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Rising and Going to Bed

In the past parents followed a schedule and established one for their children in the home. An important part of it was the habit of a regular time to rise and to go for bed. With the modern day casual customs and spontaneous spirit that governs everything, the strict schedule has been abandoned in most Catholic homes, sad to say, not only for youth but also for adults.

Here St. John Baptist de La Salle stresses for the youth of his time the importance of regular time for rising and sleeping, as well as the proper decorum and modesty that should be followed for children of God consecrated to the service of Our Lord and Our Lady.

St. John-Baptiste de la Salle

Although civility has nothing to say about the hour when you ought to retire or the time when you ought to get up, it is a matter of decorum to rise early in the morning. Besides the fact that it is a defect to sleep too long, it is, says St. Ambrose, a shameful and intolerable thing for the sun at its rising to find you still in bed (Serm. 19. sur le Psau. 118 [Expositio in Psalmum, 118]).

It is likewise to change and to reverse the order of nature for you to make day into night and night into day, as some people do. The devil induces you to act in this way, for he knows that darkness provides occasions for sin. He is pleased if you live most of your life during the night.

Instead, follow St. Paul’s advice. Lay aside, he says, the works of darkness; walk, that is, act with decorum, as we must during the day. Make use of the weapons of light; devote the night to sleep, and use the day to do all your work. ... It is, therefore, entirely contrary to decorum, as St. Paul observes, to go to bed when morning is breaking, as some people do, and to get up around noon.

It is quite proper, both for your health and for the good of your soul, to go to bed not later than ten o’clock and to get up no later than six in the morning. Say to yourself the words of St. Paul, and repeat them to those whom laziness keeps in bed: The time has come for us to rise from our sleep; the night is past, and the day has dawned. Thus you may then address God in the words of the Royal Prophet: O God, my God, I watch for you from the break of day (Ps 62 [63]).

It is not like a person of good judgment to have to be called repeatedly to get up or to hesitate long in doing so. Hence, as soon as you are awake, you must rise promptly.

It is very unbecoming and shows little refinement to amuse yourself by chatting, bantering, or playing on your bed. Your bed is made only to rest your body after the work and preoccupations of the day, and it ought to be used for resting only. Hence you must not remain in bed once you no longer need to rest.

It is, moreover, not proper for you, as a Christian, to indulge in this kind of amusement and playfulness that could easily drive out the good thoughts you might have had in mind. Hence, as soon as you are awake, you must get up promptly and with so much circumspection that no part of your body appears uncovered, even if you are alone in the room.

The love we must have for purity, as well as due regard for propriety, ought to induce those who are not married not to allow anyone of the opposite sex to enter the room where they sleep until they are entirely dressed and the bed has been made. ...

When getting out of bed, do not leave it in disarray or put your nightcap on a chair or some other piece of furniture where it can be seen. Decorum requires that you make your bed before leaving the room, or if the bed is to be made by others, that you at least cover it properly in such a way that it appears to be made. It is most unbecoming to leave a bed unmade and in disarray. ...

Have a regular time for going to bed, just as you ought to have for rising. It is no less important to perform well this last action of the day than to perform well the first. It is in conformity with decorum to retire a little late, ordinarily about two hours after supper.

Children must not go to bed before going to greet their father and mother and wishing them a good night. This is a duty and an act of respect that nature requires them to perform.

Just as you must get up with much modesty and, in doing so, give an indication of your piety, so you must also go to bed in a Catholic manner, doing this with all possible propriety, only after having prayed to God.

To act like this, you must neither undress nor go to bed when anyone else is present. Unless you are married, you must, above all, never go to bed in the presence of anyone of the other sex, for this is entirely contrary to decency and refinement. ...

Decorum also suggests that when going to bed, you keep your eyes away from your body and avoid glancing at it. This is something that parents must strive to teach their children to help them preserve the treasure of purity that they must hold very dear and at the same time conserve the great honor of being members of Jesus Christ and consecrated to his service.

As soon as you are in bed, cover your whole body except your face, which must always remain uncovered. You must not, just to be more comfortable, assume an unbecoming posture or let the pretext of sleeping better become more important than decorum. It is not appropriate to draw up your legs; you ought to stretch them out. It is proper to sleep now on one side and now on the other, for it is not seemly to sleep lying on your stomach. ...

When in bed, it is not refined to talk, for beds are made only to sleep in. As soon as you are in bed, you must be ready to go to sleep promptly. Try not to make any noise or to snore when sleeping. You must not twist yourself around from side to side frequently, as though you were disturbed about something and did not know on which side to put yourself.

The Rules of Christian Decorum and Civility,
LaSallian Publications, reprinted 2007, pp 43-45

Posted February -- 2020


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