The Walking Examen at Fairfield University

Location: Campus Walk

The Walking Examen, a one-mile prayer journey around Fairfield University's scenic campus, is based on a prayer method popularized by St. Ignatius of Loyola, the founder of the Jesuits, in the 16th century.  The intention of the meditation is to invite participants to trust, allow and delight in God's love through a five-step process of contemplation and presence.  

The Examen walk, open to community members and visitors of all faiths, begins near the Egan Chapel plaza and continues around by the pond, ending in front of the Jesuit Community.  Each step of the Examen is marked with a boulder and plaque identifying the prayer prompt:  Thanksgiving, Illumination, Examination, Contrition and Hope.  

Please visit the Murphy Center for Ignatian Spirituality's website for a map of the Examen Walk: 

As the weather cools down and the pressures of work increase, consider taking your department on a meditative walk around campus. Contact the Murphy Center at to guide you through the Walking Examen. Although the walk is just a mile, you will find the journey takes you to a deeper place where there is  peace and gratitude!

The Walking Examen Meditation

 1st Step - Thanksgiving                

Gratitude is the hallmark of Ignatian spirituality. Anyone who considers the basic truth that we are created out of love will grow in a sense of awareness and reverence. We will have a deepened sense of the sacredness of all things if we think of everything as a gift. In Ignatian terminology, gratitude enables us to find God in all things. Look at the world with gratitude and awe, and look at yourself with the same attitude. The kind of gratitude we are talking about is a window into the deepest truth about ourselves; we are in relationship with the world and connected to everything. When we catch sight of this, giving thanks is the right response. Take as much time with this step as needed. The Examen’s invitation to thanksgiving makes our blessings concrete. In time, with practice, gratitude can become living meditation, a humble recognition that all is gift and all will be well.

 2nd Step - Illumination           

We try to see everyday life through the eyes of love. We look to shine a light on our interior responses and the encounters that animate our daily experience.  Sometimes love and light appear in the quiet whisper of our memories, thoughts and feelings. If we attune ourselves to look and listen, we may find love present within us, all around us, and speaking to us constantly.  If we don’t bother to look, it will seem that there is nothing to be seen.  Shine a light into your heart so that when you look back over the day you may be able to see love at work in all the things that happened.

 3rd Step - Examination                      

The Examen is a meditation for in finding God in your life as you are living it right now. You look at the present. You summon the memories of the hours you have just lived and try to experience those events as you lived them. You are aware that events and relationships in the past have shaped today’s circumstances but, at this moment in the Examen, you are looking at what is. We meditate this way to discern the deeper truth about ourselves. We meditate this way to discover: Who am I? And who am I called to become? In the review of the day, we are especially interested in our responses. Where was I authentically present? Where was I peaceful and content? Where did I feel numb or absent? This meditation is a way to keep track of the quality of our responses.  Take a moment to review the last 24 hours to notice the details of your encounters.

4th Step - Contrition               

We have not always made choices that reflect who we are. We have not always acted as if we believe that we are loved. We have not always treated everything in our lives as a gift, especially those experiences that have felt uncomfortable and unwelcome. We come to the awareness that we are not perfect and there is freedom in that because it invites us to humbly acknowledge our faults and limitations. Only when we claim our brokenness and stand in our truth authentically can we truly experience love and compassion for ourselves and others. We are not as good as we thought, but we are much more loved than we ever imagined. In light of your review are there areas of ingratitude to consider? Are there areas where you might be called to respond differently to a difficult situation, person or occurrence?

 5th Step - Hope   

While it’s easy to think about this meditation as being oriented to the past, it actually helps us to pay attention to where Love is in the past, present, and future. This mediation always ends with hope. Hope means choosing to act in ways that lead me closer to what is good and loving, even though the future is often unknown and beyond my control. Why should we hope, even in the midst of personal struggles and difficulties? Why not succumb to despair when we cannot see our own way out of pain and suffering? One great reason for hope for the future is recalling how resilient we have been in the past. We hope because we trust that God is with us and encouraging us on to love wherever we are. Hope is an action for today, stretching into tomorrow. What are your reasons for hope?

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For more information, contact Colleen Gilbertson / 203-254-4000 ext. 3468 /