It’s hard to know where we are going if we do not fully understand where we’ve been. Ignatian spirituality invites us to look at our past with God’s help in order to better understand where we are. This process of reflection illuminates where we are now, and it offers insights on what we are called to as well.
This principle of looking backwards to get guidance on where we are going in Ignatian spirituality is not merely a sentimental theory, but a basis for a lived expression of faith. The concrete way St. Ignatius invited us to put this into practice was through the prayer tool, the Examen.
Many of you who receive these weekly emails attended a retreat, talk or workshop I facilitated. Chances are if you did, you most likely heard me talk pretty passionately about the Examen! 🙂
This month, I am excited for us to explore the Examen further and help each of us embrace the practice of the daily Examen. We will start today with praying an Examen over the last year.
Today is a day that many of us are making New Year’s Resolutions as 2019 is upon us in a few hours. To support this process, we are going use the Examen to take a look back over the last year with God’s help. I am going to challenge us to not rush the process of making resolutions for the New Year without first taking the time to thank God for where we’ve been.
Pray with me:
For those of you who want a guided Examen over the year, you can listen here.
For those of you who might prefer a written version of this Examen, you can pray through the steps of it below, and you can also download a printable version here.
Whether you choose to be guided through by audio or on your own, I invite you to set aside quiet time to be with God. When you are ready to move forward, begin with a moment of silence. Take a deep breath and invite God to help you see your last year as God saw it. With God’s help, reflect on each of these areas of life.
Steps of an Annual Examen:
- Ask God to show you your year as God saw it. Ask God to open your eyes, your ears, and your hearts to see what God saw.
- Thanksgiving: Reflect back over the past year in thanksgiving. I find it helpful to think about each month. What are you thankful for? Ask God to show you the gifts of the year. Think about the people you share life with, the people you encountered, your old friends, new friends, your family, your work colleagues.What memories of 2018 are you thankful for? The simple moments? The extra special ones? Memories at home, at work, with friends and loved ones? In nature? In your Church community?
As God brings the memories to mind, offer your prayers of thanks for the gifts of your life.
- Presence: Again, look back over your year with God’s help. Ask God to show you where you felt God’s presence. Where did you experience an increase of faith, of hope, and of love this year? Where did you experience the fruits of the Holy Spirit named in Galatians 5:22-23 at work in your life (love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control)?
What were you doing, what was happening, and who were you with when you experienced them? Where were there moments of insight and revelation from God about yourself? About God? About your relationships? About your call? About who you are? What key moments do you feel God inviting you to remember about the year?
- Lack of God’s Presence: Look back over your year again with God’s help. Ask God to show you where you struggled to name God’s presence. Where did you feel a decrease of faith, of hope, of love? Where did you experience the opposite of the fruits of the Spirit as named in Galatians 5:19-21 (immorality, impurity, idolatry, sorcery, hatreds, rivalry, jealousy, outbursts of fury, acts of selfishness, dissensions, factions, occasions of envy) What were you doing, what was happening, and who were you with when experienced this? Where were moments you inhibited your own growth in God due to a sinful act? Where the moments where relationships were hurt? Or actions done that hurt you? Where might you have experienced confusion or lack of clarity?
Whatever God stirs to your mind, talk to God about it. Ask for forgiveness, for healing, and for light.
- Looking ahead to the New Year. Gather all that God revealed to you about what you are thankful for, where you felt God’s presence, and where you struggled to name God’s presence. Share your hopes and desires for the year ahead. Invite God to reveal to you God’s hopes and dreams for you. Ask for the graces you seek this year.
Close with an Our Father.
Cultivating Space for God Together:
- In the South Louisiana area? Join me January 11th&12th at the Gulf Coast Faith Formation Conference. Friday, January 11th at 4pm, I am facilitating a workshop called The Gift of the Inner Chapel. Saturday, January 12th at 3pm, I am facilitating a workshop called Where do I go?
- On January 21-23, join me for the St. George Parish Mission in Baton Rouge, LA