End your day the Ignatian way!

February 27, 2011 § Leave a comment

Portrait of St. Ignatius of LoyolaI have been discerning a vocation for many years, but am the type of person that likes to take a lot of time when facing such an important decision. I have looked into the spirituality of many monastic groups, especially that of my patron, St. Maximilian Kolbe, who was a Franciscan. I don’t feel myself drawn to any one in particular, so I end up mixing in elements of each into my personal prayer life. One practice engaged in by St. Ignatius of Loyola, founder of the Jesuit order, is the Examen. I like to make the Examen nightly, just before bed, but before the rosary. The Examen consists of looking back upon the day and examining it through the eyes of the Church. Have I sinned today? How and why? What caused me to sin? What were the circumstances that led to any sins or stumbles this day, and what can I do tomorrow to avoid the same thing? What emotions do I feel when thinking about certain events of the day, and what can I learn from this?

I find it very helpful to do this nightly, striving always to understand myself and my actions, resolving to align myself more and more with the teachings of the Church, and therefore the the will of Christ, strengthening my faith and becoming a better Catholic along the way. Here are the steps of this very easy yet fulfilling devotion, from the Ignatian website.

1. Become aware of God’s presence. Look back on the events of the day in the company of the Holy Spirit. The day may seem confusing to you—a blur, a jumble, a muddle. Ask God to bring clarity and understanding.

2. Review the day with gratitude. Gratitude is the foundation of our relationship with God. Walk through your day in the presence of God and note its joys and delights. Focus on the day’s gifts. Look at the work you did, the people you interacted with. What did you receive from these people? What did you give them? Pay attention to small things—the food you ate, the sights you saw, and other seemingly small pleasures. God is in the details.

3. Pay attention to your emotions. One of St. Ignatius’s great insights was that we detect the presence of the Spirit of God in the movements of our emotions. Reflect on the feelings you experienced during the day. Boredom? Elation? Resentment? Compassion? Anger? Confidence? What is God saying through these feelings?

God will most likely show you some ways that you fell short. Make note of these sins and faults. But look deeply for other implications. Does a feeling of frustration perhaps mean that God wants you consider a new direction in some area of your work? Are you concerned about a friend? Perhaps you should reach out to her in some way.

4. Choose one feature of the day and pray from it. Ask the Holy Spirit to direct you to something during the day that God thinks is particularly important. It may involve a feeling—positive or negative. It may be a significant encounter with another person or a vivid moment of pleasure or peace. Or it may be something that seems rather insignificant. Look at it. Pray about it. Allow the prayer to arise spontaneously from your heart—whether intercession, praise, repentance, or gratitude.

5. Look toward tomorrow. Ask God to give you light for tomorrow’s challenges. Pay attention to the feelings that surface as you survey what’s coming up. Are you doubtful? Cheerful? Apprehensive? Full of delighted anticipation? Allow these feelings to turn into prayer. Seek God’s guidance. Ask him for help and understanding. Pray for hope.

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