The Examen


The examen is a way of praying that allows us to find and see God in our most ordinary, everyday experiences, making us stop, look back at our day, and listen to ourselves and to God Himself and what He has been telling us.




I would like to begin with a story. It is said that as St. Francis of Assisi and his companion Bro. Masseo were journeying from town to town in Italy, they also begged for their food. As they begged, Francis took one street, while Bro. Masseo took another street. Francis was a small man and he earned only a few scraps of dry bread. But Bro. Masseo was tall and strikingly good-looking, and he received large portions of fresh bread.

The two met outside the town, near a beautiful fountain to share the food they had received with one another. Bro. Masseo could only take note of what was lacking in their meal. He said–“How poor and how miserable and how wretched we are! We have nothing, absolutely nothing! No knife, no table, no cloth, no wine, no home. Nothing, except these few pieces of bread!”

However, Francis could only exclaim most gratefully and joyfully. Francis said, “What are you talking about? My dear Bro. Masseo, we are not at all worthy of this vast treasure. We have so much, for we have received so much. We have clear, clean water. We have our daily bread. We have our table of stone. We have our friendship and companionship. And above all, we have our very Lord and God to serve us!”

I share this story because many times we are just like Bro Masseo. Many times, we complain a lot. Many times, we focus on ourselves, what we “lack” and/or what we do not have. Many times, we feel envious of others–their talents, their cars, their cell phones, their computers, their clothes, their grades, their homes and so on. Because of this we become insensitive and take the blessings and graces that we receive from the Lord daily for granted, not realizing that we have so much.

In our story, Bro Masseo could see nothing except the wretchedness, poverty and affliction in their experience. Yet Francis, who was given the same, exact experience, could see only the blessings, thanksgiving, vast riches and grace and, above all, God Himself. What made all the difference between Francis and Bro, Masseo? I would say that the point that made all the difference was this–attitude. Yes, interior, spiritual attitude.

Spiritual Attitude

St. Ignatius of Loyola has a special term for this interior, spiritual attitude. He called it “finding God in all things.” He even drew up a very simple method of prayer to help people develop and possess this inner, spiritual attitude. This very simple method of prayer has been known as the examen.

The examen is a way of praying that allows us to find and see God in our most ordinary, everyday experiences, making us stop, look back at our day, and listen to ourselves, to God Himself and to what He has been telling us.

We live in a very busy and fast-paced world, and that is why we need to find quality time to stop, look and listen to ourselves and to God. And the examen allows us precisely to do all these three. If not, we may end up just like Bro Masseo–insensitive and blind to God’s very presence, action and grace in our lives.

Five Simple Steps

How exactly does one pray the examen? The examen usually lasts for fifteen minutes. It is done usually twice a day–one at noontime and another one at night, just before going to bed. It has five simple steps.

1. The first step is begging for this special grace of insight. Here I take time to quiet down for a while, put myself in the presence of the Lord, and imagine Him looking at me with much love. When I have done this, I then pray for this grace–“My Lord, Jesus, I beg that I may see myself, know myself, and understand myself more and more as your Spirit sees me, knows me and understands me.” I pray these words very slowly and with much meaning.

2. The second step is looking back and reviewing my entire morning or day. As I look back, I count the blessings and grace I have received and give thanks to the Lord with all my heart. The important point to remember here is that these blessings and gifts are uniquely mine, and it is in and through them that God communicates His abundant love for me. As such, I need to recognize these daily gifts.

And yet, at the same time, I also need to go beyond them and focus not just on the gifts themselves, but more on the Giver of these gifts–the loving Lord Himself. As I do this, I listen most intently to Him telling me–“You are precious to me. You are Mine. I love you very much!”

3. The third step involves carefully examining and naming my inner movements and feelings (and not my external actions) so that I can understand them and see how they have affected my relationship with God.

Here I ask questions like–What have been the more dominant feelings reigning and operating in my heart this morning or this day? What attitudes have I taken towards others, towards life in school and at home? Towards life in general? Have I been proud or humble, judgmental or kind, self-seeking or generous? Have I been anxious, insecure, hurt, lazy, afraid, angry, sad, and selfish? Or have I been joyful, courageous, hopeful, loving, and selfless?

It is most important that I do not deny any of these feelings, whether “positive” or “not so positive.” I have to simply own and acknowledge them, and even look for “feeling” patterns that may emerge.

The more I do this, the more I can understand myself, my inner experiences and feelings. And I can now begin to see how these have affected my day, and how they have either been drawing me closer to the Lord or drawing me away from Him.

4. The fourth step is all about asking for God’s healing mercy. Now that I have been made aware of my dominant feelings, movements in my heart, attitudes taken, and choices made especially those that have drawn me away from the Lord, I then ask to experience His gentle healing touch.

Here I may ask Him to heal me from my pride, my self-seeking ways, my patterns of selfishness, my lack of trust, my anger, my being uncharitable, and my vulnerabilities. I end this part by simply feeling God’s healing power, being contrite and sincerely asking for His forgiveness and mercy.

5. The fifth and last step deals with looking ahead and anticipating the events, places, people, and experiences that may soon come my way. I preview the coming day or half-day. Here I ask questions like–“How can I be of greater service to my Lord, given the coming events, places, people, and experiences? Where and how will the Lord show Himself this time? What surprises does He have in store for me now?”

I end by praying that I become more sensitive and present to Him and to the experiences that are about to unfold, and that I may respond to Him and the coming experiences with a generous heart.

This is the examen. It is a simple way of praying. Yet, it can change our very lives for it allows us to stop, look and listen intently to ourselves and to our God every day, finding Him in the most ordinary and not so ordinary events in our lives. By taking time out of our daily lives to pray the examen, may we, like St. Francis, declare to the whole world–“We have so much, for we have received so much from our God who loves us!”

Share Your Thoughts

All comments are moderated

From The Same Issue

The articles and content about this issue

From The Same Issue

The articles and content about this issue

From This Topic

The articles and content about this topic

From This Topic

The articles and content about this topic

Explore Other Topics

Browse other coverage

Explore Other Topics

Browse other coverage


Presents, discusses and draws readers to reflect on issues of outmost relevance to the world today.


Very often, mission is carried out in frontier situations around the world. Those who embrace these situations have much to share.


Writer Ilsa Reyes will be exploring the richness of Pope Francis’s latest encyclical Fratelli Tutti with a view of helping our readers to get a grasp of the this beautiful papal document.


Puts to the front committed and inspiring people around the world who embrace humanitarian and religious causes with altruism and passion.


Focus on a given theme of interest touching upon social, economic and religious issues.


As the Philippines prepares to celebrate 500 years of the arrival of Christianity. Fr. James Kroeger leads us in this series into a discovery journey of the landmark events in the history of faith in the Philippine archipelago.


Aims to nurture and inspire our hearts and minds while pondering upon timely themes.


The large archipelago of the Philippines, in its richness of peoples and cultures, offers varied and challenging situations for mission.


Reflections and vocation stories that shape up the lives of young people.


As humor and goodness of heart are qualities of Christian and missionary life, the new column “Mission is fun” will be publishing some anecdotes and stories that have happened in a missionary context to lighten up the spirits and trigger a smile in our faces.


To help readers of World Mission live this year dedicated to Ecumenism, Interreligious Dialogue and Indigenous Peoples, Tita Puangco, writer and lecturer, shares in this section insights on the spirituality of communion.


A historic view of the Catholic movements that emerged from the grassroots as an inspiration by the Holy Spirit.


On the Year of Ecumenism, Interreligious Dialogue and Indigenous Peoples, radio host and communicator Ilsa Reyes, in her monthly column, encourages Christians and people of good will to be one with their fellow people of other sects, religions and tribes.


Questions to a personality of the Church or secular world on matters of interest that touch upon the lives of people.


News from the Church, the missionary world and environment that inform and form the consciences.


A feature on environmental issues that are affecting the whole world with the view of raising awareness and prompting action.


The editor gives his personal take on a given topic related to the life of the Church, the society or the world.


A monthly column on themes touching the lives of young people in the Year of the Youth in the Philippines by radio host and communicator I lsa Reyes.


A missionary living in the Chinese world shares his life-experiences made up of challenges and joyous encounters with common people.


Life stories of people who deserve to be known for who they were, what they did and what they stood for in their journey on earth.


Stories of people whom a missionary met in his life and who were touched by Jesus in mysterious ways.


Critical reflection from a Christian perspective on current issues.


Comboni missionary Fr. Lorenzo Carraro makes a journey through history pinpointing landmark events that changed the course of humanity.


A biographical sketch of a public person, known for his/her influence in the society and in the Church, showing an exemplary commitment to the service of others.


Gives fresh, truthful, and comprehensive information on issues that are of concern to all.


A column aimed at helping the readers live their Christian mission by focusing on what is essential in life and what it entails.


Peoples, events, religion, culture and the society of Asia in focus.


The human heart always searches for greatness in God’s eyes, treading the path to the fullness of life - no matter what it takes.


The subcontinent of India with its richness and variety of cultures and religions is given center stage.


The African continent in focus where Christianity is growing the fastest in the world.


Well-known writer and public speaker, Fr. Jerry Orbos, accompanies our journey of life and faith with moments of wit and inspiration based on the biblical and human wisdom.


On the year dedicated to St. Ignatius of Loyala, Fr. Lorenzo Carraro walks us through the main themes of the Ignatian spirituality.


Fr. John Taneburgo helps us to meditate every month on each of the Seven Last Words that Jesus uttered from the cross.


In this section, Fr. Lorenzo delves into the secrets and depths of the Sacred Scriptures opening for us the treasures of the Sacred Book so that the reader may delight in the knowledge of the Word of God.


Reflections about the synodal journey on a conversational and informal style to trigger reflection and sharing about the synodal path the Church has embarked upon.

Shopping Cart