In “El Camino,” St. Josemaria Escriva writes:
206: The heroic minute. It is the time fixed for getting up. Without hesitation, a supernatural reflection and– up!
In his booklet “Seven Daily Habits for Faithful Catholics,”* Fr. John McCloskly also writes:
“The first habit is the morning offering. This is when you offer the day ahead for God’s glory using youro wn words or a memorized prayer. But what has to happen before your offering is crucial. As St. Josemaria Escriva put it: ‘Conquer yourself each day from the very first moment, getting up on the dot, at a set time, without granting a single minute of laziness. If with the help of God you conquer yourself in that moment, you have accomplished a great deal for the rest of the day. It’s so discouraging to find yourself beaten in the first skirmish.’ In my pastoral experience, those who get a full night’s rest and conquer the ‘heroic minute’ in the morning…will have both the physical and spiritual wherewithal throughout the day to incorporate the seven habits into their daily routine.”
Even as I copy this text, I can feel my body going into contortions and my brain is screaming: “nooooooooooooooo!”
You see, I am not a morning person.
I know a morning person.
My husband is a morning person.
I read about someone bolting out of bed and conquering the day from the first moment and immediately my husband comes to mind. He says he simply got himself into the habit of getting up with his alarm in high school and now his body just “does it.”
I do not comprehend this.
I, too, woke up with my alarm in high school and even in college– I’ve responded with superhuman speed when my children cry for me in the night, but if I have the option of staying in bed for five more minutes, then by golly, I’m going to take it.
I have since come to accept that this is not (merely?) a moral failing on my part– it is part of my biology. I have two daughters: one of them is a morning person and one is clearly not. They are both toddlers and even now this is very evident in their characters. My younger girl will wake up singing, laughing and wanting to play. My older daughter wakes up and drags her Beddy Bear along the floor to the couch, where she promptly flops herself down and won’t speak to anyone for five minutes. We went through a period of time when the first thing she would
say whimper after her nap was: “OH NOOOOOOOOOOO!”
Anecdotal evidence suggests that personality has a huge part to play in all of this. And quite personally, I don’t see it as a discouragement at all if I “fail” to get up as soon as the alarm goes off. When this happens, I perceive it as a huge gift from God and my husband, who is inevitably already up with at least one of the girls by the time I roll out of bed.
No matter how much I aspire to be better about getting up quickly in the morning, this is obviously a huge hurdle that will not come easily to me. Some very holy people may perceive it as the first/primary exercise of virtue (virtue= good habit), but I perceive that in my life, some other things may have to come first.
So I have been thinking about different times of day when I encounter opportunities for heroic minutes.
Note the plural.
Every moment has the potential to be “heroic” when it comes to our struggles against evil, sin and omission. If I chose to say morning prayer before getting my cup of coffee– that would be heroic. I haven’t gotten that one yet.
But if I choose to say the rosary or even do the dishes before I check Facebook or a blog– that can be heroic.
And turning away from distractions so that I can play with my children when they desire my attention– that is a form of heroism, too.
All of these things have their circumstantial exceptions and limitations, but the most important part in all of this is that no matter what you find yourself faced with each day– whatever your personal challenges and battles, no matter how big or how small– we must not be discouraged. With God’s great grace and help, we must fight to become heroes, masters of our selves, so that we are capable of offering that self back to God.
Thank the Lord we are not alone in such a great task.
Where do you find your heroic moments?
Where do you find your inspiration and help in difficult tasks?
*Should you be interested, the Seven Habits are: morning offering, 15 mins silent prayer, receiving communion, 15 mins spiritual reading, praying the Angelus, praying the Rosary, examination of conscience