The Redemptive Examen
The Examen is a prayerful reflection of the state of our soul, during the course of each day, in the presence of God. (Note: The Examen is not an examination of conscience, which can be found here.) This effective tool has been a constant in Church tradition but has become much more common through the practical framework of St. Ignatius of Loyola’s Spiritual Exercises. It is a powerful help in seeing the movements of God in our day-to-day life.
As members of Apostoli Viae, we root our daily examine not in a focus on our failures, but in our gratitude to God's work in us, thereby adding a redemptive emphasis to an already invaluable spiritual practice.
Thus, as we examine each day, we focus on giving thanks to God both for the joys and blessings He brings us, as well as for the difficulties that come our way, recognizing that in both instances, God has something wonderful planned for us. For we know that “God works all thing to the good for those who love Him.” (Rom 8:28)
Below is the Daily Examen Guide provided to Apostoli Viae members who make their first promises and move on to the Disciple level. In moving up to this deeper level of involvement with Apostoli Viae, each Disciple promises to spend time each day in mental prayer and to conduct a daily examen.
As we perform our examine in gratitude, we remember that the daily difficulties that come our way—while difficult—are not bad, per se, but can be
opportunities to unite our sufferings with Jesus,
experiences necessary for our purification,
reminders of our need to rely on the Lord,
reminders of our need to remain humble, and
opportunities to offer up reparation for our sins or for those of others.
Our Plan of Love (or Rule of Life) is essential for our spiritual health, as it helps us address common struggles or obstacles that stand in the way of achieving union with God.
We conduct our Examen at the end of each day, the beginning of the next, or even multiple times daily. In doing so, we look at our day as from a helicopter—hovering up, and then flying back to the beginning and considering everything against our Plan of Love and the teachings of the Church.
When we succeed, we thank God for the graces He gave us to overcome whatever obstacles came our way, always acknowledging that it is only through Him that we can overcome sin and temptation.
When we fail, we ask forgiveness and express gratitude to God for giving us the grace to see, the grace to repent, and the opportunity for redemption.
Following these guidelines, the Apostoli Viae Examen is always redemptive and positive. We never beat ourselves up, getting down about all of our failures. Instead, we focus on Jesus and His redemptive work within us. We use the time—sometimes as short as 5-8 minutes a day!—to reflect on our day and thank God for everything that came our way. We ask Him to help us the next day... and the next... and the next... trusting that each step we take is a step toward union with God
Daily Examen Guide
1) Before reflecting on your plan of love or commitments, sit a moment in silence, preferably before Mass, during adoration or before night prayer. Recognize and acknowledge the loving gaze of the Blessed Trinity upon you. Make the sign of the cross and pray this prayer or something similar.
Dear Lord, You know my heart and my soul better than I know myself. You know my sin, my imperfections and those things which keep me from living in the fullness of love for You and those You have placed in my care. Show me my sins, my imperfections and how I have honored and failed You. I beg You to help me to rejoice in the successes that have come by Your grace and to turn from choices I have made that reveal sin and selfishness within me. Please help me now as I examine my actions to see what You see and to express my humble gratitude for successes that You have granted by Your grace and to seek forgiveness for times when I have failed to give all that I am to You.
Help me to humbly acknowledge my failures and rest in Your redemptive provision knowing that without You, I can accomplish nothing, but with You, I can overcome these failures to Your glory and continue to embrace Your virtues by Your grace. Your love is worthy of all my love. Help me to return that love with joy and to see You and to follow You in all I think, say, and do.
2) Review your plan of love slowly and silently – noting where you have seen progress and where you need to make better progress. Listen to any promptings of love and direction. Each time you see success, give praise to God. You might offer praise like,
“Thank You Lord Jesus for your grace.”
3) For those areas where you have failed, recognize that this failure is a part of the cross and a realization of your need for God to complete the work of self-sacrifice that you failed to complete. Ask for forgiveness as a child when a loving parent looks on them with joy because the heart of the child is rightly oriented to the truth and desires to please them. Say something like,
“I am sorry Lord, please help me to better serve you.”
You can also use the traditional act of contrition from the Mass here. Accept the Lord’s love and forgiveness. Reject any negative self-talk, self-focus or self-condemnation that focuses on you rather than God’s redemptive work in your soul.
4) Take a moment and list three things for which you are especially grateful.
5) Conclude your time with thanksgiving for progress made and a commitment to correct your failures with the Lord’s help. Make the sign of the cross to conclude your prayer acknowledging His profound love for you in His sacrifice on your behalf and His commitment to draw you to Himself through both your failures and successes.
IMAGE: At Prayer by Edwin Long (public domain)