The Ignatian Examen
The following is an excerpt from Prayer for Finding God in All Things: THe Daily Examen of St. Ignatius Loyola, by Sr. Joan Roccasalvo, C.S.J.
What is the Daily Examen of St. Ignatius Loyola?
Our consumer society gravitates around evaluations of all kinds. Large corporations regularly conduct surveys that measure sales and profts. Products undergo improvements to ensure positive results. The end goal? A more satisfying life. The daily examen of St. Ignatius Loyola focuses not on a better life but on "abundant life, life to the full," as Jesus promises. (Jn 10:10).
The daily examen is that time of prayer when I evaluate the hours of my day in the light of faith. I assess my relationship with God and myself, with others, and with the world around me since my last examen. We need to evaluate all aspects of life, urges Father Walter Ciszek, S.J.:
"We must habitually pray over our thoughts, speech and opinions, aspirations, desires, decisions; over our physical, spiritual, material and mental needs; over our vows and our state of calling to better discern the will of God, respect our neighbor, in the spirit of charity."
The daily examen is quintessentially important for busy people to pray it because in doing so, we can more easily find God in all things. According to St. Ignatius:
1. All things are a GIFT.
2. All things are SACRED; God lives within all created things: In inanimate things, in plants, in animals, and in you and in me.
3. God is PROVIDENTIALLY at work always and everywhere within all created things.
4. All good things descend FROM ABOVE, "de arriba."
Pedro Arrupe, S.J. reflects on finding God in the context of love:
"Nothing is more practical than finding God, that is, thank falling in love in a quite absolute, final way. What seizes your imagination will affect everything. It will decide everything. It will decide what will get you out of bed in the morning, what you do with your evenings, how you spend your weekends, what you read, whom you know, what breaks your heart, and what amazes you with joy and gratitude."
Questions: When, Where, How Long?
When should the examen be prayed? It should be prayed at least once a day and ideally twice each day: at midday, mid-afternoon, at the end of the work day, or again before retiring.
Where can the examen be prayed? It can be prayed anywhere that is convenient, such as on public transportation or at home where mothers or caregivers can catch a few minutes when young children or the sick and infirm are safely occupied. Praying the examen can provie respite in these demanding roles when caregivers are almost always on call. The examen is well adapted to individual needs.
How long does the examen take to pray? About ten to twenty minutes. It helps to plan for a definite time to pray it. Some people keep a written record of their examens.
Daily Life, the Raw Material for Prayer
Ladislas Orsy, S.J., praises the rhythm of daily life, the raw material for praying the examen:
"To destroy our taste for the ordinary is to interfere with the foundations of our life. We need much peaceful monotony to enjoy surprising happenings. At the time of monotony, the spirit of the inner man awakes. Not distracted, he [or she] can reflect on himself [or herself] and on the outside world. The quiet rhythm of the ordinary is the best framework for thinking in depth. Great deeds and movements never originated in shallow thoughts; all giant trees have deep roots...."
Scripture and Sacred Writings
Let us make humankind in our own image, according to our likeness. -- Gen 1:26
Yet you have made them a little lower than God and crowned them with glory and honor. -- Ps 8:5
The glory of God is man and woman fully alive, and the life of man and woman is the contemplation of God. -- St. Irenaeus of Lyons
God condescended to become one of us that we might ascend to the divine likeness, a little less than God. -- Early Christian Proverb
The word of God, Jesus Christ our Lord, ... Because of his immeasurable love became what we are in order to make us what He is. -- St. Irenaeus of Lyons
Find Prayer for Finding God in All Things: The Daily Examen of St. Ignatius Loyola and other material on Jesuit spirituality at Jesuit Sources.