What is The Examen?
The Examen is a prayerful reflection from the Spiritual Exercises which has become a key part of Jesuit life and which can have a powerful impact on the lives of those who use it. It consists of setting time aside each day (for Ignatius twice a day, at midday and the end of the day) to reflect prayerfully on the events of the day and where God has been in those events. St John's has adapted the Examen for daily use with classes of boys ages 5 - 13 years.
The SJB Examen
What is the Examen? It is a prayer of introspection, where students and staff are invited to review their day or week in God’s loving presence. The three ‘C’s’ of Jesuit Education (‘Competence, Conscience and Compassion’) could perhaps be more tangibly translated into ‘Head, Heart and Hands.’ The Examen is a prayer which engages the whole body. The ‘head’ and ‘heart’, as we recall the day’s happenings we take note of the emotions and feelings that arose. It is from the basis of these findings that, we are then called to learn and improve upon the day through action (employing our ‘hands’), for ourselves, others, God and creation. It is a practical prayer for people in action, on the move and in service of others.
Beginning with one, whole school inset, the staff at St John’s now run the Examen, Monday through Friday at the end of each day. We have created power point images which run in-sink with the school Examen and play music through youtube, or even employ the talents of capable students who play their instruments to help create a reflective setting.
Benefits of the Examen
- Spiritual Growth
- Moral Growth
- Develops critical analysis skills – Leadership skills
- Encourages openness to growth (lifelong)
- Emotional Intelligence
- Realistic awareness of self (+/-)
- Develops resilience within students (‘Positive Psychology’)
- Freedom from & freedom for (from disordered tendencies, for those options which ‘give life’)
- Growth in relational awareness
- Growth in sense of community
On Delivering the Examen
There are many varied forms in which the Examen can be delivered, this is just one formal method the school uses.
- If you are ready beforehand, have some calming music that you enjoy ready to play from utube through the smartboard/classroom speakers which will encourage a reflective tone during the Examen.
- At the 10 minute bell, all studies must cease, completed or not, the Examen must begin as close as possible to the bell. Students will rule the next page of their Religion books where the Examen will be carried out in journal format.
- Ask a student to lead the class in prayer by standing out the front of class, reading out aloud with their peers the beginning and when finished the end, once again accompanied by the whole class.
- The staff member who is administering the Examen is to read through the ‘stimulus’ on each stage of the Examen as it unfolds in the powerpoint.
- Students may wish to write/draw their thoughts of Stages 1, 3, 4 and 5 of the Examen in their Religion books.
- Students will naturally vary in both their depth of faith and level of emotional intelligence and therefore their grasp of the Examen will differ from student to student (particularly those learning English as their second language). Where a boy in Year 6, 7 or 8 would ordinarily work through the Stage Three Examen but is struggling to understand what to do after teacher assistance, feel free to specifically give them the Stage Two Examen and stimulus prompts.
- Encourage students to stay where they feel most benefit will be drawn. They do not need to complete all the steps of the Examen every time from beginning to end.
- Students may wish to rest in one step of the Examen ‘until his/her heart is satisfied.’
- If boys are finished with 2-3 minutes of time remaining, encourage those willing to share some or all of what they have written. Both their peers and often teachers can learn from our students! This sharing will also engender courage within the individual and build a sense of community within the class.
- The Examen is an open ended activity, which means it will take time, particularly for some boys to become accustomed to the practice.
The Examen is a whole cultural shift in the way we educate our students, moving towards a model where students are intrinsically motivated, self-aware and open to life-long growth. From my own experience of teaching in Jesuit schools in both Australia and England, if implemented effectively, the Examen will transform both your school’s culture of teaching and learning and the graduates we hope to form for the 21st Century.
Examen Guide and Stimulus Questions
Director of Ethos
St John’s Beaumont