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It is important to make a good beginning in everything we do. As the Roman poet, Horace, wrote, “What is well begun is half done.”
Horace’s wisdom applies to every new day – i.e., it is important to begin each day well!
How do we begin our day well? Here are four elements which can help us to begin well:
1. Don’t use the snooze alarm;
2. Rise from bed immediately;
3. Begin your day with a Sign of the Cross; and
4. Begin your day with a prayer which includes (and summarizes) all that you need today.
Below, we discuss each of these elements.
1. Let us not use the snooze alarm!
Alarm clocks often have a “snooze alarm” feature. Activating this feature allows a person to get a little extra sleep (often about ten minutes) after his alarm clock goes off, before the alarm will go off a second time.
Using this feature fits with our fallen human nature because, when our alarm clock goes off, our passions and our body do not want to get out of bed. By hitting the “snooze alarm”, we indulge our passions and our body by getting a little extra sleep before the alarm sounds again.
We make the decision to use the snooze alarm while we are under the strong influence of our passions and our body, seeking more sleep. But before going to sleep the evening before, we decided with our reason when we should rise. So, when our will yields to the demands of our passions and our body, while we lie comfortably in bed, we are acting against the decision that our reason made on the prior evening. In this way, using the snooze alarm reinforces our fallen nature’s tendency to change the decision which we had made with our reason, because of the influence of our passions and our body.
Further, dozing for ten minutes after the alarm sounds is probably not as deep and beneficial a sleep as we had before our alarm sounded. If it were truly reasonable for us to sleep the additional ten minutes which we gave ourselves through use of the snooze alarm, we should get deeper sleep by setting our alarm ten minutes later and then not using the snooze alarm.
2. We should rise from bed immediately!
Even if we do not use the snooze alarm and do not go back to sleep, our passions and our body are inclined to lie in bed a little longer, before we rise. Let us not listen to our passions and lounge in bed when it is time to rise! Our reason told us that we should rise at a certain time. Let us not listen to our passions (against our reason) by even a short delay getting out of bed at that time!
Getting up immediately strengthens our will by following reason and not compromising with our passions and our body’s desire to stay comfortable in bed, although it is time to rise. Whether we are following our reason or following our passions, either way we are shaping our character – for good or for ill.
“Leaping” out of bed immediately, although we are tired, is an excellent agere contra, (as St. Ignatius of Loyola calls the practice of acting against our lower nature). In other words, by acting against our passions and our bodily demands, we strengthen our will and help to tame our unruly lower nature.
Rising immediately is an excellent practice for most people. However, it is obvious that this practice is not suitable for invalids or others who a doctor has instructed to rise slowly. Virtue requires following our reason! The persons who have such health problems have special Crosses which better fit their own shoulders. God has sent these Crosses and it pleases God for these people to carry their particular Crosses instead.
3. We should begin our day with a Sign of the Cross.
After shutting off our alarm, our next bodily motion should be to make a Sign of the Cross. We should serve God with our whole being, both body and soul. This Sign of the Cross gets our body, as well as our soul, praising and serving God.
We customarily begin our prayers with a Sign of the Cross. Our whole day should be a “prayer” to God and so our day fittingly begins with a Sign of the Cross.
The Sign of the Cross is a sacramental. It is an act of the theological virtue of Faith and an act of the moral virtue of religion. The Sign of the Cross is the special sign of a Catholic. We should glory in this sign!
Here is how St. John Chrysostom, Doctor of the Church, praises the Sign of the Cross:
Let us carry about the cross of Christ as a crown, and let no one blush at the ensign of salvation. By this is everything done: the cross is employed if a person is regenerated, or fed with the mystical food, or ordained: whatever else is to be done, this ensign of victory is ever present: therefore we have it in our houses, paint it on our walls and windows, make it on our foreheads, and always carry it devoutly in our hearts. We must not content ourselves with forming it with our finger, but must do it with great sentiments of Faith and devotion. If you thus form it on your face, no unclean spirit will be able to stand against you when he beholds the instrument which has given him the mortal stab.
If we tremble at the sight of the place where criminals are executed, think what the devils must suffer when they see that weapon by which Christ stripped them of their power, and cut off the head of their leader. Be not ashamed of so great a good which has been bestowed on you, lest Christ should be ashamed of you when He shall appear in glory, and this standard be borne before Him brighter than the rays of the sun: for then the cross shall appear, speaking as it were with a loud voice.
This sign, both in the time of our forefathers and in our own, has opened gates, deadened malignant poisons, and healed wounds made by the sting or bite of venomous creatures. It has broken down the gates of hell, unbolted those of paradise, opened its glory to us, destroyed the empire and weakened the power of the devil, what wonder if it overcomes poisons and beasts?
4. Let us begin our day with a prayer which includes (and summarizes) all which we need today.
As we move around our bedroom, (dressing, heading for the shower, or whatever), we should thank God and ask for what we need. Offer a prayer such as in this one:
Thank you, Dear Lord, for taking me safely and soundly through this night. Give me to know, love and serve Thee this day and during all my life, so I can be with Thee in the next.
Using a method such as this, we have made a good start to our day. We have followed reason, denied our passions, risen immediately, and have started using our body, our intellect, and our will in God’s service.
Of course, we must continue serving God, doing our duty of state, reciting our morning prayers, praying our morning rosary, making acts of Spiritual Communion, keeping in the presence of God, etc., doing the best we can.
However, as the Roman poet, Horace, assures us, having begun well, the “battles” of our day are already “half” won.
 Agere contra is Latin for “to act against”. St. Ignatius of Loyola praises the practice of people “acting against their own sensuality and against their carnal and worldly love” by acting in a way which is contrary to what our lower nature wants. Quoted from The Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius, in the section called: The Call of Christ the King, part 2, (emphasis added).
 Quoted from St. John Chrysostom, Sermon #54 on St. Matthew’s Gospel, (emphasis added).