A soul which is faithful to its resolution of pleasing God in the smallest things will most assuredly gain the Heart of God

THE POWER OF THE MORNING OFFERING

 

“Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God–this is your true and proper worship” (Romans 12:1)

“The Christian begins his day, his prayers, and his activities with the Sign of the Cross: ‘in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.’ The baptized person dedicates the day to the glory of God and calls on the Savior’s grace which lets him act in the Spirit as a child of the Father” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2157)

There is an interesting – and even charming – moment in Pope Benedict’s encyclical on hope, Spe Salvi, when, in the midst of deep theological reflection, he suddenly pauses for a moment to pass on to us some fatherly advice on the practice of making a Morning Offering. Here is what the Pope said:

“I would like to add here another brief comment with some relevance for everyday living. There used to be a form of devotion—perhaps less practised today but quite widespread not long ago—that included the idea of “offering up” the minor daily hardships that continually strike at us like irritating “jabs”, thereby giving them a meaning. Of course, there were some exaggerations and perhaps unhealthy applications of this devotion, but we need to ask ourselves whether there may not after all have been something essential and helpful contained within it. What does it mean to offer something up? 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. Maybe we should consider whether it might be judicious to revive this practice ourselves.” (Spe Salvi, 40)

The great German Dominican, Father Albert M. Weiss, whose writings Pope Benedict was most likely familiar with, makes a most powerful comment concerning the importance of connecting up all the actions of our day with God. He states:

“All spiritual life is governed by the life of prayer. If a man ceases prayer death ensues…. [N]ot to intersperse the actions of the day with a thought of God and some pious aspiration, is to give undeniable proof that the spiritual life has not taken deep root in the soul.” (The Christian Life, pages 95-96)

Still further,  the great Jesuit and French spiritual writer, Father Lallemant, comments on the losses incurred by failing to sanctify our actions:

“The smallest measure of holiness, the least action that increases holiness, is to be preferred before scepters and crowns. Whence it follows, that by losing everyday opportunities of doing so many supernatural actions [i.e., little sacrificial acts done out of love for God] , we incur losses of happiness inconceivable in extent and all but irreparable.” (The Spiritual Doctrine, p. 197)

Put in a more positive light, Father Grou, another great French spiritual writer, states:

“Great occasions of heroic virtue are rarely presented to us. But little things are offered to us every day” (p.116).  “A soul which is faithful to its resolution of pleasing God in the smallest things will most assuredly gain the Heart of God; that it will draw to itself all His tenderness, all His favors, all His graces; that by such a practice it will amass every moment inconceivable treasures of merit….” (Father Jean Nicolas Grou, Manual for Interior Souls, p.120)

In the spiritual life we should desire to become more and more conscious of offering up all we do throughout the day for the love of God (the three books cited above emphasize this point). The practice of making a Morning Offering, and then renewing it throughout the day, helps us to accomplish this purpose and to merit additional graces for ourselves and others (see CCC 2010). However, we don’t want this practice to become stale and mechanical: we want it to spring forth from the love of God we have in our hearts and the desire we have to please God and do His will.

Tom Mulcahy, M.A.

P.S. There are many morning offering prayers you can find online. Saint Therese of Lisieux composed a very lengthy one. You might simply say throughout the day – or merely thinking it is all that matters – “this is for you, Jesus.” What really gives the action supernatural value is the purity of intention – doing it for the love of God. Here is a sample morning offering prayer:

Morning Offering Prayer: “O Jesus, through the Immaculate Heart of Mary, I offer you my prayers, works, joys, and sufferings of this day in union with the holy sacrifice of the Mass throughout the world. I offer them for all the intentions of your sacred heart: the salvation of souls, reparation for sin, the reunion of all Christians. I offer them for the intentions of our bishops and of all the apostles of prayer, and in particular for those recommended by our Holy Father this month.” (from Catholic.com)

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DARN IT! I COULD HAVE SANCTIFIED THAT PASSING MOMENT

 “For God is working in you, giving you the desire and the power to do what pleases him.” (Phil. 2:13)

 
From the perspective of a healthy diet, we might after drinking a Coke regret the fact that we didn’t opt for a V-8. And with respect to the spiritual life, we might react to a failure in virtue by regretting that we failed to grow in holiness by sanctifying that passing moment. It is important to remember that God is always sending us real and actual graces to sanctify the present moment! That’s encouraging! These actual graces direct our will and actions towards the good ( see Phil. 2:13 quoted above). When an inordinate anger rises up within us, God gives us ever present graces to let meekness descend into our hearts. A moment of anger is thus transformed into a moment of virtue and merit (that’s holiness!).
 
In a great spiritual book Manual for Interior Souls, a highly acclaimed spiritual writer, Father Grou, states a principle well worth remembering. He says:
 
“Great occasions of heroic virtue are rarely presented to us. But little things are offered to us every day….     A soul which is faithful to its resolution of pleasing God in the smallest things will most assuredly gain the Heart of God; that it will draw to  itself all His tenderness, all His favors, all His graces; that by such a practice it will amass every moment inconceivable treasures of merit….” 
 
The great Father Lallemant adds in The Spiritual Doctrine:
 
“The smallest measure of holiness, the least action that increases holiness, is to be preferred before scepters and crowns. Whence it follows, that by losing everyday opportunities of doing so many supernatural actions [i.e., little sacrificial acts done out of love for God] , we incur losses of happiness inconceivable in extent and all but irreparable.” P.197
 
OUR SURE PATH TO HOLINESS IS DOING EVERY LITTLE ACT, EVERY LITTLE SACRIFICE, FOR THE LOVE AND THE GLORY OF GOD. Each time our motive is supernatural in this regard we amass amazing treasures of merit (that is, an increase in sanctifying grace). The more we sanctify the present moment, the more we grow in virtue. The more we grow in virtue, the more we grow in holiness. The more we grow in holiness, the closer we draw to God. Think of the amazing merits St. Therese accumulated using this “little way”! Every moment is an opportunity for growth in holiness through love of God! It is the purity of intention that counts. “All for Jesus.”
 
These are two great Jesuit and French spiritual writers – Fathers Grou and Lallemant! Saint Therese was French too (although a Carmelite)!
 
Tom Mulcahy, M.A.
 

P.S. Now to purify your mind simply get rid of all useless thoughts. Discipline the mind only to dwell on God-centered thoughts. The mind is the switchboard for everything. Train your mind to think kind thoughts, reversing any learned process to think unkind thoughts. This is all about watching over your interior life and practicing purity of heart. Junk out; God in.

Photo: Bridget Mulcahy.

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