St. Ignatius of Loyola was a Spanish knight who, after being seriously injured in battle, underwent a spiritual conversion during recovery. He was inspired to live a life of labor for God, and became a priest. He began the Jesuit religious order in which education and self-examination were central to the followers. The men of this order were to observe the Spiritual Exercises, a process originally designed to take place in a retreat setting over a four week period. During this time, you were to focus on nothing other than the exercises as a way to understand living in relationship with God through four major themes: Sin; the life of Jesus; the Passion of Jesus; and the Resurrection of Jesus. There are still retreats that follow the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius. The Prayer of Ignatius of Loyola is said occasionally in worship, but it is a good prayer to make a daily prayer throughout the season of Lent:
Teach us, good Lord,
to serve you as you deserve;
to give and not to count the cost;
to fight and not to heed the wounds;
to toil and not to seek for rest;
to labor and not to ask for any reward,
except that of knowing that we do your will;
through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.
Spiritual examination and accountability were instrumental to the beginning of the Methodist movement as well. John and Charles Wesley’s mother, Susanna, would sit down weekly with her children and ask them a question; “how is it with your soul?” For those of us ‘modern’ mothers who think that back in the 1700s there was more time to spend with your children in such exercises might keep in mind that Susanna didn’t have the convenience of time saving devises like dishwashers and clothes washers and dryers, and to top it all off, she had 19 children! And yet she made time every week not only to teach her children that their faith and relationship with God are important to her and should be to them, but also held them accountable in their relationship with God.
During this season of Lent I invite you to a Time of Self-Examination and reflection on your relationship with God. This should take no more than 15 minutes and be done morning and evening. First begin by thanking God for the blessings in your life. Then you ask for the grace to recognize and rid yourself of your sins. Next, reflect on your soul from the time of your last time of prayer. Then you will ask for a pardon of your faults. And finally, ask for God’s help to transform your life into what God would have it to be. You then might pray the prayer of St. Ignatius.
Let us practice self-examination together during this season of Lent. Let us make time to reflect and to grow closer with God as we walk the footsteps of Jesus toward death and resurrection.
Grace and peace,