Many of us question God’s presence in our lives, particularly in times of crisis or suffering. And that is perfectly normal. How could one not, when suffering or great difficulty often leaves us feeling a bit alone and lost? Yet there must be something that we can do to help us sense God’s subtle presence in those moments.
I’ve been giving this some thought lately and it seems fitting to reflect on this as we celebrate the feast of St. Thomas the Apostle, or Doubting Thomas. A few years ago I gave a retreat to some first year university students and invited them to chart out a timeline of their life. After marking the many high and low points, I asked them to draw a line above indicating how much they felt God’s presence along their life journey. Students were startled and amazed to discover that at the times when they felt God to be most hidden, they later discovered that God was often visibly and tangibly present to them. God’s presence was often conveyed by the tender touch of a loving parent, a word of hope from a teacher, or in the companionship of a friend.
The exercise reminded me that indeed there is something we can do each day to cultivate a deeper awareness of God’s presence in our life. Known as the Daily Examen, it is practice that St. Ignatius of Loyola commended to his congregation, the Jesuits. The Examen invites us to reflect upon our day, considering God’s presence throughout the day and paying attention to our joys, fears, hopes and anxieties, for in them, we can gain insight into how God may be challenging us to grow.
The beauty of this practice is that it challenges us to consider each moment of the day. It’s often too easy for us to get caught up in the overall anxieties and lose sight of the small graces we experience each day. However, when we take note of the blessings we receive, we can grow in hope of God’s continued action in our lives. This is not to diminish our real suffering, but rather it offers a healing balm and nourishment for our journey.
I invite you to take some time each day to pray this prayer. You may find yourself surprised, as those students were, at God’s remarkable actions in your life.
Our friends at Loyola Press offer this excellent, easy-to-use guide for praying the Examen. Furthermore, you can read more about St. Ignatius of Loyola and living his Spiritual Exercises in your everyday life with the bestselling book The Ignatian Adventure.
-Don Beyers, Marketing Manager