On a regular basis, I can often run into the sense that my days are blurring together or that I feel that I’ve had little chance to process what has gone on around me. I came across a simplified version of this spiritual practice while working as a counselor at a summer church camp in North Carolina. I found that the Examen helped me to intentionally process not only what had gone on in my day, but also to reflect on my relationships and see where God was at work throughout my day. This practice helped guide me to notice patterns in my day and relationships as well as set in my mind an intention for the next day. Over the next few weeks, I invite you to explore with me this spiritual exercise that comes from Ignatius of Loyola. We’ll not only look into where the practice came from, but how breathed new life into this exercise for today. Keep an eye out for videos, Facebook posts, Instagram invitations, as well as an Examen 30 day challenge. I hope to hear from you as well. Share your thoughts and observations as we explore together and let me know what you notice along this journey.
In the video, I mention the steps of the Examen. Those can be found, along with more information, at this website.
Where did it come from?
The earliest forms of the Examen are based off of the practice outlined in Spiritual Exercises by St. Ignatius of Loyola (1491-1556). The work was written during a year in Ignatius was healing from war time wounds, having had his leg shattered by a cannonball in battle. After healing physically, Ignatius set out to find a peace of mind in service towards God and in pursuit of study, visiting universities all over Europe (1). Living in a time when there could be tendency to see God in very distant terms through the lens of academics, Ignatius’ Spiritual Exercises invites those who practice to realize not only where God is near, but to see how our actions impact one another for the sake of building up or tearing down (2). They drive us to realize where we are in need of forgiveness and challenge the practitioner to come to a habit of repentance and seeking forgiveness. Spiritual Exercises is still used by spiritual directors today to structure times of retreat and the Examen has grown and been adapted as a spiritual practice that can be incorporated into everyday living.
1. “St. Ignatius of Loyola,” Franciscan Media
2. The Oxford History of Christian Worship, ed. Geoffrey Wainwright and Karen B. Westerfield Tucker (Oxford University Press, 2005) 366.
Ways to Practice the Examen
There are a variety of ways available to practice the Examen, many of which I’ve come across and listed here. There’s room to stick to one tried and true way or try out different forms and see how they connect and work into your day. Personally, I tend to go between different forms of the Examen while setting aside time at the same point in the day. Most of what influences my choice on what to do is dictated by how much has gone on in the day and how much I feel the need to process. But again, different forms work for different people. Links to the resources mentioned in the video are listed below. Check them out and tell us what you think on the Hive Facebook page. If you have any other resources to lift up or insights that you’ve come across, feel free to also share them on the Facebook page.