Week #15

Forty Weeks ~ Sacred Story

Week 15 Prayer Exercises

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Encouragements & Wisdom

In addition to this week’s prayer materials, there are Encouragements and Wisdom (PDF). You can also View E&W for Week 15 as a webpage.

 

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Part Two
Building Sacred Story Prayer Practice

1 I will ask for the grace of patience to start each day with renewed commitment even if I miss a day’s prayer. I will have my notebook at hand for each prayer period. I will remember to spend no more and no less than 15-minutes in each formal prayer session.

2 I am listening this week for the way that pride or narcissism takes shape in my daily life. I will do this by engaging an attentiveness prayer that examines the two principal forms of narcissism (passive and aggressive).

3 I will continue to draw consolation from my letter to Jesus and/or my Whole-Life Confession. Also, I can bring insights on narcissism from my daily life into my prayer times. Sacred Story prayer is rooted in my asking God for help. Through grace, an intimate relationship between myself and God is being established.


I will awaken to the present moment.
I will awaken to my spiritual nature.
I will not make any decisions based on fear.

 

Focus Affirmation for Week Fifteen

I will say this affirmation aloud once daily:

Be Not Afraid: Fear comes from the enemy of my human nature.

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Read this at the beginning of the week

Recall how Ignatius of Loyola discovered a narcissistic pride at the root of all his manifest sins, addictions, spiritual dysfunction and emotional imbalances. In Genesis, pride is the principal sin of Adam and Eve, or as we might define it today, narcissism.1 The serpent tempted both Adam and Eve with eating the fruit of the forbidden tree by telling them that their “eyes will be opened” and they would “be like gods” (Gen 3:5). The rest is the history of sin, sickness, and death.

The immense grief, sorrow and guilt of paradise lost, by human choice, are memories burned deep in the heart of each and every woman and man who has lived, is living, or will ever walk this earth. But praise God, because it is through the wound, guilt, and grief of paradise lost that we come to understand the divisions in our hearts (Jer 17:9). Although our sin separates us from God, it still points out the path that sets each woman and man on a journey back home to God and to our authentic self. St. Ignatius achieved his greatest enlightenment when he identified the pattern of sin in his story. Once he awoke to it, God used him powerfully in the work of redemption. God will do the same for each of us.

Awakening to our prideful narcissism is understood as a positive move toward deeper spiritual growth. It is not a depressing exercise to make us feel bad or fearful. If these negative emotions result from your prayer, set your eyes and heart on Christ Jesus, the Divine Physician. Recall that He looks on you with joy and love, as you discover the things that diminish your hope and spiritual freedom. Allow Christ to work His healing graces in your story. Remember our affirmation for this week: fear comes from the enemy of human nature.

How does narcissism work? Narcissism, or pride, (both words describe the same damaging spiritual darkness) makes me the center of the universe and the ultimate arbiter of all truth. Narcissism displaces God in order that I can be “like a god.” From that first sin of narcissism flows humankind’s banishment from paradise; the advent of pain, sickness and death; the emergence of evolutionary evil in family structures as evidenced by Cain’s murder of Abel; and the fracturing of the human community as symbolized in the greed, competition and overweening pride underlying the parable of the Tower of Babel.

Man and woman consciously displaced God as their center and source, and made themselves center and source. From this results the fracturing of creation’s harmony. A terminal virus of sin now infects the core of all living things. The corruption caused by this virus has even altered life at the cellular, molecular and biological level. Nothing in the created order has been left untouched or unharmed by the virus of this sin (Gen 3:17-19; Rom 8:18-27).

We are all born into it and we all participate in it. Self-centeredness is an equal opportunity employer. All serious Christian prayer disciplines target this core sin so that by the power of Christ’s sacrifice, creation itself would be set free from slavery to corruption and share in the glorious freedom of the children of God (Rom 8:21).

Prayer Exercise

It is spiritually valuable—exceedingly so—to understand what form of prideful narcissism your life circumstances have shaped in you. It might be helpful to realize that no side of pride’s face is better than the other. Both are equally difficult to admit! Both forms of prideful narcissism displace God in our lives and serve to mask our wounded human nature—our heart’s grief at paradise lost.

With the Divine Physician’s grace, ask to understand how you displace God as the center of your life. Ask to become aware of the grief, anger, and fear that grips you, and the void at the center of your heart and soul that only He can heal. The grace of a Whole-Life Confession gives us renewed humility. It fosters a desire to open more to Christ’s life and the spiritual growth, insights, freedom, hope and peace it brings!

The following two exercises will help you identify your type of prideful narcissism. Spend the prayer periods of three days on each type (Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday OR Thursday, Friday or Saturday). You decide which type to reflect on first and which one second.

Note: this week’s prayer exercise is not to solve your prideful narcissism problem! That would be discouraging (and impossible)! It is enough for now to identify, with the Divine Physician’s grace, a type of narcissism that you judge more present in your story. I emphasize: it was when Ignatius awoke to his prideful narcissism that God was able to really work with him. You will likely discover one or the other of these two principal manifestations of prideful narcissism at the root of all things difficult in your life. Purposely, these two types are defined in very stark language so you can distinguish them clearly.

You most likely will not feel them as strongly in your story as they are drawn here. So in your reflection and prayer, attend more to the type to which you are susceptible, and not so much the intensity. Ask the Divine Physician to guide your prayerful awakening in peace, trust and hope. These two faces of narcissism capture the principal forms of pride that life’s circumstances generate in human nature wounded by Original Sin.

 

The Passive Narcissist

Take the prayer periods of three days to pray with the description of The Passive Narcissist. It is vital to understand this type of Original Sin’s pride manifesting in human dysfunction. Note briefly in your journal what you consider significant that causes anxiety or hope. Are the Passive Narcissist’s qualities ones that typify your negative story?

This type of narcissism rehearses and repeats the anger, fear, anxiety and grief of old wounds and hurts. The passive narcissist complains, is grasping, cynical, and makes excuses for everything except his or her own bad behavior. The passive narcissist draws attention to herself or himself in every thought, word, and deed and says he or she is the center of attention these ways: “see how I have suffered;” “see how I have been victimized” “see how unfairly I am treated;” “see why I behave the way I do;” “see why I am justified in …” The passive narcissist works hard to blame others for his or her wounds, and labors mightily in every thought, word and deed to make sure others know of their suffering. The passive narcissist takes pride and finds power and comfort in her or his victim status, whether it is real or perceived. The passive narcissist works very hard to maintain her or his victim status and remain powerless, refusing to take responsibility for changing her or his situation because changing the situation means confronting pain and offering forgiveness to those who helped you evolve this way. Changing also means losing your core identity of powerless victim. To lose this identity is to lose power and control. There are three main reasons for this.

First, losing victim status means literally losing power and control of the people and events in one’s world. Second, the passive narcissist is disconnected from his or her authentic self. Losing the status of victim initiates an acute and fearful identity crisis because life’s meaning and definitions of success have been intimately linked with being a powerless victim. Third, as a result of the loss of power and control and the loss of one’s false identity, the passive narcissist will be confronted with the spiritual, psychological and emotional wounds hiding behind the passive narcissism.

During your daily activities, pay attention to sudden anger, anxiety, fear or grief that surfaces. Pray for graced insights to comprehend how sudden anger, temptation, anxiety, fear or grief touch the deep spiritual, emotional and physical wounds and Original Sins in your life. For those events that seem to jump out at you and capture your attention, consciously do this short exercise, speaking to Christ from your heart: Ask to not react but instead to be conscious of what you are reacting to.

  • Ask to feel the heart’s fear, temptation, anxiety, anger and grief present in the reaction.
  • Ask for knowledge—for graced insight—to begin dismantling this immature, damaging, (aggressive-electrifying or passive-depressing) and self-glorifying process.
  • Ask who or what initiated this particular pattern of reaction—of overpowering or blaming others—and why?
  • Ask for courage to face the negative story of being a passive victim, because facing it can cause panic when you are used to being its slave but once confronted, facing it can bring you peace and freedom.

 

The Aggressive Narcissist

Take the prayer periods of three days to pray with the description of The Aggressive Narcissist. It is vital to understand this type of Original Sin’s pride manifesting in human dysfunction. Note briefly in your journal what you consider significant that causes anxiety or hope. Are the Aggressive Narcissist’s qualities ones that typify your negative story?

This type of narcissism rehearses and repeats the anger, fear, anxiety and grief of old wounds and hurts. The wounded, prideful aggressor gets even, is grasping, and determined to best others, and to justify and excuse his or her behavior in the process. The aggressive narcissist draws attention to herself or himself in every thought, word, and deed and says he or she is the center of attention in these ways: “see how special and gifted I am;” “see that you never get in my way;” “see, you will never overpower me;” “see, I deserve what I have, because I earned it;” “see, no one will ever hurt me again.”

The aggressive narcissist works hard never to let anyone best him or her, and labors mightily in every thought, word and deed to make sure others get the message of his or her superiority. The aggressive narcissist takes pride, and finds tremendous energy in her or his triumphs over others, real or perceived. The aggressive narcissist works very hard to maintain her or his winner status, for her or his negative story is now totally associated with being the winner. To lose winner status is to lose power and control. There are three main reasons for this.

First, losing winner status means losing the power and control of the people and events in one’s world. Second, the aggressive narcissist is disconnected from his or her authentic self. Losing the status of winner initiates an acute and fearful identity crisis because life’s meaning and definitions of success have been intimately linked with the story of being the winner. Third, as a result of the loss of power and control and the loss of one’s false identity, the aggressive narcissist will be confronted with the spiritual, psychological and emotional wounds hiding behind the aggressive narcissism.

During your daily activities, pay attention to sudden anger, anxiety, fear or grief that surfaces. Pray for graced insights how sudden anger, temptation, anxiety, fear or grief touch the deep spiritual, emotional and physical wounds and Original Sins in your life. For those events that seem to jump out at you, and capture your attention, consciously do this short exercise, speaking to Christ from your heart: Ask to not react but instead to be conscious of what you are reacting to.

  • Ask to feel the heart’s fear, anxiety, anger and grief present in the reaction.
  • Ask for knowledge—for graced insight—to begin dismantling this immature, damaging, (aggressive-electrifying or passive-depressing) and self-glorifying process.
  • Ask who or what initiated this particular pattern of reaction—of overpowering or blaming others—and why?
  • Ask for courage to face the negative story of being an aggressive winner, because facing it can cause panic when you are used to being its slave but once confronted, facing it can bring you peace and freedom.

 

THE PASSIVE NARCISSIST THE AGGRESSIVE NARCISSIST
Self-identifies as a victim. Self-identifies as a winner.
Is determined to have others notice how special he/she is by pointing to his/her unfair suffering. Is determined to have others notice how special he/she is by defeating all opponents.
Is cynical and excuses bad behavior by insisting it is justified because of how much he/she has suffered. Is cynical and excuses bad behavior by insisting it is justified because he/she has earned it.
Wallows in self-pity when hurt, whether the hurt is real or imagined. Is vindictive when hurt, whether the hurt is real or imagined.
Blames anyone who criticizes or opposes him/her. Threatens anyone who criticizes or opposes him/her.
Protects him/herself from being hurt again by keeping wounds as fresh as possible. If anything is too difficult or painful, he/she will retreat into those painful memories and turn inward, away from others. Protects him/herself from being hurt again by eradicating vulnerabilities. If anything is too difficult or painful, he/she will act in a conqueror role and dominate others.
Wins by emotional manipulation. Wins by direct confrontation.
Is secretly attached to his/her own woundedness. Is secretly attached to the power of defeating others.
Is terrified of taking control and personal responsibility and has difficulty admitting it to him/herself. Is terrified of surrendering control and being vulnerable, and has difficulty admitting it to him/herself.

 

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Why, Lord, do you stand afar
and pay no heed in times of trouble?
Arrogant scoundrels pursue the poor;
they trap them by their cunning schemes.

The wicked even boast of their greed;
these robbers curse and scorn the Lord.
In their insolence the wicked boast:
“God does not care; there is no God.”
Yet their affairs always succeed;
they ignore your judgment on high;
they sneer at all who oppose them.
They say in their hearts, “We will never fall;
never will we see misfortune.”
Their mouths are full of oaths, violence, and lies;
discord and evil are under their tongues
They wait in ambush near towns;
their eyes watch for the helpless
to murder the innocent in secret.
They lurk in ambush like lions in a thicket,
hide there to trap the poor,
snare them and close the net.
The helpless are crushed, laid low;
they fall into the power of the wicked,
Who say in their hearts, “God has forgotten,
shows no concern, never bothers to look.”

Rise up, Lord! God, lift up your hand!
Do not forget the poor!
Why should the wicked scorn God,
say in their hearts, “God does not care”?
But you do see;
you take note of misery and sorrow;
you take the matter in hand.
To you the helpless can entrust their cause;
you are the defender of orphans.
Break the arm of the wicked and depraved;
make them account for their crimes;
let none of them survive.

The Lord is king forever;
the nations have vanished from his land.
You listen, Lord, to the needs of the poor;
you strengthen their heart and incline your ear.
You win justice for the orphaned and oppressed;
no one on earth will cause terror again.

(Ps 10)

1 MAN IN PARADISE
The first man was not only created good, but was also established in friendship with his Creator and in harmony with himself and with the creation around him, in a state that would be surpassed only by the glory of the new creation in Christ.
The Church, interpreting the symbolism of biblical language in an authentic way, in the light of the New Testament and Tradition, teaches that our first parents, Adam and Eve, were constituted in an original “state of holiness and justice”. This grace of original holiness was “to share in divine life”.

By the radiance of this grace all dimensions of man’s life were confirmed. As long as he remained in the divine intimacy, man would not have to suffer or die. The inner harmony of the human person, the harmony between man and woman, and finally the harmony between the first couple and all creation, comprised the state called “original justice.”

The “mastery” over the world that God offered man from the beginning was realized above all within man himself: mastery of self. The first man was unimpaired and ordered in his whole being because he was free from the triple concupiscence that subjugates him to the pleasures of the senses, covetousness for earthly goods, and self-assertion, contrary to the dictates of reason.

The sign of man’s familiarity with God is that God places him in the garden. There he lives “to till it and keep it.” Work is not yet a burden [Gen 2:15; cf. 3:17-19] but rather the collaboration of man and woman with God in perfecting the visible creation. This entire harmony of original justice, foreseen for man in God’s plan, will be lost by the sin of our first parents

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