The Examen Set in Stone

How would you depict something as abstract as the Examen prayer?  That was the challenge for artists vying for a commission to make a statue of St. Ignatius for Fairfield University.  The winning idea came from New York artists Joan Benefiel and Jeremy Leichman.  Their statue, “Examen,” was unveiled this week, picture above.

Two identical figures of St. Ignatius, made from the same mold, face each other.  Their gaze is intense; it’s no simple glance in a mirror.  The feet are abnormally large, signifying the saint’s journey.  The hands are large as well, signifying a man ready to go to work. The idea was to erect a statue that would encourage young people to reflect–one of the goals of Jesuit education.  You look at the statue and realize that you’re reflecting on a man reflecting.  That’s part of what you do when you pray the Examen.

Certainly the statue is open to many interpretations.  What’s yours?

About Jim Manney 787 Articles
Jim Manney is a popular writer on Ignatian topics (God Finds Us, A Simple, Life-Changing Prayer) as well as the editor of many books on Ignatian spirituality, including What Is Ignatian Spirituality? He lives in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

12 Comments on The Examen Set in Stone

  1. Just brilliant! It captures the struggle of/with the self. I look at it and ask “which one am I?” and the only answer is “yes”.

  2. This is interesting. The posture suggests leading with the heart (and even the body) and not the head. This is not Rodin’s Thinker.

  3. I agree with the above comments and also it appears that each figure is made of different material – one might represent our darker side and the other the “good” side of our character.

  4. I had a similar thought, Lynda. I think it’s significant that color is the *only* difference between them.

    I also like that neither statue is leading.

    Is light examining darkness? Or darkness examining light?

    I absolutely love the sculpture. I think it’s provocative and beautiful.

  5. I confess that God related discussions and “spiritual”readings via the internet leave me cold. I feel as if I were asked to communicate with a machine….sorry, may be I am too old for these types of “spiritual world” related exercises….

  6. I see light-dark: yinyang, if you will. Complementary parts of our self. Neither dominant. The power of the Examen is that through courageous self-knowledge and humble prayer and confident openness to Divinity, weakness and darkness and, yes, our parts that can lead us into sin, can become strength; all can become our gift, our generosity, to the world. We do not disown or cast off what God has made; rather we come to unconditionally love self as God loves us, and in the moment of acceptance is the power to move and grow from where we really are.

    And, yes, I love that each aspect leads with heart.

  7. I think it is elegant and strong. Leads me to think of the strength and simultaneous tenderness of self reflection which is honest.

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