Today's Gospel in Art - Feast of Saint Ignatius of Loyola

Examen, Joan Benefiel & Jeremy Leichman,  2012 © Christian Art, Fairfield University, Connecticut

Examen, Joan Benefiel & Jeremy Leichman, 2012 © Christian Art, Fairfield University, Connecticut

Gospel of 31st July 2020 - Matthew 13:54-58

Coming to his home town, Jesus taught the people in their synagogue in such a way that they were astonished and said, 'Where did the man get this wisdom and these miraculous powers? This is the carpenter's son, surely? Is not his mother the woman called Mary, and his brothers James and Joseph and Simon and Jude? His sisters, too, are they not all here with us? So where did the man get it all?' And they would not accept him. But Jesus said to them, 'A prophet is only despised in his own country and in his own house', and he did not work many miracles there because of their lack of faith.

Reflection on the Bronze Sculpture

Today is the feast of Saint Ignatius of Loyola. In his text of the Spiritual Exercises, he popularised the examen (or examination of conscience), a prayer to help you see where God was active in your day, usually done for 15 to 20 minutes at the end of a day. But how make an artwork about the examen? Our sculpture is a pretty good attempt. Made by two New York based artists for Fairfield University, it depicts two identical figures of St. Ignatius. Both figures are made of the same mould. Facing each other, their gaze is intense, staring at each other… at the same 'self'. The feet are unusually large, signifying the saint's journey and how he paved the way for our own spiritual growth. One sculpture is white, the other one dark; in the examen we look at the positives and the negatives of the day. I like the dancer-like pose that suggests how during the self-examination we dance around certain topics, events, shortcomings… The examen should indeed be a joyous practice. The faces of each of the sculptures were created using a cast of St. Ignatius' death mask, to which the sculptors were given access at the Museum of the Church of the Gesù in Rome.

Saint Ignatius gave us these five steps to pray the examen every day, in order to notice God's presence more easily:

Presence: Remembering that we're in the presence of God
Gratitude: Recalling things that happened during the day for which we are especially grateful.
Review: Reviewing our day from start to finish, noticing where we experienced God's presence.
Sorrow: We reflect on the things we regret doing and ask for forgiveness.
Grace: at the end of our prayer we ask for God's grace for the following day

Saint Ignatius of Loyola, pray for us.


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Tags: Christian Art, Patrick van der Vorst, Joan Benefiel and Jeremy Leichman, St Ignatius Loyola

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