As a grad student in journalism, a number of my assignments come in the form of responding to a question, by way of an essay, discussion group, blog post or other task. In a recent class, that question was, “Why is today significant?” Our task? To come up with an answer… in less than 1000 words.
We could discuss a newsworthy item or historical event from that day, or the same date years ago. Or we could draw on a personal experience or anecdote.
I opted for the latter, yet I looked at the question in a slightly different way. Rather than “Why is today significant,” I began to ask, “Why is any particular day significant? What determines significance? And, finally, if we ask why today is significant, does that mean that yesterday was not significant or that tomorrow will not be?”
Certainly, I could talk about having had lunch with a good friend and the conversation we shared. I could also tell you all about the experience of being back in school and the classes I had that day. I could also talk about a particularly challenging situation or an incredible moment of forgiveness. In fact, each of those things were significant. That day was undeniably significant.
But, let us take a step beyond my personal experience to the deeper meaning: Why is any particular day significant? Why is every day significant, not at the expense of the preceding or subsequent days, but for the weight that day carries on its own?
St. Ignatius of Loyola, in the Spiritual Exercises, invites us to recall the moments of consolation and desolation at the end of each day. This practice, known as the Examen, calls the participant to recount the moments where he or she felt God and those where he or she did not see God; the “highs” and “lows” so to speak. St. Ignatius asked his followers to do this every single day.
Perhaps, St. Ignatius was onto something. Perhaps he understood that, in fact, we are not meant to simply ask, “Why is today significant?” Rather, “Why is every day significant?” He asked his followers to note both the good and the bad, all of the moments individually and together, conceivably suggesting that it is all significant. Every moment, every day, every experience is significant.
Is it not within the Master’s plan that we see the significance of every thing? Of every interaction, of every conversation, of every struggle and of every joy? God laid out this gift of a day before us, gave us the freewill to do with it as we choose and asked nothing of us but that we recognize the day for everything it holds – its significance.
Certainly, it is easier to point to memorable days – a wedding, the birth of a child, the death of a family member, a difficult decision, an historical event – when we think about significance. But, like St. Ignatius suggests, we are to look at every consolation and desolation, striving to see the meaning behind each moment. We then see how those moments collectively create a significant day, month, year or even a lifetime.
As we move forward, rather than asking “Why is today significant?,” why don’t we, like Ignatius, ask “Why is every day significant?” And, possibly, “How can I better perceive the significance of each moment and every day?”
Perhaps, this is what my professor hoped for in our essays. Or, more likely, as I attend a state school, I surprised him with my response. Regardless, the very exercise reinvigorated my commitment to pray the Examen and to truly see each day and every moment for the significance they carry.
© 2013. Autumn Jones. All Rights Reserved.