I have been asked to record an Examen. Here are two! They are the same shape, with one shorter for when you are tired or don’t have much time. You may wish to try the longer one first.
Some lucky people seem to know exactly what they want. They are blessed with a vocation or a passion that carries them into and through life. Most of us question and vacillate and prevaricate. “What do You want me to do?” we ask.
The truth of our calling or desire is there in our lives, but it takes some honest, uncensored, and non-judgmental reflection to see clearly. The Review of the Day, or Examen, is one way of doing this.
The Examen is an opportunity to reflect back over a period of time, usually the last 24 hours, to relish gifts and graces, to attend to difficult moments, and to think about your attitudes and intentions for the coming 24 hours. Day by day, we build up a picture of the kind of person we are: what brings us alive, what is life in all its fullness, and how we sabotage or betray ourselves. Our deepest desire and calling become clear incrementally.
This review is usually done in the evening. This works well for many people because the day is almost over and they can look back in a relaxed way.
Others find the evening difficult because they are too tired, and so they do it first thing in the morning, looking back over the previous day. The business of the day has not yet started, and the review can help prepare for the coming 24 hours. Any way you do it is fine. No prayer is bad prayer (pun intended).
Curiosity and self-acceptance are crucial attitudes to bring to the Examen. It is an exploration, noticing the presence and invitation of God in your life. It is not an opportunity for self-criticism. The focus is primarily on God, not on yourself. There may be things to celebrate and relish. There may be things to be sad or sorry about. All of this is held in God’s presence, which is loving and kind.
If you are interested in other ways of approaching the Examen, here are a couple of suggestions:
- The first is a book and a smart-phone app, Reimagining the Examen, which offers 34 adaptable versions of the Examen. I like the variety of different ways of review and reflection that the author, Mark Thibodeaux SJ, gives.
- The second is the Pray As You Go website on which there are several guided Examens for different occasions and age-ranges.
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What is your experience with the Examen? Do you like it or loathe it? What is your best time of day? Please comment below.