Reflections on remembering


22 Jan 2019

The Examen is a way to reflect on our lives. At the end of the day, we reflect on the day that has just gone past. We recall the ebb and flow of life, for what we are grateful, and for what we feel sorry.

Remembering brings us to thanksgiving and forgiving. At the beginning of a year, we do the same for the past year. As we grow older, it becomes more crucial to remember, own and tell the story of our lives. We look at the undercurrents to see the significance of events. Events are not isolated and meaningless but similar to pieces of a jigsaw puzzle, they fit together to form a whole picture. We remember, that is, put together, the joyful, sorrowful and glorious mysteries of our lives.

In an article, ‘Growing Old – the Vocation of Ageing,’ Neil Millar and Sarah Bachelard write that remembering ‘promises reconciliation’ but it ‘may also give rise to experiences of depression, anxiety and the sense that our lives have been wasted.’ Remembering requires us to acknowledge the hard times as well. If these were not dealt with at the time, remembering leads us to the practise of lament. ‘To lament is to give voice to our complaint about our circumstances and to the uncomfortable feelings that accompany them – bewilderment, anger, disappointment, sadness and pain.’ Chronic negativity is ‘more likely to appear when the cleansing power of true lament has been stifled; it brings no real release but rather keeps us stuck in resistance and cynical despair.’


What causes the difference between lament and chronic negativity? I wonder if the difference lies in being heard and understood. When one complains, and is heard and understood, there is no need to continue to complain but when one is not heard and understood, the complaints continue and become chronic negativity. To be understood by someone is a human need but sometimes our sufferings are not visible and not easily understood by others. Then too there may be afflictions that we do not want to share with others but we have to name them to ourselves and to God. Some of our deepest afflictions can only be understood by God. To lament is to mourn before God. In Perseverance in Trials, Cardinal Martini suggests that ‘If we were to substitute profound lamentation in prayer for barren complaining that only opens new wounds, we would often find the solution to our problems and those of others or at least find a more legitimate way of calling attention to suffering and hardship.’

We bring our painful feelings and memories to Jesus on the Cross, who suffered for us, and will transform our negativity (Patrick O’Sullivan, Prayer and Relationships). I am struck by Martin Luther’s words regarding the power of meditating on the suffering of Christ, ‘If one does meditate rightly on the suffering of Christ for a day, or an hour, even a quarter of an hour, this we may say confidently is better than a whole year of fasting, days of psalm singing, yes, even than one hundred masses, because this reflection changes the whole man [sic] and makes him new, as once he was in baptism.’ (Larry Warner, Journey with Jesus)


In his Welcome Prayer, Richard Rohr says that when we name our hurt, feel it, and welcome it, transformation can begin. ‘You can hold this immense pain because you too are being held by the very One who went through this process on the Cross. Jesus was holding all the pain of the world, though the world had come to hate him, he refused to hate it back … Now hand all of this pain … over to God. Let it go. Ask for the grace of forgiveness for the person who hurt you, for the event that offended you, for the reality of suffering in each life.’

Once we name the uncomfortable feelings and bring them to Jesus, we have made a good start. We ask Jesus to help us with the rest – letting go, acceptance, forgiveness, healing and transformation.

When we find ourselves stuck in negativity and despair, we remind ourselves that remembering is not only about the sorrowful mysteries but more importantly the joyful mysteries of our lives. Remembering the good times bring us to thanksgiving and gratitude which jolts us out of the bad times. We reflect on whether something good came out of the bad times, some growth, strength, renewed faith and hope.

Did we experience resurrection/ glorious mysteries after our ‘dying’ through sufferings/ sorrowful mysteries? If not, can there be resurrection now? Again and again, we are given chances to be resurrected.

Susie Hii is a writer and author of Happy, Healthy, Holy.
Email this Print This Page