Starting off on the right foot can set the stage and tone for a fruitful and successful day. The Cure of Ars stated that if we start our day off well, then there is a good chance that we will end it well. The saintly priest-confessor was referring to prayer. In other words, if upon waking, we can direct our first thoughts, words and sentiments to God, we are on the right path. We are putting God in the right place—the first place that He indeed merits!
Then during the course of our day, we should spice and condiment and season our daily spiritual menu with frequent and fervent prayers. A saint calls these short and fervent prayers fiery darts that penetrate the heavens!
Thinking about God frequently, talking to God frequently, having recourse to God often, thanking God often—this is the golden-key to opening up the treasure-gates of holiness. In the Catechism of the Catholic Church on prayer, Saint John Damascene offers us a short, pithy, but substantial definition of prayer: “Prayer is the lifting of the mind and heart to God.” Another superb definition of prayer is the following: “Prayer is listening to God, talking to God and loving God.”
Therefore, let us present some key moments in the course of the day when we can turn to God, lift up our minds to God, raise our hearts and souls to God and unite our wills to the Will of Our Lord, God, Savior and Friend. By the way, it must be expressed clearly that God, as our loving Father, is always ready and willing for us to enter into intimate dialogue and conversation with Him. How ironic this truth: God is never too busy for us; however, we are all too often, too busy for God.
1. MORNING OFFERING. As mentioned above, as soon as we hear the alarm clock, we should immediately lift our mind and heart to God and pray our morning offering. A classical way is to offer all we have, all we are, and all that we do to the Sacred Heart of Jesus through the Immaculate Heart of Mary. If we place our intentions in the Immaculate Heart of Mary, she will bless us and all we do with abundant blessings.
2. KISS YOUR SCAPULAR. All of us, as a sign of our consecration to Mary, should wear constantly the Brown Scapular of Our Lady of Mount Carmel. This is Mary’s garment, the garment of grace and our exterior sign of consecration to Mary. Soldiers wear their uniforms; athletes their uniforms, Doctors and nurses their medical attire. However, as sons and daughters of God, and sons and daughters of Mary, we are proud to wear our Brown Scapular. It is our identity card, as well as our shield and protection against the fiery arrows of the enemy.
3. PRAY THE ANGELUS/REGINA COELI AT THREE SET TIMES: 9 am, 12 noon, and 6 pm. This prayer is so pleasing to Jesus and Mary and it can be prayed in 2-3 minutes. These three key moments in our day serve to sanctify the morning hours, the afternoon hours, and finally the night. The Angelus reminds us of the two principle events in the History of salvation: 1) the Incarnation of the Son of God made man through the Yes of Mary; 2) the Paschal Mystery of our Redemption: The Passion, death and Resurrection of Jesus. Mary stood at the foot of the cross in that key moment of our Redemption.
4. THE MERCY HOUR 3:00 P.M. Every day when the clock strikes 3:00 p.m. we call to mind that key hour, that key moment when Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, after shedding His Precious Blood on the cross for our salvation, breathed forth His spirit into the arms of His loving Father. In this MERCY HOUR (if at all possible) pray the Chaplet of Divine Mercy. It will not take more than a few minutes. This prayer is very pleasing to the Merciful Heart of Jesus and a powerful prayer to attain the conversion of sinners and most especially death-bed sinners. If it is not possible to pray the Chaplet, at least for a few seconds lift your mind and heart to the agonizing and dying Jesus on the cross and beg for the conversion and salvation of poor sinners.
5. MEAL-TIME PRAYER. Ven. Father Patrick Peyton stated: “The family that prays together, stays together.” We might even add to these words of wisdom: “The family that prays and eats together, stays together.” Meal-time for the family should be a most important social and binding time every day. Many have abandoned this indispensable family custom and habit. Meal time is the prime-time for bonding with the family. Conversing, sharing about our day, joking and laughing, smiling and bantering—all can and should be done at the meal time. However, meal-time should always be initiated by inviting Jesus to sit down at the table with the family. This is done by starting off with the prayer of the blessing of the meal. Let us strive to save our families by fervent and frequent prayer, but also by loving and sharing, especially at the Meal-time!
6. START OF EVERY HOUR—A SHORT ASPIRATION. It is not always possible, but it might be worth the effort to commence every new Hour that God gives you by praying a short prayer, a short aspiration. Indeed the prayers can be short—brief fiery darts that pierce the Heavens! Some examples of short aspirations might be the following:
Jesus, I love you; save souls.
Sweet Heart of Mary, be my salvation.
God, I love you; shower me with your love.
Immaculate Heart of Mary, pray for me.
Jesus meek and humble of Heart, make my heart like unto yours.
Jesus, I trust in you.
Jesus, Mary, and Joseph, I give you my heart and my soul.
The Hail Mary….
By cultivating this practice, we will be fanning the flame of God’s love in our hearts, a fire that can easily be extinguished by the world, the devil, and our own disordered passions!
7. THE EXAMEN PRAYER. Saint Ignatius of Loyola insists as indispensable the importance of being faithful to the Daily Examen, which can be done at any time during the course of the day. This can be done in 15-20 minutes. How is it done?
1) THANKSGIVING… Start by thanking God for the gifts that He has bestowed upon you this past day (the past 24 hours);
2) PETITION… Beg the Holy Spirit to enlighten you to see the past day through the eyes/the lens of God, to see what happened with great clarity and objectivity;
3) REVIEW… Review the past day. Go through the day, hour by hour, or event after event, and recognize God’s loving Presence in your life, sometimes called Divine Providence; also look for what was not of God.
4) CONTRITION… Humbly admit your short-comings and failures, keenly aware of God’s loving kindness and mercy;
5) PRAYERFUL RESOLUTION… With the self-knowledge of your weakness and fragility, but also of God’s abundant grace and mercy, propose for the following day how to avoid falling into the same human weaknesses and errors.
Saint Ignatius of Loyola insists on doing this Spiritual Exercise with a determined determination as an indispensable practice to attain true holiness of life. Find the time to be faithful to this practice!
8. HOLY HOUR. Even though for many, the practice of the HOLY HOUR might be considered too long and too demanding, it has been proven to be a very powerful tool to advance on the Highway to holiness. The Venerable Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen, despite his busyness of life (preaching, writing, T.V and radio celebrity, and Head of the Missionary as activity of the entire Church) always found time for his daily Holy Hour. He insisted that all priests find time for a daily Holy Hour. He coined the immortal proverb, words of true wisdom: THE HOLY HOUR: THE HOUR OF POWER!!! If you want God’s power in your life, of the 24 Hours in your day, give the Lord an Hour and you will quickly see the difference!
9. NIGHT PRAYERS. Not only is it good to start off our day by giving ourselves to God, but also, it is good to end our day by surrendering ourselves to God’s loving and Providential care. It is a good spiritual-sandwich! What prayers? Highly to be recommended would be the following: Prayer to your Guardian Angel, the Our Father, and the practice of the three Hail Marys for purity of mind, soul and body. We may go on vacation, but the devil never takes a break. Especially not when we are in bed in our resting hours at night. Sometimes, in those hours the devil works overtime. Prayer can be our shield against the deadly arrows of the night devil—who will sometimes shoot his arrows in those dark hours of the night!
10. THE MOST HOLY ROSARY. How true the words of wisdom of Ven. Father Patrick Peyton: “The family that prays together, stays together.” In his Apostolic Letter, “The Blessed Virgin Mary and the Rosary”, Saint Pope John Paul II warmly encouraged and exhorted the whole world to pray the most Holy Rosary. Saint Padre Pio called the Rosary “his weapon!” The saintly Pontiff John Paul II mentioned two key intentions in the family Rosary: 1) world peace; 2) the salvation of the family. Given that the family is the basic building block of society and the Domestic Church, Saint Pope John Paul II firmly believed, like Ven. Father Patrick Peyton, that a key practice to save the family and the world at large is through the daily practice of the most Holy Rosary. Therefore, all families should find some time, place, and method to pray the Rosary together on a daily basis. This should be a firmly rooted habit that is never neglected. Our Lady of Fatima appeared six times to the three shepherd children—Saint Jacinta, Saint Francisco, and Lucia. In every one of the six Apparitions Our Lady insisted upon the daily recitation of the most Holy Rosary!
In conclusion, friends in Jesus, Mary, and Saint Joseph, food must be condimented, if not the taste is too bland and boring. Of greater importance in our spiritual lives, we must condiment our daily life with frequent and fervent prayers as suggested above, all fiery darts that penetrate the Heavens. We hope and pray that by implementing these spiritual practices your lives will be more sparkling, effervescent, and dynamic, as well as pleasing to God, the Father of all Heavenly Gifts!