An Ignatian Examen: Where have I been and where am I going?

By: Kathy Coffey-Guenther, PhD, Senior Mission and Ignatian Leadership Specialist

So Jesus is born! The presents have been opened, our few guests have come and gone, and stores may be busy with gift returns and another round of sales, while the news continues to warn of the Pandemic! And the new year looms just beyond tomorrow…

Nativity scene ornament

Rather than fall into a post-Christmas slump or head into obsessing about New Year’s fears and Resolutions, St. Ignatius has a different kind of invitation for us. Ignatius found that it was very important to him to spend time every day reflecting on the presence and absence of God in his daily life that day, pondering on the places he became distracted or withdrew from God, and the places he felt God’s grace and love acutely. Ignatius also learned that it was important to evaluate the times and situations each day when we may not have acted as our best selves, when we may have been petty or angry, jealous or shaming, and may have caused harm to someone. Ignatius invites us to review our intentions in words and deeds daily so that we can make amends to ourselves, God and others as needed, and so that we can have a sense of our own role in losing our sense of peace, and in making choices to restore peace and right relationship in our lives again.

And lastly, Ignatius learned that the power of gratitude holds the potential to shift our energy, sense of hope and deepens our sense of compassion and understanding for ourselves and others. This exercise in gratitude helps us to have daily perspective and see ourselves in the lens of another, thereby inviting humility, forgiveness, generosity and loving compassion to others, eventually leading us to desire to respond in love to God’s deeply loving us first.

A crucifix on a church alter

Ignatius always taught that the Examen was the most important prayer to do, even if we run out of time to do any of our other prayers or spiritual readings, we must make time for the Examination of Consciousness. The discipline of the Examen helps us to live from the true foundational experiences, learnings, and growings in our lives each and every day. Only by reflecting in concrete and consistent ways on our lives, will we be able to notice the patterns of our behavior, the stirrings and desires in our lives, and the people, places, energies and invitations that surround us.

As we leave the complexities and challenges of 2020 behind, let’s join one another in meeting the New Year, 2021, where we are through the gifts of the Ignatian Examen!

Together, let us see what God has in store for each of us this new year!

New Year’s Blessings and Hope to each of you! Happy 2021!

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