Thursday, June 30, 2011

Youth&Stupidity; Patient endurance

Daytime Prayer has a character that is different from the two principle hours of Morning and Evening Prayer.  We tend to overlook it because (if you're like me) it is easy to rush through daytime prayer--it's short, after all, and has fewer of those grand psalms of praise, thanksgiving, repentance, or woe+trust. It's more routine, a brief pause from the working day, and if we even bother to say it at all, we all too often don't take much time to reflect on it. We just get back to work after it's done.

At least, that's how it is for me. Maybe the rest of you are different.

But Daytime Prayer is exactly what we need to dwell on, because it's special character seems to be about the practical life. About virtue. About valuing God's law. About putting one foot in front of the other in order to make it to evening, and in the process sanctify our work, even if it is nothing to to set down in the annals of Great and Holy Deeds.

In today's Daytime Prayer, one of the psalm prayers asks God not to remember the sins of our youth and stupidity, but remember us with your love.   We could use that prayer either to repent again of some truly stupid things done years ago, OR we could consider ourselves, from the view of eternity, to still be in that careless and ignorant phase of our existence. In either case, I think of how I  view the absurd things my kids have done over the years--with indulgence and forgiveness, hoping they'll get it right eventually. May the Lord be thus with me.

The concluding prayer for midafternoon reminds us of the perfect antidote to youthfully stupid response to life's ups and downs. A perfect workaday prayer.

help us to follow the example
of your Son’s patience and endurance.
May we face all life’s difficulties
with confidence and faith.
Grant this through Christ our Lord.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Pope Benedict on the Psalms

Pope Benedict has been following his predecessor's custom of making Wednesday audience addresses into series of catecheses on various topics. For some time now the them has been prayer, and in recent weeks has been delving into biblical models of prayer. This past week he talked about the book of Psalms. Just the thing to encourage anyone who prays the Divine Office:

These inspired songs teach us how to speak to God, expressing ourselves and the whole range of our human experience with words that God himself has given us. Despite the diversity of their literary forms, the Psalms are generally marked by the two interconnected dimensions of humble petition and of praise addressed to a loving God who understands our human frailty. In Hebrew, the Psalms are called Tehellim or songs of praise; the prayer of praise is, in fact, our best response to the God who even at times of trial remains ever at our side. Many of the Psalms are attributed to David, the great King of Israel who, as the Lord’s Anointed, prefigured the Messiah. In Jesus Christ and in his paschal mystery the Psalms find their deepest meaning and prophetic fulfilment. Christ himself prayed in their words. As we take up these inspired songs of praise, let us ask the Lord to teach us to pray, with him and in him, to our heavenly Father.

Official prayers for Benedict's 60th

I only learned this today through using for Morning prayer. There is an extra petition and a special concluding prayer in honor of our Holy Father's 60th anniversary of his priesthood. Just scroll past the regular petition in morning and evening prayer to find the papal petition, and scroll past the Our Father and concluding prayer for Sts. Peter andPaul to find the concluding prayer for the Pope. ibreviary also gives additional petitions and prayers for the Pope at the end of morning and evening prayer which may be used at "any suitable time"  Perhaps with the family rosary, or with grace before dinner tonight:

Let us pray for Pope Benedict: May the Lord preserve him, give him life, make him blessed upon earth; and not deliver him up to the will of his enemies.
Let us Pray
Father of providence,look with love on Benedict our Pope, your appointed successor to St. Peter on whom you built your Church.  May he be the visible center and foundation of our unity in faith and love. Grant this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns wit you and the Holy Spirit one God forever and ever. Amen

Monday, June 27, 2011

Nothing Ordinary about Ordinary Time

A few weeks back I said how sorry I always was to see the Easter season come to an end. It's nice that the Church lets us down gently be giving us some glorious solemnities--Most Holy Trinity, Nativity of St. John the Baptist, Corpus Christi, and (this Wednesday) St. Peter and  Paul.

Years ago, when I used a one-volume breviary, (and had no yearly guide pamphlet from the publisher) I found it difficult to figure out where I belonged in the psalter the first few weeks after Pentecost. It was always Sunday week I for the Office of Trinity Sunday and Corpus Christi, but then what happened on Monday? Since these are movable feasts linked to the Easter season, my breviary had no specific instruction about where to pick up in the psalter for those ordinary weekdays.

Then my husband rescued me with this formula. Just look at that parish calendar hanging in the kitchen, and see what week in odinary time we are in. If the number is a multiple of four (4, 8, 12, etc.,) then you want week IV in the psalter. If it's 4+1, (5,9,13...) you are in week I of the psalter. 4+2 = week II. And4+3 = week III.  Some people use subtraction instead, so that a multiple of 4 minus 1 puts you in week III, and so forth.

If you just master this formula, you can function without the yearly guide to the liturgy. The weeks of advent, lent, and Easter also follow this formula for determing where you are in the psalter and proper of seasons.

Today is Monday of the 13th week in ordinary time. 13 is one more than 12, so we are in week I of the psalter. Plus a final prayer from St. Cyril in the proper of saints.

Even in ordinary time, the Divine Office is far from ordinary. This morning the Office of Readings, which I read off my Kindle while still lying in bed, brought me suddenly wide awake with the gruesome account of the death of Saul.  This was followed by a gentler piece of apologetics from St. Cyril of Alexandria defending Mary's title of "Mother of God".  His main source of authority is "our father Athanasius, of glorious memory". This gave me a chuckle at my ignorance. I tend to imagine the Fathers bunched together at more or less the same time in history. This reminds me that the era of the Fathers spanned several centuries, so of course some of them were Fathers to the Fathers.

Daytime prayer for midafternoon (my preferred time to get around to it) will remind us that our life is a sojourn in a strange land. (1 Peter 1: 17b) Nothing ordinary about being a lifelong exile, although we tend to forget that this is our state. Chesterton said something about us being exiled kings who have forgotten who we are, and grace is when we remember that we have forgotten. Or something like that--I'm going on a very faulty memory here! 

Evening prayer on this ordinary day reminds us that God chose us in his Son to be His adopted children, and that by the might of His glory we will be endowed with the strength needed to stand fast, even to endure joufully whatever may come. Nothing ordinary about that either.

The liturgy, even on our most routine days, reminds us that life is never ordinary, and that, as C.S. Lewis said, there are no "mere mortals."  The everyday, the dull, the normal, the average in our lives is a path to  an extra-ordinary destiny.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Liturgy served fresh 5 times daily! (with a side of Italian language drill)

Oh Marvellous Me!  I am so darn hip and technological (for a woman of a certain age) that I've managed to copy and paste code for the iBreviary widget right on to this blog--over there to the left and down a bit. Can't tell you what this has done for my confidence and self-esteem, blogwise. (All young techies reading this may now laugh at me for up to ten seconds)

Now any liturgical prayer seeker  who stumbles across this blog will have the ability to try it out right here. As always, I encourage such ambitious and ardent Christians to ask me any questions should they be at all confused.

The rest of you, who more or less know what you are doing, might also want to pray one of your hours in conjunction with your visit here. Feel free to send me  your comments on the prayer of the day--should you feel inspired to do so--either as a comment on anh post, or else directly to me at  I'm getting to the point where some guest posts might be useful. Being a bear of very little brain, my insights are limited. I know some of you are much more devout than I am, belong to third orders, etc., and probably have lots of wonderful thougths to share.

And there's more!  Practice your Italian each day by scrolling down to the end of the menu widget and checking out the saints of the week. iBreviary is based in Italy, although it's available in English, Spanish, French and Latin.  For some reason they do not translate the saint's names or the biographies that appear when you click on each saint's name. But this is a good thing if you would like to practice Italian.

The only problem with ibreviary--although I'm working on it--is that it seems to be on Italian time (5 hours ahead of us), so if you try to use this for Compline, you're going to find yourself in tomorrowland. Unless you normally say Compline before 7PM.

I don't want to be a miser with the iBreviary widget. If you want to put it on your own blog, just go   here for instructions. Or click on the bottom of the widget. Where it says, "get widget."

Sunday, June 12, 2011

St. Iraneus, the Holy Sprit and the old SAT

In today's Office of Readings there's a passage from St. Iraneus' treatise against heresy that is naturally, all about the Holy Spirit. If you haven't already seen it, check it out here,clicking office of Readings tab. My favorite part of this teaching is where he references--without naming it--the parable of the Good Samaritan:

And so the Lord in his pity for man who had fallen into the hands of brigands, having himself bound up his wounds and left for his care two coins...entrusted him to the Holy Spirit.
So Jesus is the Good Samaritan in relation to humanity, and --this is what I've never heard before--the Holy Spirit is the Innkeeper who takes care of us until Jesus returns!  And--I'm leaving Iraneus behind now and just running with the analogy--the Inn is the Church!  The wine and oil used to tend the wounds of the man are, of course, the sacraments.

I just love analogies. Even in high school, that was the only part of the SAT I enjoyed doing. They have since removed analogies from the SAT, having decided, I guess, that obsessive word geeks like me were having too much fun with this section, making it unfair to the others. Instead they increased the length and  boredom level of the comprehension readings to level the playing field.

Sorry, I digress.  I just meant to say that that parables are beautiful analogies between the physical world and the spiritual. And Iraneus was brilliant to find the Holy Spirit there with the Good Samaritan.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Of Charlotte's Web and Psalm 34

As readers probably know by now, I don't come up with  deep exegesis of the psalms of the Divine Office. What usually happens to me when I read the office, is that a single line pops out at me. I'm afraid the lines I notice tend to be the sort that would look nice on Hallmark/ Dayspring merchandise. Inspirational. Feel Good. Because that is where I am in my spiritual life. Not very  deep into the Interior Castle. And probably never will be in this life. But that is okay, since all of  you who visit here  are probably in the same boat. This blog is Divine Office for lay people.

Daytime prayer, which usually gives us one Psalm divided into 3 sections, today gives us Psalm 34.  (Satuday Week III).  And my Hallmark moment today occurred when I read, look towards him and be radiant; let your faces not be abashed.  I must have read this verse hundreds  of times in the last 20 years. This is the first time I  saw it.

My first reaction was to imagine myself gazing towards the rising sun, feeling the warmth, rejoicing in the light,
and becoming, myself, radiant with its reflected light. It's a wonderful metaphor, and the dictionary supports it. The first definition is literal: "sending out light, shining brightly", the second is the spiritual derivative," emanating great joy or love."

My second thought--which again shows I am still in the driveway of the Interior Castle--was to remember that "radiant" was one of the words Charlotte wove into her web to build up Wilbur's image. She had seen a detergent ad with the words "with new radiant action".  She told Wilbur to run around and do some flips, to see whether his action could be honestly described as radiant. After Wilbur's performance, Charlotte felt  his action was at least "interesting", but when Wilbur declared, "I feel radiant", Charlotte agreed to describe him as such  in her web.

My third thought was about Pentecost, which is with us this weekend. Although this psalm is from the monthly psalter, rather than handpicked for the feast, it works beautifully, since the Fire of God's love is nothing if not radiant.

Conclusion: Look to the Lord, keep my eyes, my thoughts fixed on His goodness, mercy and love rather than my  weakness, sinfulness, ineffectualness. My face will not be abashed if I concentrate on His face. And in  some degree, the love and joy emanating from Him will in turn emanate from me. That's what the Holy Spirit does.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Holy Sprit to the Rescue When I don't even Know what I Want

Tonight's evening prayer had those wonderful verses from Romans 8, worth quoting in full, Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with sighs too deep for words. And He who searches the hearts of men knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.

What a relief!  If only I remembered this more often when I'm wondering whether I'm even asking for the right thing: should I pray for my son to stop dating a non-Catholic when he might, after all, be the means of her conversion?  Do I pray for this terminally  ill elderly person to be cured, or for his happy death? And then there's days that I know there are people who have asked me to pray for them but I can't remember who it was or what they wanted prayers for. Or at those times I'm so overcome with worry or sadness or fear or anger that I can barely formulate a coherent thought about anything, much less a prayer.

All I really have to do in these situations is to say, "Holy Spirit, you know how and what I should be praying. Please sort this out and pray in me according the will of God." 

I'm not sure which of the 7 gifts this falls under. Maybe it is something separate. But it seems to me to be the greatest of all the gifts that the Holy Spirit gives.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

The Sadness of Sin

I read the wrong intercessions at morning prayer today, using the ones meant for those who don't celebrate the feast of the Ascension until Sunday. But that's okay, since one of the incorrect (for my diocese) intercessions struck me rather forcefully, as stray lines from the Divine Office will from time to time.

The petition reads: Be our great joy that no one can take from us, so that we may reject sin with its sadness, and reach out to eternal life.

Sin with its  sadness.

People don't choose sin  because they want to be sad. Usually they think sin will make them happy (or at least help them avoid unhappiness.) And to a degree they are right. When we sin, we aren't  usually desiring the bad part: wanting to break God's law or to inflict pain on others.  We're desiring something that is in some way good.  We're just going about the wrong way of getting it. So sin will, at first,  bring happiness.

The sadness comes later. And not just in the next life, but in this one. Many sinful choices have consequences that  become obvious sooner or later. Worse,  longtime sinful habits can actually blind a person to what has brought about the shallow, empty life she is leading. Worst of all, when a particular sin becomes accepted by society as "normal behavior", that society becomes twisted, turned upside down, so that things once universally acknowledged as good and desirable are now seen as evil.  Just think of the Culture of Death that seems to reign in so many ways in our world. Blessed are the barren.

It's so sad.

But I can be pretty pathetic too. There are a few areas in my own life--I can just barely glimpse what they are--where others, who lack those particular flaws--probably want to grab me by the shoulders and shake me, saying, "What's the matter with you? Wake up! Don't you see how sad this is, to keep doing this same stupid thing over and over?"

Lord, have Mercy on us.
Jesus, I trust in you.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Ascension Thursday- It's all in the antiphons

I'm always sorry to see the Easter season go, and although the feast of the Ascension is a glorious climax, there's still this feeling of "Oh, no!  He's going away! Back to boring old ordinary time."  And Pentecost, similarly, seems to be more like deployment  than a festival:"Okay, fun's over. Get going. Go forth. Make disciples of all nations. You've got the seven gifts now, so no excuses. You can do this."

Nonetheless, I've been taking solace in the gorgeous antiphons of the liturgy, starting last night with Evening Prayer I. They are so worth dwelling on as you go for a walk or go about chores.  Just pick one favorite and come back to it all day.

-I came forth from the Father and have come into the world; now I leave the world to return to the Father.

-After he spoke to his disciples, the Lord Jesus ascended into heaven where he is seated at the right hand of the Father.

-No one has ascended into heaven except the one who descended from heaven, the Son of Man, who is in heaven.

-I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.

-Sing to God, sing psalms to his name, make a path for him who rides high above the clouds.

-Men of Galilee, why are you looking up into the sky? This Jesus who has been taken up to heaven  will return in the same way.

-Do not leave us orphans, but send us the Father's promised gift of the Spirit of truth.