by Maureen McKew
Here is an invitation to be grateful from someone who knew a great deal about setbacks, Ignatius of Loyola. Raised in wealth, a vain and swaggering soldier with an eye for the ladies, Ignatius took a cannon ball in his leg and when the first surgery to repair the leg left the limb disfigured, he actually underwent another unsuccessful surgery to correct its appearance. And remember, there was no such thing as anesthesia in those days.
During his recovery, God touched him with grace and changed him. But his trials weren’t over. One always stands out in my mind. At the age of 30 (considered middle-aged in those days) he answered the call to God’s service as a priest and discovered he had to learn Latin. He actually had to sit in class with 11 year-old boys. Talk about a humiliating experience. Think about that the next time you are in a meeting with digital natives, who are communicating in a language you don’t understand or when you buy a new mobile device and the directions for use are in fly type.
Ignatius’ setbacks didn’t end when he and his companions formed the Society of Jesus. He actually was brought briefly before the Inquisition because of his Spiritual Exercises. He sent off Francis Xavier, his closest friend, to missionary work in the Far East. He was sure he would never see Francis again. He was right.
Yet, Ignatius was grateful and, across the ages, he extends an invitation to all of us in the 21 st century. It’s a prayer from the Spiritual Exercises and it’s called the Examen. Each evening, it invites us to review the day and see God’s presence in everything that has happened to us. It’s easy to see God in the good, of course, but God is also active in our lives to comfort us when something bad happens.
The Examen also invites us to a practice that might help us to be more thankful this rather bleak Thanksgiving. Develop a spirit of gratitude for all of our day. Just sit and think back. Something good did touch your life. Hint: look to the small things.
Ignatian Spirituality has more to offer on the Examen and the importance of gratitude.