The Daily Examen
More than 400 years ago Ignatius Loyola encouraged prayer-filled mindfulness by proposing what has come to be known as the Daily Examen—the discipline of prayerful reflection on the events of the day in order to detect the Divine Presence and discern the Divine purpose.
One of the few rules of prayer that St. Ignatius made for the Jesuit order was the requirement that they practice the Examen twice daily—at noon and at the end of the day. Adapted from the method described by St. Ignatius in his Spiritual Exercises, the practice presented here is the five-step version of the Daily Examen.
1. Become aware of the Divine Presence. Look back on the events of the day in the presence of the Holy Spirit. Although the day may seem confusing to you—a blur, a jumble, a muddle—pray for clarity and understanding.
2. Review the day with gratitude. Gratitude is the foundation of our relationship with the Divine. Walk through your day with the Divine Presence and note the day’s joys and delights. Focus on the day’s gifts. Look at what you did, the people you interacted with. What did you receive from these people? What did you give them? Pay attention to small things—the food you ate, the sights you saw, and other seemingly small pleasures. The Divine is present is in the details.
3. Pay attention to your emotions. One of the great insights of St. Ignatius was that we detect the presence of the Divine Spirit in the movements of our emotions. Reflect on the feelings you experienced during the day. Boredom? Elation? Resentment? Compassion? Anger? Confidence? What is the Divine saying to you through these feelings?
4. Choose one feature of the day and pray from it. Ask the Holy Spirit to direct you to something during the day that is particularly important for you. It may involve a feeling—positive or negative. It may be a significant encounter with another person or a vivid moment of pleasure or peace. Or it may be something that seems rather insignificant. Look at it. Pray about it. Allow the prayer to arise spontaneously from your heart—whether intercession, praise, repentance, or gratitude.
5. Look toward tomorrow. Pray for light to see the challenges that tomorrow brings. Pay attention to the feelings that surface as you survey what’s ahead. Are you doubtful? Cheerful? Apprehensive? Full of delighted anticipation? Allow these feelings to become your prayer. Seek Divine guidance. Ask for help and understanding. Pray for hope. Pray for peace.
St. Ignatius encouraged people to talk to the Lord as you would a friend. End the Daily Examen with a conversation with the Divine. Ask forgiveness for your sins. Ask for protection and help. Ask for his wisdom about the questions you have and the problems you face. Do all this in the spirit of gratitude. Your life is a gift, and it is filled with gifts from the Divine.
(Adapted from IgnatianSpirituality.com)