Examen Prayer for the Parish

Examen Prayer for the Parish

                Examen Prayer should remain the foundation of balanced psychological thinking and of personal and communal spirituality.  My thoughts are intended to expand upon principles in The Examen Prayer: Ignatian Wisdom for our Lives Today, by Timothy M. Gallagher, OMV.  I intend to extrapolate on Chapter 13, Examen and the Community, by more specifically discussing the concept of using Examen Prayer in the local Parish in community as a basis for Church growth.

Fr. Gallagher states, “the prayer of examen breathes spiritual clarity and a capacity for decisive spiritual action into his day.  The spiritual fruits of Ignatius’s daily examen bless him, his companions, and, through them, the whole People of God.” [1]  The personal Examen can be the basis of action in community.  God loves us as He looks upon us who pray the Examen. God also loves us as a special people called in community in a local Church Parish.

The Examen is a source of continuing spiritual growth.  Gallagher states concerning the Examen, “it is indeed the prayer of continuing spiritual growth.” [2]  and that the examen “channels them toward that holiness to which we are called.”[3]  How can we harness this power for growth in our Church communities?

I could not immediately find much about using the Examen in a local church community.  I asked advice concerning the viability of this topic from Fr. Christopher Viscardi, S.J., Fr. Joseph Tetlow, S.J., and Bob Fitzgerald.  I received positive encouragement.  Fr. Tetlow said in his email response to me, “We’re convinced that the examen is a key to making progress in religion and spirituality, that is, in staying alive instead of just vegetating.”  Fr. Tetlow suggested beginning in a group for Examen prayer in preparation for Sunday Mass.  He suggests we ask ourselves as a church body what virtues we have practiced and which virtues we need today and tomorrow.

Fr. Viscardi pointed me to Studies in the Spirituality of Jesuits, vol. IV, November, 1972, COMMUNAL DISCERNMENT: REFLECTIONS ON EXPERIENCE, by John Carroll Futrell, S.J.[4]  Although this 52-page treatise is not specifically about the examen in a Parish community setting, it is about using the examen as the foundation for communal discernment and using deliberation to arrive at communal decisions. The paper has a section concerning bringing together results of small group deliberations in coming to unamity in the total group, which may be useful if several small group examen prayer clusters were active in a Parish setting.  I read, highlighted, and annotated this paper which I can email to you upon request.

Fr. Gallagher’s states, “we always make our personal prayer of examen within the context of the Church and of the world.”[5]  He speaks of the beneficial aspects of the examen for our family members, community members, parish, and all whom we meet.  The examen is a connector between us and community. What is to stop us from having a church or Parish examen?

He states, ““One of the benefits of doing the examen communally is that we are encouraged to do it even when, if left to our own devices, we would “skip it”.”[6]  He states that the examen is a personal encounter with God that blesses the entire People of God who, praying it, strengthen each other into an endless multiplication of Grace.[7]  I have designed a beginning Corporate Examen Prayer below:

Examenation of Parish Consciousness

  1. Thanksgiving
    1. Express thanks for all God has given St. Francis Church, pastors, people, students, facilities, income, spiritual blessings, new people, etc. etc.
  1. Petition (ask for graces desired, knowing our shortcomings)
    1. Ask for corporate graces for the Body, Love, peace, kindness, humility, patience, etc.  What Graces does God desire for our Church Body?
    2. Ask for God to reveal virtues we should desire for the Body, to care for the poor, sick, lonely, grieving, etc., etc.
  2. Review
    1. For the last day, or month, or season, or time, what has St. Francis done for Christ, what is St. Francis doing for Christ, what should St. Francis do for Christ?
    2. What consolations have we had?  Are there any desolations?
  1. Forgiveness
    1. Ask for awareness of the virtues of the Holy Spirit with which our Church has been endowed and we have practiced corporately and ask for additional virtues we lack and for the Holy Spirit to bless us with those virtues, pardon and forgiveness of our corporate shortcomings so we can know Jesus more clearly, follow Him more nearly, and love Him more dearly.
    2. We do not judge ourselves but fall into the arms of God who loves us.
  1. Renewal (resolving to amend)
    1. Recognize God’s presence in our Body, and dedicate our corporate Body to renew our vision, and implement actions of love.

End with “Our Father.”

Additional recommended reading for consideration is the article, Moving into a Deeper Communion: Communal Discernment through Contemplative Dialogue, by Liz Sweeney, SSJ[8] which draws partially on Fr. Futrell’s work, and adds recommendations for corporate contemplative and centering prayer, although corporate examen prayer is not mentioned.

John Cooper

 

 

[1] The Examen Prayer, p. 160

[2] Ibid, p. 161

[3] Ibid.

[4] https://ejournals.bc.edu/ojs/index.php/jesuit/article/viewFile/3671/3256

[5] Examen Prayer, p. 165

[6] Ibid, p. 168

[7] Ibid.

[8] http://www.srcharitycinti.org/members/chapter/Liz%20Sweeney,%20SSJ.pdf

About jcooperforpeace
Peacemaker in Fellowship Engaged in Ignatian Spirituality, Active Nonviolence and Social Justice

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