Every so often, every month, quarter, or year, it's important to take a step back from the day to day, and look at our lives from a bird's eye view.

The Examination Journal has this built in by design -- every month we review and reflect on the past 30 days, asking what's going well, what's not, what virtue do we need, and what practical resolution can we make?

The daily examinations are vital and create fertile ground, but I find that it's the monthly ones that really bear fruit.

Here's a personal example:

Recently, as I reviewed the past month of daily examination pages, I noticed a pattern: Frequent entries around impatience, anger, and frustration with my kids.

Parents know how it goes -- kids don't do what you want, they don't listen, and you lose your cool (throwing your own adult tempter tantrum).

So here's the first point: the monthly examinations add a new dimension to our reflection, frequency. Something might seem small on its own, but if it happens every single day... that's something to take to prayer.

Second, the monthly examination gives us time and space to probe deeper, asking the Lord to shed more light into our lives.

For me, my human reaction is "Gosh, I need to be more patient." Which is fine and good, and I pray for that virtue. But is that really it: I just need to be more patient? What's really happening? Impatience is the effect, but what's the cause?

I realized (with some help) that this impatience, anger, and frustration has the same source: a feeling of powerlessness. Let me illustrate:

Just the other day, our family went to adoration. The Church was of course silent, with a few dozen people, and plenty of space. My wife and daughter were in line for confession. I was holding our baby while trying to contain the storm that is our two boys, ages 6 and 4. I'll admit, they're usually pretty good... but not this night.

As if on cue, they take off sprinting in opposite directions -- our 4 year old's crocs thundering down the aisle.

Looking from one to the other, I felt powerless. I'm holding our baby. I can't yell. I can't sprint after them.

As hard as it is to admit, we are powerless more than we realize. It's a form of pride to think that we are so in control.

Powerlessness and pride also rob us of joy. Which then can turn into indifference, passive aggression, and sarcasm -- all things I also notice in my entries.

My point is that most days I don't have big aha moments in my examen. I think that's probably true for most of us. But, when you think about it, we actually don't need 30 big insights every month. One might be enough. One flicker in the darkness that can help light our way.

And that's where the monthly examination comes in.
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