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.


        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
        On a history line I write out in summary phrases all the significant events, persons, turning points, and experiences that have brought me to the present time:
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.



Interior reactions to memories may include:

 negative feelings - positive feelings - hurts - sinned against
  experienced God's presence - experienced God's absence
  sinful experience - turning point for you
Spend some time remembering each event again and this time place a descriptive symbol next to the event or experience, e.g.

__ 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.

  • by meeting George I was introduced to this job ... 
  • when in Halifax I was more free to experiment ... 
  • six months of unemployment helped me to grow in confidence ...



        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.

    1. Decide what one event you would like to focus on.
    2. Settle into a prayerful mode.
    3. Remember *** the details of the experience you had at the time.



  • How was Jesus present or absent to you during this event?
  • What were your feelings then about this?
A. If this event was a happy experience for you simply express these feelings to God or to Jesus.
  • Tell Jesus how this event made you feel.
  • Dialogue with Jesus.
  • End with an appropriate response.
B. If this event was an unhappy one where you need healing, after STEP "3" above, imagine Jesus entering the event.
  • Walk back with Jesus into this recollection.
  • Imaginatively reconstruct what would happen if Jesus were perceived as present then. 
  • Dialogue with Jesus about your reactions; thank him for his healing love as you walk out of the recollection with him.

*** At this step you might use a pencil and spend time

a] drawing the event,
b] writing your feelings,
c] drawing where you perceived God was at that point in your 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.
... perhaps in failure you will find growth
... in being hurt, a growth in sensitivity
... in being rejected a desire for the infinite
... in a powerful experience of the transcendent, call
... in frustration at the inequalities around one, 
              an awareness of the influence of social myths
... in the witness of friends, the appreciation of fidelity
... in being with a dying loved one, love and compassion
... with the experience of being affirmed,trust and the ability to risk

"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)



        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:

  • Does God seem to be dealing with me according to some pattern that is recognizable from my past?
  • Have there been any recognizable calls in my life? Has there been similarity about each of these calls?
  • When does God seem to be most present to me? Is there a kind of repetition in these experiences?
  • At this point spend time wondering, being with, and taking in the various events of your life journey. 
  • Allow yourself to capture a glimpse of God's movement in your story by the use of one or two Biblical stories or images or metaphors that symbolize for you how God encounters you and how you usually react or respond to God.
These are a few possibilities:
  • Leaving home and later reconciliation could be an example of the prodigal son story or the dying and rising theme.
  • Meeting a special person could be an example of the Lord leading me as a shepherd or of being held in the palm of God's hand.
  • Being alone in Halifax was like Jesus in the desert.
  • Working to raise money for the starving could be an example of Jesus weeping over Jerusalem. 
  • Zacchaeus' conversion could be an image of those generous and joyful moments of response when I encounter Jesus in new ways.
"May God strengthen you inwardly through the power of God's spirit." (Eph 3:14-21)


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.


        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:

first communion       health       incidents of childhood      grandparents
relatives      male-female companionship     experiences of church     guardians
   friends   school       baptism       struggles       talents       five senses
helping others         positions I have held

... 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 Name
    As 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).

        After I have been in touch with the many ways in which I have been gifted I now begin to notice h o w God has been present in my life. I can approach this by recalling first those peak experiences where I have felt profoundly God's presence or those very empty experiences where I have perceived God's absence. Both the `positive' and the `negative' awareness of God can be indicators of God's presence in my life. Then I can begin to investigate the more subtle ways God has been present.

        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).

        Now once again look over your experiences right until now. This time, try to discover where in your life you experienced God in the ways revealed through some of the following images and names:

Judge ... Creator ... The Faithful One ... My Rock .... My Husband ...

Mercy ... Great Spirit ... Hidden One ... Nameless One ... Caring One

.... Light ... Truth ... Mother ... Father ... Friend ... Lover ... The Holy One

        After I have been in touch with such moments I can once again `remember' but this time with a different perspective. This time I shall attempt to notice how God has been with me c o n s t a n t l y in a much more dynamic way - not only in isolated or separated moments of time but continuously as companion, as friend, as lover, as guide - not as observer but as participant. My own personal history indeed has been a salvation history. "When you pass through the water, I will be with you in the rivers you shall not drown. When you walk through fire, you shall not be burned. The flames will not consume you. For I am your God, the Holy One of Israel, your saviour" (Is 43:2-3).

        Before this point I have spent time growing in the awareness of God continuously present in my life. Now I move to this fifth point which may be more difficult to get hold of. Enlightenment on this point may come at a much later date. It concerns the way or pattern in which God interfaces with me. As unique person with a unique history I am loved by God in a unique way. God, always the Faithful One, encounters me according to my own personality, gifts, character.

         I can begin this investigation of remembering by trying to get hold of the various rhythms of my life, for example,

  • lean years (months) rich years (months)
  • periods of being alone and periods of being with others
  • periods of fogginess and periods of seeing clearly
  • periods of fatigue and periods of energy
  • cycles of work and cycles of leisure
  • the cycles of success and failure
  • patterns of joy - suffering - fear - courage - desire - generosity.
        Does God seem to be dealing with me according to some recognizable pattern?
        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.

Dialogue with God
        From time to time throughout this exercise I shall express my feelings and thoughts to God. I can use those names and images of God that harmonize with the ways God is continually present to me.

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

2. 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. Back to document

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