How can we survive these times!

We live in a world with so much poverty. It is a day to day painful reality. Recently I was at a Jesuit Justice and Ecology conference in Johannesburg. One of the speakers (a Jesuit) defined poverty as pure evil – there is no other explanation. I feel that this definition fits perfectly.

I am always thankful that I am in full-time employment. Despite this, I find it difficult to make ends meet. I wonder how families who have no income manage. Not so long ago I was chatting with friends over a cup of coffee. We reflected on the struggle we have of coping every day. We spoke about buying food, medical bills, paying school fees and so on. Our thoughts turned to the unemployed.

Could prayer “help” us in all this? I shared with them something that keeps me going – the prayer Ignatius wrote for his Jesuit brothers, the Examen.

This prayer is broken up into a series of points. The first point allows us to become aware of God’s presence. Just be with the Lord. This is followed by the second point, reviewing the day with gratitude, accepting all the gifts.

Ignatius’ call in the third point to pay attention to your emotions is very helpful in finding where stress comes from. Previously we would check on each other, but work and cell-phones seem to have taken over. I am running discernment workshops with young people, women and men. I was deeply disturbed to hear how they find family time fading away.

What a disappointment! We have become so attached to gadgets to the extent of missing family chats. I must be honest, as I continue to share this reflection, I struggle also with these gadgets. They sadly seem to be keeping us “sane and ready for the next moment”. The truth is we do need them. St Ignatius speaks of balance, in The First Principle and Foundation (number 23), “We must hold ourselves in balance”.

The Examen leads us to that deeper conversation with the Lord. During our pause, we hear His soft voice speaking with us. This draws us to our fourth point, choose one feature of the day and pray from it. After this beautiful moment, having had a ‘one on one’ with the Lord, we enter into our fifth point – Look toward tomorrow.

This last moment helps us to celebrate the joys of being calm. Seeing newness in beauty. So am I telling anyone struggling today in these difficult times, that the Examen will help you. We never know what’s in store for us, but I do encourage everyone to try it. Our struggle is huge. It affects women today who are faced with hungry children to feed, men who are unemployed and feeling inferior because they cannot support their families, young people who are left hopeless.

Reflection is useful and helpful. It does not ‘magically’ give us a job, or increase our income, or build interpersonal relationships. Yet in helping us to see the light and shadows of our daily lives, all of it lived in God’s presence, the Examen can be a source of peace in troubled times.

Ms Puleng Matsaneng

Puleng works in Spirituality and researches Ignatian Spirituality in an African context. Her area of speciality is in exploring how African themes and practices of spirituality dialogue with the Western traditions, and how that is understood in relation to Ignatian Spirituality. She has looked at how Ignatian Spirituality can be integrated into the African worldview. Most especially, how the use of song and storytelling can be part of the prayer process. She is currently managing retreats in daily life and training prayer guides. Puleng is also involved in ongoing Spiritual Direction, giving 8-day and 30-day retreats. Her latest venture is a pilot programme of healing workshops that use the principles of Ignatian Spirituality.
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