The Examen: Finding God in Your Life

In the Spiritual Exercises, Ignatius of Loyola includes a prayer designed to enable believers to find God in their lives.   He called it the “examination of conscience.”  The prayer goes by many names today:  “examination of consciousness” or “consciousness examination'” or simply – “examen”.  The examen is usually practiced at the end of each day for 10 to 15 minutes.  Some find it beneficial to practice the examen twice a day (mid-day and at the end of the day).  Even though Ignatius taught his companions never to omit it from their day, the examen doesn’t need to be followed slavishly.

From the Spiritual Exercises

Here’s the examen in the words of St. Ignatius Loyola, straight from The Spiritual Exercises:

The First Point is to give thanks to God our Lord for the benefits I have received.

The Second is to ask grace to know my sins and rid myself of them.

The Third is to ask an account of my soul from the hour of rising to the present examen, hour by hour or period by period; first as to thoughts, then words, then deeds, in the same order as was given for the particular examination.

The Fourth is to ask pardon of God our Lord for my faults.

The Fifth is to resolve, with God’s grace, to amend them.              Close with an Our Father (The Lord’s Prayer)

So the Ignatius’ examen goes like this: gratitude, awareness of sins, review, forgiveness, grace.

But there is no ‘right’ way to pray.   So pray it in whatever way draws you closer to God.

Recently my examen has been going like this: gratitude, review, awareness of sins, forgiveness, grace.

For a good presentation on  the examen see Chapter Four of “The Jesuit Guide to Almost Everything: A Spirituality for Real Life” by James Martin, SJ


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