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Call to Order: Daily Examen

deep health integrated life prayer resilience Feb 24, 2024

Living the integrated life more fully begins with a daily prayer practice that often includes an Examen. The Examen serves to help order our hearts and minds to living in His Presence. 

What is an Examen: 

St. Ignatius Loyola's Examen invites us to find the movement of God in all the people and events of our day. It is a tool in learning to live in the Presence of God. St. Ignatius wrote a great spiritual work called: The Spiritual Exercises in this work he gives these points as a Daily Examen: 

  • 1 Give thanks. Spend a few moments in gratitude for the gifts and blessings of the day.
  • 2 Ask for light. I typically ask the Holy Spirit to guide me through the events of the day.
  • 3 Examine the day. Where did I see God? Was my heart with Him... if it was not, why, not?
  • 4 Seek forgiveness. I ask the Lord for His Mercy and forgiveness where I fell short.
  • 5 Resolve to change. Daily Resolution is so important for me (for all of us!) - sometimes I have the same resolutions for days or weeks! 

The Examen Transformed my Life 

Back in 2017 I had heard about the Examen Journal from a friend of mine and as Providence would have it my Spiritual Director had also recently mentioned this practice. So, I bought the journal and cracked it open. 

My first thought, "this is simple, I could do this everyday." I dove in with gusto as any sanguine typically does. Following suit I burned out fast. I kept it up for 2 weeks then I stopped. Looking back, I don't think I really grasped the importance of the practice, instead I saw it as just another "thing" to do during my prayer time. My night prayers have ebbed and flowed over the years, not much rhyme or reason just sheer "luck" if I did them. 

The days passed, then weeks, months and then years... the Examen Journal came with me on retreat, on long weekend camping trips, etc. I used it as a tool in my prayer when away from home. Again, no real "practice" or "consistency" in my Daily Examen practice. 

Then came 2019... nothing like hard stuff with your kids to drive you to your knees!! In May of 2019 our lives changed in a very difficult way, our oldest son... left. He virtually, disappeared. (I continue to work on the post about 2019... it's a hard one to write). 

While our oldest was gone - I was challenged physically, mentally and emotionally. My heart had been pierced, my will was being tamed and my resolve strengthened. All the while my spirit was drained and my faith tested. I didn't feel abandoned by God, instead I felt punished and chastised. I picked up the Examen for another brief time and it helped... and then it didn't. I became reluctant in my wanting to notice where He was in my day, I was getting too comfortable in my grief (oh, I was also angry!), going through the motions was easier than "thinking" about the motions. (Spoiler & Praise Report: Our Son returned in November 2019)

Turning the Corner in Daily Examen

During 2020 many of us (including me) adopted some new "habits" as we navigated the "health event." Some of the habits good, and others... well, not so "good." My prayer life was invigorated during this time as my husband and I began to pray a daily Rosary. Thanks to Holy Family School of Faith we had a tool to help us build this habit. I will admit having my husband lead the way was so consoling and refreshing. 

As we began building this new rhythm in our days the Examen came up again... and again... and again... alright already - I'll get that out and try again! 

As my morning prayer life began to take root, the bud of self-knowledge began to bloom. The Examen helped me prune away the dead parts of my heart so My Lord and Savior could nurture them and the parts that were withered... He gently nursed back to health.  

My practice began with reviewing the previous day during my morning prayer. As self-knowledge grew the Lord began to stir within me a spirit of desire - a desire for more closer union to His most holy will for me. This year, after 2 years of building Examen consistency, I now am conducting my Examen before I make dinner each night. This preparation for my end of day prayers and the coming morning prayers has been transformative. 

Here's How You Can Begin Your Examen Practice

Have you ever wondered about how you might grow in the spiritual life? In your prayer life? Give the Examen a shot... experiment with it. Here are some suggestions: 

1) You may like to use a journal like Mary Williams' Examen Journal or you may like to use your own journal and you could use prompts like the ones I listed above - or you could simplify them. Regardless, we need prompts that will help us recognize His blessings, where He was in our day, were we cooperating with Him and His will, and then make a resolution. 

2) Look at your current prayer life and your daily rhythm - Where will your Examen make the most sense? I will say that saving it (or rather "leaving it") for the "last" thing of the day can be risky. Often, as women we are inclined to keep doing "other things" that we think are more important and then we say "I didn't have the time." Remember what St. Augustine said,"we have time for the things we love."

3) Some fruit of the Examen can be: deeper and more effective confessions, seeing God and His grace more clearly in your daily life, clearer discernment in your decisions as a daily examen helps to form virtue, more profound love for: God, His Church and a deeper desire to live in communion with His Holy will as your yearning for heaven increases. 

Most importantly, have a plan, put your tools in one place, write a reminder (in your phone, your planner, a sticky note, etc.) and then DO IT.

I am excited for you to give this spiritual practice a try - I'm praying for you! 


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