Have the news, weather or unexpected disappointments gotten you down? St. Ignatius of Loyola’s spiritual exercise of the “examen” prayer may contain just the lift you need.
The “examen” helps us to get into spiritual action through five practices with which to start each morning:
— Ask for the help of the Holy Spirit.
— Be thankful.
— Notice the presence of God.
— Notice the lack of the presence of God.
— Look to the future.
It is often difficult to see God’s presence in everyday life due to daily violence and the faith-shaking trials many people endure. Their darkness shuts out life-giving light needed to be positive and joyful.
A closer look at the practice of thankfulness through the eyes of St. Gregory Nazianzen reveals how thankfulness can counter this and make our spirit soar.
“What benefactor,” St. Gregory asks, “has enabled you to look out upon the beauty of sky, the sun in its course, the circle of the moon, the countless number of stars, with the harmony and order that are theirs, like music of a harp? Who has blessed you with rain, with the art of husbandry, with different kinds of food, with the arts, with houses, with laws, with states, with a life of humanity and culture, with friendship and the easy familiarity of kinship? …
“Is it not God who asks you now in your turn to show yourself generous above all other creatures and for the sake of all other creatures? Because we have received from him so many wonderful gifts, will we not be ashamed to refuse him this one thing only, our generosity?”
Three common denominators are found in the wisdom of Ignatius and Gregory: Get outside your own little world, take global notice of your blessings and, in gratitude, pledge to enhance the world of those who need support and uplifting.
Some time ago, I came across a list of wise practices that enhance life. One suggestion was: “Watch a sunset at least once a year.” Saints Ignatius and Gregory would tell us: “Watch sunsets throughout the year, wonder about God’s awesome gifts and pledge to be a gift to another needing your love and care.”
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