At the Start of Each Day

by Joseph Albino

When I was a student in the early '50's at the Christian Brothers Academy (on the corner of Willow and State Streets in Syracuse, New York) the students began each day by standing and then reciting, along with the Christian Brother assigned to a given class, the "Morning Offering."

That prayer was then followed by the recitation of three decades of the Rosary. Later in the day, after lunch, the students would recite two more decades of the Rosary.

One of the Christian Brothers, a social science teacher (Brother Peter), nicknamed "Little Brother Peter" because he was short of stature and wiry -- would remind the students that after graduating from "CBA Syracuse," as the high school was called, that they should continue to recite the Morning Offering every morning.

"Roll Out on Your Knees"

In fact, more specifically, Brother Peter said that each of us should roll out of bed onto our knees each morning and recite the Morning Offering before engaging in any other activity. In remembrance of his admonition, I have as an adult continued to take his advice.

Perhaps you, too, begin your day each morning with the recitation of the Morning Offering. Indeed, there are reportedly fifty million Catholics worldwide -- reflecting a great deal of prayer power -- who belong to a spiritual organization called the Apostleship of Prayer. As members of the Apostleship of Prayer, these individuals begin their day with the recitation of the Morning Offering.

According to historians, it all began in the mid 1800's at a Jesuit seminary in Vals, France. There, a group of Jesuit seminarians (called Scholastics, from the Greek word for 'learner') were getting itchy to get out of the seminary and begin the spiritual apostleship for which they were receiving training. The Scholastics came to the conclusion that if their studies and other daily activities indeed had spiritual value, each Scholastic could consecrate all of each day to the Sacred Heart of Jesus through the Immaculate Heart of Mary as a daily offering.

The Prayer's Beginning

In 1844, the Scholastics composed a short prayer, brought it to their Spiritual Father, and asked him for his opinion of the prayer which reflected the fact that each day of each person's life could be apostolic. Each Scholastic would be praying for the Church by what he was doing in the here and now. And that was the beginning of the prayer we today call the Morning Offering.

Thus, what developed was an apostolic spirituality of prayer- activity from which is derived the term Apostleship of Prayer or the League of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. Though the idea of the Morning Offering began with a group of Scholastics in studies, the idea soon spread throughout France and then throughout the whole wide world. Much of this increase was due to the writings of Father Henri Ramiere, S. J., who played a significant role as the principal promoter of the association. The first statutes of the Apostleship of Prayer were approved by the local Bishop of Le Puy in 1844. The latest approval was given in April, 1985 by Pope John Paul II, who at that time expressed his "profound appreciation for, and great confidence in the 'Apostleship of Prayer.'"

In 1861, Jesuit Father Ramiere began publication of the "Messenger of the Sacred Heart" to spread devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. This helped to spread the "Morning Offering Prayer." Today, most of the world has a "Messenger of the Sacred Heart." In North America, there's a combined Canadian-United States "Messenger of the Sacred Heart."

Concept of Joy

In the beginning, the "Morning Offering Prayer" included offering up prayers, works and suffering. However, a Catholic nun wrote a letter to Pope Pius XII pointing out that the prayer was more pagan than Christian, excluding the concept of joy. The Pope agreed with the nun that the Morning Offering Prayer should include "our prayers, works, joys and suffering."

When the little word "joys" was added to the Morning Offering prayer, it also helped to combat the error of Jansenism which postulated, among other heresies, that human nature was thoroughly flawed. Therefore, it followed, according to the concept of Jansenism, that any joy or happiness was sinful.

Currently, the Apostleship of Prayer uses the "Daily Offering" more frequently than the term "Morning Offering" with the hope that people will not think that the prayer applies only to morning hours. The prayer can be repeated anytime during the day as a renewal of one's dedication.

Morning Offering Text Today

A suggested "Morning Offering/Daily Offering" prayer reads:

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 apostles of prayer -- in particular, for those recommended by our Holy Father this month.
As regards "the intentions of our Holy Father," which concludes the prayer, there are two Papal intentions for each month. One is a General Intention; the other is a Mission Intention.

At the close of each year, the Father General of the Society of Jesus (Jesuits) presents to the Pope some suggestions for the General Monthly Intentions for the new year. Some the Pope accepts, some he changes.

For example: for the month of March, 1996, the General and Mission Intentions were:

General Intention: Jubilee Year; that by preparing well for the Jubilee Year 2000, Christians emphasize its importance for human history.

Mission Intention: Dialogue; that the Holy Spirit draw non-Christians to dialogue with minds and hearts open to the Gospel.

From the time of the Church Fathers to the present day, the spiritual masters of the Catholic Church have always encouraged devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus as well as to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. So, when we pray the Morning Offering Prayer, we pray "O Jesus, through the Immaculate Heart of Mary," because Mary is the Mediatrix of all graces, and "for all the intentions of your Sacred Heart."

St. Margaret Mary

Increased devotion to the Sacred Heart also resulted from our Lord appearing to St. Margaret Mary Alacoque between 1673 and 1675. During one of His appearances to the saint, Christ deplored the world's indifference, coldness, thanklessness, and asked for a Communion of reparation on the first Friday of each month.

During another vision, Christ asked for a special liturgical feast for His Sacred Heart, including a "Solemn Act of Reparation" for the offenses He has received in the Holy Eucharist. There is now a Feast of the Sacred Heart in the universal Church calendar. It is celebrated on the Friday after the Feast of Corpus Christi.

Our Lord also gave St. Claude La Columbiere, Jesuit, as spiritual director to St. Margaret Mary. To St Claude, Christ said, "I am going to send you my perfect friend." Claude took the ideas expressed through the visions of Margaret Mary and promoted them widely in France and England. Later, the devotions for the nine First Fridays, Holy Hours, Consecration of Family developed.

Papal Approval

The first Papal approval for a Feast of the Sacred Heart was in 1765 by Pope Clement XIII for local celebrations. In 1856, Pius IX extended that feast to the universal Church. In 1899, Leo XIII consecrated the entire world to the Sacred Heart. Devotion to the Sacred Heart, accord to Leo XIII, is the "most excellent of religion." Pius XI maintained that devotion to the Sacred Heart is "the synthesis of our religion and a norm of a most perfect life." For Pius XII, devotion to the Sacred Heart is "the most perfect expression of the Christian religion and of strict obligation for all of the faithful."

In each diocese, the Apostleship of Prayer is under the local bishop who appoints a diocesan director. Not all bishops in the world appoint a diocesan director. There are also regional secretaries and national secretaries for each country. Many of the directorships are assisted by lay councils. It's the responsibility of the national secretary to publish literature for the promotion of the Apostleship of Prayer. In 1994, the Apostleship celebrated its 150th anniversary.

It's a good suggestion to begin each day by offering up all of your day to the Sacred Heart of Jesus through the Immaculate Heart of Mary by offering on your knees the "Morning Offering." And then make it a point to renew that offering as a "Daily Offering," periodically throughout the day.

Remember, the Apostleship of Prayer is for everyone.

Web site of the Apostleship of Prayer

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