has been present in my life.
MY PAST EXPERIENCES AS THEY ARE
I begin by remembering all the significant persons, events and experiences and my interior reactions to them, that have been a part of my life history from my birth to the present time. I may list these events chronologically in segments of three years from birth to the present or I may let one memory recall another by association, which may be neither logical or chronological. The following headings may assist one to begin the process of remembering:
parents - grandparents - relatives - friends - male/female companionship - incidents of childhood - school - experiences of church baptism - eucharist - sacrament of reconciliation - talents - health assisting others - positions I have held - gifts
Draw a horizontal line across a large sheet of paper or several sheets taped together. Mark off the line in segments of three years from birth to the present.
MY INTERIOR REACTIONS
AND THE CONNECTIONS BETWEEN VARIOUS EXPERIENCES
Interior reactions to memories may include:
experienced God's presence - experienced God's absence
sinful experience - turning point for you
__ experienced as negative
+ experienced as positive
- experienced hurt, damage or were sinned against
~ experienced God's presence
? experienced God's absence
X experienced as sinful
T experienced as a turning point
0 no reaction experienced
As I remember all these events and items in my life history and my interior reactions to them, I try to notice all the gifts that I have received and I make a note of them. "Name something you have that you have not received." (1Cor 4:7)
Now look over your chart and begin to write down and mark the connections between the different events or experiences or the meanings they have for you, e.g.
OVER SOME OF THE EVENTS OF MY PAST HISTORY
In this method, we allow Jesus to enter into some remembered past event of our own life. Our experience unites with the experience of Jesus and in this process we are led to greater self acceptance, healing, and gratitude.
what one event you would like to focus on.
WATCH LISTEN FEEL
RELIVE IT THROUGH YOUR IMAGINATION
b] writing your feelings,
c] drawing where you perceived God was at that point in your history.
AND EXPERIENCES OF MY LIFE HISTORY
Spend some time reflecting with God upon each of the significant events and experiences -- naming them and owning them. Try to see that God was present and to understand how God was present. Gradually try to see that God has been constantly present with you, not only in isolated, separate moments of time but continuous as companion, as friend, as lover, as guide; not as observer but as participant.
This activity of meditating includes: trying to understand; noting all the ramifications; reliving it imaginatively with God or Jesus or some wisdom figure; being reconciled with and befriending aspects of my past; perhaps bringing Jesus the Healer into the experience and asking him to change my attitude or hurt around it. Talk to Jesus about the event or experience -- what you think about it, how you feel about it.
Dialogue with God.
"God, the Holy One, is your guardian ... beside you at your right hand." (Psalm 121)
"I am with you all days even till the end of time." (Mt 28:16-20)
GOD'S MOVEMENTS IN MY LIFE STORY
After receiving an awareness of God as being constantly present in my life, I move to this fifth phase which may be more difficult to discern. Enlightenment regarding this phase may not come now but at a future time. It concerns the way in which God encounters me in my life.
I am a unique person with a unique history and therefore, I am loved by God in a unique way. Since God is always the faithful one, God teaches and leads me according to my own personality, gifts and character. I may ask myself the following questions:
From time to time throughout this prayer period I shall express my feelings and thoughts to the Father, Son and Spirit asking them for a deep-felt appreciation of the way they are present and encounter me in my life.
REMEMBERING GOD'S PRESENCE IN MY HISTORY2
We know by faith that we can find God present in all things. Our creator is present in all the events and dimensions of my life. But has the awareness of this presence throughout my life really taken hold of me? This exercise is a help to discover the presence of our Triune God in the events of my own life, past and present. Memory is the sacrament of God's presence.
The material over which I shall pray is the story of my own personal history - the events, the experiences, the people who have crossed my path, the jobs I have held, the gifts I have been given, my accomplishments, my failures. After placing myself in the presence of God, I go down memory lane and ponder contemplatively the events of my own personal history. I seek how the Divine Shepherd has been involved in my life.
Settling into Prayer
Place - Posture - Presence of God
Grace I am Seeking:
Whenever you work through this exercise pray for a deep felt appreciation of how my Creator God has been present in my history.First ...
I begin by remembering. This remembering is an awareness of the exterior events in my life and my interior reactions to them. My memory makes them present to me. I remember those that give meaning to me (both pleasure and pain) or those I still can't find meaning for but that I am still searching out. Some key experiences that have been traumatic may remain hidden, but I will be aware of something because of other events recalled. Let one memory touch another by association. This may be neither logical nor chronological. The following headings may help to begin this process of remembering:
health incidents of childhood
... I come from others, from a familial network of some kind, where I became who I am. My guardians, aunts, father, uncles, mother, my brothers and sisters shaped me to what I am. The great majority of my opinions, of my likes and dislikes, of my values and appreciations have been stamped by them. This `familial' touch reaches deep into my subconscious: my prejudices, my prior judgments, my behaviour, my tastes, my logic are moulded by the community I come from ...
----- adapted from Van Breeman: Called by NameAs I remember all these events and items in my life history I try to notice the gifts that I have received. "Name something you have that you have not received" (1 Cor 4:7). "Naked I came forth from my mother's womb, and naked shall I go back again. God gave and God has taken away, blessed be God's Holy Name" (Job 1:21).
Although it may help to list these moments, it is very important to spend time just remembering and savouring each of these moments to receive a deep-felt appreciation of them. "If I go up to the heavens you are there, if I sink to the nether world, you are present there" (Ps 139:8).
Mercy ... Great Spirit ... Hidden One ... Nameless One ... Caring One
.... Light ... Truth ... Mother ... Father ... Friend ... Lover ... The Holy One
I can begin this investigation of remembering by trying to get hold of the various rhythms of my life, for example,
Have there been any recognizable calls in my life? Has there been a similarity about each of these calls?
"The days are coming when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel ...."(Jer 31:31). The people of Israel could interpret what was going on in the events that affected them because they experienced the pattern of covenant. This was God's way of dealing uniquely with them. This same pattern of covenant gave them a touchstone for recognizing the leading of God's Spirit. This dynamic pattern could give them the right to hope and expect such an approach from God in the future.
The patterns by which God encounters me can be a help to recognize God's presence, a touchstone to discern authentic consolation and the peace of Christ in my life.
1. Here are two different prayer exercises on one's personal salvation history. The first, BLESSED HISTORY, is written for those persons who like to use a pencil and paper when they reflect and also prefer to connect their reflections with specific details. Also for those who may not easily make reflective connections. The next exercise, REMEMBERING GOD'S PRESENCE IN MY LIFE HISTORY, p 115 is for those persons who prefer less detail in making connections or do not work well with external helps.Back to document
I am grateful to John
J. English, S.J., for the ideas and much of the material in this
exercise. Also I am grateful for many other things that I have made my
own but have initially been pointed to, sparked off by, and taught by him.
Many of the scripture references throughout this book began with his personal
book of the Sp Exs. I owe him so much in terms of understanding the Sp
Exs and theologizing upon experience. Also, confer #20 above.