Imagine if St. Ignatius of Loyola and Mary Aikenhead were alive today they would surely be excited about proclaiming the importance of an ecological examen. (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 that can help us see God’s hand at work in our whole experience).
Both would see our efforts to grow in a discerning heart through the deepening and expanding of our regular examen which we have been practicing most of our religious life. Today, we are aware of the need to care for the universe and the realization that the earth does not belong to us humans but we belong to the earth. The earth was here millions of years before the first human. Global warming continues to rise leading to devastation, resulting in a major increase in poverty, migration and violence.
In Laudato SI Pope Francis, a true son of Ignatius, is very much proclaiming the need for an ecological examen when he states; “The gravity of the ecological crisis demands that we all look to the common good, embarking on a path of dialogue which demands patience, self-discipline and generosity, always keeping in mind that ‘realities are greater than ideas.’ “(Laudato SI 210)
A recent article by Joseph Carver SJ states the following and the ideas of Laudato SI are further emphasized:
“Ignatian spirituality demands a critical awareness of the environment in our daily lives, moving us from a sense of mere stewardship of the Earth to a deeper covenant of membership in the order of creation. This view is not merely instrumental but sacramental: the very relational quality of God as actualized in creation….This point of view demands an ecological conversion by which we address the current environmental crisis with a fresh recognition of our kinship with all creation. Ignatian Spirituality offers a unique point of entry into ecological spirituality and thus the restoration of creation” (Joseph Carver SJ).
Particularly helpful for our purposes today is an ecological examen developed by Fr Carver in which he describes the five movements that parallel the traditional examen.
- Creation reflects the beauty and blessing of God’s image: Where was I most aware of this today?
- Can I identify and pin-point how I made a conscious effort to care for God’s creation during this day?
- What challenges or joys do I experience as I recall my care for creation?
- How can I repair breaks in my relationship with creation, in my unspoken sense of superiority?
- As I imagine tomorrow, I ask for the grace to see the Incarnate Christ in the dynamic interconnections of all Creation.
Carver concludes with the prayer of Jesus:
“The glory that you have given me I have given them, so that they may be one, as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become completely one, so that the world may know that you have sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me”. (Jn. 17:22-23)
In practicing the ecological examen we are being invited to greater sensitivity to the needs of creation and actions for the common good.