Eye-catching ads all around us are dogged reminders of the lure of looking good and getting fit. Often, it's a pipe dream. Yes, our bearing and health matter. But if the wish is the father to the thought, we can fall into the trap of living out our fantasies through self-absorption and overindulgence. The door then opens to a dreadful disappointment with ourselves and others.
What these ads miss altogether is the greater importance of being good and getting tough. Integrity and character call to mind a whole new set of human and supernatural values. When we look beneath the purely external, we begin to understand man's innate dignity and the qualities that truly ennoble him. We begin to see the reasons for a healthy self-acceptance and of respect of everyone. True attractiveness comes within reach. The grace of God, together with getting the right help, can turn these ideals into real goals.
The monthly recollection tries to address this great need. These two-hour sessions can help us achieve changes that transform our life. However, we must be willing to do our part. We must make the effort to break free from a busy schedule and overcome physical tiredness or mental distraction.
The monthly recollection follows a systematic format that covers the essential aspects of human, Catholic doctrinal, religious, and ascetical formation. Our mind and heart get engaged with God because we are helped in three ways: First, there is external silence. We refrain from unnecessary conversations. Second, our attention is drawn to constant themes of the activity: prayer, virtues, and apostolate. Third, we are reminded to make a few practicable resolutions.
The activity schedule includes spiritual reading, meditations, a talk, and examination of conscience. Spiritual reading provides much-needed learning about God, man, and the world and stirs in us thoughts and desires necessary to sustain a lifetime struggle for holiness. St. Jerome says that when we pray, we talk to God, but when we read, God speaks to us. The meditation, led by a priest, is meant to help us do mental prayer or a personal dialogue with God. The talk offers practical considerations and advice for Christian living. The examination of conscience, done in God’s presence and with the help of guide questions, is a great aid for developing a refined conscience and forming concrete resolutions.
If we want to benefit fully from the monthly recollection, we need to make even just a few but specific and actionable resolutions. As the saying goes, nothing ventured, nothing gained. The struggle for holiness is neither a mad rush nor an exercise that leads to paralysis by analysis. The formulation of resolutions is intended to help us focus on what we need to improve or change and thus on what is worthwhile. So as not to bite off more than we can chew, we will limit ourselves to a few but concrete resolutions (for example, one specific goal for the next month for each of three key areas: prayer, the practice of virtues, and apostolate). We will also make it a point to keep track of these resolutions and review them often, daily if possible, in our prayer.
Our ultimate goal is to be another Christ, to be like Christ himself: to have his mind and to live and work as he did or as he would.