The Examen is one of those first prayers you learn when you enter the Jesuits. It's the quintessential Jesuit and Ignatian prayer, because, if done daily can help us to make ever so small adjustments in our lives and in our behavior that move us closer to God and more fully into the relationship that God desires to have with us.
Essentially the prayer can be distilled down to these two questions.
1. For what moment today am I most grateful?
2. For what moment today am I least grateful?
As Dennis, Sheila and Matthew Linn write in their book, Sleeping with Bread--Holding What Gives You Life:
"There are many other ways to ask the same questions:
When did I give and receive the most love today?
When did I give and receive the least love today?
When did I feel the most alive today?
When did I feel life draining out of me?
When today did I have the greatest sense of belonging to myself, others, God and the universe?
When did I have the least sense of belonging?
When was I happiest today?
When was I saddest?
What was today's high point?
What was today's low point? (Linn, et al., 6-7).
Of course, that's not the only way to pray the Examen. There are as many ways to pray as perhaps there are stars in the sky. In the early days of the Society of Jesus this was one of the first prayers taught to those who were making the Spiritual Exercises. It's sort of a preliminary prayer that helps to adjust our interior disposition for joy in gratitude and sorrow for our sins. Here is an example of an illustration showing how one might or should pray the Examen. It's from the 1620.
People could look at this image to help them remember the parts of the prayer.
Jesuitinstitute.org has cleverly translated it for us.The five fingers represent the five steps of the examen:
1 Gratias age (give thanks)
The image shows a person kneeling in gratitude before God the Father, creator of all good things.
2 Pete lumen (ask for light)
The image shows a person praying to the Holy Spirit (symbolized as a dove) for enlightenment.
3 Examina (examine)
The image shows a person contemplating the call of Jesus.
4 Dole (be sorry)
The image shows a person contemplating the scene of the crucifixion of Jesus who died for our sins.
5 Propone (resolve)
The image shows a person slaying a dragon - what dragons do I need to slay tomorrow?
You make our work possible.
Ignatian Spiritual Life Center
A Ministry of St. Agnes Parish
1611 Oak Street
San Francisco, CA 94117
A ministry of St. Agnes Parish in the Haight-Ashbury neighborhood of San Francisco, the Spiritual Life Center is a resource for living an Ignatian life of devotion and service. Programming includes ongoing Christian adult education and faith formation, the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius, spiritual direction, opportunities for prayer and retreat, and a commitment to dialogue and service in our Church and world.