Sarah Reinhard is a Catholic wife, mom, writer, editor, marketing professional, and coffee drinker. You’re just as likely to find her hiding out back with a book as you are to discover her playing in the yard with a few farm animals (or wait — are those her kids?) She is the author of many books, the most recent of which she co-edited with Lisa Hendey: The Catholic Mom’s Prayer Companion: A Book of Daily Reflections. She blogs at SnoringScholar.com and writes online regularly at CatholicMom.com and Integrated Catholic Life. Reinhard holds a master’s degree in marketing and communications and has worked for many years in corporate and nonprofit organizations. She lives in central Ohio with her husband and children.
This week on Register Radio, Dan Burke talks with Fr. Timothy Gallagher about the Examen Prayer, a way to stay on track this Advent. Also, Elena Rodriguez talks with co-founder of AimHigher Recordings Monica Fitzgibbons. They’ll bring you a feast for your ears: the album Christmas in Harvard Square with the boys of St. Paul's Choir School.
The Examen Prayer with Fr. Timothy Gallagher
Father Timothy Gallagher was ordained in 1979 as a member of the Oblates of the Virgin Mary, Fr. Gallagher is the author of seven books on the spiritual teaching of St. Ignatius of Loyola and the life of Venerable Bruno Lanteri, founder of the Oblates of the Virgin Mary. He’ll be talking with Dan about the Examen Prayer…a great way to stay focused this Advent.
“The examen prayer is simply the classic examination of conscience, retaining everything that the examination of conscience has as a prayer in our Catholic spiritual tradition, and adding another richness into it as well,” Fr. Gallagher said. This is, he continued, “the richness of attention to the spiritual experience of the day … above all, where God has been present and leading in the course of the day and also where the Evil One, the Tempter, has attempted to discourage us and lead us where the Lord would want us to be in our lives.”
Praying the examen prayer can take from seven to twelve minutes in the course of your day. Fr. Gallagher said praying it is “the difference between going along because life is unrolling, and a reflective conscious awareness of where God is in the experience of each day.”
The examen is structured. It begins by looking briefly at and acknowledging God’s presence. After that, there are five steps:
1. Gratitude: Recognizing how God has very concretely loved us this day, whether in the tasks we’ve done or in the things that did (or didn’t) go well; in everything.
2. Petition: Ask God’s help to see clearly in the spiritual experience of the day.
3. Review: Review that spiritual experience. This includes looking for ways we have failed to live in the way God would have us live and any sinfulness, but also to see where the Lord (and the Tempter) were leading us.
4. Forgiveness: Ask God’s forgiveness for anything that we may have seen in our review that wouldn’t have been the way the Lord wanted.
5. Renewal: Look with the Lord to the next day and see what glimpses we have of how God wants us to live that day.
“The examen prayer is the prayer that keeps the spiritual life solidly filled with grace and on track,” according to Fr. Gallagher.
How do you keep on track with the examen? Fr. Gallagher recommends starting by setting aside dedicated time. If five minutes is all you have, start with five minutes. Start with a simple outline of the steps. If you’re able, he recommends learning more about the prayer.
“If it’s possible to share that journey with others,” Fr. Gallagher said, “if we have spiritual guidance such as friends in Lord … that is enormously strengthening along that journey.”
One of the biggest struggles is formation, just getting to know the prayer, including how to pray it and what the steps mean. The other biggest hurdle people face, according to Fr. Gallagher, is the having the courage to be spiritually aware.
Links of interest:
Christmas in Harvard Square with Monica Fitzgibbons and Colin
Music-industry veteran Monica Fitzgibbons, along with her husband, Kevin, co-founded AimHigher Media in 2007. AimHigher Media is designed to showcase artistic achievements that seek to elevate our culture in going beyond ordinary limits. Monica has experienced chart-topping success with music projects her companies have released — albums from the Benedictines of Mary, Queen of Apostles; the Dominican Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist; and their newest album from the boys of the St. Paul’s Choir School — all dedicated to truth and beauty.
Also joining Monica Fitzgibbons is Colin Lapus, who is in the 6th grade at St. Paul’s Choir School. His family moved house from Virginia for him to attend St. Paul’s Choir School, after hearing his cousin sing in the Choir on tour in Washington.
Fitzgibbons shared the history of the school and the training the boys receive at St. Paul’s Choir School. The classical training the boys receive in music is beneficial in a number of ways, and Fitzgibbons also pointed to the beautiful spirituality of it.
“I can’t tell you how many people since we started this project have said, ‘You know, I went to Mass for the first time in five years, and I was so amazed by the sights and the sounds and the everything that was going on there!’” Fitzgibbons continued, sharing that it calls to mind a piece of heaven.
“There’s rigorous academics [at St. Paul’s], and it’s all a much higher level than other schools,” according to Lapus. In addition to the academics, Lapus said, “Music relates, because of Mass. Randomly in class, sometimes, someone will break into song. It’s a very musical community.”
“Singing definitely changes my personality…changes my lifestyle, I guess you could say,” Lapus said.
“I asked the president of Universal Music to come and hear the boys, and we walked in right when they started recording ‘O Magnum Mysterium,’” Fitzgibbons said, sharing her favorite moment of the recording. “To see them up in the choir loft and to hear the recording live as it was happening. It just filled the whole area. … I have boys who are their age, and just to see what these boys at St. Paul’s Choir School are accomplishing. They’re fourth through eighth graders and they are incredibly gifted and incredibly professional and they work hard.”
Links of interest:
- The entire interview
- Christmas in Harvard Square album
- Register article, “Christmas Comes Early to Harvard Square”
Listen to this week’s show online or on your mp3 player.