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Why We Pray the Examen Each Night with Our 11-Month-Old Son

By Clarissa Aljentera

October 25, 2019 — Most evenings, when it comes time for our nightly prayer, our Examen, my husband and I snuggle close with our 11-month-old son and trace the sign of the cross on his forehead and then on ours. I know that my son may have no memory of these evening prayers, but I like the ritual: the three of us praying together as a family in his bedroom, over his crib, holding him in our arms. The scene reminds me of so many statues we see of the Holy Family, Jesus safely nestled in his parents’ arms. I like that at the end of our hectic days, we gather in prayer — even if the experience ends with the tears of an 11-month-old.

We mention by name a litany of those in need — members of our church who have died, family members who are sick, or families who are in need of prayers — then we dig into the main events of our day. We list those places where we felt so very close to God; we name those people through whom we encountered him.

Then we talk about those moments when we felt far from God, when we may have felt upset or frustrated. We mention personal struggles and challenges, perhaps moments on public transportation or in a staff meeting. I want to show my son that we try every day to be good people and good parents, but sometimes we fall short.

I want my son to know that sometimes the most impactful moments of God are small moments in the day, moments that might easily be missed if not for careful reflection: a gym workout, a conversation with a family member. I want him to know that God’s grace and forgiveness are encountered in squabbles at home and sometimes disagreements with friends. I want him to know that he can turn to God in prayer at any time, for anything, big or small.

While we engage in our daily prayer, he observes us. He listens quietly, and I know he is encountering God in his own way.

Not every night is graceful and quiet. Sometimes we only have time for a quick prayer — an Our Father or a Hail Mary — amidst tearful bedtime routines. Nonetheless, we look forward to our evening prayer, even if it’s not always easy. It is our opportunity to be together, listening and eager to find God present in our own home.

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Clarissa Valbuena Aljentera finds joy in her vocation as wife and mother. She draws strength and comfort from sacred Scripture. Clarissa performs improv comedy and spends too much time on Instagram. She lives in Chicago and works in ministry. Her second book, "Wonderfully Made," a weekly pregnancy journal rooted in Scripture, is available this fall from Twenty-Third Publications.

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