How did your Lent go for you this year? Did it leave you satisfied and spiritually renewed, or wanting just a little more time?
While I fell short of many of my own lofty goals, I did try a new practice during Lent that is proving to be a life-changing one – the nightly Examen.
A gift to us from St. Ignatius of Loyola, It is designed to be a daily examination which helps us to:
- Become aware of God’s presence.
- Review the day with gratitude.
- Pay attention to our emotions.
- Choose one feature of the day and pray from it.
- Look toward tomorrow.
I’ve tried the Examen before by reading through the steps, but it just didn’t work for me. What changed for me was finding a simply wonderful Lenten/Easter Examen podcast by Father James Martin*. His current series is continuing through the 50 days until Pentecost, so you can still check it out.
Think back on specific people, places, events
Each evening, I play the podcast on my smartphone and allow Father’s soothing voice to lead me through my day, with a gentle melodic piano soundtrack and probing questions, “Try to notice where God has been,” starting with breakfast, and continuing through the day and evening – calling to mind specific people, places and events.
There are pauses for silent meditation and reflection. “Where did you accept God’s invitation to be loving, to be grateful, to be yourself?” and “Where did you turn away?” It takes less than 20 minutes, and it can be done at night or in the morning for the previous day.
This practice makes events that seemed ordinary as I was living them, take on a new meaning. It’s almost as if I can see my day from God’s point of view!
I am always surprised by what I remember, and how I feel about it upon recollection. A call from a friend, a hallway conversation at work, a familiar sight seen with new eyes. And with the Examen prayer, I can stand back and observe myself – when I responded in a way I was pleased with, or failed to in some way.
As the day’s review is complete, my response to God becomes clear. I may feel called to give thanks, ask forgiveness, or act on something.
Afterward, I feel refreshed, renewed and ready for the next day (warning: If you do this in bed before shutting off the light, It’s very easy to fall asleep before you’re done)!
Father James ends each podcast, ‘Keep noticing.’ And I DO find SO MUCH to notice every day, that is God’s marvelous work in my life.
- What was your Lenten experience like this year?
- Did you try anything new?
- Share a favorite practice that may help others feel refreshed and renewed.
*Father James J. Martin is an American Jesuit Priest, writer, and editor-at-large of the Jesuit magazine America. His podcasts can be found on itunes, youtube, and Amazon.com.