We have now entered Easter, that beautiful season of grace and joy in the church calendar. We have seen Jesus triumph: we have been rescued and redeemed, our sin no longer means death, we have been united with Christ, and we can now live in relationship with him.
Every year, the celebration of Easter reinforces just how much God loves us, and reminds us of his deep desire for unity with us. It always makes me consider how I can more deeply integrate my life with the life of Christ and live with deep love and gratitude.
One way I have endeavoured to integrate my life more deeply with Christ is to regularly spend time before him acknowledging my sin and failings. It’s an old practice called the Daily Examen. Friends will joke about the “ol’ Catholic guilt”, and there is probably an element of truth to this. But if this “Catholic guilt” leads me to love the spiritual practice of the Daily Examen, then I’m ok with it.
The Daily Examen, gifted to us by St Ignatius of Loyola in his Spiritual Exercises, is a daily practice of examining our lives. It’s a chance to give thanks for God’s gifts, and to ask for forgiveness for our failures. It is wonderful and grounding. It always gives me a sense of meaning and hope that my strivings throughout the day have a point. It also allows me to recognise Gods’ presence in all the highs and lows of my day.
The examen also includes time to acknowledge our sin to God. This doesn’t mean wallowing in our inability to live a perfect life! Rather, this is an amazing opportunity to name our failings, to sit with the weight of them, and to notice the patterns of your behaviour and any underlying factors. We don’t do this alone, but in God’s presence, and with the help of God’s Spirit. We then—simply—ask for God’s forgiveness. Although my sin and failings might have hindered a full relationship with God, the act of recognising them and coming to God in repentance and gratitude is the most freeing thing I can do. Such sorrow and repentance means that we can then start a journey of change and experience more fully the grace God promises and freely gives.
In this season, good routines and practices have become a lifeline. So, when the days begin to blur and Groundhog Day feels more real than ever, the practice of the Daily Examen can bring meaning and focus. It makes us more aware of God in all moments and reminds us of the areas in our life that need to change. Below I outline a simple examen that I like to follow at the end of each day. We’ve also produced a simple card resource which you can print off and use as a handy prompt—you’ll find that at the end of this article.
However you choose to embrace this, I hope you find it encouraging and helpful.