Ignatius of Loyola is a spiritual giant for me, I have learnt so much from this imposing man who lived 500 years ago in Northern Spain . He was born around the same time as Luther and in many ways also saw the faults of the catholic church writ large but he remained within that church….just. Observing himself and the many people who sought his wisdom he developed a series of spiritual exercises to help ordinary people wake up to God in their lives, in themselves. This was quite a threat to priests who liked to think they controlled what God did said and with whom, Ignatius encouraged all to relate to God directly, for themselves.
There is one tool that he invites us to use and it is a way of reflecting over a period of time to help us notice, wake up to, pay and attention to where we experience God in our lives and in the world. As we observe this, and observe the way we respond, we begin to understand ourselves and God better. Ignatius’ spirit encourages us each to be accountable to someone, to have a spiritual director or mentor who could ask the questions to help us go deeper. But that is not essential, you can start, on your own today, this form of prayer is called the Examen. DO it at a time that suits you, in a place you have easy access to. You might like to light a candle, to signify your desire for light, to learn, to understand.
And this can be something you do simply around the dinner table, noticing what your best bits of the day have been and perhaps sharing them with someone. Children can join in too.
Begin by inviting God’ Spirit to bring light to your life. This is an acknowledgment that your life is not your own, it is an admission of need, you can’t do it all on your own.
Play back your day in your mind, what did you do, what did you feel, what did you notice. Please don’t judge yourself as you do this, simply notice what was going on for you, where you might have been aware of God and how you responded (when you start making judgements you also respond by defending yourself, justifying yourself and it becomes harder to understand your underlying needs or wants or desires)
It often helps to ask this question in some form or another
For what moment today am I most grateful?
But that might be better asked as When did I feel most loved, or when did I feel most alive or simply when was I happy or what was my best bit today.
Try to relive those moments. Let them nourish you once again. Enjoy that feeling and let that moment teach you a little more about who you are, about what makes you tick, about what is important to you and about where God is in it for you or with you.. Over time you might begin to notice patterns, find underlying drives and needs and wants.
Give thanks for this in your day.
And for many of us that is all you do for months. Eventually you might also like to reflect on the hardest bits of your day, the moments you find it difficult to feel grateful for, the experiences that drain you, deny you life, make you sad and again look gently, not with judgement, but to see where God might have been in those moments to and what they reveal about who you are. You might then feel that you want to make amends, say sorry, find a different way of behaving should such an experience recur.