Winter Practices

Great Annual Examen 2021

This week between Christmas and New Years is a perfect time of reflection using a tool called The Great Annual Examen, developed by Stephen W. Smith. For years I have gone through the Annual Examen with a group of soul friends. It is a great way to encourage our shared humanity with accountability and love. There are questions that allow you to look back over the previous year in a way that guides you to offer the events, experiences, joys and pain in a process of letting go and leaning into gratitude.

A few of the questions:

  • What are the most important events that have happened to me, or in me, this past year?
  • What has been the greatest, and deepest, loss this past year?
  • Where have I most experienced the presence of God this past year and why?
  • What is ONE word that would begin to sum up this past year?

You will also review the year in several categories: health, relationships, emotions, work, and your life with God. Some example:

  • List people who have been life-giving to me this past year:
  • What are five words that best describe my job/vocation/career?
  • What areFEELINGS (positive or negative) that I believe have dominated my life this past year
  • What was my deepest spiritual struggle, the place of the greatest wrestling with God or the place of my deepest lament?

  Please click on the link to order for a nominal price. It’s also included in Stephen W. Smith’s new book, “30 Days with the Potter.

This practice is based on the daily examen which Saint Ignatius developed 500 years ago: a method of reviewing your day in the presence of God. It’s actually an attitude more than a method, a time set aside for thankful reflection on where God is in your everyday life. It has five steps, which most people take more or less in order, and it usually takes 15 to 20 minutes per day.

What I love about this daily practice is that is helps me to center on gratitude and hope for a new day. It also keeps me honest in seeing my interactions and thoughts of the day that need my attention as I seek forgiveness.

  • Ask God for light. I want to look at my day with God’s eyes, not merely my own.
  • Give thanks. The day I have just lived is a gift from God. Be grateful for it.
  • Review the day. I carefully look back on the day just completed, being guided by the Holy Spirit.
  • Face your shortcomings. I face up to what is wrong—in my life and in me.
  • Look toward the day to come. I ask where I need God in the day to come

Unhurried Living also did a podcast on the Annual Examen that is very helpful and personal. 

Here a few of the questions from the podcast:

  • Where have I sensed the beauty of God over the last year?
  • How might God be teaching me a longer view of how I measure growth, productivity?
  • Where have you noticed the generosity of God. Where have you responded or resisted?

Please don’t be quick to let 2021 go until you do necessary inner work to find forgiveness, freedom, and faith for the new year ahead. If you need a soul friend or spiritual director to talk through the annual examen, I would love to hear from you:  robbijames

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