Preparing for the Feast of St. Ignatius Loyola
Novenas – Nine days of prayer before major feasts are a widespread Catholic devotion. The practice derives from the nine days the disciples spent in prayer after the Ascension of Jesus which concluded with their anointing in the Spirit at Pentecost.
Generally novenas are based on asking for something. Often we pray for solutions to personal problems – illness, finances, worries about family and friends. We often approach God with a wish list. Throughout the course of the novena we come to a more peaceful and hopeful feeling about these problems and issues in our lives.
I would like to propose something a little different for the nine days leading up to the feast of St. Ignatius Loyola on July 31. St. Ignatius left us with some marvelous ways to listen to the Holy Spirit and what God is calling us to do for our happiness and fulfillment. So, instead of asking St. Ignatius to pray for us to help us in our personal difficulties, let’s take nine days to see how we can be more aware of God in our lives and be more attentive to ways in which we can be of service to God and our neighbor.
Obviously, our concerns and worries will come into our prayer and our contemplation in action throughout the day. However, let’s take this time to set these aside as things that need to be solved and try to feel and visualize where the Spirit is leading us. St. Ignatius has given us a very powerful type of prayer called the Examen. Translating it literally as “examination” doesn’t capture its meaning in Latin or Spanish. A good translation is Reflection. The five steps of the Examen / Reflection empower us to become aware of God in our lives. This novena will be based on this special method of prayer.
After all, our journey is not really about us and our cares and concerns. Jesus said that we should not be as worried about material things as we should about responding to the much greater calling we have to announce the Kingdom and to make it a reality through healing and the alleviation of poverty and suffering. Let’s spend these nine days as the disciples did during the first novena. Hopefully, we will be as surprised and transformed as they were.