St. Ignatius of Loyola, whose feast day we celebrate on July 31st, has gifted the church with a unique expression of spirituality. His Spiritual Exercises are integral in the lives of the members of the Society of Jesus, more commonly called the Jesuits, which he founded in 1540. Though few others are able to participate in a 30-day Ignatian retreat, this gift is not just for those with unlimited time. In fact, he offers a daily prayer of examen that consists of just 5 steps – accessible to anyone.
Part of his greater Spiritual Exercises, there are a few variations in the order or descriptions of the 5 phases, but they are basically as follows:
- Thanksgiving / Give thanks
Open your prayer time with a moment or two of gratitude for the day you’ve been given and thank God for all He is doing in your life.
- Seek grace and wisdom
Ask for the grace of God to wisely examine your day and for the wisdom of the Holy Spirit to help you see His Will in your life.
- Review your day
Start from when you made your last Examen and review and reflect upon everything that has occurred since. Examine your thoughts, words, and actions. Look for where God was present, or maybe where you turned from His presence. Pay special attention to anything that sticks out.
- Ask for pardon
If there were times you fell short, ask for forgiveness and the grace to improve.
- Make a resolution
Resolve to try to overcome your faults and failings. Look forward to the day ahead and ask the Lord to be present in all ways, but especially in times you feel you may face greater temptation.
This simple exercise is all about recognizing the presence of God in our lives. And it shows we don’t need to be a professed religious or have oodles of time to do so. It can be completed in just 10-15 minutes per day, or, if you are really working to root certain sins out of your life, it can be completed more than once per day.
St. Ignatius died on July 31, 1556, was beatified in 1609, and canonized on March 12, 1622, alongside St. Francis Xavier, St. Teresa of Avila, St. Philip Neri, and St. Isidore the Farmer. An eclectic and diverse group, for sure, but one more example that holiness and sainthood are accessible for all – just like the Examen prayer.
On this feast of St. Ignatius, let us thank the Lord for his example of prayer and the practice of recognizing the Lord’s presence in our lives.