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‘A paradise of inward tranquillity’ seems to be faith’s usual result; and it is easy, even without being religious one’s self, to understand this.[1] 

Notes from Sanctuary

St. Ignatius of Loyola (commemoration 31 July), became a passionate Christian while recovering at a monastery following injury in battle. After all the action of battle—he was bored laying there in his bed. All he had to read were romances. Someone gave Ignatius two books: one on the lives of the saints—The Golden Legend by Jacobus de Voragine (1230–98)—and The Life of Christ by Ludolph of Saxony (c. 1295–1378). He noticed that when reading and contemplating these works, his mood changed. Then, when he switched back to the romances he would return to feelings of desolation and emptiness. [2]

Ignatius found that when he read and envisioned the life of Jesus, he felt good. This began Ignatius’ work about the process he later called ‘the discernment of spirits’, which today we might call, sorting our moods and emotions—or mindfulness in order to follow Christ’s way.

With this kind of prayer, we can wholly participate in our transformation by directing ourselves towards God and God’s will for us. When we can turn to face our lives towards God, our creativity, emotional life and our actions will yield peace and joy and build our faith. We are then able to recognize destructive tendencies – knowing that they will lead to turmoil and sadness and then undermine faith. On the other hand, if the core of who we are is turned away from God, then it is our damaging moods that will comfort and soothe us while our creativity will actually disturb and upset us.

Ignatius created his Spiritual Exercises as a handbook to assist his disciples in prayer. There are a number of different styles and methods. What I like about these exercises is that they engage a discipline which some may call 'military grade.' I am moving from a profession of arms into the Priesthood, God willing. I am entering year two of a robust five year transformation that a friend calls 'being turned from a Hawk into a Dove' and I understand the powerful yields that discipline can bring. 

The Examen

From the actual guidebook itself, here is the general examen:

Method for making the general examen

It contains in it five Points.

First Point. The first Point is to give thanks to God our Lord for the benefits received.

Second Point. The second, to ask grace to know our sins and cast them out.

Third Point. The third, to ask account of our soul from the hour that we rose up to the present Examen, hour by hour, or period by period: and first as to thoughts, and then as to words, and then as to acts, in the same order as was mentioned in the Particular Examen.

Fourth Point. The fourth, to ask pardon of God our Lord for the faults.

Fifth Point. The fifth, to purpose amendment with His grace. Our Father. [3]

August 22nd Practise

Our contemplation group did a more modern version of this found here. After settling in to our regular calming and centring practises – from earlier weeks we spent 3 minutes in each of the 5 parts of the Examen and then concluded with a 3 minute personal conversation with Jesus, getting as raw and honest as possible with He who knows us—completely.

The first time I did this, I was nervous. I was shown that my sin, or, where I was letting God down was in not having fun! Can you imagine? I mean its not like this is news to me. I’ve had a number of people speak to me about this. My first examen really changed my life! I thought, well, if God wants me to laugh more, I really better laugh more!

The lovely crocheted cross was a gift from a participant that I shall cherish. I was told that crocheting contributes to her contemplation practise.



[1] William James, The Varieties of Religious Experience: A Study in Human Nature (New York; London; Bombay; Calcutta; Madras: Longmans, Green, and Co., 1902), 285.

[2]  Liz Hoare, Using the Bible in Spiritual Direction (London: SPCK, 2015), 85.

[3]  Saint Ignatius of Loyola, The Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius of Loyola, trans. Elder Mullan (New York: P. J. Kenedy & Sons, 1914), 30–31.