On any given day of the week, in Jacksonville, Florida, the Shields family — Dad, Mom and eight children — start their day by dedicating their minutes and hours to God with a prayer known as the Morning Offering. In St. Louis, Missouri, and Brookfield, Wisconsin, Phillip and Anne Shinn and Grace Urbanski, respectively, do the same.
While there are different variations and versions, the basic Morning Offering brings these ideas together in a direct, memorable way:
O Jesus, through the Immaculate Heart of Mary, I offer you my prayers, works, joys and sufferings of this day for all the intentions of your Sacred Heart, in union with the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass throughout the world, for the salvation of souls, the reparation of sins, the reunion of all Christians, and in particular for the intentions of the Holy Father this month. Amen.
“It’s a great way to start our day before we get too busy, too distracted — to offer every waking moment to the Lord,” said Jesuit Father William Blazek, the regional head of the Pope’s Worldwide Prayer Network-Apostleship of Prayer (PopesPrayerUSA.net), based in the United States in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. “People say the character of their day is very much changed if the first thing they do is make the Morning Offering. It’s a wonderful way to unite ourselves to Jesus, the Sacred Heart and to the Immaculate Heart of Mary.”
Anne Shinn vividly recalls learning to offer the whole day to the Lord from her parents, John and Norrine McNamara. “The Morning Offering was on the bathroom mirror in my parents’ bedroom,” she recalled.
Urbanski said, “The prayer keeps me in relationship with the Lord all day long in a way much more intentional than before I learned the Morning Offering.”
“When we offer the suffering of the day, we can enter more deeply in the Eucharist as people and individuals,” Father Blazek explained. Because suffering is part and parcel of the human experience, “we have this opportunity to offer our suffering — not just experience it, but to put it at the service of the Lord.”
Putting It into Practice
“Maybe the Lord will reveal what a beautiful way [this prayer is] to send your kids off to school, and for a married couple taking leave of each other and heading to the workplace,” Father Blazek said.
The Shields family always prays it together, even when on the move. “I might leave before everyone in the morning, but they know I’m going to call for everyone to take a moment and consecrate our day,” said dad Brian.
He explained how during the day he keeps harkening back to that prayer. Mom Christi finds that as a couple and a family, saying the offering together each day “has definitely kept us close and taught the older children to have their own personal prayer life; and it is teaching the younger ones that God comes first in our family, before work, school and fun.”
Christi is “confident that it gives us the grace to love one another throughout the day or to see when we have not done our best and the need to seek forgiveness. It reminds us to help each other in the fight to become saints and get to heaven.”
For her personally, offering her day to Jesus and Mary each morning allows for gratitude, “to be thankful to God for a new day and to give my day to them in hopes that they can work in me and through me.”
The Shields children have learned how essential the Morning Offering is. For 18-year-old Christopher, who is discerning the priesthood, the prayer reminds him of what is most important. “If I can only pray one prayer in the morning due to busyness, it is that, along with the Angelus, because it surrenders my day to the Lord and Our Lady; and with them at my side, I am ready for whatever I have to face that day.”
For 16-year-old Rosi, an aspirant with the Home of the Mother Religious Order, praying the Morning Offering is saying, “Good morning, Jesus; good morning, Mama Mary, I love you. I want to live my day with you! In obedience to what you ask of me, with patience and a smile and always for love of you, I will go throughout my day.”
Every Tiny Thing Counts
Urbanski, former director of children’s ministry for the Apostleship of Prayer and author of Pray With Me: Seven Simple Ways to Pray With Your Children, has encouraged people to understand the Morning Offering is transformative for believers. Urbanski recounts how the disciples tell Jesus the people need something to eat, and he asks what they have. They come up with a youngster’s few loaves and fish.
“They have this completely inadequate offering, yet it’s enough for Jesus,” Urbanski explained. “Jesus wants any little offering we can bring him. The point is the graciousness of Jesus. He will accept whatever we offer, and he blesses it, and he breaks it, and he sends his grace to the people who need it.”
The most mundane things — washing dishes, changing diapers, sweeping floors, doing schoolwork, emptying the garbage, calming a fear, the list is endless — when offered up, have heavenly value. “We tend to undervalue the joys and sufferings,” Urbanski said.
As Cristi Shields realizes, “The offering opens me up to the grace to appreciate my joys each day and to the grace I need to handle my sufferings throughout the day and to be able to be thankful for them. It reminds me to offer up my suffering for those I love, our religious and people throughout the world. It is a wonderful way to start my day and reminds me who’s most important.”
History and Renewal
This year marks the 175th anniversary of the Apostleship of Prayer, which originated in France. On Dec. 3, 1844, Jesuit Father Francis Xavier Gautrelet composed the Morning Offering for his seminarians and founded the apostleship the same year. Recently, this pontifical work, entrusted to the Jesuits for the universal Church from its foundation, went through a renewal, but the mission stays the same: praying for the Pope.
In 1890, Pope Leo XIII was the first to entrust his intentions to the apostleship. Since then, the Holy Fathers have entrusted their monthly prayer intentions to this apostolate. St. Thérèse of Lisieux was a member of this perpetual prayer league.
“We have her enrollment paper in the League [of the Sacred Heart], which grew into the Apostleship of Prayer,” Father Blazek observed.
“In her autobiography she explicitly mentions praying for the intentions of the Holy Father. She is our patroness.” The 35 million people who have registered internationally as members of this apostleship follow in the Little Flower’s prayerful footsteps.
Whether promoting prayers for the pontiff or the Morning Offering, the apostleship and devotees know what St. John Paul II knew.
He said praying the Morning Offering is “of fundamental importance in the life of each and every one of the faithful. It is a daily reminder to make our entire day, our whole life, ‘a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God.’”
Joseph Pronechen is a
Register staff writer.