Amidst our hectic schedules it can be hard to find time to perform the visualizations and recite the affirmations discussed in the last post. To get the greatest benefit from these practices we recommend that you:
- Make them part of your daily routine
- Integrate them with St. Ignatius’ General Examen, which is a short daily exercise (around 10 minutes) that aims at freedom from sin through moral conversion
When practiced consistently, the Examen empowers you to resist temptation and to move towards virtue by:
- Helping you say no to temptation for the sake of Christ
- Making recourse to the higher self
- Providing an optimal situation to employ spontaneous prayers (prayers used in times of temptation containing our positive affirmations)
Although visualizations and affirmations can be practiced at any time throughout the day, they can be fruitfully integrated into the Examen Prayer.
When St. Ignatius develops the Examen in his Spiritual Exercises, he indicates that it consists of five points:
First Point: To give thanks to God for the benefits received that day.
Second Point: To ask for the grace to know our sins and cast them out.
Third Point: To ask account of our soul from the hour that we rose up to the present Examen, hour by hour, or period by period.
Fourth Point: To ask pardon of God for the faults.
Fifth Point: To resolve to sin no more with the help of His grace.
The first point might seem out of place with respect to the other four points - because it focuses on the positive blessings of the day while the other points focus on the temptations and sins of the day. But because St. Ignatius is trying to guide us toward moral conversion – and the first step of moral conversion is spiritual conversion, which consists in recognizing God’s love for us and our response of love back to Him, this first point is an ideal prerequisite to the next four. For, as we recognize the love of God for us and all humanity, we cannot help ourselves – we are moved to love Him in return.
Thus, this positive framework is essential to the rest of the Examen Prayer, because the objective of the Examen is not to beat ourselves up, focus on our imperfections, and then feel a profound sense of guilt and alienation. Rather, the discipline is intended to give us the power to move beyond our temptations and sins – namely to increase our resolve to do good instead of evil, strengthen our higher self in Christ, and to move towards greater love and service of the Lord.
Yet there is even more we can do to catalyze our journey towards virtue. As discussed in our last post, we can use visualization and affirmations. For this reason, Fr. Spitzer humbly recommends adding three points to St. Ignatius’ original five points.
Sixth Point: To visualize a chosen role model exemplifying the virtues you wish to imitate – and to visualize yourself imitating them.
Seventh Point: Recite affirmations about your ideals, models, and virtues, allowing them to affect you emotionally.
Eighth Point: Recite your spontaneous prayers for the desire and grace to imitate the Lord, the saints, and/or your chosen role model.
Then conclude the Examen with an Our Father.
St. Ignatius emphasized the necessity of the Examen for moral conversion in the Spiritual Exercises. Given the importance of this discipline, it is essential to put it into practice. St. Ignatius -- and all spiritual entrepreneurs, for that matter – have one rule in common – if you want to get something done, get going – even if it is not in any way perfectly planned. Print out this free PDF of the above Eight Points and clip to your bible or prayer book. I would recommend finding a 10-15 minute period in your day you can routinely dedicate to this prayer -- and then getting started.
Don’t worry about drawing blanks on the First Point, feeling superficial on Points 2-5, and “not getting it right” on Points 6-8. You will improve in all of these areas over the course of time if you review this article and give some thought to how you might integrate it into your Examen Prayer.
The more we deepen our spiritual conversion and use affirmations, visualization, the stronger and more preeminent our higher self becomes and the further along we are on our journey to moral conversion.