What’s the first thing you do when the alarm sounds in the morning?
Groaning, “Oh, no, it’s not even light,” might come to mind.
However, a better start might be something known as the “Morning Offering.”
This simply means taking a minute to thank God for another day and to put that day safely into God’s hands.
The church itself does this every day with “Morning Prayer,” part of the daily cycle of prayer known as the “Liturgy of the Hours.” This begins with what used to be called “Lauds,” which basically means, “Praise to you.” Around the world, in churches, abbeys, convents, rectories and monasteries, men and women start the day with Morning Prayer. (Many lay people also pray the Liturgy of the Hours.)
The Morning (sometimes called “daily”) Offering as it is practiced today by many laypeople and religious follows the form started in 19th-century France. The Morning Offering was born in 1844 at a Jesuit seminary in Vals-près-le-Puy, France. The seminarians there became overly enthusiastic, one day, filled with grand plans about heading out to the missions. Their teacher, Jesuit Fr. François-Xavier Gautrelet, reprimanded them. He told them that they could easily become missionaries that very day by placing their prayers and daily challenges before the Sacred Heart of Jesus.
Fr. Gautrelet believed that, by offering each day — its joys, sorrows, challenges and even its failings — to God through the heart of Christ, Christ’s mission could be fulfilled through his seminarians. And this could all be done without leaving home.
To make this easier, for them and for us, Fr. Gautrelet wrote a morning offering prayer. Since then, the Jesuits spread his prayer around the world, along with devotion to the Sacred Heart and the Immaculate Heart of Mary. The prayer also includes remembering the pope’s monthly intentions.
A formal prayer, Fr. Gautrelet’s or Morning Prayer, can be used for the Morning Offering. However, it is also acceptable to develop one’s own type of morning offering prayer — especially as you get more used to the habit of speaking to God first thing each day.
What stirs you to love
St. Teresa of Ávila made prayer seem simple when she said, “Mental prayer in my opinion is nothing else than an intimate sharing between friends; it means taking time frequently to be alone with him whom we know loves us. The important thing is not to think much, but to love much and so do that which best stirs you to love.”
While St. Teresa lived in a Carmelite monastery, this form of daily prayer is for everyone. As the Dominican Nuns of Summit, N.J., explain, “The Morning Offering is not a specifically monastic practice. … Its purpose is to offer up the whole day at its very beginning, consecrating the day to God.”
Starting the day with the Morning Offering might help you gain a new perspective on the entire day as you live it. As we get more comfortable with this, our day will become more filled with prayer. As we work, we can start each project with the knowledge that the Holy Spirit stands ready to guide and inspire us. In the midst of joys that come our way, we can again be thankful to God and, as St. Paul reminded us, “rejoice in the Lord always” (Phil 4:4).
Then there are the sufferings and challenges of the day. Through the Morning Offering, we can offer them up as well.
“What does it mean to ‘offer something up’?” Pope Emeritus Benedict asked in 2007. “Those who did so were convinced that they could insert these little annoyances into Christ’s great ‘com-passion’ so that they somehow became part of the treasury of compassion so greatly needed by the human race. In this way, even the small inconveniences of daily life could acquire meaning and contribute to the economy of good and of human love.” (Spe Salvi, n. 40).
There’s no need to force anything when it comes to the Morning — and throughout the day — Offering. It will all come naturally. As an Irish Jesuit, Fr. John McAstocker, wrote in 1954, “The Morning Offering, consistently lived throughout the day, gives eternal value to every thought, word and action. Sincerely made and carried out, the Morning Offering is the Midas touch that turns everything, even our most insignificant activities, into gold; gold that … can affect the release of human souls from the bondage of sin and infidelity; gold, that can, as it were, bribe the willing heart of Christ to shower extraordinary graces on souls that otherwise would have been lost.”
So the next time you wake up and face the start of a new day, consider what the campus ministry program at Notre Dame University calls the Morning Offering: “a small, simple addition to your morning routine that can bring peace when you’re frazzled, perspective when you’re pressured, gratitude when you’re joyful and hope when you’re discouraged …”
For Morning Offering prayers see popesprayerusa.net/daily-offering-prayers/
Sources: The New York Jesuits at nysj.org; perseus.tufts.edu; campusminsitry.nd.edu; popesprayerusa.net; apostleshipofprayer.org; usccb.org/prayer-and-worship; “The Catholic Encyclopedia;” ewtn.com; fisheaters.org; summitdomincans.org; vatican.va and “Pathway to work-a-day sanctity” at ecatholic2000.com