The Spiritual Exercises of Saint Ignatius Loyola are best suited for prayer during a silent retreat. However, Ignatius knew that they could also be effective when employed in a less isolated environment. It is the hope of the authors of this blog that you, the reader, find the meditations that we offer here useful in your own search to encounter Christ in prayer in your daily life. The meditations are intended to be prayed in order, from as close to the beginning as possible, perhaps over the course of a dedicated time such as the season of Lent. (more…)
No matter what we do, God will always love us. But sinning is not a matter of whether God loves us. It is a matter of whether we will accept His presence in our lives. As with all relationships, we can choose to let ours with God die. An examination of conscience is an opportunity to assess this relationship and the ways we have hurt or killed it. Looking the relationship over, we can see occasions where it is not what it could be, and with God’s help we can then make it stronger than it was, removing the stumbling blocks that keep us from following God and being as close to Him as we could be.
St. Ignatius was aware of all of this as he developed the examination of conscience (called the “Examen” for short) that came to be included in the Spiritual Exercises. Ignatius says in the Exercises that the Examen should be prayed twice daily, for a few minutes each time (15 at the most), and at about the same time each day: once around lunchtime and once shortly before going to bed. This practice was so helpful that Ignatius and other early Jesuits usually suggested to people that they continue it even after they leave the retreat setting, and Jesuits everywhere are asked to do it as part of their regular spiritual practice.
Grace: To come to know how God is acting in my life and inspiring me to help build the Kingdom.
Reflection: In the novel The Second Coming, Walker Percy follows the story of Will Barrett, a man who was too busy to live in the present moment and simply “missed” his life. In light of this, Percy asks, “Is it possible for people to miss their lives in the same way one misses a plane?” Late in his life, Barrett wonders whether he missed or wasted his life. Percy writes,
Not once in his entire life had he allowed himself to come to rest in the quiet center of himself but had forever cast himself forward from some dark past he could not remember to a future which did not exist. Not once had he been present for his life. So his life had passed like a dream.
To me, Barrett’s reflection on his life emerges as an invitation to live in the present moment and to pay attention to the ways God dwells and labours in us. At the very core of Ignatian spirituality is the belief that God is found in all things. This belief denotes that a major part of our human vocation is to find God in all things. According to St. Ignatius of Loyola, God communicates directly with each of us in our minds and hearts. God communicates through what Ignatius called movements of the heart or motions of the soul; namely, our thoughts, feelings and desires.
Grace: To know the Spirit of God at work in my daily life.
Reflection: Google came up with 304,000 results to my search query “Examen of Conscience.” Needless to say, a lot of great material on one of St. Ignatius’ most prized forms of prayer is already floating out there online for you to discover. While the Internet is already saturated with stuff on the Examen prayer, it is not without good reason. Millions of Christians pray (and blog) regularly about the Examen because it is: 1. short and simple, 2. personal, and 3. spiritually effective. So as not to clog the Internet anymore than necessary on things regarding the Examen, I will be brief . . . . (more…)
“There are only two kinds of people in the end: those who say to God, ‘Thy will be done,’ and those to whom God says, in the end, ‘Thy will be done.’”
So C.S. Lewis quips in The Great Divorce, neatly summarizing the determinative power of our human free will. Yet, such a choice is not one that is sorted out in just one decisive moment – at the end of time or before – but rather each at each moment of our lives. It is to an examination of the way we use our wills that we now turn.
Immediately after offering the Principle and Foundation at the opening of the Spiritual Exercises, St. Ignatius lists the examination of conscience. Upon consideration this makes plenty of sense; only once we know the proper destination of our course of life on earth can we have a clearer understanding of what deviates us from this path. Better understanding that we are made for God calls for a response on our part! The course of life offers us choices – some of which promote our end, some of which slow us down in pursuing it, and some of which outright oppose our end. Most simply put, sin and the praise, reverence, and service of God do not coincide.