The genius of St. Ignatius of Loyola can be found in his laser focus approach to the spiritual life. The warrior saint and his early companions used something called the First Principle and Foundation in order to direct their efforts to grow in holiness. This First Principle and Foundation gave the Jesuits a clear goal and game plan to converting and sanctifying the world. We can learn from the example of these Jesuit saints, realizing our own need to develop a clear focus in the spiritual life. The goal is Heaven and our focus should be on living a life of praise, reverence, and service to God.
An excellent way to stay on track with this goal is to use the examen, developed by St. Ignatius:
“[The] examen is the most effective tool for being formed into a ‘contemplative in action,’ that is, a person who can easily find God in all things, even amid the hustle and bustle of the world.It was of the utmost importance that the Jesuits have this kind of spiritual vision… it allowed them to remain in close communion with God even during the most rigorous apostolic labors” (Fr. Michael Gaitley, MIC).
With such a powerful tool at our disposal, we should strive to make the examen every day! But, how do we do that?
Well, it doesn’t actually have to do with someone who bakes bread.And it’s not as complicated as you might imagine! After placing ourselves in the presence of God, we should follow the simple five-step method based on the acronym: BAKER.
B – Blessings. Spend the most time here, praising and thanking God for the blessings of the day.
A – Ask. Ask the Holy Spirit to enlighten you, so you can recognize your sins.
K – Kill. It was our sins that killed and crucified Jesus. Search for omissions and comissions.
E – Embrace. Be sorry for your sins and allow Jesus to embrace you with the rays of His mercy.
R – Resolution. Look ahead to the next day, anticipating potential pitfalls and opportunities.
The way to achieving this goal may look different for each person, but by using the examen along with the spirituality of Marian Consecration and Divine Mercy, all can work to win the world for Christ under the generalship of Mary Immaculate! Such a strategy seems fitting for the feast of the soldier-saint, St. Ignatius of Loyola, who we commemorate today. During the month of July, pray and “seek first the kingdom of God” in order to gain the clarity needed to fight for Christ.