By Father James Tierney
Each morning, try Getting up for God, and each day, try Smiling at people. This twofold programme suits any time of the year, especially Lent. It is part of Our Lord's Law of Love. What could be simpler?
Getting up for God begins with a bedside morning prayer. Such a Morning Offering is best recited kneeling. Some say it twice, first in bed, and then on their knees, because postures are sacramentals.
Waking up and getting up! These are sacred moments, `getting going' for the day, taking responsibility before God for our free choices, with a whole wide world awaking to its work. The natural `sacrament of the dawn' suits praying. A new start in life! It is unusual to make a midday offering of the next 24 hours. Noon does not begin a natural slice of life.
The morning is `the natural time' for Holy Mass. Participation in Mass is the completion of the Morning Offering, indeed, it is the supreme Morning Offering. It gives fuller meaning to Getting up for God.
The offering up of "prayers, works, joys and sufferings" flow in and out of Mass. Evening Mass does not fit this natural rhythm as well. And a Holy Hour fits best before its climax in the Mass.
It is said that Pope John Paul II liked to watch the sunrise. In Krakow, this would have been just before 4 a.m. in summer (or 5 a.m. on daylight saving time).
Strangely, the customary Morning Offerings do not appear in the prayer-appendix of the Compendium of the Catechism of the Catholic Church. But see the Catholic Family Catechism Disciples' Edition, pp. 8-9
GOING TO BED AT NIGHT
Some folk, of course, are hemmed in by their duties. Others seem too lazy to close down their day's doing and get themselves off to bed, and they make excuses for themselves to potter about. Inevitably, they have trouble in Getting up for God in the morning.
It is maturity to defer one's doings according to a scale of priorities, and to call a halt the night before in favour of proper sleep, and time to pray in the morning. Indeed, it is matter for a good Lent...
FIXED HOUR OF RISING
A disciplined body of men, like an army, a monastery or a seminary, has set times for rising and roosting. The great spiritual guide, Dom Chautard, laid it down that the spiritual life required a fixed hour of rising. See his The Soul of the Apostolate, which St Pius X made his bedtime book. Of course, a growing changing organism like a family cannot have an army discipline, but it can still have `Getting up for God'.
MORNING PERSONS / NIGHT PERSONS
Is it nature or nurture that some folk seem to do better at one end of the day or the other? One thing is certain: noble motivation seems enough to get a Night Person up early in the morning. And the Gigantic Bluff called Daylight Saving works for Night Persons simply by pretending that it is not an hour earlier.
The Anglicans used to poke gentle fun at their brethren who did not rise from "cosy bed" for early church on Sundays. With cheerful sarcasm they would quote Psalms 149:6, “Let the saints exult in glory, let them rejoice in their beds.” Alas, our Grail translation in The Liturgy of the Hours flattens this out: "Let the faithful rejoice in their glory, shout for joy and take their rest" -- which leaves no scope for irony.
Again, and from the same office of Morning Prayer, Sunday, week 1, the Grail, in Psalm 62:7, has "On my bed I remember you. On you I muse through the night." However, the New Vulgate (the Church's official Bible, 1979), when translated, gives: "When I have remembered Thee upon my bed, I shall meditate on Thee in the mornings" -- which is traditional spirituality of retiring to rest with thoughts of God, with a view to making a morning meditation on them.
God so valued a smile that He planned fewer facial muscles for smiling than for scowling. Smiling signals good will. It encourages others to smile back, and to show good will in turn. It may enkindle in others the fire of love. As St Thomas Aquinas pointed out, to love is `to will the good'.
Smiling exerts a secret power over those who smile. It makes them more cheerful and helpful than they would have been if they did not make themselves smile. Further, it helps cheer up other people, and inclines them to be helpful in their turn.
A Quaker variant, harder to master than a smile:-
"Before uttering a sentence the early Quakers are said to have asked themselves, `Is it true? Is it kind? Is it necessary?' If at all dubious, they changed their minds and said nothing. This, within limits, is what we all do but some people rebel against the convention, arguing that childlike spontaneity is preferable to an eternal hypocrisy. Why do we not give free expression to all that we think and feel? Why cannot we be honest and say whatever comes into our heads?
"The answer is that we are not good enough. If all our thoughts were charitable, kindly, intelligent and pure, there would be no objection to our expressing them. There are people, no doubt, of saintly character and childlike innocence whose thoughts are always fit to share. But few of us answer to that description. Our unguarded remarks, if we uttered them, would be selfish, unsympathetic, irreverent, indecent or harsh...
"The chief character in Max Beerbohm's Happy Hypocrite wears the mask of a saint but ends up becoming one. Few of us could claim to have done that but we are all a little more saintly for pretending to be better than we are. At least to some extent, the affectation ends as fact." (These three paragraphs are from Mrs Parkinson's Law by C. Northcote Parkinson.)
This tribute vice pays to virtue is not always hypocrisy. Indeed, hypocrisy has now become the tribute virtue pays to vice. Some folk pretend to be worse than they are out of human respect for what worldly people will think of them. This makes the world a worse place than it is, and hinders its improvement.
Curmudgeons rarely smile. Let us not be curmudgeons. Try smiling, and Getting up for God.
*Photo, Alarm Clock by http://www.freedigitalphotos.net/images/view_photog.php?photogid=330
*Photo, Children by http://www.freedigitalphotos.net/images/view_photog.php?photogid=1803