El Examen

Easter cartoon

OK, some may consider this cartoon sacrilegious but when Easter Sunday and April Fools’ Day fall on the same date, here’s the illustration you get.

Lent was infinitely long for me. It began the day I returned from Nicaragua and waded through the news of another disastrous school shooting on the very first day—Valentine’s Day, how’s that for irony? Next I wrestled obsessively for 40 days here on the almost-retired glide slope:  “Should I work next year or not? How can I return to my beloved Nicaragua to study Spanish for an extended time? Can I possibly bear the bathroom reconstruction that is happening alongside our bedroom, not to mention Mom’s taxes and ours? How can I continue to neglect dear friends who are ailing?” To top it all off the dreaded bronchitis returned. This was certainly not the promised land, believe me.

One bright moment was when I found El Examen de San Ignacio in Spanish. I’m part of a bilingual mutual discernment group at Our Lady of Guadalupe Episcopal Church. When this group began, we had Parker Palmer’s Let Your Life Speak in both languages. But I also wanted good discernment literature originally written in Spanish. Months ago my theology classmates recommended St. Ignatius. But alas my queries to both English and Spanish speakers and even to King Google came up dry. Finally smack in the middle of those lengthening days, I searched again, this time using a Spanish query (who knew?) and—Poof!—links by the leader of the Jesuits in his native tongue spewed forth. Momentary bliss; success was mine.

I began regularly trying the five steps of El Examen each night before slumbering soundly by the middle of Step 2 – Review the events of the day and how God might be acting. I have not scolded myself for the lack of alert five-step discipline. Instead I’ve enjoyed returning to the practice wherever I left off when I wake at night. If you could see my waistline, you’d know I’m not too big on discipline.

That said, Easter Sunday was one for the record books. My friend and usher at Saint Mark’s Episcopal Cathedral in Seattle greeted us, “Merry Christmas!” and I fell for it hook, line and sinker, April fool that I am.

There were many highlights during the service including, Dean Steve Thomason’s sermon “Arise and Tell the Story.”

My favorite moment though, hands down, was one of those silent-because-we’re-in-church belly laughs. We shook the pew. First, my mother suffered a brief memory lapse and whispered an absurd question to me. At which I set her straight and we both got the giggles. Laughing about memory loss is unusual for us. Aging can be wicked and as the brain wears, like every other part of the body, it’s discouraging. I enjoyed guffawing so solidly together about this plight. Talk about Resurrection!

And then as Eucharistic Visitors we two took blessed communion bread and wine from the mass to one of those dear elderly friends I’ve been missing. And then we brunched at The Plaza on 5th Ave with the fam and Mom’s friends. And then our son Clarke improvised jazz tunes on the lobby piano for a good long stretch. Yes, heaven on earth had returned.

When I was getting ready to head home for the traditional Easter Sunday bike ride with my husband Rob, Mom exclaimed, “Oh Penny, is there any way we can go shopping? I am in desperate need of a few things.”

Usually this kind of doorknob request (as in touching-the-doorknob-to-go-home when the real work begins) sends me reeling. But I had been buoyed with grace all day long plus spring break was a staycation this round. I had time. Rob could wait. What could be more fun than shopping for Dove dark chocolates, even if nearby Target was closed and we had to search for her favorites?

Nearing the end of our quest Mom decided to wait in the car while I did the last (successful!) run into Bartell’s for the goods. When I returned she was scribbling events of the day in a little spiral notebook.

“I want to remember everything about this wonderful day, Penny. Help me.”

Here we were at Ignatian Step 2 – Review the events of the day and how God might be acting, right in the car in the store’s parking lot in the rain. I explained the 5 Steps and we backtracked to Step 1 – Acknowledge God’s presence, then proceeded. Remarkable. Here I was, during the wide awake daytime practicing El Examen. Gratitude and feelings (Step 3) tumbled out and after a short drive, next back in Mom’s parking lot, we paused together for a few minutes to silently contemplate one of the recent events (Step 4) and finally Step 5 – Consider the future and what God might have in store for each of us:

Mom went in and I came home to a glorious all-weather twilight ride with Rob complete with practically simultaneous thunder and lightning under the blossoming cherry trees on the UW campus.

Could this day possibly get better?

Close to midnight I crashed and while I was in the middle of my second practice of El Examen for the day, our daughter Carolina stopped by to see our newly remodeled bathroom. She agreed to scratch my shoulders as I fell asleep. Who says the Easter Bunny, not to mention the Risen Christ, isn’t real? Tell me, who says? I’m here to say otherwise.


2 thoughts on “El Examen

  1. You’ve listed even more reasons to love you, here! I do love sharing a hall with you and feeling this exact spirit captured on this page when I can hear your voice or laugh echo into my classroom.


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