August 15, 2008

The Joyful Catholic / Rick Hermann

No matter the age, spiritual exercise is good for your soul

Rick Hermann“My life has changed,” said my friend.

She spoke with excitement and a big smile.

“Since I discovered the power of gratitude, I see everything and everyone in a new light. I no longer see the glass half-empty; now I see the glass half-full.”

This woman struggled with a critical spirit and a self-proclaimed tendency to see a problem in every situation and a fault in every person.

Then she read The Spiritual Exercises of Saint Ignatius and discovered the power of gratitude.

On the first page, St. Ignatius stirred her heart with these words: “Man is created to praise, reverence and serve God our Lord.”

As she practiced the spiritual exercises of St. Ignatius, she found herself allowing God to guide her to supernatural health. She had found a new personal trainer.

During her nightly examination of conscience, she reflected on her day. Then she thanked God for all his blessings and praised him for his own sake.

“I discovered,” she recalled, “how to put myself entirely in God’s loving hands and praise him for all things. Nothing good or bad happens unless God allows it to pass through his fingers. So we can be grateful for everything.

“My life is transformed,” she continued. “I feel like I’ve awakened from a delirious nightmare. Maybe I found the Holy Spirit. I just want to share this joy and wisdom with the world!”

She decided to offer her children an easy version of the spiritual exercises by asking them three questions.

Every night at bedtime, starting with the youngest, she sits on the side of the bed as they kneel and say their prayers.

She listens intently to them just as God listens to her.

Then they jump into bed and she tucks them in, saying, “Name one thing you are thankful for.”

At first, she recalled, they mentioned ice cream, flowers and birthday parties. Gradually, they expanded their lists to include surprises like Grandpa’s laugh or a teacher’s compliment.

This helps her children see the endless variety of God’s blessings every day.

Previously, they rocketed through the day without noticing God’s blessings. Now they notice more blessings, and it shows in their radiant faces.

Next, she asks, “What is one thing you might have done differently today?”

This teaches them how to be more aware of their words and actions. They learn to be problem solvers and peacemakers. They dream of ways to be better in the future.

Finally, she says, “Name one time today when you felt God’s presence.”

This helps them recognize God’s loving presence in their daily lives.

Her older children are starting to appreciate how God can bring good from bad and healing after hurt.

This gently moves them closer to God by helping them identify his certain presence every day of their lives.

Gradually, they see God in all the love they give and receive—for God is love.

Then the children drift off to sleep knowing the peace and joy of the Great Comforter.

“This nightly ritual,” she says, “is giving them a much deeper faith than I had as a child. I actually see my children now as little saints in progress.”

(Rick Hermann of St. Louis is a Catholic author and career coach. His e-mail address is

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