Examine Your Conscience

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Examine Your Conscience

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John Castonguay ColorAs an aspiring journalist, this is a question I find myself wrestling with on a semi-regular basis: What needs to be said?  What do I have to say at that particular moment that my audience might find edifying, inspiring, eye-opening or hopefully at least conversation-sparking?

It is my lofty goal to write stories worth remembering that shape minds and inspire “I never thought of it like that” moments, the kinds of stories that grandparents cut out and mail to their families or that friends share on each other’s Facebook walls.  For now, I would settle for a story that people read even when they are not sitting by themselves in the caf.

This week, fighting the urge to write about the new Pope, I decided that my story should invoke the role of the journalist as public educator.   If I had to select the single greatest piece of knowledge I have derived from my education at Fordham, it would have to be the Examen of Consciousness.

A centuries-old Jesuit tradition derived from St. Ignatius of Loyola, the Examen encourages, amongs a many positive qualities, an increased honest self-awareness, a sense of gratitude and bolstered generosity. Undertaken daily (or more frequently) for 10 to 20 minutes, a basic rubric may follow five steps:

1. Requesting guidance.

2. Reviewing your day.

3. Paying attention to your emotions.

4. Choosing one part of the day and praying from it.

5. Looking forward to tomorrow.

The principles of the Examen could also be expanded to address a larger period of time.  I have attempted to perform an Examen of Consciousness over the past 12 months and learned several things.

First, I complain too much, often about things that do not actually bother me. From the food in the cafeteria to the service at the post office, I am excessively agitated by events that are, at most, a minor, temporary frustration.

Conversely, I sometimes allow myself to ignore mistreatment of others not only on a global scale but also in close proximity.  Whether it is people making offensive jokes or being disrespectful to the maintenance and cafeteria workers or disparaging the residents of the Bronx, I have a responsibility to be bothered and to respond.

I really appreciate the opportunity to hold doors open for people.  It is a small gesture and often serves no obvious practical purpose; however, holding doors open for people is a way for me to literally put someone else first, a reminder of how I should behave on a regular basis.

When I take the time to reflect, I respond less impulsively and more appropriately.  My first response is rarely the best course of action.

Gratitude. I cannot have enough.  I have been incredibly blessed with caring friends and fantastic opportunities, and I would be much happier if I more regularly acknowledged this.

So what is the point?  Just a humble request that at least once before you leave Fordham, you try the Examen.  You will be surprised.