Lecturer Talk 5 – On the Examen
Brothers, how did everyone do with the challenge from the last time? [It was to attend the March for Life or at least pray and sacrifice on the anniversary for the building of the a culture of life]. Today we are going to return to the topic we reflected on two months ago. If you remember my sequence of talks, I started out talking about what is the essence of the Gospel message and what does it mean to have a relationship with Christ, then I moved on to the importance of prayer and one way to pray with Scripture, next I spoke about Advent and last month about being pro-life. I want to first of all reiterate the importance of prayer. Brothers, you might be used to having the identifiers of being a Catholic as I go to Mass, I go to the Knights meeting, I serve as an usher, whatever, but as I spoke about in my first talk the essence of our faith is to be in an intimate, personal relationship with God that overflows to the love of our neighbor. Now here is a question for all of you, how do we strength relationships? (This is not a rhetorical question). We spend time together. We will be judged by our love first, not just our activities. Prayer foster love, it is spending time with the one we should love. If we say that we are Knights of Columbus and disciples of Christ we need to be spending time every day, in personal prayer. Prayer needs to become an essential part of our day! Also I want to introduce a concept that I am going to come back to again and again.
This is the concept of intentional discipleship. Our supreme chaplain, Archbishop William Lori put it very well: “To be an intentional disciple is to make an act of faith that is not merely notional but is rather an entrustment of our whole lives to Christ our God. It is an act of faith that shapes one's whole existence because it leads again and again to an encounter with Christ” (“Chaplain’s Report” 2014 January, p. 2). In other words rather than being one who is just someone who goes through the motions of their faith or is busy with Catholic activities, one needs to be consciously following Christ in the midst of the Church and being obedient to all Her teachings. He also states "It has to do with closing the gap between the rich and beautiful teaching in Scripture, in tradition, in the liturgy - articulated in our day as never before - and the lived experience of so many Catholic Christians, which barely scratches the surface. What is lacking is not only an adequate knowledge of these riches, but a conscious decision, inspired by the Holy Spirit, to follow Christ. . .” (“Chaplain’s Report” 2014 January, p. 2). So while there is a crisis today of a lack of adequate understanding about our faith, in other words catechesis, there first is a crisis of evangelization, meaning people understanding the Gospel message and responding. Again to put it simply this message is God desires a relationship with you, the relationship is ruined by my own sin, it is renewed by Christ’s life, death and resurrection and it requires a response in order “to trust Him and follow Him in a new way” (FOCUS October 2013). Three questions to ask oneself about one’s own discipleship is “do I understand what it means to be in relationship with Christ,” “do I know the cost of discipleship” and “do I know and strive to practice the habits of being a disciple?” If you recognize that you are not an intentional disciple, be not afraid! The first step is recognizing in humility where you are at, desiring to intentionally follow Christ and asking for the grace to say “yes” in stepping forward to become an intentional disciple. Then one needs to try to live, by God’s grace, the life where Christ is truly the center and Lord of your life. One of the habits of being an intentional disciple is daily prayer. Not just prayer when one feels like it, on Sunday or when one is in trouble. It is a spiritual discipline that strengthens our ability to love God and our neighbor. The fruit of prayer is a deeper hunger to know God, not just know about Him as well as joy and peace and who does not want those (Lee 21 January 2014)? It is hard to get started just like getting into a regiment with exercising, but it gets easier over time. The type of prayer that I want to introduce to you tonight is the prayer of Examen.
It is not the same thing as an examination of conscience which we do before confession, but it is similar. It is a method of prayer that comes from St. Ignatius of Loyola who is the founder of the Jesuits to become more aware of God’s presence in our lives and understand how to respond to His presence. To make sure you are paying attention who do we know who is a famous Jesuit? The Pope. There are basically five steps to this prayer which I have included on the handout that I will be giving to you. The first is to look back on your whole day or if you are doing it mid-day, half your day, with gratitude (Brotherhood of Hope 2005). How often do you or I truly thank God for all the graces in our lives, or do we just take them for granted? Also having a grateful heart leads to joy and being positive because we recognize our blessings and how these are all gifts that show the goodness of our Heavenly Father. This prayer also allows us to be thankful for the ordinary such as last week I helped an acquaintance from our parish find a lawyer as he was facing drunk driving charges and through the Examen I was able to thank God that I was able to be Christ to someone who is at the margins of the Church. The second step is to ask for the Holy Spirit’s help that He would help you to see what He wants you to see and would help to guide this time of prayer (Brotherhood of Hope 2005).
The third step is understanding where we pick out a few important parts of our day and truly reflect on what was happening or not happening in our hearts (Ivany n.d.). An example could be getting drunk. Why did you get drunk? What thoughts were going on in your head that lead you down that road? Was their emptiness in your life? Did you fall into peer pressure? These thoughts which lead to sin fall under St. Ignatius’ concept of spiritual desolations when for example we have desire for base things (lust, overeating, overdrinking, foul humor), slothfulness, dryness, sadness, separation from God or thoughts that lead away from God (Ignatius, 317 as cited in Brotherhood of Hope 2005). When we gets these thoughts or feelings we need to reject them right away and cling to God’s personal love for us even when we might not feel it. The Examen is not just about what we did wrong, but also where did we see God speaking to us through other people, events, places? Through this prayer we are able to receive the lessons that the Lord desires to teach us through the ordinary events of our day (Ivany 18 February 2012). Also harkening back to the concept of intentional discipleship, one sign of being an intentional disciple is through starting to see how Christ is working in one’s daily life and how He is inviting one to move in a direction (i.e. die to oneself more, get more involved at the parish, trust God more). Otherwise we have this dichotomy between we go to church on Sunday and then the rest of the week we live our life without reference to Christ.
Through our day we might sense spiritual consolations that the Lord has given us such as increased love for God, hope, charity towards others, sorrow for sin, interior joy, movement towards God, peace and a sense of hopeful purpose (Ignatius 316 as cited in Brotherhood of Hope 2005). We need to receive these consolations with thanksgiving, acknowledge that they are gifts from Him and ask that the Lord might continue to allow us to continue to witness to Him no matter what the circumstance (Brotherhood of Hope 2005). For example last week, I could see through the fact that almost every day the plans I had put forth got ruined, I sensed that the Lord was teaching me to be detached from my plans. By God’s grace, even though my plans were constantly being changed, I was able to be at peace with that, which is a spiritual consolation, something that leads me towards God. The final step is action. If we see that we messed up we need to relive this situation again from the perspective of God’s love where the emptiness that we may have felt is filled with His love. Then the next time we face a similar situation we will have acted it out again in our mind (Ivany 18 February 2012). Overtime we will come to see patterns in our behavior and ways that the Lord might be speaking to us(Brotherhood of Hope 2005).
In closing brothers, I know that I am challenging you each time I speak to think, pray and act differently which you are probably not used to. I am doing this because I care for you as my brothers in Christ and want to challenge you to not be complacent or stagnant rather continue to move forward to being the saint that the Lord desires you to be. I want to be like your spiritual coach that needs to push the players to help them grow. I want to issue you three challenges:
-one is to try out this form of prayer at least once a week over the next month, may be more if you find it fruitful
-second is to invite you to the upcoming Communion breakfast on March 2 sponsored by the Bergen Federation with the coadjutor Archbisho Bernard Hebda. He is the coadjutor meaning that he helps out the current archbishop, Myers, and eventually will succeed him.
-third is to invite you to the men’s conference. It is the day of our St. Patrick’s Day dance, but it will be over before it begins. I understand if you are already dedicated to helping set that up and can’t come, but wanted to propose it as an option. I know that when I went two years ago I thought it was wonderful. It is an opportunity more deeply encounter Christ, be with other men of faith and learn more about our faith. Vivat Jesus!
FOCUS. (October 2013). “Fruits of Fall Outreach: Stories from FOCUS Campuses.” Retrieved
Brotherhood of Hope. (2005). “Prayer of Examen.”
Ivany, M. (n.d.) “Handout on the Examen.”
Ivany, M. (18 February 2012). “iPray Conference: Father Mark Ivany.” Retrieved from
Lee, N. (21 January 2014). “On the Joy of the Gospel.” Delivered at The George Washington
University Newman Center, Washington, D.C.