Tag Archives: Aurora Griffin

Take 5 minutes daily for an Ignatian Examen

Since How I Stayed Catholic at Harvard came out, I have occasionally been asked which of the “forty tips for faithful college students” is the most important. If someone were to pick one and do it, which one should it be? I’ve always answered, “Go to Mass, every Sunday at least and on weekdays if you can.” I have been fortunate working at The Catholic University of America for the last year because there are ten Masses a day on campus that I can choose from. However, for some students and young professionals, it simply isn’t an option. In this case, my advice changes a bit: if you can devote five minutes of your day to prayer (which you can), the Ignatian Examen is a great place to start.

“The examen” was given to us by Saint Ignatius of Loyola, who founded the Society of Jesus (a.k.a. the Jesuits) in the 16th century. Ignatius was a worldly and self-satisfied soldier before his conversion. Saint Paul just needed to be knocked off his horse to find his faith, but Saint Ignatius was struck by a cannonball. In his long convalescence, Ignatius read the lives of the saints and fell in love with the stories of their virtue and bravery. Ignatius’ charism reflects both the discipline of his military background and the docility he gained from his injury and recovery. Ignatian spirituality has become one of the most versatile and enduring forms of prayer in the Church, and the examen is its foundation.

Everyone does it a little differently, but the basics of the examen are straightforward. It begins with an invocation, asking God for an awareness of His presence and for His guidance. This is imperative. I used to really struggle to do a nightly examination of conscience because I was asking, “Okay, where did I mess up today?” It was something I avoided doing because I didn’t want to go to bed thinking about all of the mistakes I had made. The good news is that I was doing it wrong: that’s not the Ignatian examen.

The examen will sometimes highlight areas for improvement, but it’s really not about what you’re doing. It’s about what God is doing in your life. When you look back on your day with the examen, it’s less like an athlete reviewing game footage and more like sitting by a pond and observing where ripples emerge on its surface. It requires trust that God will show you what you need to look at.

I ask one very simple question in this process: “God, where are you today?” Sometimes I’ll find that it was in an encouragement I received from a friend that day. Sometimes it’s the peace I feel in that moment, often while walking my dog. Other times, it’s the sense that I could have done something more — some small courtesy I could have offered a stranger but did not because I was in a rush. For the blessings, I offer thanks; for the mistakes, I ask pardon. And finally, I try to carry a better awareness of God in my life forward to the next day.

All of this, when done with the right mindset, is edifying. It helps us see where God is at work, where we may have overlooked him, and prepares us to see Him there the next time. And finally, it gives us hope and consolation. The Ignatian Examen shows us that God is always with us, always ready to forgive us, always wanting to bless us. In the bustle of everyday life, whether as a student, professional, or parent, it is helpful to bear that in mind.


AURORA GRIFFIN, a featured speaker at the 2018 Legatus Summit, attended Harvard University, where she graduated Magna Cum Laude and Phi Beta Kappa with a degree in classics in 2014. There she served as president of the Catholic Student Association. She was awarded a Rhodes Scholarship to study at Oxford University, where she earned a graduate degree in theology. She has been working at The Catholic University of America in Washington D.C. for the last year and will be matriculating to the Stanford Graduate School of Business this fall.

Aurora Griffin – 2018 Summit speaker

Aurora Griffin

Harvard grad-author reveals how to safeguard faith in college

Aurora Griffin, 26, is living proof that faith and reason go together.

Griffin graduated Magna Cum Laude with a bachelor’s degree in classics from Harvard University in 2014. She was awarded a Rhodes Scholarship to study at Oxford University, where she received a graduate degree in theology.

While at Harvard, Griffin served as president of the Catholic Student Association. In May 2014, she took on a leadership role in responding to a Harvard student group’s plans to sponsor a sacrilegious black mass on campus, which was subsequently canceled.

Today, Griffin is a writer on staff at the Catholic University of America. In 2016, she wrote the book, How I Stayed Catholic at Harvard: Forty Faithful Tips for College Students. She will be discussing her book as a featured speaker at the 2018 Legatus Summit. She recently spoke with Legatus Magazine staff writer Brian Fraga.

What will be the focus of your talk at the Summit?

I’ll be talking about how I kept my faith at a secular university and some of the things that helped me stay Catholic there, and to give encouragement to students and to parents.

How did you keep your faith at Harvard?

It was a matter of deliberately moving forward on four fronts. First was cultivating community. Second was maintaining an active prayer life. Third was integrating my faith with my academics and intellectual life. And fourth was living out the faith in other ways, like getting involved in community service. In order to really have a flourishing Catholic life at a secular university, you have to be doing it with other people and you have to be living it out on a number of fronts.

What can Catholic parents do to equip and support their children for when they leave home and go off to college?

It’s simple but not easy to do; the best thing parents can do is to try to live the faith themselves. Once you get to the point of college, people have to make the decision for themselves. You can’t make somebody choose Christ. What you have to do is live the faith in an attractive, authentic way, and hope your example is something that your children find compelling and will follow.

Why do young adults often leave the Catholic faith when they go to college?

I think what happens is people feel isolated. If they don’t have a Catholic community, they start to worry that they have to make compromises, either morally or intellectually, or they feel they have to hide their faith in order to have friends. The solution to that is getting plugged into a good community as soon as you can. Also, some people get into their first philosophy class and say, “Oh my gosh, how do I know that all these things I learned are real?” Fortunately, the Church has a magnificent intellectual tradition to draw upon.

What effect did the black mass controversy have on you and the Catholic community at Harvard?

The most striking thing about it for me was that a handful of people with harmful intentions came together to do something offensive to the Catholic faith, and the result was thousands of people around the world praying for each other, thousands of people walking through the streets of Boston adoring the Eucharist, and then hundreds of people coming together at the Church of St. Paul in Harvard Square to fight the black mass. It was a moment of intense solidarity.

What prompted you to write your book?

The idea came to me on Easter Sunday in 2015. I wrote it in the days between Easter and Pentecost. There was little hesitation. For me it was just very clear that this was not something that was for me, but this was something God wanted to do through me, and I was privileged to take part in it.