The Examen and Gratitude

This was a short tutorial piece that I wrote last week. Some may find it thought provoking, although I don’t provide a lot of context as I present it as it was submitted, and the lecturer obviously has prior understandings.

St Ignatius was one of the first stops on my faith journey when I was wondering what ‘this God thing’ was all about. I see discernment, and Ignatian prayer as both important, because they are real-life ‘tools’; mechanisms that we can use both for ourselves, and when we are seeking to help others find their own ways through life.

While theoretical underpinnings are vital, it’s important to learn the actual skills we will need in  a possible future ministry career, and while I don’t know what is taught in other units, if its anything like teaching, we often do not learn actual practical skills until we are on the ground, so the speak. This lecture reminded me that I need to revisit St Ignatius as I think that his ideas are very real-world applicable.

‘Gratitude’ is huge amongst my networks at the moment; Instagram, Facebook, and journalling communities, both faith based and secular, have been extolling the virtues of making gratitude a deliberate part of our lives for several years now.

Gratitude is, of course, built into the Examen, the Ignatian prayer.  The second of five steps that asks us to see the day as a gift from God and give thanks for it. But, in a circular fashion, the very act of practising thanks help us see the good; ‘the Examen instils gratitude (1)’ It’s now seen as having a host of mental and physical benefits (2) but the virtues of this concept were being extolled at least 450 years ago.

While the act of practising gratitude seems to be useful and life affirming however it is performed, would extra layers be added if people practised the whole Examen? Looking at what happened through the day. Where we shone, but also where we can do better; where we fell short of the standards that we set for ourselves. Is practising gratitude on its own enough, or is it somehow symptomatic of ‘me’ culture, just looking at what life serves us that we find pleasing. Maybe, when we hear people say that they ‘don’t know how to pray’ (as I hear often), we should be offering the Examen as a first point of call.

[1] Manney, Jim, A simple life changing prayer, Loyola Press, 2011, 36.

[2] http://greatergood.berkeley.edu/expandinggratitude/