Sacred Story an Ignatian Examen for the Third Millennium

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Title: Sacred Story an Ignatian Examen for the Third Millennium

Author: William M. Watson, SJ

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How and why did St. Ignatius Loyola develop the Examen prayer? What is it supposed to accomplish for those who practice it? Why do people choose to forgo this discipline that has proved to be invaluable and essential to spiritual growth and the discernment of spirits over the centuries? What are the contemporary cultural crises confronting today's would-be Examen practitioners provoking distrust, fear, or dismissive attitudes towards it? How can an Examen faithful to Ignatius original method be modernized to address the mindset of today's Christians? This book in its three parts takes a new approach to answer these questions. It provides a new analysis on how Ignatius' spiritual Examen disciplines were developed, the challenges inherent in practicing them, and a dynamic new reading of the Examen called Sacred Story. This book will give you the spiritual tools you need for a practical, daily prayer discipline that incorporates principles of spiritual discernment.


Author's Preface

  • Ignatius is a perfect archetype for contemporary culture. He had most of the emotional, intellectual, and psychological complexes that make people today fear any limit to the free expression of their instinctual drives: dysfunctional family, compulsive appetites, addictive personality, narcissism, greed for celebrity and wealth, sexual self-indulgence and a love of violence. He did what he wanted because it suited him.


  • For Pieper, the world of total work is annihilating all unstructured time thus rendering impossible the capacity for self-awareness to open human consciousness to “the-world-as-a-whole.”
  • A divine counter-strategy for nullifying the demonic forces that Lewis and Pieper unmask is found in the Psalmist’s words: “Be still, and know that I am God.”
  • The discipline was Ignatius’ way to be conscious—to stay awake—so as to reject temptations from the enemy of human nature and respond positively to God’s graces.
  • “Entry into the practice of examen that is regular and perduring is not easy for many people. They start to practice it because it seems important, but it just does not last.”
  • How can an Examen faithful to Ignatius’ original method be modernized to address the mindset of today’s Christians? This book offers a new analysis of Ignatius’ progressive conversion (which he details in his Autobiography) to answer these questions.
  • analysis of Ignatius’ early conversion as an organic process reveals connections between his two conversion experiences at Loyola and Montserrat/Manresa, the General and Particular Examens, and the two sets of discernment Rules.
  • These foundational discernment Rules are essential for all who seek to identify and withdraw from sensual temptations. These purgative sufferings typify the Catholic mystical tradition’s “dark night of the senses.”
  • The mystical tradition identifies the sufferings associated with dismantling narcissism’s superstructures as the “dark night of the spirit.” It is this deep surrender to God that is the signature—the Magis or Holy Grail—of Ignatius’ spirituality including the Examen.
  • This investigation of Ignatius’ two-tiered conversion is accompanied by a study of the spiritual disciplines of his General and Particular Examination of Conscience (GE and PE) and the difficulties they pose for practitioners.
  • Examen. In the end, the Ignatian Examen is revealed as a revolutionary, dynamic, holistic, efficient, and thoroughly contemporary spiritual discipline.
  • The second part of this book, Recovering the Examen’s Vitality and Relevance, explores the four key components that comprise Ignatius’ Examen in a new method titled Sacred Story.
  • Part three, Writing Your Sacred Story details the components of Sacred Story practice and how to integrate it into one’s life. Key components are the rules of engagement, the foundational spiritual diagnostic exercises, and Ignatian Confession, modeling Ignatius’ own.

Fundamental Conversion and the General Examen

  • Specifically, four paradigmatic events—significant with respect to Ignatius’ life and also to the spirituality that marks his legacy, including the Examen—come to light.
  • [O]ne day his eyes were opened a little and he began to wonder at the difference and to reflect on it, learning from experience that one kind of thought left him sad and the other cheerful. Thus, step by step, he came to recognize the difference between the two spirits that moved him, the one being from the evil spirit, the other from God.
  • These two sets of fantasies are radically opposed in both character and content. Later in his Spiritual Exercises he would come to identify these polarities as the Two Standards of Christ and Satan."

Integrated Conversion and the Particular Examen


  • “There is a pervasive form of contemporary violence, and that is activism and overwork. The rush and pressure of modern life are a form, perhaps the most common form, of this innate violence. To allow oneself to be carried away by a multitude of conflicting concerns, to surrender to too many demands, to commit oneself to too many projects, to want to help everyone and everything, is to succumb to violence. The frenzy of our activism neutralizes our work for peace. It destroys our own inner capacity for peace because it kills the root of inner wisdom which makes work fruitful.” Thomas Merton: Conjectures of a Guilty Bystander: (New York, Doubleday, 1966), 73.

Watson, William. Sacred Story: An Ignatian Examen for the Third Millennium (p. 247). CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform. Kindle Edition.

Other facts

  • Used for: 40 Week program at Holy Redeemer
  • Purchased: February 2018

Bibliographic info

  • Paperback: 328 pages
  • Publisher: Sacred Story Press (December 28, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0615667368
  • ISBN-13: 978-0615667362