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The Examen

If you cannot recollect yourself continuously, do so once a day at least, in the morning or in the evening. In the morning make a resolution and in the evening examine yourself on what you have said this day, what you have done and thought, for in these things perhaps you have often offended God and those about you.  ― Thomas à Kempis, The Imitation of Christ

While the season of Lent is often associated with forgoing something, it can also be an ideal time to add a spiritual discipline to your days. This year, I plan to use the practice of examen during Lent.  Examen is a daily exercise of reflection on and moral evaluation of one's thoughts and conduct.  It is often associated with the Jesuits but is practiced by many. Last year, I came across the following outline that helped me refine my own practice.

Start by remembering that God loves you.  Use these steps to pay attention to God more intentionally:

  • Say “Hello” to God: Do whatever you can to become more aware of God’s presence in this moment, in this day, in your life.

  • Say “Thank you” to God: Review your day (or yesterday if you are practicing in the morning) and consider all the blessings with gratitude.

  • Consider your emotions and reflect your feelings about things that happened during the day: Often in the moment, we experience emotions without pausing to notice them. This can help us be more aware of how our feelings influence our words and actions.

  • Repent (It is Lent!): Consider where you have fallen short or acted poorly, confess these shortcomings to God to seek forgiveness, and consider whether an apology to others is needed.

  • Be kind to yourself, and seek God’s help as we look forward to tomorrow.

  • Have a clear ending: Concluding with the Lord’s Prayer or other prayer you know by heart can help mark the process.

I hope you will try this process of examen. Please share your experience of it with others from Ascension or with me. Ideally, this process is not rushed, but moving through the steps quickly can still be beneficial. May God guide us in this season as we seek to experience God more fully.


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