Tuesday, March 24, 2009

In Search of Intentionality

One of the reasons I began this blog was that I wanted to write whenever I felt inspired. Therefore, I need to write now before I lose it.

I was very recently, as in about 10 minutes ago, praying about intentionality in my life. Honestly, I am pretty terrible about intentionality. Or, I struggle in my own sheer willpower to follow through on things. Lenten resolutions?? They pretty regularly become Lenten failings. Part of it is that I have an addictive personality--although, thankfully, alcohol I don't particularly struggle with. I know my limits and know when to stop.

Let me give you an example. One of the perks of having a Netflix account is that I am now able to stream videos and movies online over the internet. So, recently, I have been watching The Office online. A quirky kind of humor, but one I've really been getting into lately. If you're like me (you're probably not, because I'm pretty crazy, but you just might be), you might watch an episode or two and then tell yourself that the next episode will be the last one you watch. Well, before you know it, you watched another eight episodes, and when you realize that it's 3AM in the morning, curse words just naturally start to flow.

When I was growing up, I loved playing video games. Actually, I'm a huge nerd when it comes to them, and I still love playing them. Especially those RPG games where you get to customize your character ad nauseum and try to make them 'uber-l33t' while 'pwning noobs' (if you don't know what that means, you're probably better off). I've been known in college to play games like World of Warcraft until 6AM in the morning. Thankfully, I've subdued that part of me for the most part while being a Jesuit, but I still find ways to get my gaming in once in a while. I love video games--I can't deny that. But, many spiritual directors, and a therapist, have said that it's all about intentionality, of setting limits for myself. Spiritually, a sort of inner mortification needs to take place. If I do not discipline myself in this way, I lose control very quickly. And, almost always, I end up being angry with myself at the end.

Anyway, while I was at prayer, playing the old internal record of needing intentionality in my life, I began thinking about the Ordo. The Ordo plays a central role in the life of the novitiate. The novitiate is probably one of the only times when our lives look like that of a monastic order. For example, as a 1st year novice, a typical Tuesday in my province looked like this:
6:30 AM Rise
7:00 AM Private Prayer
7:45 AM Common Morning Prayer
8:00 AM Breakfast
9:00 AM Class
11:00 AM Mass
11:45 AM Examen
12:00 PM Lunch
1:00 PM (to 3PM) Work Ordo (essentially manual work like scrubbing toilets)
5:15 PM Afternoon Meditation (Private)
6:00 PM Dinner
7:30 PM Spiritual Reading
9:00 PM Examen
9:15 PM Evening Prayer (Common)
Now, I know a number of Jesuits hate the Ordo, or maybe I should say really struggle with it. With my kind of personality, however, I deeply appreciated the strict structure of the novitiate timetable. I could be intentional without having to think about it. It was freeing for me on many different levels.

Of course, we don't live this way all of our lives--we have to integrate the graces of that structure into our lives. For me, it probably means setting personal goals not unlike that of the novitiate. I don't need to be as detailed, but I can't lose out on the essentials either--a personal struggle when I don't have set goals in mind. Setting a clear time of getting into bed, of praying throughout the day, of giving time to study, of spending time in community, etc. Perhaps I use my morning prayer to plot my day.

Now, it's just a matter of putting words into practice. Let's see! It's not like I haven't told this to myself before. But, whenever I seek and ask for God's help and guidance in this, I am much more disposed to follow through. It's just a matter of regularly asking for that grace, of letting go that I can do this by myself.

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