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  • “The Give and Take of Life” by Brian Harper


    Besides founding the Society of Jesus, Saint Ignatius of Loyola is perhaps best known for the Daily Examen of Consciousness. A simple prayer that takes 10-15 minutes, the Examen is a review of the day that involves acknowledging God’s presence and asking for light; looking back over one’s day and gratefully noticing where God was working, while also seeking forgiveness for the times we failed to respond to God and others with love and kindness; and resolving to continue working to become the people God made us to be.

    The Examen is part of Saint Ignatius’s Spiritual Exercises, and like physical exercise, the more we pray the Examen, the stronger we grow in our faith. A sure sign of this growth is becoming more attuned to the things that give, as well as deplete, joy. Saint Ignatius calls this consolation and desolation; we start to see the ways certain people, places, tasks, and events bring us peace, while others leave us feeling drained, stressed, or angry.

    Paying attention to how different aspects of our lives make us feel might lead to surprising insights. Maybe we spend a lot of time watching television but realize we are usually bored and restless as we flick through channels. Perhaps there is a friend we rarely see but who always makes us feel appreciated and loved when we do make the time.

    Before you go to bed tonight, take some time to pray the Examen:

    1. Still yourself and become aware of God’s presence.
    2. Ask for help in seeing where God’s hand has been in your day.
    3. Gratefully note moments of grace and goodness.
    4. Accept God’s forgiveness for instances when you were wrong or failed to do good.
    5. Look toward tomorrow, seeking God’s ongoing guidance in your life.

    What did you discover?


    Brian Harper is a communications specialist for the Midwest Jesuits. His writing has been featured in America magazine, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, the National Catholic Reporter, and various other publications. You can find his work at