Today’s blog is the last in a series from Fr. Michael Schleupner about the Ignatian Examen. Fr. Michael offers his insights about the value of the last step in this incredible prayer practice and another post with concluding thoughts for the series. Fr. Michael will be with us at the Center all week, serving as a spiritual director during our August Directed Retreat. We are praying for blessings on these retreat guests as they set aside this special quiet time of prayer and discernment.
Step 5 – Looking Ahead
This fifth and last step of the Examen follows from all that preceded it, but especially from steps three and four: Looking Back and Being Contrite. In Looking Ahead, we resolve to act according to what God seems to be moving us to do. The focus here is: “What will I do today? The basis for this decision is what we have experienced of Christ in the hours of the immediate past…. we decide to take action, based on our experience of God in the day we’ve just lived.”
Here are some areas and examples for our daily resolve.
We might resolve to set aside ten minutes to reflect on a passage of Scripture, to pray the rosary, or just to be quiet and listen to God within us.
We might resolve to make sure that we become aware of even ordinary blessings of the day and thank God for them – like having food or a home or health care.
We might resolve to give time to a family member whom we have neglected or to try to reconcile with someone with whom we are at odds.
We might resolve to make time for some kind of exercise or work-out or to make sure that we go to bed early enough to get enough sleep.
All of the above are just illustrations or examples of what we might resolve to do. In our Looking Ahead, the important thing is to get in touch with what God is prompting us to do, and this will usually flow from the feelings that arose when we were Looking Back (step 3) and the actions that led to our Being Contrite (step 4).
For the introduction to this series and for Steps 1, 2, 3, and 4 of the Examen, please click here to review prior blog posts.
~Father Michael Schleupner
*Quotation above from A Simple Life-Changing Prayer – Discovering the Power of St. Ignatius Loyola’s Examen by Jim Manney.
A Concluding Thought
The background or foundation of the Ignatian Examen and of Ignatian spirituality in general is the Latin word magis, which means more or greater.
In the Second Week of his Spiritual Exercises, Ignatius calls the retreatant to repeatedly ask for this grace: “to know Jesus more intimately, to love him more intensely, and to follow him more closely.” Ignatian spirituality moves us first to want to know Jesus more “intimately” in his life, teachings, and ministry as given to us in the gospels. Then, through that, we are moved to love him more “intensely” for all that he is as God incarnate, as both human and divine. That, in turn, moves us to follow him “more closely,” trying to live as he lived in every dimension and situation of our lives.
Ignatius saw life as a journey and, in his autobiography, described himself as a pilgrim. By this he meant that his mission was never finished until the moment when God would call him home. Therefore, there is always more to do in our own personal and spiritual growth and more to do in bringing God’s kingdom alive on this earth.
Ignatius wants us to make our choices in life for the magis – taking the next or extra step and doing more. The daily Examen is a way of opening ourselves to doing this. The Society of Jesus, founded by Ignatius, has as its motto: Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam. These Latin words mean ‘For the Greater Glory of God’ and are attributed to Ignatius himself. They flow from the magis and express the vision that the choices and directions of the Society of Jesus would always be for the more, the greater.
The Greater Glory of God will also be what is greater and more spiritually beneficial for individual persons and for all of humanity.
~Father Michael Schleupner
Quotation above from The Ignatian Adventure by Father Kevin O’Brien, S.J., and based on The Spiritual Exercises #104 by Ignatius of Loyola.