At the heart of Jesuit Spirituality is a spiritual practice called the Examen. Jesuits have always been taught to practice this method of prayer twice each day. Ignatius of Loyola, the founder of the Jesuits, told Jesuits that if they could not pray in any other way at least pray the Examen. “It is the heart of Jesuit Spirituality.”
Basically, in the Examen one takes a few minutes to review what has happened over the last day, recognizing the graces and blessings and learning from the challenges and problems. The Examen is a meditation on your day. It is a chance to notice God acting in your life and your world. (We believe that God is already active in our life and we need to take the time to notice.) It is the best way to “find God in all things.” For some people it is done for a few minutes before going to bed; for others it is done at some other time in the day. It can take ten or fifteen minutes or as long or as short as you can.
As you practice the examen you will learn about yourself and about how God is working in your life. You will notice consolations and desolations (highs and lows). You will learn about what things are getting you closer to God and other people and what things are getting in the way of getting closer to God and others. You will discover how to find joy and peace. You might even have to learn how to deal with your sorrows and struggles. If you need help, it is best to consult with a special director. Talk with someone in campus ministry if you need help discerning.
- Printed cards on various forms of the Examen can be found in campus ministry (Old Main 207).
- Various links (below) can help you learn about the examen.
- A number of sample “examens” can be found below.
- Go to our facebook page and use the various questions.
Links on the Examen
Here is an explanation from the Jesuits of the New Orleans Province of Jesuits.
Loyola Press has a great set of resources on the examen, including the lunch time examen, the examen for managers, the examen on MP3, the ecological examen, etc.
Go to youtube and listen to Jesuits talk about the examen.
Even the Baptists are recommending the examen.
A young Jesuit writes about the examen.
Below are four versions or adaptations of the examen.
The Classic Examen in Five Steps
Before starting, take a moment to slow down and ask God for help.
- Gratitude: Recall the blessings of the day and thank God.
- Review: Recall the events of the day and notice where you felt God’s presence and where you resisted opportunities to grow in love.
- Sorrow: Recall anything for which you are sorry.
- Forgiveness: Ask for God’s forgiveness and/or healing if needed.
- Grace: Ask God for the grace you need for the next day or for your life in general.
Based on the summary in Jim Martin’s The Jesuit Guide to (almost) Anything.
Examining Your Day
Imagine how God is looking upon you, now, with great affection.
Notice the specific moment of this day for which you are most grateful. Pray into this moment, and share your gratitude with God.
Ask God, as you understand God, to help you review your day. Look over the main events of your day, noting any stirrings in your heart or thoughts that were meaningful, or gave you life, and give thanks.
Then, look for events, feelings and thoughts that seemed to drain life out of you. Wherever you responded unhelpfully, ask God for forgiveness and quickly move away from any feelings of self-hate. Ask God’s help for the next time you find yourself in the same situation of vulnerability, that you will be the person you really want to be the next time around. Then bounce back with hope and joy.
Looking forward to the following day, plan concretely how to live it in union with God’s loving desires that are within you. By weeks’ end, notice the balancing act that is occurring between classes, relationships, work, play, prayer and action.
This Examen is from the Spiritual Exercises of Ignatius of Loyola, adapted by Fr Timothy M. Gallagher, Sheila Fabricant and Dennis and Matt Linn, and Campus Ministry of Canisius College.
Canisius Lenten Examen or Petey’s Process to Bounce Back Into Balance
Transition: I become aware of the love with which God looks upon me as I begin this Examen.
Step One: Gratitude. I note the gifts that God’s love has given me this day, noting the gift of balancing:
my studies and classes,
my other work,
some relaxation or play, and
some service of others.
I notice the moment of the day for which I am most grateful. And I thank God.
Step Two Petition. I ask God for an insight and strength that will make this Bounce Back Examen a work of grace, fruitful beyond my human capacity alone.
Step Three: Review. With my God, I review my day. I look for the stirrings of my heart and my thoughts that God has given me this day. I look also for those feelings and thoughts that have not been of God. And I review the choices I made in response to both my thoughts and feelings throughout the day.
Step Four: Forgiveness. I ask for the healing touch of the forgiving God who, with love and respect for me, removes my heart’s burdens.
Step Five: Renewal. I look forward to the following day and, with God, plan concretely how to live it in union with God’s loving desire for my life.
Transition: Aware of God’s presence with me, I prayerfully conclude the examen.
Note: Petey’s Bounce Back Into Balance is designed for individual use, but can be done among friends, roommates, family or any people who are comfortable with each other. The basis of this Examen is the Spiritual Exercises of Ignatius of Loyola, (no. 43) adapted by Fr Timothy M. Gallagher, OMV and Campus Ministry of Canisius College.
The Examen for Families
- You may want to choose a music as a background.. Do whatever helps you as a family to experience God’s love in your midst. Parents can gather children around the kitchen table, or when tucking a child into bed - whatever works for your family. Others in the family can learn to lead this prayer. Dogs, cats and other ‘family’ members can attend, unless they are too disruptive.
- At first a parent leads: “When beginning you may imagine yourself in a favorite place with Jesus or God as you understand God. Be open to God’s presence“
- Ask Jesus or God to “bring to your heart the moment today for which you are MOST GRATEFUL. If you could relive one moment, which one would it be?” You could ask “when were you most able to give and receive love today?” People share as they wish and their sharing is accepted. The leader can ask a follow-up question, such as “what was said and done in that moment that made it so special?”
- Then ask God to” bring to your heart the moment today for which you are LEAST GRATEFUL. When were you least able to give and receive love?” Ask “what was said and done in that moment that made it so difficult?” Be present to whatever you feel without trying to change or fix it in any way. Ask God for forgiveness if there was something done that was hurtful. Then move on….
- Spend a little time planning tomorrow. End with gratitude and holding hands if this works for your family.
The Examen for Families comes from Dennis & Sheila Fabricant-Linn, with Matt Linn, adapted by Campus Ministry at Canisius College.