By Fr. F. Lasance
There is a freshness about the early morning which belongs to no other period of the day. The sun has a more kindly brightness and the air a fresh crispness which are lost largely as the day grows older. Upon awakening we throw open the window wide and let in the buoyant atmosphere of the new-born day. It fills our lungs and brightens our eye and makes us feel how good it is to live.
What the newborn day is to our physical nature, the morning prayer is to the life of the soul. It is opening the windows of the heart that the clear air of heaven may flow in. It reinvigorates the life within us and turns our thoughts toward the One we love the most. It is a source of renewed strength, and gives a buoyancy to the spiritual step and a clearness to the inner vision. It floods the heart with the breath of life and bathes it in the sunshine of God’s smile.
To begin the day without imploring God’s grace and thanking Him for benefits received, is certainly wrong and exposes us to great danger. St. Francis Xavier says: “When you wake in the morning, raise your thoughts at once to heaven, and while you are putting on your clothes and washing your hands and face, call to mind the faults into which you fell the day before, and ask your Lord grace to avoid them this day.”
The faithful Christian, before giving himself up to the occupations of the day, will meditate a certain space of time on the commandments of God and the example of Christ.
“I will meditate upon Thee in the morning.” (Ps. lxii.7)
“The wise man will give his heart to resort early to the Lord that made him, and he will pray in the sight of the Most High.” (Ecclus. xxxix.6)
“With desolation is all the land made desolate because there is none that considereth in the heart.” (Jer. xii)
“O how I have loved Thy law, O Lord! It is my meditation all the day.” (Ps. cxviii.97)
By Fr. F. Lasance
If it be a duty of the gravest importance to begin the day well, it is one of no less consequence to conclude it properly. The graces conferred on us during the course of the day, and the protection we stand in need of against the dangers of the night, are urgent reasons why we should address ourselves to God, and pray to Him with the utmost gratitude and fervor.
A daily examination of conscience in general, with regard to our whole conduct throughout the day, and in particular with regard to our predominant vice (i. e., besetting sin), passion, or evil custom; and the virtue we want most to acquire, is strongly recommended by all spiritual writers as one of the most important duties of Christian life, and the most profitable exercise we can apply ourselves to, for avoiding sin and acquiring virtue. It is a looking glass in which we see ourselves in our true colors, and come to the knowledge of our sins and evil inclinations. It is a sponge by which we wipe away guilt from our souls, and become the more pure before God the more diligently we practice it. If we do not daily weed the garden of our souls by this holy exercise, the corrupt ground of the heart will naturally produce vices and imperfections in abundance.
The examination of conscience and act of contrition form the most important part of your evening exercise.
The many signal blessings which God has bestowed, and does bestow, on those families where prayers are regularly said in common, should be a sufficient inducement to establish this practice everywhere; and chiefly at night, when all may be assembled with greater convenience. “Where two or three persons shall be assembled in my name, there”, saith Christ, “shall I be in the midst of them.”
St. Francis Xavier says: “At night, before you go to sleep, you must examine your conscience, inquiring into your thoughts, words, and deeds of the whole day, and also whether you have left out anything of what you ought to have done.”
Sleep is the likeness of death. Meditate on death and eternity. Retire not without being prepared for death.
Compose yourself to rest in such a way that sleep may steal upon you with your thoughts fixed on divine things, and the mind preparing itself to spend the next day in greater holiness. Always keep in mind that saying of our heavenly Master: “What shall it profit a man if he gain the whole world, and suffer the loss of his soul?”