The Desert Experience

Often the important thing is being able to let go of unrealistic goals and  expectations and instead be obedient to the reality in which we find ourselves. Being flexible, creative and making good decisions in the particular circumstances is harder than it sounds, as fixed plans, ideals and pre-set objectives can hold sway. Ignatian freedom is the letting go of these deceptive attachments in order to come to better decisions. ‘Discretion is the better part of valour’ or, in Ignatian language, discerning good decisions is being humble in the face of reality. 

Excerpted from Brothers in Arms by Brendan McManus SJ (pp: 57-58)

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Pope Francis’ Prayer for Protection from Coronavirus

O Mary, you shine continuously on our journey as a sign
of salvation and hope.
We entrust ourselves to you, Health of the Sick.
At the foot of the Cross you participated in Jesus’ pain,
with steadfast faith.
You, Salvation of the Roman People, know what we need.
We are certain that you will provide, so that,
as you did at Cana of Galilee,
joy and feasting might return after this moment of trial.
Help us, Mother of Divine Love,
to conform ourselves to the Father’s will
and to do what Jesus tells us:
He who took our sufferings upon Himself,
and bore our sorrows to bring us,
through the Cross, to the joy of the Resurrection.
We seek refuge under your protection, O Holy Mother of God.
Do not despise our pleas – we who are put to the test
– and deliver us from every danger, O glorious and blessed Virgin.

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The Daily Examen/“5 at 5” Prayer

The Daily Examen is a technique of prayerful reflection on the events of the day in order to detect God’s presence and discern his direction for us. The Examen is an ancient practice in the Church, developed by St. Ignatius of Loyola, that can help us see God’s hand at work in our whole experience.

The method presented here is adapted from a technique described by Ignatius in his Spiritual Exercises. St. Ignatius thought that the Examen was a gift that came directly from God, and that God wanted it to be shared as widely as possible. One of the few rules of prayer that Ignatius made for the Society of Jesus was the requirement that Jesuits practise the Examen twice daily—at noon and at the end of the day. It’s a habit that Jesuits and many other Christians practise to this day.

A busy mum of 6 children recently told us she always takes 5 minutes for herself during her hectic day, no matter how many people are looking for her attention!  She does this each day at 5 p.m. and refers affectionately to it as “5 at 5”.  Five minutes of prayer at 5 p.m. in the day. Ignatius told his companions that if all prayers during the course of the day were to be missed, the Examen was the only one that must never be missed. Such were the benefits that Ignatius found in this simple but profound prayer, even if that’s once (rather than twice) a day, for five minutes!  The Examen is a review of your day and has 5 parts to it.

This is a version of the five-step daily Examen that St. Ignatius practised:

  1. Become aware of God’s presence.
  2. Review the day with gratitude.
  3. How did you respond/how did you feel? (Look at your emotions over the course of the day).
  4. Choose one feature of the day and pray with it.
  5. Look towards tomorrow. 

Looking back over our day for about 5/10 minutes, helps us to get in touch with where God was, and where God is leading us.  St Ignatius describes this as “my eyes were opened a little” as he slowly began to see how God loved him and where he was being guided in concrete ways during the day.  This is what we are also invited to do as we review our day. When we see how we are loved by God and can experience it, then everything changes. Ignatius believed this short practice of prayer was a gift from God. Can I see where God was present in the events of my day?

Step 1 : Become aware of God’s presence with you now, and in the last few hours:

As when praying with Sacred Space, I try to become aware of God’s presence – “I remind myself that in these moments, God is gazing on me with deep and unconditional love and holding me in being. I pause and think of this.” I also look back over the day to see where God was present to me, and I to God.

Step 2 : Review your day with gratitude:

Looking back over the course of the day, what am I grateful for?  (I try to be concrete about the things I am thankful for – maybe my family, my job, good health, a chat with a friend, happy memories, a walk in nature, the beauty of creation, etc.) Can I see where God was present in all this?  Can I see the gifts God has given me this day? Even if the day was really difficult, is there something I can be thankful for?

Step 3 : How did you respond to the moments of your day/how did you feel?:

Was I able to notice God’s promptings during the moments of the day I have just recalled?  Did I respond to people/situations in a good way or in a way that was not so good?  How were my emotions? Did my heart feel warm and full or was it discouraged with little energy?  Did God feel close or far away during my day? Did my responses help to build the relationships in my life (both human and divine)? If things didn’t go too well today, I remember how I am loved and held by God in all my brokenness and vulnerability. As I ask for forgiveness and healing, and do my best to forgive others, I am showered with love and grace and the strength to move forward.

Step 4 : Choose one feature from the day and pray with it:

Was there one encounter/situation/person that was particularly positive or challenging for me today?  I bring this time to God now and talk openly and freely about it and how it was for me.  I trust that God is interested in this and offers love, peace and healing to me.

Step 5: Look towards tomorrow:

As I come to the end of my prayer for today, I look ahead to tomorrow and invite God to be with me in all the day will bring. Maybe there is an area I want to improve in, that was highlighted in my prayer today. Or maybe there is something I am anxious about. Whether there is something particular that I have planned – a meeting, appointment, trip or whether it is just another ordinary day, I ask God to be with me in it. Our God is a God of relationship.  What’s important to us, is important to God. As in the words spoken to Jeremiah (31:3 NRSVue) “ I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore I have continued my faithfulness to you.” I know God will be with me no matter what life throws at me, today or any day to come. Amen!

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Discovering God Daily

Finding God in the messy bits and pieces of our lives is enormously challenging. Many prefer to escape in sanitised, blissful and ‘holy’ experiences far removed from the daily hubris that surrounds us. The challenge remains to believe that God is with us and, while not causing life’s chaos and unpredictability, works powerfully to shape and mould us through these experiences. Think of the image of the potter and the clay (Jeremiah 18: 1-4) where being broken and remade reveals the nature of God’s loving care, and where ideas of perfection and ‘getting it right first time’ are unhelpful.

Excerpted from Discover God Daily: Seven life-changing moments from the journey of St Ignatius by Brendan McManus SJ and Jim Deeds


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Long Live Indifference

Asking yourself about your inner freedom, investigating what your purpose in life really is, is valuable for your personal search for more quality of life. Mildness and humility are important here. It is almost inevitable that we will attach ourselves in a way that can make our inner self not free. As a young Jesuit, an elderly fellow brother spoke to me about white rabbits: a little boy shows his best friend his toy cabinet and says to him: ‘I love you, you can choose what you want, it is a gift for you. Only … my white rabbit, you can’t take that, because it’s really just for me.’

We all have a few white rabbits, big things or small things, postures, dynamics … to which we are more attached than we would like and of which we are sometimes not proud. It’s human nature. It’s a big step if you can admit to yourself that they exist. Maybe as the years go by you can say goodbye to your white rabbit but there is a good chance that something else will replace it.

Excerpted from Living with Ignatius: On the Compass of Joy by Nikolaas Sintobin SJ (pp.36-37)

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Discernment is trying to make a good decision based on the situation in which one finds oneself. The first level of decision-making revolves around the pros and cons, the reasons for and against a decision. Situations are complex and often fluid, with many factors in play. There is an element of reflection, of creating space and trying to review the decision from different points of view. The process does take some time, though, and can’t be rushed.

Excerpted from Brothers in Arms  by Brendan McManus SJ (p.8)

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Pope’s Intention September 2023

We pray for those persons living on the margins of society, in inhumane life conditions; may they not be overlooked by institutions and never considered of lesser importance.

Morning Prayer

Father, I dedicate this new day to you, as I go about my work. I ask you to bless those with whom I come in contact. Lord, I pray for all men and women who work to earn their living; give them satisfaction in what they do. Spirit of God, comfort the unemployed and their families; they are your children and my brothers and sisters. I ask you to help them find work soon. Amen

Evening prayer

For the autumn colours of this season Lord, thank you. And for those who brought colour and hope to me this day, thank you. May you bless them, and may we respect all of your creation. Amen

Synod Prayer

We stand before You, Holy Spirit, as we gather together in Your name. With You alone to guide us, make Yourself at home in our hearts; Teach us the way we must go and how we are to pursue it. Let us find in You our unity so that we may journey together to eternal life and not stray from the way of truth and what is right. All this we ask of You, who are at work in every place and time, in the communion of the Father and the Son, forever and ever.

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We are here to love and serve God

The examen is a tool we use along the way – to find God in our lives, to discover what needs to be done, to reflect on our actions and motives and to make good choices.

That, in a nutshell, is what Ignatian spirituality is all about. Ignatius brought contemplation and action together, but the senior partner in the alliance is action. In the Ignatian scheme of things, we love and serve God by being joined with Christ in the work of saving and healing the world. The end of the examen is action – responding to God more faithfully, discerning our part in Christ’s mission, and making good decisions about how to fulfil it.

Excerpted from A Simple Life-Changing Prayer by Jim Manney (p. 76)

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Great to Be Young

The third Jesuit preference is to ‘accompany the young in the creation of a hope-filled future’… Accompanying young people in the creation of a hope-filled future can be challenging. Apart from positive role models, what can be done to promote a hope-filled future for young people? The most obvious response is the opportunity for a young person to be supported in having as good an education and formation as possible, addressing all aspects of the human person – intellectual, social, psychological, physical, spiritual and religious. Retelling the positive events of a community’s story is also critical, because it reminds us of what we’re capable of and how to achieve it. It also reinforces the relational aspect of our identity, reminding us that each individual is part of a bigger story.

Excerpted from Reimagining Religion : A Jesuit Vision by Jim Maher SJ

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Prayer for Life

The first and most important part of life’s prayer is thanksgiving, looking back in particular at the events of the past that have given you comfort.  What in the past period has given you joy, space, strength, courage, rest …? Take a moment to let that look, that word, that image, that music, that gesture, that idea … return to your eyes or ears, to taste it in your heart… This consolation, however small and insignificant it may seem, says something about how and where you experienced God. These small details are more important than spectacular events. After all, the latter occur rarely, or never. On the other hand, our lives are full of ‘banal’ occurrences. If you learn to distinguish God’s presence in these events, then you are on a golden path that offers itself daily and continuously.

Excerpted from Living with Ignatius: On the Compass of Joy by Nikolaas Sintobin SJ (p.49)

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