The Examen

November 22, 2009

Those of you, who know me, know that I am a huge fan of the Jesuits!  I am a Jesuit-junkie when it comes down to it.   I love everything about Ignatian Spirituality.  One of my favorite things I ever read about St. Ignatius was in a Charis Retreat Manual that said, “St. Ignatius was the ultimate pragmatist when it came to spirituality.  He taught us to use what is helpful, relish the gifts that are given, and discard what gets in the way of growth in faith, hope and love.”   In Becky language that means to me: “Do more of what is life-giving to me and others, and to do less of what is not life-giving to me and others.”

One of my favorite methods of prayer and tools of discernment found in Ignatian Spirituality is called “The Examen”.  It is a method of prayer where you review your day to detect both God’s presence and direction in your life.  I find it is very helpful at helping me see where God is working and present in my daily life.  It helps me see where God feels distant or not present also.  It makes me aware of my gifts, of what areas in my life are “life-giving”, and what areas of my life are draining and not bringing love or giving love to others.  It is often through my daily Examen that my blog postings topics come to fruition. 

There are several versions, but the one I often use is this one, which I learned through Charis Ministries

1.  Invite the Holy Spirit to help you see the day as God sees it. 

Ask for help in seeing how God was present to you throughout the course of the day.

2.  Think about the things you have experienced over the past few hours, or the entire day.  What stands out as something you are especially grateful for?  Be specific.
Something someone said to you?

A good breakfast?

These are all gifts from God; tell God thanks for these gifts.

3.  Ask yourself where God seemed to be especially present to you. 

Pay attention to your feelings.

Where did you experience or witness love?  Forgiveness? 

4.  Ask yourself where God seemed to be hidden or even absent.

Why do you think that was the case?

Think about a time when you saw a need for love and didn’t respond as you feel you  should have.  Or about a pattern of behavior that seemed to distance you from God.

God is a God of forgiveness.  Ask for forgiveness for anything that your conscience brings to your attention.

Ask God to help you become the person you were created to be.

5.  Finally, think about what you are hopeful for, what are you looking forward to, or what you are not looking forward to today. 
Offer those things to God. Ask Him to bless those upcoming events. 

God will accompany you throughout the rest of the day.

Close with an Our Father.

Another version I use, I once heard a Jesuit, Fr. Matt Linn, S.J., talk about the Examen and boil it down to 2 questions:
1.  Where have you given and received love today?
2.  Where have you not given and received love today? 

I hope this method of prayer proves to be helpful to you also!  

Becky is an Ignatian-trained spiritual director, retreat facilitator, and writer. She is the author of the Busy Lives and Restless Souls (March 2017, Loyola Press) and The Inner Chapel (April 2020, Loyola Press). She helps others create space to connect faith and everyday life through facilitating retreats and days of reflection, through writing, and through spiritual direction. With nearly twenty years of ministry experience within the Catholic Church, Becky seeks to help others discover God at work in the every day moments of people’s lives by utilizing St. Ignatius’ Spiritual Exercises and the many gifts that our Catholic faith and Ignatian Spirituality provide.

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