An Examen for the First Week of Lent

From Ashes to Glory - Give Thanks
This post is a part of the Lenten series “From Ashes to Glory.”

The Word

The Spirit drove Jesus out into the wilderness. He was in the wilderness for forty days, tempted by Satan; and he was with the wild beasts; and the angels waited on him.

—Mark 1:12-13

Reflect

In the desert, Jesus could see the stars and thank the Father for them. We are called out of the world in this season of Lent, so that we can give thanks too. In time, Jesus was called out of the dry desert to a busy life. So too are we called to love and serve God in a busy life. Let us live with hearts full of thanksgiving.

1. Give Thanks. I thank God for this day, for my life, for all I am and have, and for His Word.

2. Pray for Light. I ask the Father to let me see my day as the Holy Spirit sees it, and to show me what I need to see.

3. Find God. I look at my day in the light of the Spirit.

I look back over the morning, the afternoon, and the evening.
Who talked with me or worked with me?
Did I get done what I meant to do or leave things out?

4. Anything Wrong?

Do I trust that God is with me when I fail?
Where I was ungrateful, I repent and offer thanks.

5. What Now?

I look forward in hope.
What have I to do now? What have I to avoid?

Prayer

I seem to give little, Lord Jesus,
to anyone I know in need.
Is it enough to contribute to causes
that help the suffering,
or do I have to help
with my own hands?
Show me others to help.
I will thank You for it—and ask for the courage
to tackle what You lead me to.
Amen.

About Joseph Tetlow, SJ 16 Articles

Joseph A. Tetlow, SJ, is currently the director of the Montserrat Jesuit Retreat House in Lake Dallas, Texas. A former head of the Jesuit general’s Secretariat for Ignatian Spirituality, he has also served as president of the Jesuit School of Theology at Berkeley, professor of theology at Saint Louis University, and associate editor of America magazine. He has written numerous articles and books, including Choosing Christ in the World and Making Choices in Christ.

5 Comments on An Examen for the First Week of Lent

  1. I’ve seen a few versions of the Examen – I love the simplicity of this one. Thank you Fr Tetlow – another thing to be grateful for! I always think the Examen is the Happy Prayer. Maybe this is because it usually makes me happy to focus on all the things to be thankful for. I think I often get lost in the first stage: being thankful ‘for this day, for my life, for all I am and have, and for His Word’ and for all the people and events in my life. However, I sometimes find I try to rush looking at my day ‘in the light of the Spirit’. I lack the patience to let the Spirit lead the way here and I turn it into a short memory exercise and avoid waiting for the Spirit to suggest subtly the things it might be fruitful to look at. I sense a resistance too sometimes to looking at where I have failed. When I’m able to give the Examen the time it deserves it feels much more complete. Sometimes when I’ve prayed it at lunchtime I’ve identified an undercurrent in the way I’m acting at work that needs healing and I’ve found that the afternoon is quite different – more loving and happier as a result of this prayer of reflection. Thank you too Fr Tetlow for the prayer at the end. I love its honesty: ‘I seem to give little, Lord Jesus, to anyone I know in need. Is it enough to contribute to causes that help the suffering, or do I have to help with my own hands? Show me others to help.’ There was a particular day when I was on holiday with my family last summer when I prayed a version of this last prayer, ‘Show me others to help’, and my prayer was answered in lots of surprising ways: little opportunities opened up to be of service to people and it was a real blessing. I’m hoping that this retreat will inspire me to be open to the Spirit in new ways.

    • Paul, Thank God there is no wrong way to do the Examen. I read somewhere that if all we do is thank God all day long we will have done [a good thing — I can’t remember how it goes now of course but thankfulness is the key]. I love the Examen. What a concept!

  2. Thank you for reminding me that I used to start each day with a prayer, Lord , make me a blessing to someone today. He always answered. I did not always follow through. I will start again. Never too late. Also, letting God make the suggestions meant I let Him choose what was right for me. Otherwise, I would come up with things I couldn’t or wouldn’t do at all. Funny how that works. Think the bad spirit had anything to do with my methods??? I do. he will suggest ideas where I would fail, become disheartened and then give up. Funny how that works!

  3. Just to add my thanks to Fr Tetlow for your examen and prayer. I have often found your prayers simple yet profound. Thank you too to Jim Manney for his latest book on the Spiritual Exercises. I have ‘done them’ over a period of about a year and they made a great difference to my life and Jim’s book is a sort of refresher course in the spirit of the exercises. Thanks to all at Loyola Press for the incredible amount of spiritual guidance you provide and especially for the 3-minute daily retreat which is a marvellous way to start a day.

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