Getting Up in the Morning: Our First Spiritual Battle
new day begins. The alarm clock sounds. It is time to get up quickly from bed. The moment has arrived to offer the first sacrifice to our Lord. The body says, “No, not yet!” but the soul says, “Yes! It is time!” And the most important part, the soul, must conquer. It is the first of the many affirmations of love that, with God’s help, are to come throughout the day. It is not a matter of thinking that we are better than others, but of struggling with ourselves, aware that the sweetest victory is over ourselves, when it is offered to God.
St. Josemaría notes,
‘The heroic minute.’ It is time to get up, on the dot! Without hesitation, a supernatural thought and . . . up! The heroic minute; here you have a mortification that strengthens your will and does not weaken your body.
St. Josemaría further explains the reason for this practice:
Conquer yourself each day from the very first moment, get ting up on the dot, at a set time, without granting a single minute to laziness. If, with the help of God, you conquer yourself in that moment, you’ll have accomplished a great deal for the rest of the day. It’s so discouraging to find yourself beaten in the first skirmish!
St. Mark tells us, “And in the morning, a great while before day, he [Jesus] rose and went out to a lonely place, and there he prayed” (1:35). It is in this fashion that our Lord has taught us how to begin the day aright.
This is a good moment to say, “I shall serve!” in daring response to Satan’s suggestion: “I will not serve!” Together with these first offerings, there could be the first prayer addressed to the entire “company of veiled spectators.” First among them is the Triune God, to whom we will offer our entire day, each in our own fashion. Perhaps we could say, like St. Josemaría: “All my thoughts, all my words, all the actions of this day, I offer to You, Lord, and all out of Love.”
It makes sense that the day’s first thought and first act of love should be for the concealed Lover who is constantly seeking our attention. Giving the Lord our first thoughts and acts of love will be a big boost to our attempts to be with Him throughout the day.
The moment we awake is the time to greet our Lord and thank Him for the gift of a new day. We offer Him all our actions and our entire lives. It is moving to think of the many generations of Christians who have passed along the wonderful custom of offering to God all the actions of the day.
The Morning Offering gives meaning and purpose to our whole day. It starts our conversation with the veiled Lord. It is important to offer our work to God; otherwise we are only doing our work for some other goal, such as for the money we get, for the prestige it brings us, and so forth.
The purpose of the Morning Offering is to dedicate every action of the day to God. And every action, except sin, can be offered to Him. St. Paul says, “Whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God” (1 Cor. 10:31). With the Morning Offering, all our activities for the day are dedicated to the Lord through a virtual intention acceptable to Him. It is even better if we renew this intention at other moments during the day.
The consciousness that our day has been offered to the veiled Lord is a great help in performing well in our daily struggles. Before the famous Battle of Trafalgar, Admiral Nelson said: “England expects that every man will do his duty.” The British soldiers were motivated, for they knew why they were fighting. Likewise, the Morning Offering reminds us of the purpose of our daily actions and of the King we serve.
Greeting the Saints
After this, it is a good moment to address our Lady (and maybe to kiss our brown scapular) and St. Joseph, our guardian angel, the saints, as well as the souls in Purgatory, and to formulate the desire of gaining all the indulgences that our loving Mother, the Church, has granted to us for the day that is beginning.
In a childlike manner (provided we are certain nobody sees us doing it, for they would not understand what we were doing), we might want to wave at them, and perhaps focus our attention on someone from that great multitude of witnesses: a saint of our devotion, a relative, or a friend who has passed away.
This contact with the other world is very comforting. If we were to hesitate and think that such a practice would be childish, we need only remember that our Lord said, “Whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it” (Luke 18:17).
Surely, to be aware that we are surrounded by a whole “company of witnesses” is an effective way of avoiding sin, as well as feeling well accompanied. The daily rituals we perform routinely, such as dressing and getting ready for the day could be given much worth and meaning if we attach spiritual interactions or aspirations to them — simply put, by praying. For example, we can imitate St. Josemaría, who, while fastening the buttons on his clothing, used to say something like, “Jesus, fasten me to You!”
The trip to a nearby church lends itself to a period of inner and exterior silence with the recollection that the traffic situation allows. Before we begin, while fastening our seat belts, we may invoke our guardian angels, who are among those “unseen witnesses” and who are ever ready to help us. Then, the blessing for a trip recommended by St. Josemaría comes in handy: “Through the intercession of the Blessed Mary, may I have a good trip. May the Lord be in my journey; and may His angel accompany me!”
Waiting at a red light might be a challenge for our patience. Use this time as an opportunity to react supernaturally, perhaps saying to our Lord: “Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, give us peace!” And at a green light: “Holy Mary, our hope, pray for us!”
This article is an excerpt from Fr. Portavella’s The Little Manual for Spiritual Growth. It is available from Sophia Institute Press.