Last time I wrote, I shared my plan for a class on Jesus as a child in the Temple, mission, and the Examen. This was not my most successful class. Attendance was lower than usual, which seemed like it might make for a quieter session, but the young people were full of questions that derailed the planned lesson. I firmly believe that young people should be given the opportunity to ask their questions, so I opened the floor for a time. I can’t recall exactly the first question that got the ball rolling, but I know the subject of an upcoming parish blood drive came up. It seemed a good time to talk a bit about the gift of sharing life in this way. Other questions about science and religion required me to clarify that the Catholic religion is not opposed to science, despite a persistent myth that it is.
When I tried to bring the conversation back to the planned topics of the night, the flow wasn’t ideal, but we did have some discussion on finding our mission for life. Trying to call the young people to pray on this particular night was a challenge. Unfortunately, more than a few of the students couldn’t keep themselves quiet and thus disturbed those who wanted to enter into prayer. The Examen, therefore, was not warmly welcomed that night.
But prayer takes practice. I don’t know when I might return to the Examen with this particular group, but I will continue practicing different forms of prayer with the young people. Next week, for instance, as we begin Lent, I’ll likely use Joe Paprocki’s guided reflection on the three pillars of Lent—prayer, fasting, and almsgiving.
When prayer doesn’t go as planned, what tactics do you have for not letting it derail the experience for the rest of the group? How do you maintain a prayerful setting for your classes in the face of obstacles?