By The Rev’d Jane Trigg: Ignatius of Loyola, long before he became a saint and the founder of the Jesuits (the Society of Jesus), was a 16th century Spanish soldier, courtier, and lover of women. Like many of us today, his life was a journey that was unexpected and surprising, and along the way he found great comfort and strength in learning to actively find God in all things. In its most simple form, Ignatian Spirituality is the practice of seeing where God is active in our lives and responding to this activity. Ignatius of Loyola encouraged prayerful mindfulness in his Spiritual Exercises and proposed a technique which is now known as ‘daily examen’.
The daily examen is a way of reviewing your day with God, to see where God has been particularly present in your life. It is a deliberate act that embraces the gift of gratitude.
A traditional approach to daily examen looks something like this:
- Ask God to highlight the times in your day the presence of the Divine was particularly evident
- Give thanks for the day you have experienced
- Review your day, asking particularly that the Good Spirit would guide you
- Honestly reflect on the times you fell short of your best
- Prepare for the day to come, with God.
There are many wonderful resources in books and online that will assist you in exploring the practice of the examen further.
Some years ago, a Xavier College (Melbourne) Junior School staff member created a form of the examen for students to share with their families and to encourage them in their own simple journey to finding God in all things. It was affectionately (and appropriately) known as ‘Six of the best’. The boys were encouraged to use the following prompts to see where God was near to them – through their eyes, tastebuds, ears, and the power of their observations.
Six of the best
- Something I saw
- Something I tasted
- Something I heard
- Something I did for someone
- Something someone did for me
- Something I noticed that someone did for another.
This is an approach to the practice that I still use today, and have shared with many parishioners and parishes along the way. It is well worth the effort of engaging with these prompts at the end of your day, over dinner with your family, as part of your journal writing discipline or as you drift off to sleep.
Perhaps you can establish a place for sharing this experience with others online through live video sharing? Or challenge yourself and others to share one of your ‘six of the best’ in a daily photo on a social channel such as Instagram? What about publishing them in your parish weekly bulletin?
Be a sharer of joy by using the inspiration from these observations to write an old fashioned snail mail note to someone who features in one of your ‘six of the best’ – thank or encourage them for opening your eyes further to the presence of God in your day.
There is much to be said about cultivating your attitude of gratitude, and the examen is one way to develop a grateful heart. As 13th-14th century German mystic and theologian Meister Eckhart said, “If the only prayer you ever say in your entire life is thank you, it will be enough.”
First published in anglican focus on 16 October 2020.