Today, people live busy lives. We are surrounded by noise and distractions as we hustle off to work or school…and then back to home…only to rush off in the evening for another meeting or another social event. We like to be busy. We continue this rhythm of life because being busy often makes us feel important. If we are successful in this busyness, the world tells us to keep going and to do more things. The feeling of accomplishment is rewarding, but it can also distract us from seeing how God is acting in our lives. If all our actions are directed toward self-gratification, aren’t we somehow missing the mark?
At the end of the day, are you able to look to the Lord and say I did it all for you, or were your actions today directed toward your own interests? If you are endlessly busy with the latter, you will eventually fatigue and find yourself looking for God. A good habit to develop is finding a way to withdraw from the busyness of everyday life and focus on God through prayer. Thankfully, we have many saints who can help us combat the endless busyness of life.
Today the Church celebrates the feast day of St. Ignatius of Loyola, founder of the Society of Jesus (Jesuits) and a man of perseverance in the spiritual life. St. Ignatius was a soldier who converted to the Faith, and thus became a soldier for Christ. As a soldier charges into battle to fight for the good of society, St. Ignatius charged into the battle of the spiritual life. In that same vein, the spiritual battle cry of the Jesuit Order is Ad majorem Dei gloriam, which means “for the greater glory of God.” Many of St. Ignatius’s writings aimed to give all glory to God. As a result, they have been used by many to direct their lives in the knowledge and love of God. The Spiritual Exercises, his most notable work, is one such work that has helped people advance in the spiritual life.
In the opening line of the Spiritual Exercises, St. Ignatius writes that “Human beings are created to praise, reverence, and serve God our Lord, and by means of this to save their souls.” This line from St. Ignatius expresses the importance of turning toward Christ in all our actions. One particular prayer that comes from the Spiritual Exercises and helps one to pull away from the busyness of life is the daily examination of conscience, otherwise known as the Daily Examen.
The Daily Examen is a recollective prayer where one recalls the events that happened throughout his or her day. It is easy to develop a habit of praying the Daily Examen by practicing it through a few short steps. The first step is to acknowledge the presence of God and to give thanks to him. The second step is to acknowledge where one fell short in giving God glory through our actions or inactions. The last step is to resolve to do better with the help of God’s grace the next day. The prayer is simple in its application and yet effective in keeping one grounded in the spiritual life. Developing the habit of praying the Daily Examen can help one stay accountable to God in the spiritual life. This accountability bears fruit in the form of a friendship with God.
The Examen and other meditative prayers (when done well and consistently) allow us to pull away from all the busy distractions of life, and turn our attention to God and his loving providence. Fidelity to daily prayer leads to a deeper friendship with God and the closer we are with God, the better we can offer our daily lives to him as a spiritual soldier (like St. Ignatius) and friend.