Walking with the Saints

Ignatius of Loyola  

Priest and Monastic, 1556

Ignatius of Loyola was born into a noble Basque family in 1491. In his autobiography he tells us that until the age of 26 he was “a man given over to the vanities of the world and took special delight in the exercise of arms with a great and vain desire of winning glory.” In 1521 an act of reckless heroism led to his being seriously wounded.  He experienced a profound spiritual awakening during his convalescence. Following his recovery and an arduous period of religious retreat, a call to be Christ’s knight in the service of God’s kingdom was deepened and confirmed.

Ignatius began to share the fruits of his experience with others. These practices eventually became the text of the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius. Since Ignatius was an unschooled layman, church authorities viewed him with suspicion.  This led him, at the age of 37, to study theology in preparation for the priesthood. While a student, Ignatius gave the Spiritual Exercises to several of his fellow classmates; and in 1534, he and six companions took vows of strict poverty and to serve the needs of the poor. This was the start of what later became the Society of Jesus, also known as the Jesuits.

In 1540 the Society was formally recognized, and Ignatius became its first Superior General.  A profound sense of sharing God’s work in union with Christ made the season of intense activity which followed a time of great blessing and consolation.

Ignatius died on July 31st, 1556, in the simple room which served both as his bedroom and chapel, having sought God in all things and having tried to do all things for God’s greater glory.

The Spiritual Exercises form the cornerstone of Ignatian spirituality.  They are meditations, contemplations, and prayers divided into four thematic weeks.  They are designed to be carried out over a period of 28 to 30 days.   Since Ignatius’ time, many have found the Spiritual Exercises to be a way of encountering Christ as intimate companion and responding to Christ’s call: “Whoever wishes to come with me must labor with me.”

Another component of Ignatian spirituality is the Daily Examen.  This is a five-step practice for reviewing the events of our day in the context of our relationship with God. 

Here’s one version from the IgnatianSpirituality.com website.

  1. Place yourself in God's presence. Give thanks for God's great love for you. 

  2. Pray for the grace to understand how God is acting in your life. 

  3. Review your day — recall specific moments and your feelings at the time. 

  4. Reflect on what you did, said, or thought in those instances. Were you drawing closer to God, or further away? 

  5. Look toward tomorrow — think of how you might collaborate more effectively with God's plan. Be specific, and conclude with the "Our Father."

There also are several online, guided versions of the Examen available at the British Jesuit website and mobile app, pray-as-you-go along with other prayer resources in the Ignatian tradition.

The British Jesuit online link is: https://pray-as-you-go.org/article/examen-prayer