St Ignatius of Loyola considered Examen (an examination of your own conscience) to be the most important spiritual exercise! He felt it was so important that he expected the Jesuits (members of the Society of Jesus) to do it twice every day. It is a prayer technique that encourages us to identify and reflect on what happens each day in order to explore what God might be doing.
There are five basic steps:
- Become aware of God’s presence.
- Review the day with gratitude.
- Pay attention to your emotions.
- Choose one feature of the day and pray about it.
- Look toward tomorrow.
You might also try this once a week (you may need a pen and paper for this one – why not start a journal …).
- Gather the week: identify 10-12 significant events from your week. Give thought to prayer, conversation, meetings, meals, work, the planned and unplanned things that stand out for you.
- Review the week: reflect on each of the events you identified and think about what was happening within you – your feelings, reactions, responses. Now write (or draw) your response (to all the events, or one at a time).
- Give thanks: thank God for each part of your week, for your life, the lives of those who intersected with your week, and God’s presence in it. Celebrate the gifts that enriched or enhanced your week.
- Confession: Admit your mistakes and anything you regret in thought, word, or deed. Acknowledge the times when you might have ignored and dodged the promptings of the Holy Spirit. Give it all to God.
- Seek the meaning: ask yourself what the underlying significance of each event might be. Consider these questions:
- Is there a theme that links everything?
- Can you think of a time Jesus experienced something similar? How did he respond?
- What is God saying to me – or inviting me to learn?
- What am I being called to do?