Powerful enough to revolutionize our interior lives
“…at every time and in every place, God draws close to man. He calls man to seek him, to know him, to love him with all his strength…CCC 1
St. Paul, in the Second letter to the Corinthians, encourages us to examine yourselves saying: “Examine yourselves to see whether you are living in faith. Test yourselves. Do you not realize that Jesus Christ is in you?–unless, of course, you fail the test. I hope you will discover that we have not failed. But we pray to God that you may not do evil, not that we many appear to have passed the test but that you may seem to have failed. For we cannot do anything against the truth, but only for the truth. For we rejoice when we are weak but you are strong. What we pray for is your improvement. I am writing this while I am away, so that when I come I may not have to be severe in virtue of the authority that the Lord has given me to build up and not to tear down.”
(2 Corin 13:5-10 NABRE)
So how do we go about ‘examining’ ourselves? Is St. Paul talking about examining our bodies? No. He is talking about examining our interior…our spirit. So I ask again, how do we ‘examine’ ourselves in a way that brings us deeper into intimacy with God? It all begins with a deep desire to seek him, to know him, to love him and prayer connects us to God. St. Ignatius, in the 16th Century, personally experienced a well-developed prayer life and shares with all of us a simple technique… called The Examen. He believed this spiritual exercise was a gift from God and that God wanted him to share it with as many people as possible. St. Ignatius made very few rules for the Jesuit order. However, one of the few requirements for the Jesuit practice was to adopt The Examen twice a day…at noon and at the end of the day. “The Examen is an ancient practice in the Church that can help us see God’s hand at work in our whole experience.” (Ignatianspirituality.com). St. Ignatius’ work is brilliant; he lays out for us a simple [road map or how to step by step] technique that incorporates our need to make our lives right with Him; to desire God above all things, to discover His presence in our lives, and to discern His direction for us…on a daily basis. This technique seems to me to be so fitting at this time of year as we experience the essential intent of Advent which is to [prepare ourselves interiorly] for the Lord’s second coming.
Included below is a Retreat Guide called The Examen written by and presented by Fr. John Bartunek. In his presentation Fr. Bartunek outlines the essential components and benefits of The Examen step by step. His presentation along with my children have inspired me to look deeper into St. Ignatius’s work and to share with you what I discovered.
First Step: Thank Him for your Blessings
*Thank God for the blessings you’ve received during the day
*The examen is a prayer, and not a self-help technique
*Turning our minds to good daily experiences helps us exercise faith, hope, and love for God
Second Step: Ask for Light
*We can’t make ourselves holy, and we can’t turn ourselves into saints
*We need guidance from the Holy Spirit, who leads us
*Ask for light, guidance, and help–opening ourselves to God’s action
*We are just children, spiritually, and the Lord is our shepherd
Third Step: Look over the Day
*What was God doing in my life? What was he asking? Hoping?
*God uses normal activities of the day as opportunities for growth
*How did I respond to God’s action? Was I oblivious, or generous…?
*We can become more intentional in relationships and responsibilities
Forth Step: Ask for Forgiveness
*Selfishness in our relationship with God leads to our desire for forgiveness
*This step involves asking for that forgiveness; asking God to show us the depth of his love for us
*God’s goodness, mercy, and love are greater than our self-centeredness; we should never be afraid to ask for forgiveness
Fifth Step: Renew Commitment
*Can be as simple as making the sign of the cross, or praying a short prayer
*Sometimes it will take the form of a concrete commitment to do something
*This step gives us faith-filled closure, and keeps us from getting stuck
*It is the renewal of our love for God, which flows from re-experiencing God’s love for us.
The Five Steps: TALAR
T: Thank God for his Blessings
A: Ask for Light
L: Look Over the Day
A: Ask for Forgiveness
R: Renew Our Commitment to Christ and his Kingdom
(The Examen a Retreat Guide written and presented by Fr. John Bartunek)
I am excited about the benefits of The Examen and I have recently made a commitment to myself to incorporate this spiritual exercise into my daily life. I am inspired by my children who already practice this spiritual exercise daily at their High School…Brebeuf Jesuit Preparatory. Thank you Brebeuf Prep and THANK YOU St. Ignatius for this gift… ‘powerful enough to revolutionize our interior lives’. (Fr. J. Bartunek)