Saint Ignatius insisted on never neglecting the Daily Examen. For no reason whatsoever would this great saint justify skipping over and neglecting this all important prayer. Starting now, why not make a proposal to make your own personal Daily Examen. If done, the fruits are countless and blessings copious from such a tool, an indispensable tool to erect a solid structure for a life of authentic holiness.
In this brief essay we will highlight and briefly explain the five classical steps of making the Daily Examen. Then, as a means for motivation, we will highlight some of the blessings that will descend upon you in your spiritual life.
If you read through essays, writings, articles and even books on this topic, the order and words vary, but the concept never changes. The key element is that the Daily Examen should be proposed by all those with good will and put into practice. Let’s go!
THE FIVE CLASSICAL STEPS FOR THE IGNATIAN DAILY EXAMEN
1. RECALL THE PRESENCE OF GOD. All authentic prayer starts with calling to mind the all-abiding Presence of God. We are never far from God, and God is never far from us! Saint Paul, quoting the Greek poet, expresses it as such: In Him we live and move and have our being. Therefore, start your Daily Examen by gently calling to mind the all-abiding, all-permeating, presence of God. God is present in all times, all places, all circumstances, all events of our lives. Even when our life seems to be a dark night of the soul, God is as present as the sun shining at midday! Add to this that our God is a loving Father who always desires what is best for His children. Therefore, we should respond with trust, confidence, and love.
2. GIVE THANKS TO THE LORD FOR HE IS GOOD; HIS LOVE ENDURES FOREVER! Saint Ignatius insists on the importance of gratitude. We should cultivate an attitude of gratitude. Saint Ignatius states that the very essence of sin is ingratitude—a lack of rendering to God a heartfelt thanks! In all humility, every gift that we have in our lives—natural, athletic, artistic, spiritual, supernatural, etc.—all are gifts from the Father of all gifts. Therefore, rewind the film of your life since your last daily examen and allow your heart to expand in an overflowing act of thanksgiving. In a word, all that we have (except for the sins that we have willfully chosen and God has allowed) are gratuitous gifts from our all-bountiful Heavenly Father. Indeed, God loves a grateful heart and is ready and willing to shower thankful hearts with more and more blessings! How much Jesus suffered when after healing ten lepers, only one came back to pay Him thanks!
3. BEG GOD TO SEND THE HOLY SPIRIT TO SEE YOURSELF AS GOD SEES YOU. The third step in our Daily Examen is to beg for the Gift of Gifts, the Holy Spirit to shed light on your intellect, to help you to rewind the past block of time—your past day! Humility is truth and you want to beg in all honestly to see what you have done, but even beyond the exterior actions, you want to beg for the grace to see even your hidden intentions. We should never forget that man can see the surface, the mere exterior, but God can read our hearts and even our most hidden intentions.
4. GRATITUDE AND REPENTANCE. During the Examen most likely you will become aware of God’s incredible goodness and His many gifts; give thanks to God for His blessings. However, in all sincerity and truth the Holy Spirit will also point out some actions, and even some intentions, that were off the mark and not pleasing to God. Only God is perfect and the Bible teaches us that the just man falls seven times a day.
5. RESOLVE, RECONCILIATION, AND RENEWAL. The last step points to the future. With a keen awareness of God’s infinite love, His infinite goodness in giving us so much, but also aware of our own human weakness, we propose to love God more starting now, and to avoid any person, place, thing, or circumstance that can lead us off the path of true discipleship of the Lord. In other words, the Daily Examen heightens our self-knowledge and can serve as a great preventive medicine. If we know where the pit is in our path, then we can sidestep it or simply jump over it! The desert Fathers insist on a two-word axiom: KNOW-THYSELF!!!
Now the benefits of the practice of the Daily Examen, which are incalculable! We will mention only three!
1. CONSTANT AWARENESS OF GOD AND PRAYER. If the Daily Examen is done faithfully on a daily basis with hard work and good will, then we will become more and more aware of God’s loving presence in our lives. God is not some distant, ethereal, mythical figure of the past, and He will become all the more real to us. If you like, He will become our best Friend always at our side. The truth is, we are never alone; Jesus is our Best Friend who wants us to share every moment of our existence with Him. Furthermore, we will sin less. Saint Teresa of Avila asserts that one of the primary reasons for sin is becoming oblivious to the all abiding Presence of God!
2. AVOID PITFALLS! With a more acute awareness of the intentions and movements of our heart, which is like a garden that has both beautiful flowers and ugly weeds, we can avoid giving in to our bad tendencies. When the bad spirit is knocking at the door of our heart, then we can close the door with lock and key! Many sins are committed due to weakness of the will, but also due to ignorance of who we really are. The Daily Examen heightens self-knowledge, a key component for growth in holiness!
3. COMPASSION TOWARDS OTHERS. The Daily Examen is like shining a daily floodlight on our heart, our soul, and the inner workings of our conscience. We become aware of how good and loving God really is. However, with a penetrating awareness, we become cognizant of how weak we really are at times, and how prone to slip and fall into the mire of our own sinfulness. This keen self-knowledge can help us to be more kind, patient, and compassionate with our struggling brothers and sisters! God allows what is evil to bring greater good from the evil.