We learn so much from our parents, good habits and bad. Maybe that’s why I’ve always been conflicted about waking up in the morning. On the one hand, my father has always risen before the sun; he’s the earliest riser in the family. On the other hand, my mother, well, that’s a different story. Although she gets up early for work, the truth is that on the weekends she has the ability to sleep until…let’s just say she can sleep pretty late. Honestly, I think I inherited my mom’s sleeping gene. I’ve always loved sleep, and getting out of bed has tended to be an effort for me; yet, I have continually made an effort to get up early. Therein lay the conflict.
I really do love the early morning, and I’ve become more of a morning person as I’ve gotten older. Since I live at the seminary I have to be up early—which means I go to bed pretty early as well. We begin our day with meditation in the chapel at 6:30. Prayer is a great way to start the day.
I truly believe that the way we start our day has much to do with how the rest of our day goes. And if we want to live each day in holiness, then it makes sense to try to have a holy start to the day.
Here are some suggestions for beginning your day in holiness:
Gratitude and the Morning Offering
St. Paul told us that we should be transformed by the renewal of our minds (Romans 12:2). That being said, what are your first thoughts in the morning? If your first thoughts are negative, if you’re dreading the day and not expecting God’s blessings, then that’s a really bad start to the day. However, if you turn your first thoughts to the Lord in gratitude for a new day, you have chosen to begin the day with an uplifted heart and joyful spirit. You have chosen to begin the day in God’s presence, and that’s a holy start.
Each morning, as soon as you wake up, offer a prayer of thanksgiving to the Lord for the new day and all the blessings He will give to you. Offer your day to Him with a traditional prayer or a prayer in your own words. You might even consider getting on your knees and praying the words of St. Paul: today “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” (Phillipians 4:13).
A slow, quiet start is best
People constantly rush. They rush out of bed because they’ve hit snooze too many times. They rush to shower and dress. They rush their breakfast. And then they rush out the door only to rush more as they drive. Rushing is a really bad start to the day. I don’t think the Lord wants us to rush—although it is inevitable at times. Recall the fruits of the Holy Spirit: stress and rushing are not included in the list! Rather, peace and gentleness are. It’s much better to begin the day slowly, meditatively, aware of God’s presence and the peace He desires to give you as you begin this new day.
So don’t rush into the day. Try to be deeply aware of God’s presence as soon as you awake. Go slowly. Breathe.
Wake up early and pray
The gospels tell us that Jesus woke early in the morning to pray. There’s something sacred about the morning, a sacred stillness. In order to begin the day slowly, it may mean you need to wake a bit earlier. Now, I can honestly say I know how difficult this is. But it gets easier, and you even begin to look forward to it. My best and most productive days are the days I wake up early. I like beginning my day with a cup of coffee and prayer. I enjoy spending time in silence and doing some spiritual reading. I love being attentive to the morning stillness. What’s great is when I’m up early enough to pray, have some time to focus on my tasks for the day, and maybe even have time to write.
Your first penance
Waking up early may not be easy, but living in holiness is not always easy either. Another one of my favorites saints, Josemaria Escriva, called it the heroic minute. How true! When the alarm goes off, it’s our time to be heroic and tell the body: I know you want to sleep, but it’s time to get up and serve the Lord. Living in holiness means that we need to keep the sometimes-unreasonable demands of the body under control (one of the fruits of the Spirit is self-control). If we want to be holy, we need to learn sacrifice; and one of the best sacrifices we can make is getting out of bed early and as soon as the alarm goes off—or even before it goes off.
Here are some things you can do once you’re up:
- Spend time in quiet prayer with the Scriptures. Read a little of the gospel and just spend some time in quiet reflecting on what you’ve read.
- Take 10-15 minutes to read from a spiritual book and spend a few moments in prayer about what you’ve read.
- Spend some time offering thanks to the Lord. Just close your eyes and thank Him: thank Him for the day, for the blessings He will give you, for your family, whatever comes to mind. Gratitude is a powerful way to begin your day. “Give thanks to the Lord for He is good” (Psalm 118).
- Have a conversation with the Lord about the day. Talk to Him about your appointments and to do list. Talk to him about what you are looking forward to and what you are dreading. Ask Him to help you be aware of His presence throughout the day.
A slow, prayerful start to the day doesn’t mean that you’re day will be perfect or that you’ll be deeply aware of God’s presence all day. However, it’s certainly a great way to start, and you’ll feel more peace and strength as you begin the day.