**We interrupt this Grove to bring you an announcement: In the first week of our “Dream Big” Fund, we’ve raised $2,956! You all are amazing. We’re already 21% of the way there.
We are making a switch and will now be raising the remainder of our goal ($11,019) through Pure Charity. You can see all the details and donate here. This will allow everyone, including those with a non-U.S. billing address to give. (We know many of you are not from the U.S. and want the opportunity to give.) Thank you for Dreaming Big with Velvet Ashes. Now, back to The Grove…**
The Prayer of Examen is a practice first developed by St. Ignatius of Loyola. It’s a staple in monastic life, a potential piece of a “Rule of Life” given to communion with God. Contemporary people I admire have a habit of examination – writers like Ed Cyzewski and Micha Boyett.
The Prayer of Examen is often guided by a set of questions to stir reflection. It is an inventory of the day made with gratitude in the presence of God. It’s most often a practice tailor-made for the evening, but it can be altered for any hour of the day.
The prayer begins with an acknowledgement of the loving presence of God. Then it moves over the events of the day, pausing over moments to witness God at work where we sensed him, and where we missed God. In those pauses, the prayer attends to the feelings we experienced around those events. Finally, it turns to conversing with God about the events and emotions we experienced, giving thanks and asking for forgiveness. It ends with an expression of gratitude for God’s presence and direction, and a request for moving forward.
The assumption is that God is always present, and the Spirit is always working good. The point is to become aware of God’s presence and life-giving work in our moments, making the ordinary sacred.
One pause from one Examen this week gave me this:
My first-grader and I make eye contact at pickup after school, and then I lose sight of him in the crowd. As I scan, my heart rate kicks up a notch, and I make sure my youngest is still beside me. I start pacing, scanning, and then the kid pops out from behind a bush. Gotcha! Good one, I’m laughing on the inside. Let’s go to the park.
My boys make contact with each other and immediately fall to what looks to me like shoving, teasing, picking, and bossing. They haven’t seen each other all day and they only have eyes for each other as they stumble, trip, and push their way through the crowd.
I’m corralling, correcting, apologizing, and my anxiety is about to ring the bell. A walk down picturesque Main Street on a gorgeous autumn day devolves into snapping at the kid I haven’t seen all day to stay out of the interesting shop, and if he snaps the nose off the gaudy adult-sized metal snowman and I have to pay for it, there’s no Christmas for any of us. We make it to the park.
Later as I pray the Examen, I realize that my anxiety grows from confusion. I don’t know what’s right. I want my boys to engage with their world and express their affection and curiosity, but for them that is intensely physical, and I can’t handle the risk it takes. I equally want them to be safe and sensitive to others. I simultaneously worry about crushing their wonder and the embarrassment of offense. I feel shame.
I don’t know how to parent both ways. There’s a tight tangle in the center of me where there should be breath instead.
In my chat with God about this event and my agitation, he shows me that I’ve grown slower to judge. The parent who doesn’t pull on the reins fast or hard enough. Or the one who pulls so hard so often I predict teenage rebellion in her future…and serves her right.
Maybe I’m learning to be less hard on myself, too.
I pray the Jesus Prayer: Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner. I ask God to craft me kind to myself, my kids, and others. I give thanks for a perfect autumn day, a school within walking distance, a park with ducks, and two dearly beloved wild little boys. I breathe. Amen.
Want to give it a whirl? Check out one of these free apps:
Abide has a set of four Examen Prayers that are guided audibly. Also available on the You Version Bible app as a plan from the Jesuits of Great Britain.
Examine is a step-by-step guide for daily use with a journaling option. It keeps a record of your entries.
Have you heard of the Examen before? What do you think of it? Have you prayed the Examen before? What was it like? Do you have a habit of Examen? When and how do you practice it?