Catholic prayer

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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TEN PRACTICAL PRAYER RECOMMENDATIONS FROM THE CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH

(The Angelus by Millet, 1859, Public Domain, U.S.A.)

The Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC) was prepared and promulgated under the papacy of Saint Pope John Paul II and he indicated in the document itself that it is “a sure and authentic reference text for the teaching of Catholic doctrine….” The Catechism of the Catholic Church is divided into four main sections, and the entire fourth section is devoted to Christian prayer – specifically paragraphs 2558 through 2865. Reading the entire portion of the CCC on prayer is very valuable, but here in a quick note are ten or more important points on prayer as set forth in the CCC.

1. Prayer is vitally necessary. Indeed, prayer and the Christian life are inseparable. Without perseverance in prayer, we risk falling back into the slavery of sin (CCC 2744, 2745).  It is the life of prayer that places us in relationship with God (CCC 2565).

2. Humility is the foundation of prayer. We should go to God in prayer as “a beggar,” asking Him to bestow on us “the gift” of prayer (CCC 2559).

3. An effective means to begin prayer is to consciously place ourselves in the presence of God (CCC 2803).  St. Francis de Sales states: “Begin all your prayers, whether mental or vocal, in the presence of God. Keep to this rule without any exception and you will quickly see how helpful it will be.”

4. After placing ourselves in the presence of God, the basic movement of Christian prayer should start with adoration (CCC 2626).  In this type of prayer, we adore the Trinitarian God who is the source of every blessing.

5. Before turning to prayers of petition, where we ask God for help with our needs, it is essential to first ask God for mercy and forgiveness. This “is a prerequisite for righteous and pure prayer.” This can be done simply by saying, “Have mercy on me, Lord, for I am a sinner” (CCC 2631). Then in “boldness” and “deep faith,” tell God what it is you need (CCC 2610), asking the Father in the name of Jesus (CCC 2614).

6. During our prayer time, it is appropriate to pray for others (intercession), 2634, and to spend time praising God “simply because HE IS” (CCC 2639).

7. An effective means to end prayer is in Thanksgiving, thanking God, in the name of Christ Jesus, for all He has done for you, and even for your trials and tribulations (CCC 2638).

8. An effective means to enter into meditative prayer is to read the Bible or the writings of the great Saints in order to to stir our thoughts, imagination, emotions and desires towards the love of Jesus Christ (CCC 2705 – 2708).

9. Ejaculatory prayer. The Catechism of the Catholic Church specifically recommends that, throughout the day, we invoke the name of “Jesus,” which contains the entire economy of salvation, and also that we invoke the Holy Spirit saying, “Come, Holy Spirit” (CCC 2665-2672).  It is the Holy Spirit acting within us that makes prayer possible (CCC 2672). The Catechism of the Catholic Church also highly recommends prayer to and with the Virgin Mary, stating in paragraph 2679 the following:

“Mary is the perfect Orans (pray-er), a figure of the Church. When we pray to her, we are adhering with her to the plan of the Father, who sends his Son to save all men. Like the beloved disciple we welcome Jesus’ mother into our homes,39 for she has become the mother of all the living. We can pray with and to her. The prayer of the Church is sustained by the prayer of Mary and united with it in hope.

10. How important is prayer? Those who pray will be saved; those who do not pray will be lost (see CCC 2744 quoting St. Alphonsus Liguori).

As mentioned, the entire fourth section of the Catechism of the Catholic Church is devoted to Christian prayer – paragraphs 2558 through 2865 – and is well worth reading.

Remember, the best way to pray is to pray! Lift your heart to God!

Tom Mulcahy, M.A.

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