Monday, November 16, 2015

Spiritual Exercises for a Digital Age

New patterns for seelsorge are emerging as an increasing amount of our interpersonal communication is happening online. I notice this in particular when a global tragedy like the Paris attack occurs.

I get wrapped up in it, like the rest of the social media world, because it is so tragic, yet also so rare, for such an attack to happen in that city.

Then this happens:

Increasingly, we are having conversations about our conversations. Some of this is needed. Some of it is a byproduct of the full-on echo-chamber we've all entered with the presence of a billion social media users getting on Facebook every day.

In the meantime, the real care of souls is declining. It takes some words of wisdom from a pastor to help clarify.

"I find that when people are shocked and scared it is generally not a good time to impress them with the fact that if they were better people they would be shocked and scared about a wider range of things. Using people's immediate emotional responses to a tragedy as evidence that they require your moral instruction is unkind and unlikely to be effective." (Pari Bailey)

Or this:

It's okay to not have an opinion, to share the wrong meme, to be surprised by grief. It's okay to not know what you don't know. It's okay to be wrong, and then right, and then wrong again. It's okay to surf the current set of sensibilities of your tribe, and even crash into those of others.

In all instances, the way forward will be to slow down, to listen, to try again taking account of what's new, all the while repenting when necessary and keeping the goal in sight--to live in such a way that the full humanity of all is honored, and our shared world sustained. We are all making this up as we go along, and the immediacy of our shared life in new media is forcing us to relearn the examen.

We need an Ignatian Spiritual Exercises for the Internet age. It would do us all good. 

So I offer an adapted version here:

Stillness: Recalling God's Presence
Relax in God's presence in your favorite prayer place and posture. Ask the Holy Spirit to come into your heart and to help you to look honestly at your actions this day and how you have responded in different situations, particularly on social media. With the Spirit's inspiration you can recognize what draws you close to God as well as what pulls you away from God.

Gratitude: Expressing Thankfulness
Review your day and give thanks to God. Try not to choose what to be thankful for but rather to see what springs to mind as you reflect. Think of the concrete details of your day—the aroma of coffee brewing, a smile from a co-worker, a humorous meme. Recall the gifts that God has given you that you can share with others—your ability to help in a crisis, your sense of humor, or your patience with children. Pause and express your gratitude to the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

Reflection: Looking Back on Your Day
Again review the events of the day and notice how you acted in the many situations in which you found yourself. Recall your feelings and motives to see whether you considered all of the possibilities and freely followed God's will. Ask yourself when you were conscious of God's presence. Think about opportunities you had to grow in faith, hope, and charity. When we think about why we did or did not take advantage of these opportunities, we can become aware of how we might change our actions in the future. Be grateful for the occasions when you freely chose a course to help others. Perhaps you paused before responding to an angry comment on your Twitter post. These are examples of responding freely as God wants us to. When we reflect on the times we did or didn't act with God's grace, we can be more sensitive to developing habits of positive responses.

Sorrow: Asking for Forgiveness
After you have asked for the Holy Spirit's guidance in recalling and reflecting on the actions of your day, spend time talking with God or Jesus. Express sorrow for the times you failed to follow God's direction and ask God to be with you the next time you encounter a similar situation. 

Hopefulness: Resolving to Grow
Ask God to help you as you look forward to a new day tomorrow. Resolve to build up, to engage the news in ways that make for real positive change. Resolve to cooperate and trust in the loving guidance of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Conclude the day's prayerful review with the Lord's Prayer.

By prayerfully reviewing your day, you will experience the difference it can make in the way you live. If you make a habit of practicing the Daily Examen, you will grow closer to God in your thoughts and deeds and will be free to choose to follow him.

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