HomedotMagisExamenHow the Examen Made Me Smile at the Mailbox

How the Examen Made Me Smile at the Mailbox

mailboxesMy son recently developed a new fascination with the mailbox. “Mom, how do I get a letter from me to someone else?” he asked one day with tremendous curiosity. We went through the steps: write the letter, put it in an envelope, address the envelope, and don’t forget the stamps. Then one morning my son showed me a picture he had made for his best friend that he desperately wanted to mail. It was perfect timing—right at the start of our morning routine to get us all out the door in 20 minutes or less. I paused to consider the request.

Usually any additional morning requests from my boys send me into a bit of an anxiety whirlwind. We only have a certain amount of time to get five people out of the house, after all. Several years ago, a wise Jesuit gave me advice on how to curb such anxiety. Fr. John Edwards, SJ, served our school for decades. During my time, he cared mostly for faculty and others in the community by leading them in spiritual direction. He also was, for me, an example of peace and contemplation. I remember seeing him taking his daily strolls around the school property as I drove in every morning and left every afternoon. “What do you do while you walk?” I asked. “Pray,” he always said without hesitation.

He came by my office frequently to ask about my children and my life as a busy working mom. Many times he told me that if I could do nothing else, I should pray the Examen. It would calm any anxiety and help me navigate this crazy life, he assured me. I cannot count how many times I promised him I would, but I seldom did. And every time I saw Fr. Edwards, I’d remember that promise. I would also remind myself of his peaceful nature and be curious if the Examen could make me as peaceful and joyful and present as he was.

Fr. Edwards died two years ago, and I have never forgotten my promise. At the beginning of this new year, when usually I’d resolve to lose weight or eat better, I found myself instead ready to commit to daily moments of reflection. The morning my son asked to mail his letter, I had been examining my day each morning and evening for a little over a week. And little by little, as promised, I found myself less anxious, even in just a week of practice. I moved and worked and encountered others with more intention—not perfectly, but with more care and more love in my heart.

That morning, somewhat surprising myself, I responded to my son’s request with a confident “Yes!” I helped him fold the paper, place it in the envelope, and address and stamp it. Then we walked in the brisk morning breeze to the mailbox, put in the envelope, and raised the flag. On the way back into the house, my son glowed. “Mom, he’s gonna love getting mail so much!”

At that moment, I felt that perhaps Fr. Edwards was walking alongside us to the mailbox, smiling as much as I was. Sometimes it takes days, weeks, or even years to listen, but when we finally have the courage to say “Yes,” it is amazing what fruits will come.

Gretchen Crowder
Gretchen Crowderhttps://gretchencrowder.com/
Gretchen Crowder has served as a campus minister and Ignatian educator for the Jesuit Dallas community for the last 15 years. She is also a freelance writer and speaker and is the host of Loved As You Are: An Ignatian Podcast. She has a B.S. in mathematics and a M.Ed. from the University of Notre Dame as well as an M.T.S. from the University of Dallas. She resides in Dallas, TX, with her husband, three boys, and an ever-growing number of pets.


  1. Fr. Edwards and I were friends. I was a Novice from 1960- 1962 when he was Master of Novices. I was his Beadle his first year as Master and met with him most days, typically to discuss the order of the day and related matters. He was the best teacher I ever had. During my second year when it was time to make a decision about final vows I began to have doubts. One of the greatest compliments I’ve ever had was when he tried to get me to stay. Your words about him and the Examen really struck a chord as I approach my 84th birthday. I’m going to retrieve my Examen card! Thanks.

  2. I have been doing the Examen for perhaps a year or so and the only thing that I noticed is how much I look forward to it every morning. It is as if it is my “go to” default. In fact my whole day is my Examen the next day and so on and so on. It feels so goooooood! It calms you down. It picks you up.

    Fr. Vicente Marasigan, SJ, may God rest his soul, taught me to read the daily reflection on the online ministries of Creighton University. And then we discussed. From then on, I was hooked with anything Ignatian, which led to the Examen.

    I pray that more than reading Ignatian books, listening to homilies of Jesuits, and doing the Examen, I will be able to “live” the Ignatian way, seeing God in all created things.

    Thank you, St. Ignatius!

  3. This came at a such a great time! I’m just about to take up the examen for February after a way too long period of always-wanting-and-never-doing. This is so inspiring, thank you.

  4. It is interesting that you practise what you were taught, now you’re sharing that with us. How lovely is this! Ever since I practiced examen, I am more peaceful. Fr. Martin SJ in RSA (Jhb) suggested that I join Ignatian Spirituality, this gave me inner peace and daily reflections shared. Thank you Gretchen.

  5. Enjoyed Ms. Crowder’s reflections. Real life experiences bring faith and
    scripture into our lives rather than mere words on a page. We need more of this from the pulpit. Thee and Thou sermons must become God and Us.
    God bless Ms. Crowder and her family.

  6. Thank you so much, Gretchen, for sharing your wonderful story. Father Edwards impacted so many lives. We were blessed to have him lead our church, immaculate Conception Jesuit Church in New Orleans for a couple of years. My husband and I miss him dearly. He was a loving and spirited guest at our meals. We, too, will always remember Father Edwards as a calm and peaceful individual who must have been heaven-scent to all of us.

  7. Reminding us once again — and the children shall lead us, right?!
    Gretchen – you just MADE my day with your story and words. Today I shall resolve to try (again!), to pray the Examen….and write at least one letter to a friend (via snail mail).
    Bless you!


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