“What classes are you taking next semester?” “What are you doing next summer?” “Where are you going after your volunteer year?” “What programs or jobs are you applying for?” “Congratulations on getting married—when are you planning to have kids?” As young adults in a very future-oriented culture, these kinds of questions become part of an every-day chorus. We barely settle into one place or experience, and we are forced to consider what our next step will be. We no sooner feel the relief of landing our job, scholarship, or volunteer placement and we see the oncoming application deadlines or social scripts for “what’s next?” The challenge is that we can become so busy with planning and controlling our future lives that it can be difficult to receive the fullness of God’s gift of the present. It is easy to let compulsion drive these efforts to control our future, rather than cultivate our freedom to listen to and receive the divine life that is unfolding within us.
One way to cultivate this freedom is to develop the virtue of patience. Through patience, we stay grounded in the present moment, trusting that it is pregnant with the fullness of God. Through patience, we resist the temptation to compulsively control our future or anxiously avoid the discomfort of waiting for God’s will to be revealed in our lives.
This meeting invites group members to receive the grace God has for them in the present moment by reflecting on the deepening virtue of patience as an opportunity for greater freedom in God.
- Instrumental music
- Copies of the reading, “Compassion: A Reflection on the Christian Life” by Henri Nouwen
- Free-Writing Examen Handout
Ask for the grace to become aware of the sources of our impatience and open ourselves to God’s gift of the present.
“Where shall I look for Enlightenment?”
“When will it happen?”
“It is happening right now.”
“Then why don’t I experience it?”
“Because you do not look.”
“What should I look for?”
“Nothing, just look.”
“Anything your eyes alight upon.”
“Must I look in a special kind of way?”
“No, the ordinary way will do.”
“But don’t I always look the ordinary way?”
“Why ever not?”
“Because to look you must be here…
“You’re mostly somewhere else.”
Anthony de Mello
When this week did you find yourself waiting for something – maybe in a line, at a store, for a ride – and how did you pass the time?
Have two group members read the piece aloud, alternating paragraphs. You may want to hand out copies to all of the group members.
Invite the group into a discussion on the passage and the topic of patience. Some possible discussion questions include:
- What words or images from the reflection stand out to you, move you, or challenge you?
- “Patience is a willingness to be influenced even when this requires giving up control and entering into unknown territory.” How do you feel and respond when you are in unknown territory and not in control of a situation?
- As we wait with active patience for our lives to unfold, there are still practical things that we need to do and decisions we need to make that influence our future. Do you feel like your planning for the future comes from a place of freedom to dream and prepare? Or do you feel like your planning comes from a place of fear to compulsively feel in control and avoid feelings of discomfort?
- “When patience prevents us from running from the painful moment in the false hope of finding our treasure elsewhere, we can begin to see that the fullness of time is already here and that salvation is already taking place.” What are the fears that drive you to “find your treasure elsewhere”? What helps you to stay in the present, trusting there is something meaningful and important there?
Hand out the Free-Writing Awareness Examen. Invite the group to take time in responding thoughtfully and prayerfully to the Examen questions. Remind them that if a question does not seem to resonate with them, feel free to skip it. What is important is to truly listen to and express the movements in your heart. Play instrumental music. If journaling without questions works better for your group, implement this exercise.
- Invite members to share from their Examen Reflection.
- What has struck you as you have been listening to others share? Do you notice any patterns or commonalities?
- How have you been feeling throughout the meeting? Comfortable? Anxious? Curious?
- Is there anything you would like to share after listening to another person share?
Reflect upon a decision or a situation that is causing you to be patient (perhaps more than you would like). Ask God to help you identify where your urgency is rooted.
You may consider including the following quotation from Gereard Manley Hopkins, S.J. in your closing prayer:
“The world is charged with the grandeur of God. It will flame out, like shining from shook foil; It gathers to a greatness, like the ooze of oil.”
“We recognize the necessity of prayer and discernment, personal and communal, of the daily examination of consciousness and of spiritual guidance as important means for seeking and finding God in all things.” (CLC-USA General Principles #5)
“My child, if you accept my words and treasure up my commandments within you, making your ear attentive to wisdom and inclining your heart to understanding; if you indeed cry out for insight, and raise your voice for understanding; if you seek it like silver, and search for it as for hidden treasures—then you will understand the fear of the Lord and find the knowledge of God.” Proverbs 2:1-5
“Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?” Matthew 6:7
“Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice. Let your gentleness be known to everyone. The Lord is near. Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:4-7