The Daily Examen or Awareness Examen is a reflective, prayerful spiritual practice that comes to us from the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius of Loyola. Its simple premise—that we can with practice become more consciously aware of God’s activity in our lives—makes it a great prayer for young and old. If you’re looking for a fun, interactive way to introduce young people to this wonderful spiritual practice, consider taking up the following challenge for a week, and start to become aware of Jesus in all the moments of the day.
- Invite young people or families to create a Jesus image or figurine that they can take with them everywhere easily. It needs to be small enough to carry in the hand but large enough to keep attention. It should not be able to fit in a pocket where it might be forgotten. I have done this using a simple paper craft tube, some card stock, and markers.
- Tell participants to take Jesus with them wherever they go for the next week. If the children in your group are old enough to have their own cell phone cameras or to borrow a family digital camera, encourage them to snap pictures of Jesus as he shares the day with them. If photos are not an option, keep a small journal handy. Children can make a few notes throughout the day about what kinds of things they did with Jesus, adding their own sketches if they are so inclined.
- Students should take five to ten minutes at the end of each day to review the day’s photos and/or journal entries. They should start by asking Jesus to help them choose one or two moments to pay special attention to. They will want to save photos of these moments in particular, perhaps printing them out and creating a poster with them or highlighting the relevant journal entries. For younger children, mom and dad or an older sibling may have to help. If “A Week with Jesus” is done as a family project, families could do this together at the end of the day, beginning with a prayer asking Jesus to help everyone choose one or two moments and then sharing the stories of those moments with each other.
- If this is a class project, you may wish to extend the storytelling or sharing component by taking time at the end of a one- or two-week period to invite students to share their photos, sketches, or journal entries and the stories associated with these “Jesus moments.” Encourage them to recall as much detail as they can: Who was there? What were they doing? What was being said? Who was saying it? And most important, how were they feeling as all of this was happening? Let children speak quietly to God about their answers.
- Whether in the home or in the classroom, be sure to end your time of storytelling and faith sharing with a short prayer of thanks in your own words or, as recommended by St. Ignatius, a memorized prayer like the Lord’s Prayer.