Please note, I received a copy of The Examen Journal in exchange for an honest review. If you decide to purchase it I hope it helps your spiritual life as much as it has mine.
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Do you ever feel run down, like your spiritual life needs a pick-me-up? That’s how I felt when I found out about The Examen Journal by Mary Williams. I knew I needed to slow down and spend more time in prayer. I hoped the journal would keep me accountable during the week, and I couldn’t wait to bring it with me to Eucharistic Adoration.
Since being pregnant (11 weeks along now), my body has been telling me that I need to slow down, so it’s providential timing that this journal came into my life just when I needed it. I’m guessing that many of you reading this may be feeling the same stirrings in your heart to rest more in God’s presence and to grow deeper in your faith.
The Daily Examen
Mary explains that the Examen “nurtures a lifestyle of coming to know God in the ordinary and extraordinary of our everyday.” Mary has a beautiful understanding of Jesuit spirituality and it shows in her gentle and inviting explanation of how to use the journal. Once I read the introduction and started to use the journal daily I finally understood the great wisdom behind this spiritual practice and could begin to connect with this spiritual tool.
I was first introduced to the Examen as a JVC Northwest Volunteer, but even as a Jesuit volunteer I could never really connect with Jesuit spirituality. As someone who has learned hospitality from Benedictines, love of learning from Dominicans, and humble service from Franciscans, I hoped to someday appreciate what St. Ignatius taught through the Jesuits.
The Examen Journal
The journal itself starts out with a very helpful explanation of Jesuit Spirituality and what the Examen is. If you are new to the Examen then you will find Mary’s writing to be very encouraging and informative. She has sprinkled wonderful quotes throughout the whole journal, and her writing is warm and welcoming.You can tell she wrote this in order to deepen your awareness of God that you may:
Find God in all things – St. Ignatius
I highly recommend reading and using the extra part in the back of the book to enhance your experience with using this journal. I flip back to that section so often that I wish it was at the beginning of the journal. I think the additional guidance will help anyone embarking on this spiritual practice and even those who are already familiar with the Examen.
Mary describes the journal as a “spiritual diary…each entry is a love letter between you and God.” The journaling prompts are the same for each day. For example, you’ll be asked, “I felt alive in God’s presence when…” Although the questions will be the same, that is part of the beauty of this practice, to daily seek God even in what Mary would call, “the simplest moments.” She points out that “God doesn’t only show up in mountain-top experiences. God is present in our everyday.”
Whenever I encountered the Examen before, it was a mental practice. Since it was mental, I found that I could become easily distracted from it. By writing in the journal each day I have found that I look forward to sitting down and reflecting on my day and can focus on each question.
I have already seen that using this journal has transformed my prayer life. Each new day I bring a new awareness and spirit that looks for God in the blessings and the sufferings of the day. There is enough room in the journal to do this practice for a year. I believe that if you use this journal it will transform your spiritual life as well.
The journal makes the Examen approachable for modern times. People are hungry to see God active in their life. There’s a reason why Ann Voscamp’s book, 1000 Gifts, and Katie Major Davis’s book, Daring to Hope, are so popular right now. Both authors explain how they sought to see God’s blessing even amidst great trials.
To see God’s goodness even amidst heartache and woe is an amazing blessing for living with suffering. I believe that this journal can be a space for just that—To seek God and His goodness daily and to see where God is moving in your life.
The other benefit of journaling is you can go back and see your growth. If you decide to go back and reread your responses you can see just how much you have changed. I’m sure you’ll notice your growth just in the way you approach each new day.
If you want to have your heart turn towards God throughout the day and grow spiritually then this journal is a great starting point. I think Mary did an excellent job with creating The Examen Journal. You can find more about The Examen journal on the website, Instagram, and Facebook, and you can buy it on Amazon.
May this spiritual practice bless you and those around you. In the words of St. Ignatius, may it help you “Go forth and set the world on fire.”