An Ignatian way to live
For St Ignatius, the loving God is very active in our lives, seeking to heal us and bring us closer to Him and to one another. He encourages us to enter the Gospel scenes with the help of our imaginations and thus get to know Jesus personally whom we can trust and say anything to. We open up ourselves to Him so that He we can see and hear Him. This enables us to recognise Him more deeply in our everyday lives. Life and prayer become integrated, prayer making more sense of life and life being at the heart of our prayer. We find God in all things or, rather, we allow Him to find us and love us in all things.
The experience of Jesus active in our lives leaves us feeling grateful and asking:
“what have I done for Christ?”
“what am I doing for Christ?”
“what more can I do for Christ?”
Jesus desires a kingdom of peace, justice and love. He asks our help to bring this about. So Ignatian spirituality is a spirituality of service. Our sphere of action with Jesus might be within our own home - helping love, peace and justice to reign there. It may also be in some wider field but, always, it will be working with him to bring his Kingdom more completely into our world.
Ignatian spirituality encourages us to find God in all things – not only in the beautiful and inspiring, not only in the Church or with fellow Christians, but also in the ugly, mundane and sad.
There are many different ways of praying. Here are some ways of praying particularly associated with St Ignatius, known as Ignatian Spirituality. If these help you then, wonderful; if not, do not worry, find ways of praying that do help you find God more deeply. “Pray as you can, not as you can’t!”
The prayer that distinguishes Ignatian Spirituality is the 'examen'. The word 'examen' is Spanish for 'examine'.
In his book The Spiritual Exercises Ignatius introduces us to two forms of 'examen': the General Examination and the Specific Examination. The General Examen looks at what has been going on in my day, while the Specific looks at an area I want to change.
- Find a place where you can be quiet and undisturbed for a few minutes.
- You might like, also, to make this place special by placing a favourite holy picture, or crucifix in front of you. You may like to light a candle or play some quiet, gentle music in the background.
- Take a moment, then, to relax, to allow the concerns and activities of the day to settle down in your mind and in your heart. You may like to become more aware of the sounds around you and then to allow those sounds to fade away as you begin to enter more deeply into yourself and begin listening to God’s Spirit speak to your inner self. You may like to spend a few moments breathing slowly and quietly, remembering that every breath is a gift of God and is a sign of His love and of His presence.
What to do
- Begin by making the sign of the cross, slowly: “In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.”
- Then, ask God to send you the light of His Holy Spirit to help you to see the past day with His eyes, so that you may see whatever He wants to show you of particular importance. “Lord, help me to see whatever You want me to see, so that I may grow more aware of Your love for me and for the world, and that I may grow in my knowledge and love of You, of others, of the world and of myself.”
- You may, then, like to play the day back in your mind and in your heart, a bit like a film, remembering the moments which strike you the most.
- What good things have I heard today?
- What good things have I seen today?
- What good people have I met and talked to today?
- Is there one thing that stands out today that has moved me?
- When have I felt inspired, full of generosity, courage, hope?
- What dreams have I started to have?
After thanking God for these gifts, spend a short time asking God, again, to see clearly how, through these experiences, God is working in my life, and in the lives of others.
On the other hand, have there been moments where I have felt bored, fed up, lifeless or angry?
Ask God to show you, also, what these moments, these feelings are telling you about where God is leading you. What brings you life – energy, a sense of generosity, hope – and what makes you feel fed up, closed in on yourself, hopeless or fearful.
Ask God for forgiveness for those times when you have not responded as best you might to those around you or the gentle promptings of His Holy Spirit. Say a prayer, asking God to help you to respond more generously tomorrow.
Alternatively, you may like to look back over the day, hour by hour, starting from when you woke up until the present moment. (Review this slowly!)
- How did I feel when I woke up?
- Did I pray this morning? If so, what do I remember from this time of prayer?
- If I did not pray, how did this leave me feeling?
- Did I have breakfast? How did I speak to those around me?
- What was my journey to and from work like? Who did I meet? How did I feel?
- How did I spend lunch-time?
- How did the afternoon go? Was it, would you say, a good afternoon, if so, why and, if not, why not?
- What did I do this evening? How did that leave me feeling?
As you look back over the day, would you say that, generally speaking, it was a day of consolation or a day of desolation? Why?
Speaking with and listening to God.
Now turn this into a conversation with God, asking Him to teach me. “Lord, what do You want to show me about today?” What have I learnt today about myself and my deepest desires? How have I seen the people and the world around me? How is God calling me through this? What is God saying to me?
Prayer of gratitude and for forgiveness.
I thank God for many the good gifts of the day and I ask forgiveness for the times when I have not followed Christ as I should.
Finally, what changes can I make in light of today so as to follow God more closely. I ask for the grace to trust God more deeply and to follow Him more lovingly so that through His grace I may see, listen to and love the people around me and around the world, with God’s love.
Finish by saying the prayer:
Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit, as it was in the beginning, is now and ever shall be, world without end. Amen.
Or, another way … put more simply …
YES, here I am Lord, to have a few minutes’ quiet time with you. It is good to be here and to think a bit about my day
THANKS for all the day has been and for all your gifts. These are the moments that come to mind when I think about saying thank you
I’M SORRY for the moments of selfishness and unkindness and any other times when I did not manage to be your hands Jesus, your feet, your eyes, your love, your compassion, for the people around me.
PLEASE give me a nudge if there was something you were trying to tell me today when I wasn’t paying attention! And promise you’ll be with me all through tomorrow too. Amen
Thanks to the FCJ sisters for the simplified examen
I take some specific habit or way of behaviour that I would like to change. Or I can consider a positive practice I want to get into the habit of. It could be something like making nasty comments about someone I don't like, or wasting time on internet games, eating too much ...
- I start my prayer by acknowledging the desire to change this particular area and asking God for the grace to improve.
Twice in the day I spend a little time reviewing progress so far:
- I give thanks to God for all the good that I have received.
- Then I consider whether I have failed in this specific behaviour so far today and if so, how many times. I jot this down.
- I keep the record of my lapses for a week to see if, with effort and God's grace, I can slowly get out of the habit and live a life more pleasing to myself and God.
- To keep this area before my mind, Ignatius suggests that I make a sign to myself each time I fall into the bad behaviour.
Obviously the idea is that with God's help, if I concentrate on just one thing at a time I can bit by bit develop a more Christian heart. Hopefully, day by day, week by week, I shall get into good habits and out of bad ones.
You can also try this audio Examen