M. (Maria) – Pray the Rosary daily.
Deepen your devotion to Mary, your mother, by praying a daily rosary. As you pray each decade, meditate on the life of Jesus and notice what stirs in your thoughts, feelings and desires. Allow Jesus to speak to your heart through Mary’s gentle invitation.
O. ( Oratio) – Pray the Examen daily.
The Examen Prayer is considered a daily “instance of discernment of spirits.” A faithful practice of the examen gradually helps you be aware, understand, and act according to God’s will at every moment of the day. The examen helps you follow God’s voice by rejecting the Enemy’s. It is recommended that the examen is prayed every day in the evening hours, sometime after dinner and before Night Prayer. This prayer can be done in front of the Blessed Sacrament or in the silence of your room. Don’t rush through the steps. Feel free to linger with the Lord as the Holy Spirit moves your prayer.
The Examen Prayer
I become aware of the love with which God looks upon me as I begin this examen.
Step One: Gratitude
I note the gifts that God’s love has given me this day, and I give thanks to God for them.
Step Two: Petition
I ask God for an insight and a strength that will make this examen a work of grace, fruitful beyond my human capacity alone.
Step Three: Review
With my God, I review the day. I look for the stirrings in my heart and the thoughts that God has given me this day. I look also for those that have not been of God. I review my choices in response to both, and throughout the day in general.
Step Four: Forgiveness
I ask for the healing touch of the forgiving God who, with love and respect for me, removes my heart’s burdens.
Step Five: Renewal
I look to the following day and, with God, plan concretely how to live it in accord with God’s loving desire for my life.
Aware of God’s presence with me, I prayerfully conclude the examen.
Don is a fourth-year university student whose faith had been of little importance to him until several months ago. In his first three years at the university he had abandoned Sunday Mass and had essentially ceased to consider religious matters. Not long ago another student invited him to a talk at the university chapel that began a slow journey back to the faith. From that talk Don accepted an invitation to attend a weekend retreat for young adults. That retreat made a great impression on Don and from then on, he desired a deeper relationship with the Lord Jesus that others at the retreat seemed to possess.
Don spoke with the retreat director about this desire. As they spoke Don mentioned his habit of taking a walk in the evenings when possible. He explained that he enjoyed the physical movement after a day of study and that he always found nature uplifting. Such walks, he said, were often the only quiet space of his day. The director suggested that Don try taking his evening walk with the Lord Jesus and that with the Lord he reviews his day, open to what the Lord might show him about it. Don liked the idea and began the practice of reviewing his day in this way.
As Don is walking this evening, he is aware that something is troubling him. He asks the Lord to help him understand why he feels so unsettled this day. Don recognized that he has felt somewhat burdened throughout the entire afternoon. Now he remembers when this feeling first began. He was walking to class after lunch and encountered a woman student of his same year in the university. They had been friends and had shared quite deeply in the past but had not seen each other in recent weeks. Don was completely unprepared for the intense anger she showed toward him and for the cutting remark she made. When Don became angry in turn and replied in kind, she simply walked away. Since that moment he has felt no peace.
Don now asks the Lord to be with him and to help him understand what happened. He thinks back to the last time he saw his classmate. He remembers that this was at a party and that he and his friends had been drinking heavily. When Don saw his classmate nearby, he repeated to the group some profoundly personal things she had shared in one of their conversations. At the time, together with his friends and under the influence of alcohol, it seemed humorous, and Don thought no more about it until today. Now he perceives how painfully embarrassing that moment must have been for this woman and how deeply betrayed she must have felt.
As he continues walking Don realizes with a sense of shame that he has treated this woman very badly. He sees that he will need to apologize to her, that he must do what he can to repair the harm he has done to her, and that he must seek if at all possible, to restore the trust that he has betrayed. Don also recognizes that he needs to examine his drinking habits. Suddenly he begins to wonder whether under the influence of alcohol he may also have hurt others in ways that he failed to grasp at the time. He plans to explore this too with the Lord in a future evening review.
As he completes his walk, Don quietly thanks the Lord for the insight he has been given. He decides that he will speak with the retreat director about what he has seen this evening and will ask his help toward effectively making these changes in his life.
Don has experienced the third step of the examen in a profoundly fruitful way. He has examined a troubling movement of his heart with courage and sincerity. The resulting insight clearly has great potential for moral and spiritual growth in Don’s life: in the way he relates to women and to friends in general, and with respect to alcohol and its abuse. His examen further leads to the spiritually beneficial decision to speak with the retreat director a second time.
What is different in Don’s life because he is making the examen? What might happen if he were not? What will change in his life of faith if Don perseveres in his evening walk with the Lord throughout his final year in college? If he continues this practice after college and in the years to come?
See “The Examen Prayer” By Fr. Timothy Gallagher, O.M.V., pg. 79-82.
V. ( Visita) – Visit a seminary or convent.
As simple as it may sound, a visit to a seminary or a convent often dispels fear and opens up a deep desire from within to move forward. Priests and Religious have described the feeling of “coming home” as they first visited a seminary or convent. A visit can really be a moment of grace as Rebecca describes below, “As I drove in, I felt like everything was lifted from me, and I had an overwhelming sense of peace, like a homecoming. It felt just right.” Perhaps your next move is to schedule a visit!
We were not a very religious family. We lived far from church, and it was not the most important thing in our lives.
When I was eighteen, I left home. I decided not to go to church unless I felt the interest. I felt that life was a big happy party. I got a job in a hospital and liked the work and where I was living. For a few years, I did a lot of partying.
One Saturday evening I went out for a party and didn’t get back until early Sunday morning. There was a Catholic church nearby, and, as I was going to bed, the church bells rang. When I heard them, something stirred in me, and I said to myself, if I can be out all night for a party, I can go to Mass. I knew this was a God-moment, and eye-opening moment. I knew God was there. There was a deep feeling that something had to change. I realized that I did want God back in my life. At that point, I didn’t know how to pray.
I got up and went to Mass. Nothing dramatic happened at the Mass, but I got to thinking, “What am I doing with my life?” I was twenty-three at the time. So, I started going to Mass and helping in the parish. The hospital where I worked was run by sisters, and I started seeing them in a new way. I began talking to them.
I started teaching religion classes for kids, and I went to some parish missions. At the hospital, on lunch break, I would go to the chapel and would say to God, “What are you asking?” Things slowly started to come together. If someone had said the word “discernment” to me then, I wouldn’t have had a clue what they were talking about.
I became interested in the sisters. There were four or five of them, and it was like I’d never seen them before. I was close to two or three of them and would have coffee with them, but we just talked in general and not about religious life.
Now Rebecca begins a more formal process of discernment:
The sisters invited me to a weekend retreat at their house. I had expressed some interest, nothing really definite. So, I went, together with some other young women. As I drove in, I felt like everything was lifted from me, and I had an overwhelming sense of peace, like a homecoming. It felt just right. I didn’t know what that all meant. That was when I really started asking questions.
After that weekend, I spent more time with one of the sisters at the hospital, and we started discerning together. She taught me to pray. I had a house, a car, and other things, and wondered whether I should dispose of them if I was going to enter. We worked together on this. I was also going with a young man and told him that we couldn’t continue until I searched this out. Paul and I both thought that marriage would be the next step, but something was holding me back.
This went on for a year after that weekend. During this time, it felt right; I had that sense of peace and being home. I think I knew long before I told the sisters that I wanted to try it. The decision just evolved. There really wasn’t’ one moment that stands out. One day I was talking with the sister about disposing of my things, and she asked, “Would you like to enter?” I answered, “Yes.” Then we started to put things in motion.
See “Discerning the Will of God” By Fr. Timothy Gallagher, O.M.V., pg 128.
E. (Eucharistia) – Go to Eucharistic Adoration, if possible, daily.
If there is a parish near you that has eucharistic adoration, then go and sit in his presence. Many men today who are entering the seminary have mentioned that it was their experience of Christ’s presence in eucharistic adoration that brought them peace and clarity.
When I went to college, I started going to daily Mass. That was where the idea of a vocation started to be stirred. I went to daily Mass all year. I was also making visits to the Blessed Sacrament. That was where I first felt deep, deep stirrings in my heart; I really started feeling the pull.
While at college Robert also began dating Helen and so entered a vocational struggle. Three years later, the moment of decision arrived:
I finished my degree and started teaching. Once I was talking with a friend who told me that I needed to do something, that I’d been on this marriage-priesthood seesaw for two or three years. I said to myself, “Yes, he’s right. It’s time for me to face this question.”
I said, “Okay, I’ll go give it a shot.” I had the idea that it wouldn’t work out and then I could go and marry without any problem.
The first semester was really hard, and when I went home for Christmas break, I told my family I was leaving. I called the rector, and he said to spend a week with my family and talk about it. A priest I knew told me to spend a little time praying every day, asking that Christ would show me whether he was calling me to be a priest. I did, and Christ did show me: the call was to be a diocesan priest. It felt right. It was the same feeling I had before the Blessed Sacrament in college – that kind of certainty, that serenity that I wanted, and that attracted me to the priesthood.
The seminary wasn’t easy for me, and doubts would come back in different ways, mostly around celibacy. I talked about them with my formation advisor and he helped me with them.
When I made a thirty-day retreat, it was the end of my lingering doubts. I dealt with all the struggles I had never really resolved about Helen. On that retreat, I went to the “room in my heart,” that place that I had experienced in the chapel with the Blessed Sacrament in college, that intense serenity, this place where God lived. When I would go into that space in my heart, I would always experience that peace and serenity. Often, I would not go there, but, when I did, there was this peace. I told the retreat director that I had not been in that room for a long time. I never missed the Liturgy of the Hours and the Rosary, but I had not gone into that room in my heart. On that retreat, I was entering that room, and I found my identity.
When I was ordained, at the laying on of hands, I had a profound, deep experience of absolute certitude that God wanted me to be a priest. It was like being back before the Blessed Sacrament – that serenity, that peace I want. I remember saying to myself, “Robert, if you ever doubt your vocation, remember this moment.” I was never so certain of anything in my life before. It gave me great joy.
From Gallagher, Discerning the Will of God, pg. 92-93.
M. Pray three Hail Mary’s daily.
O. Pray from the heart daily.
V. Visit with a trusted friend.
E. Go to confession.
M. Pray one decade of the rosary daily.
O. Pray with Sacred Scripture daily.
V. Visit with a priest.
E. Go to Mass, if possible, daily.
M. Pray the rosary daily.
O. Pray the Examen daily.
V. Visit a seminary or convent.
E. Go to Eucharistic Adoration, if possible, daily.
M. Pray one decade of the rosary daily.
O. Pray with Sacred Scripture daily.
V. Visit with a priest.
E. Go to Mass, if possible, daily.