This practice was birthed out of the Ignatian movement started by St. Ignatius of Loyola, which saw monks travel the world to share the power and purpose of the gospel. These missionaries traveled in community and embedded themselves in cultures where they sought to integrate into the rhythms of the people they were on mission to (instead of trying to change the culture to the missionaries’ own culture of origin). They asked questions, learned customs and language, and changed their clothing, all in an attempt to do two things: clearly and carefully articulate the good news of Jesus to their new friends and discover ways they could meet the needs and help cultivate the culture they were in.
However, St. Ignatius feared that as this missional movement and his fellow missionary-priests were sent around the world, they would lose sight of how to notice and see God’s movement in their lives.
He knew it would be easy to shift away from participating in the mission with the Father, in communion with Jesus, and empowered by the Spirit. Ignatius felt that, if not carefully pursued, a missionary could begin to operate within the mindset they were doing things for the Father, separate from Jesus, and empowered by their own skills and strategies.
The Ignatians believed and taught that discernment (what to do and how to live within God’s mission) came out of an awareness of how God moved uniquely through their days, relationships, chores, and daily routines.
The problem is, we get too busy doing things for God and forget how to listen to God.
The examen provides a practice to help us notice where (or really how) God is present throughout our days. It’s a practice to help us pay attention and be attentive to Jesus’ presence in areas we might otherwise miss.
Every disciple sent on the mission of God needs an intentional way of listening to God, unburdening ourselves at the end of the day, and learning to pray without ceasing. Not only is this a good individual practice, but also a good thing to do with a roommate, spouse, or friend. It can even be done within a community. You don’t have to do it daily; you could also practice it weekly, monthly, or even annually.
The purpose is not to grade yourself on how you are performing, but instead see how Christ is near to you, operating within your world, and leading you.