When I was a boy, the medicine chest in the bathroom had a Catholic morning prayer taped to the mirrored door as a reminder to my parents (and presumably to us kids) to remember to make our morning offering. Frankly, I thought it was weird as heck, and although I sometimes succumbed to the unspoken parental pressure and actually prayed the prayer, the words never really resonated with my spirit. The prayer went as follows, “O Jesus, through the Immaculate Heart of Mary, I offer You my prayers, works, joys and sufferings of this day for all the intentions of Your Sacred Heart, in union with the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass throughout the world, in reparation for my sins, for the intentions of all our associates, and in particular for the intentions of our Holy Father for this month.”
What I didn’t realize at the time was that mornings allow us a chance every day to make choices that can have profound effect on our day. For example, if I hit the snooze button repeatedly, hating the morning light, resenting the fact that a job awaits me, I will no doubt feel stressed and overwhelmed all day. By nightfall I will be so exhausted physically, emotionally and spiritually, that I will surely fall into bed at an earlier than normal hour. If, on the other hand, I decide to enjoy a more leisurely and receptive morning, I may well feel energized and focused for the entire day. The lesson is easy: when I start the day in a more centered place, I take ownership of the day ahead and become receptive to the movement of grace. In a very real sense I am laying claim to the day as my very own potential blessing, and I can decide to make my day more gentle, more thoughtful, and more receptive to God’s presence.
The simplest way to eliminate the morning crazies is to simply decide to get up earlier. I’ve done this for so many years now that I automatically awaken at 4:30, regardless of the season. It’s a routine that I personally find nurturing because I can get up in the quiet darkness, retrieve my morning coffee (surely a “sacrament” in the larger sense!) and simply position myself for a day of better attentiveness. There is a practical side, of course, since I now have more time to shower and dress for work, but I have also grown to love the early morning hours. The whole world seems poised to awaken to newness in those predawn minutes, and this reminds me that God is there in a palpable way. (Actually, I am rather certain that God would, if asked, say that it was during those hours that He could finally find ME in a palpable way!!) Regardless, the morning prayer time is terrific and I can’t recommend it highly enough.
A word about the term “morning prayer” is in order here. I use this term very loosely, and many times there is absolutely no structure or text involved: I simply sit in the silence and attend to that pregnant pause of night just before the light gets serious about reappearing. It is a time for gratitude, for looking calmly and kindly at myself and the ways I have pursued (or failed to pursue) my vocations, and for just taking a breath and being in the moment. God is always there, loving me, surrounding me, holding me—with never a harsh look or word, never a judgment.
I am a firm believer in the power of ritual and tradition, so I find that I sit in the same chair each morning, positioned at the same place in the room, with the same vantage point toward the approaching dawn. Other times I want to change things up a bit because I like variety. I might hum or even turn on some meditative music. Other times I feel drawn to read the Morning Office (as is expected of me as a priest) or even to journal a bit about the previous night’s dreams or intuitions. The time I spend in my own revamped “morning offering” is never time wasted, and it reminds me of the importance of taking care of myself in order to take care of others.
This month as the darkness seems to be tarrying longer into the day, I invite you to join me in making your morning your own offering to God. Besides the practical things you need to attend to, remember also the needs of your soul. You will always be able to find an excuse as to why taking a few morning moments just won’t work for you, but I’m here to tell you that when you really center yourself at the start of the day,you will undoubtedly find it easier to remain centered during the rest of the day. Morning prayer is the ideal time to make a choice to being open to all the blessings God has in store for you each day.