Not being a Catholic I do not spend a great deal of time thinking about the Saints of the faith. Methodism, my denominational faith tradition, believes we are all saints. I believe the term is the "sainthood of all believers". But I do enjoy learning about the lives of the early saints of the church and what they offered to the early believers. When I say early I am referring to the pre-reformation period. Saint Ignatius is one of those saints that intrigues me.
The other day I refer ed to my morning devotional reflection that comes to me from The Upper Room. Other than a wonderful short devotional thought it comes with other things to ponder. One of these things is a weekly focus on some spiritual discipline. This weeks is "The Examen". I guess because of where I am in my life journey at this moment this spiritual discipline practice intrigues me and seems to be something that I would do well to practice.
Ignatius presented this practice in a little book he wrote called Spiritual Exercises. Some day I may attempt to read this little book but I do have to admit reading texts from the early 1500's is not all that appealing or easy. I think it easier to read some late 20th century writers explanation of it. Back to the practice of Examen.....it is a daily examination of our deepest feelings and desires. He believed it was these where what connects us with God, others and our selves. He also believed we must examine our desolations (he called the first our consolations). Our desolation's he said were those daily things which disconnect us from God, others and ourselves. It was Ignatius belief that God would speak to us through both our consolations and our desolations, but that we needed to acknowledge each for him to be able to do so.
Here is what the Upper Room has to say about practicing the examen:
"The examen helps us:
• Acknowledge sad or painful feelings and hear how God is speaking to us through them.
• Overcome a pessimistic outlook by encouraging us notice the good in each day.
• Tell the truth about who we truly are and what we need, rather than who we think we should be.
• Become aware of seemingly insignificant moments that ultimately can give direction for our lives.
I have been working on remembering each day to look for the things I am grateful for in my daily life. I have not remembered to do it daily but for much of 2009 I have challenged myself to each night find 10 things from the day that I am thankful for. Some days are easy some days are harder, but I have found no matter how my day has been if I search long and hard enough I will find at least 10 blessings that were in my day for me.
What I have never thought to do was also look for and admit to the sad and painful things of each day. Sometimes especially these days they seem far to obvious. But it occurs to me in learning about the Examen that in a purposeful acknowledgment of these "desolations" the power that they hold to separate me from God, others and self is diminished. And that in offering these things to God he can not only comfort but work with me using these things to strengthen and better me.