Engagement is busy, and it’s noisy. You might be surprised, however, if you find that even after your wedding day, life still feels busy and noisy. Life’s demands and responsibilities never really cease; they simply change with our seasons in life.
It’s a paradox of our perpetually-connected, phone-at-the-ready lives: solitude and quiet can feel like freedom, or they can feel like desperation. Stillness doesn’t always come naturally, yet it can be developed. Whether your prayer life currently feels central or whether you’re looking for direction to guide your thoughts, incorporating Examen prayer might provide a link between a desire for self-reflection and figuring out exactly how you might bring that reflection about.
Rooted in Ignatian spirituality, an examen is a form of guided prayer that prompts reflection over the events of your day, instances of strength and weakness in your actions, and, above all, gratitude for and attention to the ways the Father is at work in your life. All self-knowledge, for better and for worse, is a grace; the Lord inviting us to consider ways we can best put ourselves at the service of love for him and for those in our lives. Gift.
This sense of service and self-gift takes on particular resonance in the vocation to marriage: you’re accountable not only to yourself and to God, but to your spouse. Developing a sense of attention to the blessings of your shared life, and to areas in which the Lord is gently prompting us to grow, can only bear fruit in your relationship. Consider committing to a week, a month, or more of bringing an examen into your prayer ritual, with time to share the movements within your hearts. You might spend this time before parting ways for the night if you’re engaged, or after dinner, before beginning your evening chores and leisure if you’re married.
There are a wealth of resources with suggested text and prompts for your examen, which means with time, you’re likely to find a particular version that’s well-suited to your spirituality as a couple. All examen prayer follows a general structure of giving thanks, bringing your petitions before the Father, reviewing your day and meditating on his hand in it (this part might take the longest), asking forgiveness for your shortcomings and meditating on the mercy of God, and looking to the following day with a sense of resolve and and renewal.
In light of you and your beloved, it’s helpful to consider the ways the Lord has shown himself in the time you’ve spent together during the day and in the ways you’ve shown, or fallen short in showing, his love to one another. As a starting point, we recommend this examen with meditations from Scripture and Saint Ignatius’s Spiritual Exercises and Fr. Michael Gaitley’s “BAKER” prayer that invites particular contemplation of Jesus’ merciful love.
Saint Ignatius prayed, “Take, Lord, and receive all my liberty, my memory, my understanding, and my entire will, all I have and call my own. You have given all to me. To you, Lord, I return it. Everything is yours; do with it what you will. Give me only your love and your grace, that is enough for me.” May you and your beloved, together, enter more deeply into his love and the gifts he so desires to bestow on your relationship.