In the Jesuit Novitiate, Novices are taught a prayer method that can be done at the end of one’s day. It is called “Examen.” When I first learned about it, it was an examination of conscience. Later, a Jesuit by the name of George Aschenbrenner wrote a modern version calling it “Examen of Consciousness.” There are five steps:
- Ask God for light
- Review the day with gratitude to God for the blessings/ challenges you experienced that day.
- Review the main feelings, positive and negative, the painful and the pleasing you experienced. How have you experienced God working in you?
- Choose one of those feelings and pray from it, that is, choose the remembered feeling that most caught your attention: delight, sorrow, peace, fear, compassion, etc. and pray spontaneously to God from it.
- Look towards tomorrow. What feelings surface as you consider the various tasks, events, meetings, etc that you face. Ask God for what you desire: guidance, inspiration, inner freedom, courage, and so forth.
We also learned what is known as the Particular Examen. This method has to do with the Second Reading today and the Gospel. We were given a roll of 10 beads to be pinned inside our cassock. We were then instructed to pick a fault that we wished to overcome or do less of, like impatience, jealousy, envy, rash judgement, or pride. During the day, each time you failed in this fault you pulled down a bead. At the end of the day, you checked how many beads had been pulled! The result could either fill you with joy or not!!
The 12 Apostles could have definitely benefited from this spiritual practice. If they had, they wouldn’t have argued among themselves as to who was the greatest among them.
Jesus gave them a lesson in humility that they wouldn’t soon forget even using a child as an example. Children had no legal rights or claims. To help a child was to expect nothing in return. It is only the least who have any status in Jesus’ eyes.
The purpose of the Particular Examen was not to make us perfect, but to put on the mind and heart of Christ ever more fully. St. Ignatius valued the importance of self-knowledge, of one’s strengths and weaknesses that we may be as good an instrument of God’s love as one can be.
Loving and merciful God,
we thank you for being patient
with us as we seek ways to serve
Open our eyes to see how we
need to change and give us the
grace to do so.
Fr. Max Oliva, S.J.
September 19, 2021