Spiritual Formation

24 October 2007. Wednesday of the 29th Week in Ordinary Time
Luke 12, 39-48 Spiritual Preparation

In the parable, the servant said to himself that he has plenty of preparation time before the Master arrives. This, to me, is fatal. As an exam date nears, we tend to postpone study time and chide ourselves that we have time to spare. We tend to procrastinate in favor of things that are enjoyable. Until it is too late: we are left with a few minutes before the hour comes. Everything becomes photo-finished and we perform poorly. This is the fate of many late-night crammers.

A study was conducted at Harvard Medical School about cramming: it may have a negative effect on students’ grades. The Harvard control group had regular four-day sleep, while the variable group didn’t sleep for the first night. At the end of four days, the groups were tested on image recognition. The result was pretty obvious: the groups with less sleep performed poorly than those who had regular sleep. Depriving ourselves of sleep has a negative effect on the cortex which stores information. Although we may vary in the number of hours we need to sleep, each hour out affects memory retention.

However, it seems preparation for many students still means burning the midnight oil and catching up on sleep for a few hours before hitting the books. And for many students, cramming is the only alternative: when the test is the next day, the best way is to cram, better than nothing at all. If we get used to late-night sessions, we may perform satisfactorily but scientific study shows that we can perform better if we planned ahead and avoided temptations of procrastination.

The same way with our spiritual life. We prepare ourselves when we pray. We create an environment for an encounter. This is what St. Ignatius calls the “Composition of Place”. When our friends visit us in our private rooms, we tend to clean and tidy it up so that they will feel at home. So should we in our spiritual life. The venue for our prayer is considered. The scripture passage is read. Depth is achieved if we make time for reflection and spiritual guidance.

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