The Examen Adapted

ignatius of loyolaSaint Ignatius was ever adapting his Spiritual Exercises to the particular needs of those under his direction. He knew some people were ready for the full experience. Others would benefit from so much, but not more.

For the students I’ve mentored in discipleship the past few years, I would encourage each of them to do some form of the Examen. (A number of approaches are linked here.) By the time a believer is college-age, my sense is that most are ready for the daily discipline in some form. A few resist, but some students have embraced the pattern with enthusiasm. And fruitfulness, if I can judge by appearances. Jim Manney’s prayer card I give them is here.

I also suggest that for those who are involved in a specific ministry: as a small group leader or in liturgical leadership, that a simple variation of the Examen can be useful. I encourage this for the whole period of service, from pre-Mass rehearsal to cleaning up, or from preparing for the small group to the post-sharing social time. I think this abbreviated form may also be helpful for a person who struggles with church involvement. I’ll get to that a bit later.

Andy Otto’s fourth fresh idea for renewing prayer is this:

(A)sk yourself what the high point of your day was and why. Then ask yourself what the low point was and why. Share these two moments with God, and engage in a conversation with God about them.

Easy to remember. Our music director arrives about an hour and fifteen minutes before Mass. I would ask her or him to recall bits of the experience: setting up stuff, welcoming members, warm-ups, latecomers, practice, pre-liturgy silence, the Mass itself, and the chores of putting things away. What moment strikes you? High or low? And why?

Over the years, I’ve found that small group leaders are generally more engaged in discipleship. A daily Examen, plus a specific abbreviated reflection works well for most. Some music leaders are musicians first, and disciples second–if at all. Looking for the high point and low point is a useful starter for self-reflection.

Writing these down is also a good practice. When I kept written files of my discipleship meetings, I usually included high point/low point of each. I brought those to prayer, but also reviewed them as part of my own prayer for and preparation with my young friends.

Last piece is about that conversation with God. That is a serious part of the Examen, full or abbreviated. That exchange should be as real as possible–at least on our part.


About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in the Pacific Northwest, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
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