The Examen of Consciousness

Through the steps below you can experience this "method" of growing  in a sense of self and the source of self. You can grow more sensitive  to your own spirit -- its longings, its powers, its Source; and you will  develop an openness to receive the supports God offers. 


1. Recall that you are in the presence of God.  


No  matter where you are, hilltop or valley, country or city, in a crowd or  alone, you are a creature in the midst of creation. The Creator who  called you forth is concerned for you. The Spirit of God, sent by  Christ, will remind you that you are gifted to help bring creation to  its fullness, to restore it to the Creator's way. Ask the Holy Spirit to  let you look on all you see with love. "Love is patient, love is  kind, love is not jealous or boastful, it is not arrogant or rude. Love  does not insist on its own way; ... it does not rejoice at wrong but  rejoices in the right.... Love hopes all things." (1 Cor 13) 


2.  Give thanks to God for favors received.


Pause and spend a moment looking at this day's gifts. Be concrete!  Recall the taste of jam on toast, the fragrance of a flower, the smile  brought forth by a kind word, an act of patience that gave someone ease.  Take stock of what you received and gave. Notice these clues that guide  living.


Now look at your more permanent gifts that allow your participation  in this day. Recall your particular strengths in times of difficulty,  your ability to hope in times of weakness, your sense of humor and your  life of faith, your intelligence and health, your family and friends.  God the Creator gives these things to you to draw you into the fullness  of life. The Creator sent the Redeemer, Jesus, to assure us that God's  realm is being established. Jesus sends the Holy Spirit to guide and  sustain us as we receive and bring life to others.


Pause in thanksgiving.


3. Ask for awareness of the Holy Spirit's aid.


Before you explore the mystery of the human heart, ask to receive the  Holy Spirit so that you can look upon your actions and motives with  honesty and patience. "When the Spirit of truth comes he will guide you  into all truth." (John 16:13) The Holy Spirit inspires you to see with  growing freedom the development of your life story. the Spirit gives a  freedom to look upon yourself without condemnation and without  complacency and thus be open to growth. "Love hopes all things." (1 Cor  13: 7)


4. Now examine how you are living this day. 


Recalling  the events of your day, explore the context of your actions. Review the  day, hour by hour, searching for the internal events of your life. Look  through the hours to see your interaction with what was before you. Ask  what you were involved in and who you were with, and review your hopes  and hesitations. Many situations will show that your heart was divided  -- wavering between helping and disregarding, scoffing and encouraging,  listening and ignoring, rebuking and forgiving, speaking and silence,  neglecting and thanking. See the opportunities for growth in faith, hope  and charity and how you responded. What moved you to act the way you  did?


Notice where you acted freely -- picking a particular course of  action from the possibilities you saw. See where you now sense you were  swept along without freedom. This "method" is to give you habits of  freedom. What habits helped or hindered you?


See where Christ entered your decision and where you might have asked  to receive His influence. "Test yourselves," St. Paul urges, "to see  whether you are living in faith; examine yourselves. Perhaps you  yourselves do not realize that Christ Jesus is in you." (1 Cor.) His  influence comes through Scripture, the Word of God. Now, as you pray,  Christ's spirit will help you know His presence and concern.


As you daily and prayerfully explore the mystery of yourself in the  midst of your actions you will grow more familiar with your spirit. You  will come to know that Christ is with you. Christ will continually  invite you to love your neighbor as yourself and strengthen you to do  this.


5.  Pray words of reconciliation and resolve.


"The Word of God is very near to you, it is in your mouth and in your  heart for your observance. See, today I set before you life and  prosperity, death and disaster.... Choose life," speaks the prophet.  (Deut. 18) Now, having reviewed this day of your life, look upon  yourself with compassion and see your need for God and try to realize  God's manifestations of concern for you. Express sorrow for sin, the  obscuring darkness that surrounds us all, and especially ask forgiveness  for the times you resisted God's light today. Give thanks for grace,  the enlightening presence of God, and especially praise God for the  times you responded in ways that allowed you to better see God's life.  In these acts of sorrow and gratitude, you grow in knowledge of God's  gentle labor for you. "As the clay is in the potter's hand, so are you  in mine." (Jer. 18:6)


A final reflection


Growth in friendship and intimacy needs time and constant attention.  Try to give 10 to 15 minutes daily to this examination. Cover all five  points daily with a freedom to linger more at one point than another, as  the Spirit moves you. Notice how you grow in appreciation for the  variety of vocations -- marriage, priesthood, religious life -- among  the people of God. Pray that all hear God's call and respond generously  to their vocation. "Thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth."