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A recommended exercise to do just before sleep

posted Mar 13, 2014, 6:35 AM by Amelia Fannin   [ updated Mar 13, 2014, 6:35 AM by in apropos ]
Youthful dreams of glory drove Ignatius of Loyola to life as a soldier.  Although he distinguished himself by bravery, war is not romantic in practice and Ignatius suddenly found himself recovering from a horrific battlefield injury.  Forced by circumstance into a life of peace, he didn't want to let go of his other pastime, which was a rich and amorous personal life.  If you know what I mean...
Unfortunately, that battlefield injury was ugly as well as painful. In the 1500's, it took a pretty vain person to ask that his leg be re-broken and a bone sawed off so he would look good in nice clothes.  But indeed - that was Ignatius in a nutshell.
Thus our saint found himself laid up for a long time in a house with only two books, a Life of Christ and a Lives of the Saints.  No, he didn't have a sudden conversion from gallant to choirboy.  He did find that dreams of military glory left him with a feeling that was not the same kind of "good" as when he thought about those who lived for others in God's service.  What was God trying to teach him by giving him these feelings?
These thoughts led him to write a book of Spiritual Exercises. The heart of the Ignatian exercises is a deceptively simply practice called the "examen".
Our Sunday School is blessed to have someone who has been doing a lot of work in Ignatian spirituality as well as corporal works of mercy with the Ignatian Volunteer Corps.   Jay Burke and our middle schoolers have been going through the process the last two weeks.
There are a few variations on the examen, but try this at the end of your day:
First - Take a few deep breaths. Ask for help to see things unclouded by all the noise of the world.
Second - think of a few things to be thankful for.  If your day was happy that'll be easy.  If not, we've all received gifts just by having been created, having experienced love or friendship at any time, having been helped though hard times past. 
Third - this is the heart of the examen.  Go through your day in your head, paying special attention to your feelings.  It's essential to the exercise that you don't correct or judge your feelings.  Just recall them.
Fourth - pick any moment that stands out.  How can you see God in that moment? Is God saying anything to you in your feelings of that moment?
Fifth - Ask for whatever you will need for tomorrow.
This is a simple evening practice that's as easy as pie, especially if you've given up pie for Lent. Consider printing the steps, putting them up next to your toothbrush, and see what happens.
David Barbrow
Senior Warden