Ignatius of Loyola was born of nobility in the Basque Spain, prepared to become a courtier and soldier. Growing up, he reveled in gambling, dueling, and romance; he even had a police record for nighttime brawling. But at age 30, Ignatius’ life changed when a cannonball shattered his leg, and he found himself trapped in the family castle because of the accident. He was unable to walk and only had books on Jesus and saints to read. The stories of saints in these books stirred his imagination, and Ignatius soon traded his military ambitions for spiritual ones. During his life, he formed the Society of Jesus (Jesuits), and he wrote the famous The Spiritual Exercises, a manual for a 4-week meditation on the life of Jesus. Today at Vintage, we focused on Ignatius’ daily examen, a prayer from The Spiritual Exercises. St. Ignatius believed this reflective prayer to be invaluable in the Christian life. Praying in this manner “opens our eyes to God’s self-revelation” and leads to spiritual clarity. It allows us to see where God was present in our day as well as the ways in which our need of Him is especially great. This prayer—the daily examen—consists of five parts:
- Giving thanks to God for the graces we have received during the day.
- Asking for the grace to see where God had been with us during the day.
- Reviewing the entire day and remembering when we had accepted God’s grace and where we hadn’t.
- Finally, asking God for forgiveness of our sins and for the grace to do better the next day.
During our time of reading and discussion, students also had the opportunity to pray the daily examen themselves. The group was guided through each step of the prayer by a podcast played in the background. Students remarked after how the prayer allowed them to slow down and see the ways in which God was working even in the small, mundane parts of the day. Our busy lives often consist of rushing from one activity to another, and it’s easy to overlook both God’s grace and our sin. Reflection is crucial in our spiritual lives, and it leads to thanksgiving, confession, and repentance. Ignatius of Loyola’s prayer is a helpful guide for prayer, and it calls for Christians to be more mindful of the presence of God in our daily lives.
To check out the podcast that guides you through the daily examen, go to: www.pray-as-you-go.org/
For more insights on the examen prayer & the gifts God brings through it, watch the video: http://www.ignatianspirituality.com/ignatian-prayer/the-examen/the-examen-video/
-Caroline Parsley, UVa '14