Give yourself and your family the gift of a different way to pray during this New Year. Try this process, based on the Examen (ex-ae-man) of Ignatius of Loyola, for you or your family, as you gather around a candle.
Remember that a family might look different at different stages of life. It may be parents and children, it may be a widowed or single person living alone, it may mean friends or family who share housing.
First sit in a comfortable position with feet flat on the floor (to “ground you). Take a few deep breaths, breathing in the unconditional love of God, and then breathe that love out into the air that surrounds you. Then each person present should answer one of these questions:
- What did you feel good about today?
- What were you most grateful for today?
After a few moments of silence people might wish to share their answers out loud. Thank God for all these moments for which you are grateful. The second question should then be:
- What was your biggest struggle today? When did you feel sad, helpless or angry?
- What am I least grateful for today?
You might also wish to share these answers out loud. When you are finished, ask God for help with the difficult time.
As a variation, you might wish to do this exchange while you are getting children settled for bed. If you are with family members whom you do not see frequently, you might wish to change “today” to “this week” or “this month.” The questions you choose to use can change with the age of those involved. You can wish to make this a permanent part of prayer.
One parent, when asked about the results of having done this process with his children since they were very young, said: “The examen has taught my children to trust themselves. They know that God is in all of reality, not only out there but in the core of life and in themselves.”
He goes on to relate how his 15-year-old refused her first date because she knew the party would be full of behavior of which she did not want to be a part. The young man who invited her was so impressed with her sense of self that he left the party to spend the evening with her at her home.
Other of us may be trying to discern important issues in our life. Write down the answers to your nightly examen for 2-4 weeks. What is a common thread? Does this help you find where God is leading you?
Carole Zempel is a chaplain with the St. Croix Valley Chaplaincy Association and director of children’s ministry at Transfiguration Catholic Church in Oakdale. She is currently completing course work toward a Certificate of Spiritual Direction at St. Catherine’s University in St. Paul.