Two new books from Irish Jesuits make for interesting Easter reflection. Columba press have just published Praying at Easter by Donal Neary SJ, parish priest of Gardiner St Church. Accompanying the daily gospel readings of the Easter Season, is a reflection and prayer by the author, who looks at the implications of the message and love of the risen Lord for people in their everday lives. You can listen here to a podcast interview about the book, with Pat Coyle of the JCC. Paul Campbell SJ is now head of Loyola Press in Chicago, and they have published what he calls a ‘deceptively simple but deeply prayerful’ guide to the ‘Examen’ – the prayerful process of St Ignatius for finding the movement of God in our everyday lives. The Prayer that Changes Everything by Jim Manney, senior editor at Loyola Press, is reviewed below by Paul Andrews SJ.
Jim Manney: The Prayer that changes everything. Chicago: Loyola Press: 2011. Pp viii + 85.
The senior editor at Loyola Press is not proposing anything new in this readable booklet. Rather he is advocating the Ignatian examination of consciousness, the Examen, as a form of prayer that has affected him profoundly. When I read it, I was brooding on the question put to me by a man like Manney, a clever administrator with a young family and a responsible job: “I need something to help me recover some faith.”
This booklet will, I believe, answer that need. With the Examen we find God in the daily routines of life. We look at the last 24 hours, especially at our moods and feelings, in a spirit of realism but also of gratitude. Ignatius Loyola did just that as he was recuperating from the broken leg that had shattered his career plans as a Basque knight. He attended to the moods that swept over him, some seductive, some sobering, and came to recognise that God guided him through this daily scrutiny.
Over the years he put shape on this scrutiny, which he called the Examen. It is part of the daily rhythm of Jesuits, and of many others. It is different (though for many years the difference went unrecognised) from the Examination of Conscience, the methodical inventory of sins that Catholic children used to learn. This is a prayer that focuses on God’s presence in the real world, to be approached with gratitude, not guilt. Manney gives a refreshingly clear picture of this “prayer that changes everything”. You could be launched into it by one reading of this precious little book.