Last month I began a series on finding time to pray with the question: are you a rooster or an owl? Today I will continue that series and offer a suggestion to those who want to pray every day, but can't seem to find the strength.
One of the most important parts of every day is also one of the hardest battles to fight. Simply put, it is the alarm clock.
It may seem like a small battle that does not really affect our day and yet, if we fail to discipline our bodies at the very start of each day, how much harder will it be to do something heroic during the rest of the day?
Saint Josemaria Escriva is well known for what he called the “heroic minute.” He wrote:
Many good Christians develop the habit of giving their first thought of the day to God. The “heroic minute” follows: it facilitates the Morning Offering and getting the day off to a good start. The heroic minute. It is the time fixed for getting up. Without hesitation: a supernatural reflection and … up. The heroic minute: here you have a mortification that strengthens your will and does no harm to your body. If, with God’s help, you conquer yourself, you will be well ahead for the rest of the day.
It’s so discouraging to find oneself beaten at the first skirmish (St. Josemaria Escriva, The Way).
How many times do we hit the “snooze” button? It is interesting to think how simple and how hard this first battle is every day!
When a person thinks about mortification, fasting or penance, the imagination typically pictures us wearing some sort of penitential hairshirt and eating only bread and water for 40 days. However, for some of us the “heroic minute” seems much more daunting!
It is the first “skirmish” of the day and is the first time we can combat our sinful desires. With this first victory, we will feel much more able to take on the day and defeat any other enemies that may come. For example, for someone who is struggling with an addiction (like pornography, alcohol, or drugs), the “heroic minute” becomes a vital part of disciplining the will so that it is easier to say no to a sinful habit.
This also helps us with the battle of daily prayer. If we are able to give to God the very first fruits of our day, there is a more likely chance that we will offer to God the remainder of our day.
A common practice for those who follow the teachings of Saint Josemaria Escriva is to practice the “heroic minute” by getting up immediately when the alarm sounds, kneel down, kiss the floor, and say “Serviam!,” which is Latin for “I will serve!”
The reasoning behind this comes from the defiance of Satan who said, “Non Serviam” (I will not serve). These words of Satan do not come from Scripture, but from Milton’s Paradise Lost. Even though the words aren’t biblical, they do reflect the reality of Satan’s decision to not serve God.
By saying “Serviam,” instead of becoming a part of Satan’s legion of rebels, we choose each day to be a part of God’s army and to serve Him with a willing heart. We start the day off on the right foot and are ready to make our Daily Offering, giving God all our works, joys and sufferings of the day.
Challenge: Tomorrow, when you wake-up don’t press the snooze button. Get out of bed and say “I will serve!” After that, you can say your Daily Offering and point your day in the right direction. Then you will have already won your first battle of the day and will be strengthened to persevere in the life of prayer.
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