Thursday, May 14, 2009

The Morning Offering

I'm a big fan of spiritual reading. In fact, I think spiritual reading can be part of an individual's prayer routine. Is it really prayer? To answer that, look at the life of St. Ignatius Loyola, the founder of the Jesuits. Laid up and recovering from a war wound, he began reading a book of brief biographies of saints. And, as they say, the rest is history. His thoughts and dreams for the future were transformed by what he read. He began imagining himself doing what the saints did. Surely this was "prayer." By means of this spiritual reading, St. Ignatius "listened" to the Holy Spirit speaking to him through what he read. The great Carmelite mystic, St. Teresa of Avila, once wrote that she never began her prayer without a good spiritual book nearby so that when she became distracted she would have something to draw her attention back to God.

What does all this have to do with the title of this piece, "The Morning Offering"? This is the subject of today's entry in a book of meditations by Fr. Francis Fernandez entitled "In Conversation with God." Here's part of what he wrote:

"Each day, in a certain sense, begins with a birth and ends with a death; each day is a life in miniature. In the final analysis, our journey through the world will have been holy and pleasing to God if we have tried to ensure that each day was pleasing to God, from sunrise to sunset. The same can be said for the night, because we offer that to God also. 'Today' is the only time we can offer to God. ...

"What we must sanctify is the present day. And how are we going to do that if we don't start by offering it to God? It is only those who don't know God and lukewarm Christians who start their day off in any old way. The Morning Offering is an act of piety which focuses the day properly from the outset, directing it towards God just as a compass points towards the north pole. Our Morning Offering disposes us to listen to the Holy Spirit, and to heed the many inspirations and graces he sends us throughout the day. ...

"Although we don't have to follow any particular formula when saying the Morning Offering, it's good to opt for some habitual way of living this practice of piety. Some people like to recite some simple prayer they learned as children or as adults. ...

"Offering everything we do to God helps us to do things better, to be more effective in our work, to be more cheerful in family life even though we may be tired, to get on better with everyone, to be better citizens.

"We can renew the offering of our work throughout the day; for example, when we are beginning a new task, or when we're finding the job we are at particularly difficult. Our Lord also accepts our tiredness, and when we offer it to him, then it too acquires redemptive value.

"Let us live each day as though it were the only day we had to offer to God, trying to do things well, and rectifying things when we do them badly. And one day it will be our last day, but we will have offered that day too to God our Father. Then, if we have tried to offer our life continually to God, we will hear Jesus say to us, as he said to the good thief: Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise." (Luke 23: 43).

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