by Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann
Last week, I shared some reflections inspired by the book “Mother Teresa: Come Be My Light,” a commentary on some of the previously unpublished writings of the saint of Calcutta.
Near the end of the book, one of the priests of the Missionaries of Charity relates some of the advice Mother Teresa gave him from her sick bed:
“In her last illness [in 1996] she was often in the hospital. She was literally pinned to the bed, nailed to the cross. When she became conscious, she immediately tried to make the sign of the cross — even when she had so many needles from machines in her arms, etc.
“She told me how I could become a holy priest. ‘First thing in the morning,’ she said, ‘kiss the crucifix. Offer Him everything you will say, or do or think during the day. Love Him with a deep, personal, intimate love — and you will become a holy priest.’”
The spirituality of Mother Teresa was not complex or esoteric. It was simple, yet so beautiful and powerful. In essence, Mother Teresa was counseling this priest to make a morning offering to God.
This is good advice —not only for priests, but for every disciple of Jesus.
The idea of a morning offering is certainly not unique to Mother Teresa.
There are many beautiful formal prayers that can be used to dedicate our day to the Lord. It is such a simple practice, but one that has the power to orient everything that we do during the course of the day to give praise and glory to God.
I personally like to review my calendar for the day and just briefly reflect upon the events and activities on my schedule. Then, I ask the Lord to give me the grace to empty myself of my own desires and ambitions, to fill me with his Spirit and to guide my words and actions for the day. I also ask the Lord to help me recognize his presence in the people and the events of the day.
At the beginning of many days, I can feel overwhelmed and defeated even before the day begins, worrying about how I am going to do everything that I think I need to do. I find great peace in surrendering the day to the Lord and just asking for the Lord to allow me to accomplish those things that he desires for me to do — nothing more and nothing less.
It is also easy for me to begin to look beyond the present day and become anxious about all that I think I need to do for the rest of the week or month. This does me no good. Rather, it impairs my concentration on the present moment. Being less focused renders me less effective in whatever task I am attempting to do — preparing a homily, composing a talk, answering a letter, writing a column or paying attention to a conversation.
This feeds a vicious cycle: I am less productive, so I get further behind. This makes me more anxious, thus I become even less productive, making me further behind.
During my morning offering, I always attempt to recall the phrase from the Lord’s Prayer: “Give us this day our daily bread.” I ask the Lord not only to give me “daily bread,” but to help me trust that he will give me “daily bread” — whatever I need to accomplish what God desires me to do that day. I find a great peace entrusting the day to the Lord and resting in the confidence that I know he will provide me anything that I truly need to do his will for the coming day.
What was unique in Mother Teresa’s counsel to her priest was her exhortation to begin his day and his morning offering by kissing the crucifix. Mother Teresa was urging him to offer God a wordless prayer that could both make him conscious of the depth of God’s love for him revealed on Calvary and unite even the hardships and sacrifices of the coming day with the cross of Jesus.
If you are already in the habit of beginning your day by prayerfully offering it to the Lord, I hope this article gives you encouragement to continue. If the morning offering has not been part of your daily routine, I urge you to begin doing so and experience for yourself what a different tone it will give to your life.
Personally, from now on, I am going to begin my morning by kissing an image of our crucified Lord. Whatever worked for Mother Teresa is good enough for me!