Week 8 Prayer Exercises
In addition to this week’s prayer materials, there are Encouragements and Wisdom (PDF).
1 I will select my 15-minute quiet time(s) for the week ahead and visualize where I will go each day and at what time(s). I will ask God for the grace to keep those times sacred throughout the week in a technology-free zone.
2 I will have my notebook on hand for each prayer period.
3 My 15-minute quiet prayer this week consists of two prayer exercises. I will take the first half of the week’s prayer periods for the first exercise and the second half for the second exercise. If I find it more beneficial, I can combine the two with the alternate exercise.
First Spiritual Exercise: I will ask God for the grace to become aware of any habitual vices that obstruct my quest for holiness and interfere with the freedom God desires for me.
Second Spiritual Exercise: I will ask God for the grace to become aware of any addictions I possess that are eroding my quest for holiness and the freedom God desires for me.
Alternate Spiritual Exercise: I will ask God for the grace to see the connections between any habitual vices that erode my freedom and their link with addictive behaviors in my life story.
I will awaken to the present moment.
I will take each day and each exercise as it comes.
I cannot do Sacred Story better by going faster.
I will ask God to help me.
I will awaken to my spiritual nature and to the inspirations that inspire faith, hope and love.
I will awaken to the inspirations that inspire cynicism, impatience and lusts. I will wake up!
I will say this affirmation aloud once daily:
The two powerful spiritual diagnostics for this week’s lesson offer you the potential for great enlightenment. Vices and addictions reveal valuable information about our life stories. If we seek medical advice for pain, the doctor asks us where we hurt. Christ, the Divine Physician, sees our vices and addictions as manifestations of where we are hurting, and our unsuccessful attempts to anesthetize our hurt. The Gospel calls them “sin” because they manifest habits that erode our true human nature and our faith, hope and love. The doctor calls them destructive because they ruin our lives and relationships.
If you can honestly identify addictions and vices in your life story, you are on a path to freedom. If you prayed to Christ, the Divine Physician, to wake up to the connections between them in your life story, you should rejoice. Because your healing, leading to interior freedom, can now begin. Christ came to save sinners, not the righteous, and Sacred Story is about allowing Christ to help us identify where we need His healing graces. This is the great gift He wants to give to us. Be not afraid. Christ knows you are working with him, to wake up.
Pray with words from your heart that will enable you to see what you have not seen before and to see connections between aspects of your life story. A word of caution: resist the temptation to be judgmental, anxiously plan corrective therapies, or get lost in fear. If you find yourself slipping into any of these, gently stop the exercise and refocus your heart. These two exercises, like all the others, are to be approached with a compassionate, honest eye. It may be helpful to recall that you are reflecting on these components of your life narrative with the Divine Physician by your side. The goal is simply to wake up! Watch and pray!
1. For the first half of the week pay attention to the vices (Pride, Gluttony, Lust, Sloth, Envy, Avarice, Anger). They are sometimes called capital sins (from caput, the Latin word for head) because they are root habits or vices that lead to many other problems. All of us are subject to vices which have the ability to hook us mildly, moderately or strongly.
Simply identify your capital sins/vices. Ask Christ, the Divine Physician, to help you understand their source and context in your life history. Ask for the grace of deeper understanding, and then with Christ, observe your life with compassionate curiosity, and with objectivity. God sees beyond any vices you have, or think you have. God knows you for who you are and loves you. Jesus, the Divine Physician, watches compassionately and carried the burden for all your vices. He desires that you gain greater understanding and freedom. He has great compassion and patience for those seeking His help and healing.
At the end of each prayer period mark down in your notebook all the capital vices that trap you and to which you are susceptible. Be brief in your writing, but specific. List which capital sins/vices ensnare you and how intensely (mildly, moderately or strongly) they ensnare you
2. For the second part of the week, pay attention to your addictions. Ignatius had addictions to gambling and possibly to sex. Everyone has addictions (whether mild moderate or strong) to one or more things. Our addictions reveal valuable diagnostic information that is worth bringing to the Divine Physician.
Do not exceed your fifteen minute limit for each prayer period. For your prayer, sit apart in a quiet place. Find a comfortable position that permits you to be alert. Breathe deeply for a few minutes, mindful that God’s love sustains your very life. Next, using the personal name for God you identified, ask God to enlighten your memory and imagination so that you can see any addictions you have in the context of your life story.
Before completing your prayer period, record any addictions that surfaced. Be brief and specific. Identify each addiction by name and frequency: Seldom, Often, or Constantly. For example, you may write:
Television—S; Exercise—O; Gambling—C.
3. Alternatively, you can combine the above spiritual diagnostics into a single prayer exercise. Here is how you might do it. For your first two prayer exercises of the week, pray for the grace to honestly recognize the vices and addictions that erode your freedom and compromise your true self. Write them out in your notebook as indicated above, listing the vices as mild, moderate or strong, and the addictions as seldom, often or constantly.
Begin your prayer sessions in the standard manner. During your prayer session, review what you wrote in your notebook and ask Christ, the Divine Physician, in very personal words, to help you discover the connections between the vices and addictions. For example, you may notice that when you are angry, you might move toward one or other addictive behavior. When you are envious, you might be drawn to other addictive behaviors, and so on for the other vices.
Recall that the grace you are asking for is the inspiration to understand the vices and addictions in and of themselves, and more importantly, to identify the connections between them as they manifest in your life story. When, through grace, you begin to wake up to the links between the thoughts, words and deeds of your life story, then growth in holiness and authenticity can occur.
Before the end of each prayer period record any discoveries you make between the vices and addictions that God reveals to you. Thank God for the courage to honestly see yourself as you are. Thank God for the grace to wake up to live in greater freedom.
Pride is an unrestrained and improper appreciation of our own worth. This is listed first because it is widely considered the most serious of the seven sins. Pride—narcissism—was the foundation of Adam and Eve’s sin that made them fall for the serpent’s temptation “to be like gods.” Adam and Eve displaced God, the Creator, as the arbiter of truth and goodness. They, who were creatures, made themselves gods, the final judges of truth and goodness. Their action led to the loss of paradise and to a world of sickness and death. Pride often leads to the committing of other capital sins. Pride is manifest as vanity and narcissism about one’s appearance, intelligence, status, wealth, connections, power, successes and all the other things that one uses to stand apart from others and from God.
Greed is also known as avarice or covetousness. It is the immoderate desire for earthly goods and power. It is a sin of excess. The object of one’s greed need not be evil. The problem lies in the way a person regards or desires an object, making it a god and investing it with inappropriate value. Greed can inspire such sinful actions as hoarding, theft, fraud, tax evasion, environmental waste or unethical business practices.
Gluttony comes from the Latin word meaning to gulp down or swallow. It is the sin of over-indulgence and usually refers to over-consumption of food and drink. Gluttony can be eating too soon, too expensively or eating too much. St. Alphonsus Liguori explained that feeling pleasure in eating is not wrong. Because food tastes good, we are delighted by this gift. It is not right however to eat with pleasure as the only motive and to forget food’s function in sustaining vitality and health.
The sin of lust refers to corrupted desires of a sexual nature. Sexuality is a gift from God and pure in itself. However, lust refers to the impure thoughts and actions that misuse that gift. Lust deviates from God’s law and sexuality’s sacred purpose of allowing woman and man to participate in God’s creative nature. Indulging in the sin of lust can include, but is not limited to, fornication, adultery, bestiality, rape, masturbation, pornography and incest.
Sloth is often described simply as the sin of laziness. However, while this is part of sloth’s character, its true face is spiritual laziness. The sin of sloth means being lazy and lax about living the Faith and practicing virtue. Paraphrasing The Catholic Encyclopedia, sloth means aversion to labor or exertion. As a capital or deadly vice, St. Thomas calls it sadness in the face of some spiritual good that one has to achieve. In other words, a slothful person is bothered by the effort to sustain one’s friendship with God. In this sense sloth is directly opposed to charity.
The sin of envy or jealousy is more than just someone wanting what others have. Sinful envy leads one to emotions or feelings of upset at another’s good fortune or blessings. The law of love naturally leads one to rejoice in the good luck of one’s neighbor. Envy opposes such love. Envy is named among the capital sins because of the other sins to which it leads.
Anger or wrath may be described as excessive and powerful feelings of hatred and resentment. These feelings can manifest as a passionate denial of truths expressed by others. Anger can also manifest in the form of denying truths about one’s own life and impatience with the procedure of law. Anger is manifest too, in the desire to seek revenge outside of the workings of the justice system. Anger, in essence is wishing to do evil or harm to others. The transgressions borne of vengeance are among the most serious, including assault, murder, and in extreme cases, genocide and other crimes against humanity. Anger is the only sin not necessarily associated with selfishness or self-interest, although one can be angry for selfish reasons, such as jealousy.
The word addiction is used in many contexts. Common usage of the term has evolved to include psychological dependence. In this context, the term goes beyond drug addiction and substance abuse problems. It also refers to behaviors that are not generally recognized by the medical community as addictive problems such as compulsive overeating or hoarding.
When the term addiction is applied to compulsions that are not substance-related, such as problem gambling and computer addiction, it describes a recurring compulsion one engages in despite the activity’s harmful consequences to one’s individual physical, mental, social or spiritual health.1
Other forms of addiction could be habitual defrauding or tax evasion, money addictions, work addiction, exercise addiction, habitual overeating, habitual shopping, sex addiction, computer addiction, e-mail addiction, video game addiction, pornography addiction, and television addiction.
Gabor Maté sums up addiction’s profile: “Addiction is any repeated behavior, substance-related or not, in which a person feels compelled to persist, regardless of its negative impact on his life and the lives of others. Addiction involves:
a. Compulsive engagement with a behavior, or a preoccupation with it.
b. Impaired control over the behavior.
c. Persistence or relapse despite evidence of harm.
d. Dissatisfaction, irritability, or intense craving when the object—be it a drug, activity, or other goal—is not immediately available.”2
1 “Compulsion, impaired control, persistence, irritability, relapse, and craving—these are all the hallmarks of addiction—any addiction.” Gabor Maté, In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts: Close Encounters with Addiction (Berkeley: North Atlantic Books, 2010), 136-7.
2 Gabor Maté, In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts: Close Encounters with Addiction (Berkeley: North Atlantic Books, 2010), 136-7.