Monday, October 31, 2011

Solemn Reminders...

1. The Solemnity of All Saints starts tonight. 

You already know this. I already know this. But what we forget in the midst of our all saints parties and/or trick-or-treating is to say Evening Prayer I for All Saints Day. I don't know about the rest of you, but I forget to say Evening Prayer I of solemnities all the time. Then slap myself the next morning when I realize what day it is/was.

2. All Souls Day. Here's your chance to use the Office of the Dead. By the way, since I've been asked several times, the Office of the Dead is a votive (used at will) office that you may use anytime you wish (except on a Sunday, solemnity, or obligatory feast) to mark the occasion or anniversary of a loved one's death. Or, say, once a month for souls in purgatory. It's up to you.

3. The Readings from 1st Maccabees in the Office of Readings will be missed for two days due to the above mentioned holy days. But it is a good and commendable practice to do these readings in addition to the Office of readings for the two feasts. I certainly am. This is one of the most exciting parts of the entire Bible. One can see why Mel Gibson (pray for that man) is planning to make a feature film on Maccabees. It has plenty of cloak and dagger action, blood, gore, martyrdom, fugitives living in the mountains, and finally, epic battles. I can't say I'd even want to watch an accurate portaryal of Maccabees, (too gory for me to enjoy), but it makes gripping reading. So, consider fitting these in (without their accompanying psalter or second readings) so that you don't lose the thread of the action, which is running until Saturday. 

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Too High for Me? My Father to the Rescue!

On a rock too high for me to reach,
Set me on high,
O You Who have been my refuge,
my tower against the foe.

Psalm 61 
(Daytime Prayer, Saturday week II)

I love hitting this verse every four weeks. I immediately think of my Dad picking me up when I was little, helping me to sit in a tree branch , on top of a wall, or a rock that I could not manage by myself. And, once there on that (to me) incredible height, holding me steady so I would not fall off. Or, as in this picture, sitting me on his shoulders.

Next, one thinks of the Church. All of us are set on that high, invincible rock, Peter, on whom we can rest secure that what we believe is no passing philosophical fad or fashion. Although the mind of man desires, seeks, and to some degree can find Truth, there comes a point where it can go no further. It's too high for us to reach, so our Father picks us up and sets us on high. 

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Any Questions, Class?

It's your weekly chance to express any and all puzzlement about using a breviary, celebrating feasts, rubrics, regulations, and options.  As always, if my own knowledge isn't enough I'll run to the General Instructions for the Liturgy of the Hours. If the answer is still not clear, I'll tell you my opinion but will identify it as such.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Quick Zip Through Midday Prayer

Everyone who prays the Divine Office, besides having the general intention of participating in  the prayer of the Church universal, "does" something different with the psalms while praying them. Finds different lines to meditate or apply to different facets of our life in Christ's Mystical Body.

Here's what came to me in Midday Prayer just now.

Psalm 119 

My part, I have resolved, O Lord, *
is to obey your word.

Isn't that so simple and yet so hard? Just follow Our Lady's advice, and Do whatever He tells you. Rid myself of the illusion that "my part" is something more creative, more assertive, more original that merely obeying. Obedience isn't "mere".  It's everything.

Last night my pastor asked me to commit to a regular stretch of adoration once a month at the approximate time I usually dropped in anyway. This would give him the assurance that someone would be there. A small thing, but it would impose on me the responsibility of actually getting there as well as leaving  on the dot, relinquishing my lazy option to show up a few minutes late or leave a few minutes early. And would add the obligation of getting on the phone with a list of  strangers to beg a substitute should I be unable to make it. (The sort of thing that makes us introverts go all whiny.) This was a very small thing that my pastor asked, and it's a measure of my pathetic-ness that I hesitated for a second. But, how often does a lay woman with an indulgent husband get to exercise obedience? So of course I said yes. And I'm guessing that "yes" will do me more good than all the religious articles and blog posts that I write because I feel like doing them.

Next- Psalm 55
Note the helpful subtitle verse "Jesus was seized with fear and distress"(Mark 14: 33)

O God, listen to my prayer, *
do not hide from my pleading,
attend to me and reply; *
with my cares, I cannot rest.

I tremble at the shouts of the foe, *
at the cries of the wicked;
for they bring down evil upon me. *
They assail me with fury.

My heart is stricken within me, *
death’s terror is on me,
trembling and fear fall upon me *
and horror overwhelms me...

...As for me, I will cry to God *
and the Lord will save me.
Evening, morning and at noon *
I will cry and lament.

...O Lord, I will trust in you.

So--no brainer--I visualize Gethsemane, and also the ongoing attack on Christ in His Church by such a horde of enemies.  I also noted the "evening, morning and noon": a reminder of what a marvellous thing it is to be able to mark the times of day with prayer, which is the whole point of the Divine Office.As the psalm ends, I am reminded to imitate Christ in ending all my complaints to God with an act of  trust. 

Last, the reading from Isaiah reminds me that  "my ways are not your ways, says the Lord."  It is such a temptation to be so sure that We know what a loving God would or would not do, and then be upset when He does not perform according to expectations.  "How could a loving  God permit X,Y, or Z to happen?"     It isn't wrong to ask that question, but we should always ask it of Jesus as He hangs on the cross. 

Concluding Prayer

...Bless the work we have begun,
make good its defects
and let us finish it in a way that pleases you.

Somehow, it's really, really comforting to see that the  non-perfection of everything I do is assumed by God. Not condemned. Just assumed. He will fix it all. 

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

From Father Barron's Catholicism

Product Details

You've  probably heard the buzz for the new dvd/TV series Catholicism.  If not, please get off this blog now and enjoy the preview on YouTube.

There's also a book to go with the series, which I'm enjoying these days. Here's an excerpt from the chapter on the Liturgy:

Aristotle says the best activities are the most useless. This is because such things are not simply means to a further end but are done entirely for their own sake. Thus watching a baseball game is more important than getting a haircut, and cultivating a friendship is more important than making money...this is why the most important parts of the newspaper are the sports section and the comics, and not as we would customarily think, the business and political reports. In this sense, the most useless activity of all is the celebration of the Liturgy, which is another way of saying it is the most important thing we could possibly do. There is no higher good than to rest in God, to savor his sweetness--in a word, to praise him.  (Catholicism, p 172. )

Something to  keep that in mind when you're praying the Divine Office.

You will like the book version of Catholicism, whether or not you are fortunate enough to see the dvd series.

All of Time is His

Shelter For My Soul

From tonight's Evening Prayer--a simple and beautiful truth. And one that we really immerse ourselves in by praying the Liturgy of the Hours, because we thereby consecrate time as a whole and time in its parts, to Him.

Father, Yours is the morning and Yours is the evening.
Let the Sun of Justice, Jesus Christ, shine forever in our hearts, 
and draw us to that light where you live in radiant glory.

Monday, October 24, 2011

One Reason to LOVE Vatican II

The Office has been drawn up and arranged in such a way that not only clergy but also religious and indeed laity may participate in it, since it is the prayer of the whole people of God. 

I quoted this from Pope Paul VI's Apostolic Constitution on the Liturgy of the Hours in a 10/10 post about the instructions on the Vatican II revision of the breviary. But it wasn't until last week that I really appreciated what the Second Vatican council did for us lay folk in giving us a short, vernacular breviary.

The reason for this is that I recently downloaded a book on Kindle (it was a freebie, originally from Gutenberg or Googlebooks), titled The Divine Office by a Father Edward Quigley, copyright 1920.  It's basically a guide to the pre-Vatican II breviary, written for priests. It's packed with historical information for the liturgy geek.

There's also a rather scary section on all the ways a priest could sin (either mortally or venially) by not saying the full office correctly  every single day. And in those days you prayed all 150 psalms every week, rather than every month. So the hours of the liturgy were roughly four times as long as they are now.

And they were all in Latin. And apparently reading a vernacular translation did not "count" as praying the official prayer of the Church. Any lay person who did this was engaging in a devotion, not participating in the  liturgy.

So, although I'm a fairly traditional Catholic and enjoy hearing mass in Latin and singing Gregorian chant, I am really, really happy about the Vatican II breviary. As things stand now, it is fairly doable to read the liturgy in the 10 minute chunks (give or take) it now comes in. (And fifteen to twenty  most days for Office of  Readings). A quick look at an online Breviarum Romanum shows five psalms each for lauds and vespers. That could easily put me over the edge into thinking:  this is just too much, had the Divine Office of today remained what it was before the Council. That, and the fact that my Latin is too little to pray well in that language.

In addition, the complete office back then had 8 mandatory liturgical hours, whereas today it's 5. (Not that laity are ever obliged to do the whole thing, but if doing the complete office is one's goal, then it's a whole lot easier with only 5 liturgical hours.)

Reading between the lines in Fr. Quigley's text, one gets the definite impression that  length of the old Divine Office was a burden to many a parish priest. There were all kinds of moral theology regulations for what bare minimum a priest could get away with to fulfill his breviary obligation. It appears that   a priest might often have to just say a whole day's office in one block of time, murmuring it as quickly as possible with little reflection on the psalms, just to get it done. Quigley even refers to the "difficult work" of trying to pray office fervently.

Admittedly I haven't made a lengthy study of the old breviary, and I am NOT trying to criticize it or be a "chronological snob" who thinks that everything post-Vatican II is better just because it is newer. On the contrary, having passed my childhood (1960s and 70s) arguing with modernist religion teachers who continually contradicted the Baltimore catechism my parents had me study at home, I know first hand of the sorry misapplication of Vatican II directives.

But if it weren't for Vatican II, I and many thousands more would  have missed out on the beauty and consolation of praying the psalms in rhythm with the liturgical year and in harmony with the Church universal.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

News Flash! Office for Bl. John Paul II! Today!

Thanks to alert reader Melanie of The WineDark Sea (great Mom blog) I'm putting in this 11th hour post of the texts from the new Office for Blessed John Paul II, whose feast is today. What you do is read the common of Pastors, with all the options that state "for a Pope".  Conclude each hour with the concluding prayer that is down at the end of this post. 
If you are praying the Office of Reading, use the following for the second reading. (If you aren't praying OOR, you might want to use the following for spiritual reading anyway.

From the Homily of Blessed John Paul II, Pope,
for the Inauguration of his Pontificate
(22 October 1978: AAS 70 [1978], 945-947)
Do not be afraid! Open wide the doors to Christ!
Peter came to Rome! What else but obedience to the inspiration received from the Lord could have guided him and brought him to this city, the heart of the Empire? Perhaps the fisherman of Galilee did not want to come here. Perhaps he would have preferred to stay there, on the shores of Lake of Genesareth, with his boat and his nets. Yet guided by the Lord, obedient to his inspiration, he came here!
According to an ancient tradition, Peter tried to leave Rome during Nero’s persecution. However, the Lord intervened and came to meet him. Peter spoke to him and asked, “Quo vadis, Domine?” — “Where are you going, Lord?”  And the Lord answered him at once:  “I am going to Rome to be crucified again.”  Peter went back to Rome and stayed here until his crucifixion.
Our time calls us, urges us, obliges us, to gaze on the Lord and to immerse ourselves in humble and devout meditation on the mystery of the supreme power of Christ himself.
He who was born of the Virgin Mary, the carpenter’s Son (as he was thought to be), the Son of the living God (as confessed by Peter), came to make us all “a kingdom of priests.”The absolute, and yet sweet and gentle, power of the Lord responds to the whole depths of the human person, to his loftiest aspirations of intellect, will and heart. It does not speak the language of force, but expresses itself in charity and truth.
The Second Vatican Council has reminded us of the mystery of this power and of the fact that Christ’s mission as Priest, Prophet-Teacher and King continues in the Church. Everyone, the whole People of God, shares in this threefold mission. Perhaps in the past the tiara, that triple crown, was placed on the Pope’s head in order to signify by that symbol the Lord’s plan for his Church, namely that all the hierarchical order of Christ’s Church, all “sacred power” exercised in the Church, is nothing other than service, service with a single purpose: to ensure that the whole People of God shares in this threefold mission of Christ and always remains under the power of the Lord; a power that has its source not in the powers of this world, but instead in the mystery of the Cross and the Resurrection.
The new Successor of Peter in the See of Rome today makes a fervent, humble and trusting prayer: Christ, make me become and remain the servant of your unique power, the servant of your sweet power, the servant of your power that knows no dusk. Make me a servant: indeed, the servant of your servants.
Brothers and sisters, do not be afraid to welcome Christ and accept his power. Help the Pope and all those who wish to serve Christ and with Christ’s power to serve the human person and the whole of mankind.
Do not be afraid.  Open, I say open wide the doors for Christ.  To his saving power open the boundaries of states, economic and political systems, the vast fields of culture, civilization and development.  Do not be afraid.  Christ knows “that which is in man.”  He alone knows it.
So often today, man does not know that which is in him, in the depths of his mind and heart.  So often he is uncertain about the meaning of his life on this earth.  He is assailed by doubt, a doubt which turns into despair.  We ask you, therefore, we beg you with humility and with trust, let Christ speak to man.  He alone has words of life, yes, of life eternal.

Do not be afraid. The Redeemer of mankind has revealed
the power of the Cross and has given his life for us.
—Open, open wide the doors for Christ.
In the Church we are called to partake of his power.
—Open, open wide the doors for Christ.

Concluding Prayer: 
O God, who are rich in mercy and who willed that the Blessed John Paul the Second
should preside as Pope over your universal Church,
grant, we pray, that instructed by his teaching,
we may open our hearts to the saving grace of Christ,
the sole Redeemer of mankind.
Who live and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Bungling Through the Breviary?

Man Confused Sad Clip Art

Lurching throught Lauds? A little Vague on Vespers?

This is a recurrent weekly feature where readers may ask any question they have about praying the Divine Office.
Maybe you haven't even started because you aren't sure which breviary you should buy. Maybe you're bouncing back and forth among online breviaries and don't understand the differences among them.Perhaps you know you can't do the entire Liturgy each day, but want advice deciding which hours you should pray.

Maybe you are a seasoned  pro at this breviary business, but want to compare notes on the finer points of praying the hours. Or you want to start praying it with someone else and do all the correct gestures and postures for community recitation.

I don't promise to be the final word on every single question, but what I have for you is 30- some year's experience saying the Office alone and with groups. Also, and more important, I have the complete General Instruction on the Liturgy of the Hours with me,  and will be happy to look things up when magisterial backup is needed.

So please, ask anything you want in the comment box. And anyone out there who knows what he's doing may comment on the comments if you have anything to offer.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Not here, back soon, and Words of a Martyr

Replace babies with two hungry teens and two hungry twenty-somethings to  see what life will be like  the next few days. 

Posting will be scant to nonexistent til next week--just got an assignment to interview a notable Catholic evangelist whom I was dying to get to talk to anyway, so this is exciting! But it will occupy my every rational and irrational thought other than what is necessary to hold the home front together.  Today: do research on this person and do laundry. Tomorrow: interview this person and make notes for evening  parish bible study. Feed children if time permits.Attend bible study.  Friday: write 2000 words, arranged in coherent sentences and paragraphs. Do more laundry.Encourage children to watch videos and dine on doritos and ice cream. Continue article in a caffeine induced mania through the night   if necessary. Saturday: submit article, direct kids to clean bathrooms and vacuum rugs before collapsing. Hope editor is happy. Sunday:Go to mass. Serve a nice brunch to make up for last week's bad dinners.  Think about blog once more.

In the meantime, do not neglect the Office of readings for the North American Martyrs. If you use ibreviary, you have to scroll WAY DOWN to the bottom to find the right stuff.I'm guessing, being American, gives our martyrs more prominence. Don't forget, if Office of Readings is too much to fit into your day, you should just go to the second reading, which is always interesting, and is often stuff you won't come across anywhere else.  Here's a teaser, the actual prayer of St. Jean de Brebeuf as he contemplates martyrdom:

My God, it grieves me greatly that you are not known, that in this savage wilderness all have not been converted to you, that sin has not been driven from it. My God, even if all the brutal tortures which prisoners in this region must endure should fall on me, I offer myself most willingly to them and I alone shall suffer them all.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

In the Ravine with St. Isaac

Although only an optional memorial, tomorrow's feast of the North American Martyrs has special significance for us here in the United States and Canada. Therefore, feel free to use the Common of Martyrs or Common of Pastors for your Office tomorrow, rather than just the current psalter weekday with the concluding prayer for these saints in the Proper of Saints.

If ever you are in the vicinity of Albany, NY, don't miss the Shrine of the North American Martyrs in Auriesville.  It was built on the actual site of the Mohawk village of Ossernon where several of these martyrs--St. Rene Goupil, St. Isaac Jogues, and St. John LaLande--were martyred. Although shrine itself is kind of Standard issue Catholic shrine (Church, outdoor stations of the cross, gift shop, various statues) there is one very moving feature: the Ravine. Kept in its natural state of forest and grassy glades, this is the spot where the body of St. Rene Goupil was thrown after he was tomahawked. St. Isaac returned at night to locate the body and try to preserve it from carrion eaters and/or further insult by the Indians. 
As the pilgrim descends the path into the ravine, there are stations for meditation: excerpts from St. Isaac's account of that night are tacked on signboards to the trees. (At least that is how it was on my last visit 20 years ago.)  It's an opportunity to follow a via dolorosa  of sorts. The quotations on the signboards are taken from the following account, so as you read this, imagine yourself with St. Isaac, climbing and slipping down a steep woodland path with a stream at the bottom: 

"After René and I had been captives in Ossernenon (Auriesville, New York) for six weeks (September 1642) we lost all hope of again seeing Three Rivers (the Jesuit mission). We consoled one another at this decree of Divine Providence and kept preparing ourselves for anything that God might ordain. René evidently did not perceive as clearly as I our present peril. For this reason I kept warning him to be prepared for the worst...
"One evening with sad hearts, René and I went beyond the village stockade to pray more reverently apart from its noise. Two Indian youths came after us ordering us to go back to our long house. I sensed some foreboding of what would happen and said to René: 'My dear brother, let us commend ourselves to our Lord and to our dear Mother, the Blessed Virgin Mary. I am afraid these Indians have some evil design...
"A few minutes earlier René and I had offered ourselves to Our Lord with intense devotion. We begged God to accept our lives and our blood, and to unite them to His life and His blood for the salvation of these pagan tribes. We were returning to the village, praying our Rosary, of which we had already said four decades...
"We paused at the gate of the stockade to hear what the two Iroquois had to say. One of them drew a tomahawk from under his blanket, and dealt René a blow on the head. René fell prostrate to the ground, uttering the holy Name of Jesus, Jesus, Jesus. We had often reminded each other to end our speech and our lives with that most holy Name...
"At the sound of the blow I turned around and beheld the tomahawk dripping with blood. I fell to my knees to receive the blow that would unite me to my dear companion. The Iroquois delayed. I rose again and rushed to René's side as he lay expiring, but not before I had given him absolution. Since our captivity I had absolved him regularly every other day after his confession...
"It was the Feast of St. Michael, September the 29th, 1642, that this angel in innocence and martyr of Jesus Christ, René Goupil, gave his life for Christ Who had offered His life on the Cross for him. The Indians ordered me to go back to my long house. There I awaited that day and the next the same deadly tomahawk. Everyone believed that I would not have to wait long. But Our Lord averted this...
"Early the next morning I eagerly inquired where the Indians had thrown that blessed body. I wanted to bury it, cost what it might. Some of the Iroquois who wanted to save my life said: 'Do you not see those young braves leaving the village? They will kill you once you are beyond the palisade.' This did not stop me. I went out, I searched, and with the help of a captive Algonquin Indian, I found the body of René...
"After René had been killed, the Indian children stripped him. They tied a rope around his neck and dragged him to a torrent which flows through the ravine beyond the village. The dogs had already gnawed at his thighs. At this sight I could not hold back my tears. I lifted up the body and, with the Algonquin Indian's help, lowered it into the stream. I weighted it down with large stones to hide it from view. I intended to bury René the next day..."
"The next day, as the Indians were seeking to kill me, my Indian "aunt" sent me to her friend to escape them. This forced me to delay the burial until the next day. It rained all that night, and the stream became a raging torrent. I borrowed a hoe from another long house, the better to conceal my plan. On approaching the spot I could not find the blessed body of René. Alas, my brother's body had been carried away...
"I waded into the torrent already quite cold. I plodded back and forth. I sounded with my feet to see whether the torrent had not risen and carried off the body. What groans did I utter then! I found nothing. How many tears I shed which fell into the torrent! I sang as best I could the psalms which the Church chants for the dead. After all I found nothing. I searched the woods on the opposite bank. All, all in vain...
"The young braves had taken the body up and dragged it to an adjoining wood, where during the Fall and Winter it became the food of the dog, the crow, and the fox. When I had been told in the Spring that the body had been dragged there, I went several times without finding it. Finally on the fourth trip I found René's head and some half gnawed bones. These I buried. Reverently did I kiss them as the bones of a martyr of Jesus Christ."

Monday, October 17, 2011

Mark Your Breviary!

...for the feast of St. Luke tomorrow. (or today if it's October 18th when you read this. )

The feast of this Apostle, Evangelist, and patron of Physicians and artists is an obligatory memorial. So you just don't read the current weekday in the psalter plus a concluding prayer in the saints proper. St Luke has an office of his own--a combination of elements that are just for him in the proper of Saints for Morning Prayer with the psalmody of Sunday Week I, and likewise, unique items for his feastday plus psalmody from the Common of Apostles for Evening Prayer. It's pretty easy to find all this in your breviary--the proper of saints for October 18th tells you just what to do. 

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Catholics and Depression

This post has nothing to do with the Divine Office.

Or maybe it has everything, since the point of praying the psalms is to pray the prayers of Jesus in union with Jesus. And the psalms of suffering and sorrow certainly echo both Our Lord's agony as well as that of everyone who finds themselves in the dark valley of depression. There, in Gethsemane, they will find a union that is --I'm guessing--both fearsome and strengthening.

I've been rhapsodizing for the last few weeks about the beauty of October. In stark contrast, this blogger finds October to be a time of darkness. Although he has very particular memories that make this month a bad one for him, there are thousands whose chronic depression deepens as the days grown short, a phenomenon known as Seasonal Affective Disorder.

So please read John's post , and if you know someone who has suffered from mental illness, consider giving him John's book. He is carrying out a great work of mercy to a large segment of the faithful, simply by telling his own story.

Friday, October 14, 2011

7 Quick Takes-Farewell to Foliage

--- 1 ---
A week ago I could walk almost silently on the woodland trail behind my house. Yesterday, the swish of fallen leaves 3 inches deep answered my every step. Wind plus rain, even with continued warm temperatures, is accelerating the relentless change of the landscape from rainbow to brown&grey. So, a farewell salute to early fall 2011 in NW Pennsylvania:
--- 2 ---

--- 3 ---
Just noticed the closing prayer for today's prayer at Midday: Lord Jesus, at noon, when darkness covered the earth, you mounted the wood of the cross as an innocent victim for our redemption.   I like that verb "mounted". It emphasizes  that our Lord was not a passive victim. He willed every moment of His passion.
--- 4 ---
I learned today that indeed, God does "shower down snow white as wool" on the Holy Land from timne to time, after reader "R" pointed me to a linkThis is a church in Jerusalem last year..
--- 5 ---
Fooling around in the Kindle store, looking for cheap Catholic books, I found The Divine Office by Father Quigley for an unbeatable price: Free!  I think you can also get this on Gutenburg or other free ebook sites. It was written before the Second Vatican Council, so there is plenty of historical information for the Breviary geek. Apparently the Divine Office has been revised OFTEN over the centuries.
--- 6 ---
I keep dithering on whether to buy the text to go with Fr. Barron's incredible Catholicism  series. There is no sign of it running on my local PBS affiliate. And since I don't have cable I don't get EWTN. I couldn't really afford this for myself right now, so that kind of answers the dithering. Then there's the book. Wondering what that is like. Does anyone out there have it?
--- 7 ---
For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!

He showers down snow? In Israel?

I've always had the impression that they didn't have That Sort of Weather in that part of the world. So where does the psalmist get his familiarity with it?

He showers down snow white as wool,
he scatters hoar-frost like ashes.
He hurls down hailstones like crumbs.
The waters are frozen at His touch...

Are there any weather geeks out there who care to reply?

St. Paul Explains it All

Following up on the previous post:

This morning's reading from Galatians (Friday week IV) helps us understand why we can pray the psalms both for ourselves and in union with Jesus as He prays them. The more we pray this way--our individuality both lost in Christ and yet retained ("he who loses his life shall save it")--the more we will be aware of the mystery of  being a member of Christ's body, the Church, and to be transformed by Christ's body, the Eucharist.

I have been crucified with Christ, and the live now is not my own; Christ is living in me. I still live my human life, but it is a life of faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. (Gal. 2: 19-20)

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Jesus Prays Compline

Most of the Psalms of Night Prayer are petitions for God's help combined with expressions of hope and  trust in His merciful love. It is natural to pray these psalms in our own voice, and on our own behalf. They are so fitting as our last prayers of the day. 
But it's also a good idea to think about Our Lord praying these prsalms, calling upon His Father to help Him, protect Him from enemies, and preserve Him from death. Tonight's (Thursday's) night psalm, 16, is a perfect example. In fact,  as John Brook's School of Prayer points out, this is the earliest example of the Church seeing in a psalm a direct prophetic reference to our Redeemer: St. Peter refers to it in the book of Acts. (2: 30-31).
Preserve me, God, I take refuge in you.
I say to the Lord: “You are my God.
My happiness lies in you alone.” 
He has put into my heart a marvelous love
for the faithful ones who dwell in his land.
Those who choose other gods increase their sorrows.
Never will I offer their offerings of blood.
Never will I take their name upon my lips.
O Lord, it is you who are my portion and cup;
it is you yourself who are my prize.
The lot marked out for me is my delight:
welcome indeed the heritage that falls to me!
I will bless the Lord who gives me counsel,
who even at night directs my heart.
I keep the Lord ever in my sight:
since he is at my right hand, I shall stand firm.
And so my heart rejoices, my soul is glad;
even my body shall rest in safety.
For you will not leave my soul among the dead,
nor let your beloved know decay.
You will show me the path of life,
the fullness of joy in your presence,
at your right hand happiness for ever.
It's even more moving to imagine  Jesus praying Friday night's psalm, 88, in the Garden of Gethsemane:
Lord, why do you reject me?
Why do you hide your face?
Wretched, close to death from my youth,
I have borne your trials; I am numb.
Your fury has swept down upon me;
your terrors have utterly destroyed me.
They surround me all the day like a flood,
they assail me all together.
Friend and neighbor you have taken away:
my one companion is darkness.

Examples such as these really bring home how the liturgy truly is Christ praying to the Father , and mercifully allowing us,members of His body, to join our voices to His.

Vague On Vespers? It's Breviary Answer-Lady to the Rescue

Man Confused Sad Clip Art

Time for your weekly chance to ask questions about all things Divine Office. Anything I don't know I'll try to find out for you. But being a breviary geek, there's not a lot I don't know.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

The Youth of Eagles

Psalm 103 comprises the psalter for today's (Wednesday, week IV) Office of Readings.In verse 5, after listing some of God's blessings--forgives guilt, heals your ills, redeems you, crowns you with love and compassion, fills your life with good things--the psalmist adds, renewing your youth like an eagle's.

Fear not--my comments will not make mention of a certain contemporary hymn that would set off Fr. Erik Richsteig 's Orthometer alarm.

Every time I read this line, I first give the little happy sigh with which I respond to beautiful  biblical nature imagery, a mini Hallmark poster of the image flashing in my brain.

Then I stop and say, Wait!...  what?

 Because I can't figure out what's so special about an eagle's youth.
Not his strength, power, beauty, far sight, but his youth.

My first guess--could it be there was a phoenix-type myth going on about eagles that the psalmist had picked up on?

I did a search and found that many people share my question. An interesting "biblical birdwatching" site gave a lengthy description of how many times a bald eagle molts until he acheives the mature, white-head-and-tail plumage at 5 years of age. The evangelical writer considered this molting a kind of renewal. Not bad, but 1. this would teach a lesson about the desirability of Maturity, the wisdom of old age, not about youth. and 2. the bald eagle is a North American bird.

Luckily, I remembered that the Fathers of the Church have commented at length on just about every verse of scripture. Good old New Advent has St. Augustine's comments. Augustine claims that an eagle's beak tip never stops growing, and that after many years have gone by, it curves down and around the lower mandible such that the eagle would be unable to eat.  He grows weak from hunger, and then, in desperation, bashes the end of his beak off against a rock. Once again able to eat, his strength, vigor, and plummage are renewed, and he is once more like a young eagle. Augustine concludes:

 ...the eagle is not restored unto immortality, but we are unto eternal life; but the similitude is derived from hence, that the rock takes away from us what hinders us. Presume not therefore on your strength: the firmness of the rock rubs off your old age: for that Rock was Christ. 1 Corinthians 10:4 In Christ our youth shall be restored like that of the eagle....

My own knowledge of birds tell me that eagles don't really need to break off their beaks. I have seen crows and pet parrots rub their beaks against hard material.  And I've known pet parakeets to need a beak trim when they haven't had something hard to chew on. Probably eagles wear their beaks down by tearing at the bones of their prey.   But as St. Thomas points out, an analogy does not have to be true to be a good analogy.

So it looks like Christ, our rock, rubs off or breaks off our weary, aged sinfulness, and restores to us the youth of our baptismal purity. Enabling us to soar to heaven. On eagles wings  the wings of eagles.

Yeah, St. Columba and Me Both

How I wish He would awaken me, His humble servant, from the sleep of slothfulness, even though I am of little worth. How I wish He would enkindle me with that fire of divine love. The flames of His love burn beyond the stars, the longing for his overwhelming delights...

-from the Office of Readings, Tuesday, 28th week in ordinary time.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Gems from the GILH, part I

As promised last week, I'll start posting little bits of the General Instruction on the Liturgy of the Hours. The following is from the Apostolic Letter of Pope Paul VI which precedes the actual Instruction. Its always good to remember that liturgical prayer is not so much "our" prayer as Christ's eternal prayer to the Father, and we have the privilege of joining in as members of His body:

The hymn of praise that is sung through all the ages in the heavenly places and was brought by the high priest, Christ Jesus, into this land of exile has been continued by the Church with constant fidelity over many centuries, in a rich variety of forms. 

The Liturgy of the Hours gradually developed into the prayer of the local church, a prayer offered at regular intervals and in appointed places under the presidency of a priest. It was seen as a kind of necessary complement to the fullness of divine worship that is contained in the eucharistic sacrifice, by means of which that worship might overflow to reach all the hours of daily life. 

Pope Paul then goes on to give a brief summary of the history of the many revisions of the breviary over the centuries, and then explains the intent of the most recent revision during the Second Vatican Council. Of special note is his statement that The Office has been drawn up and arranged in such a way that not only clergy but also religious and indeed laity may participate in it, since it is the prayer of the whole people of God. 

We have the Second Vatican Council to thank for making the Divine Office so accessible. 

Monday, October 10, 2011

Drunk on the Blood of Christ

"Mom, what does 'inebriate' mean?"

"It has to do with drunkenness, sweetie. If someone if inebriated they've had too much to drink."

Mom didn't realize the origin of my vocabulary question. Not long before she had given me a little book of prayer to say after receiving Holy Communion. That Sunday at mass I had tried the Anima Christi.

Soul of Christ, sanctify me,
Body of Christ, save me.
Blood of Christ, inebriate me,
Water from thy side, wash me.

I t felt strange, asking Jesus to make me drunk on His blood. Almost  sacrilegious. But there it was, in a prayerbook, so it had to be okay. Even as a ten-year-old, I didn't take me too long to figure it out. Drunk people on TV (this was the era of family entertainment--Hogan's Heroes, Gomer Pyle, The Lucy Show) laughed a lot, acted silly, and spoke their minds to others with complete  honesty, telling off their bosses and such. So, I figured the idea was that receiving the Eucharist should make make us joyful, so joyful to be following Jesus that we would do things that would look silly to others, and/or preach the gospel without caring who might not want to hear it.   Like the apostles on Pentecost, who, as a matter of fact, were accused of being drunk. And all the saints, such as Francis, who was thought to be crazy because of all the things he did out of his wild love for God.

Not everyone is fond of this metaphor,especially, perhaps, those who have had too much first hand experience with the darker side of drinking. So one sees other translations of this prayer. Blood of Christ, flow in my veins, water from thy side, wash out my stains, is a version with its own appeal, since this metaphor depicts  union with Christ  so graphically. Blood brothers.

But I want to get back to the "inebriation" metaphor, because it appears in today's Office of  Readings.St. Fulgentius of Ruspe (nope, I never heard of him either, outside the breviary), in his treatise against Fabianus (Nor him neither.Some heretic or other.), states that, " ...all the faithful who love God and their neighbor truly drink the cup of the Lord's love even thought they may not drink the cup of his bodily suffering. And becoming inebriated from it, they put to death whatever in their nature is rooted in earth."  So here, the divine  drunkenness does more than make us giddy with joy. We become so uninhibited that we overcome the hesitation to kill. Kill our attachments to sin, that is.

Strong language, that.   Reminds me of the scene in The Great Divorce where the man had to agree to have his inclination to lust--which took the symbolic form of a loved-and-hated pet lizard--put to death. It was a suspenseful scene, where the guy dithered and pleaded for time while his salvation hung in the balance. I won't spoil it for those who haven't read it yet. (And if you haven't, do so at once!  Best spiritual fantasy every written.)

The inebriation metaphor certainly works for me. It's always after Communion that I make grandiose plans to whack my vices. If only one didn't sober up so quickly.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Seven Quick Takes

--- 1 ---
The foliage is reaching its peak around here and combined with sunshine and pleasant temps, I'm overwhelmed with this beautiful, energizing time of year.
--- 2 ---
Got my 17 yr old on a plane in Cleveland to go visit Thomas Aquinas College in California. Husbands alma mater and one of the best schools out there. Katherine was balking at the application that requires 5 or 6 essays. I was hoping that a visit to their beautiful campus, and the chance to observe their Great Books, seminar style classes would motivate her. When she me today, I hung up the phone and said "mission accomplished."
--- 3 ---
Will make the most of tomorrow's return trip to the Cleveland airport by having my oldest daughter drive out to Cleveland as well. Its a half way point between our two homes. We'll spend some girl time together, pick Katherine up at the airport, then spend the night at a motel before going to Church and on our separate ways on Sunday morning.
--- 4 ---
Received a copy of the New Grail Psalter and am looking forward to comparing these translations to the current breviary. Trying to find out when a revised breviary will come into existence, but so far haven't heard a thing.
--- 5 ---
Am doing some birthday shopping for a son about to turn 21. Was amused to find that one of the items on his list is this:
--- 6 ---
The potted mums I bought a month ago are still sitting on the deck waiting to get planted. Hopefully it will happen before a hard frost.
--- 7 ---
It's the anniversary of the battle of Lepanto, otherwise known as the feast of Our Lady of the Rosary. Pray the rosary tonight for the protection of our land from all the  evil forces that threaten to overwhelm it. 
For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary! 

Do You Live in Boston?

Then please check out my post today on Faith&Family Live about my husband, Bill, and the National Pilgrim Virgin (Fatima) statue that is touring the archdiocese this month. It includes links to the schedule.

Even people who think they know everything about Fatima usually learn something new from Bill's talk.

Venus and Mars Praying as a Couple

Kayla Petersen of The Alluring World  asked me to write a guest post for her blog about the Divine Office, to appear there next week.  She particularly wanted me to discuss whether this would be a good prayer for couples in interfaith marriages to pray together.  

So, in my little essay, I opined that the Liturgy of the Hours was indeed a fine way for Catholics and protestants to pray together: it's all scripture based, and there were only very occasional items that might be "red flags" for, say an evangelical Christian --mentions of Mary's intercession, the pope, and the like. I also stated that the  Divine Office works well as a "couples prayer".  The spouses can take turns with the antiphons and alternate reciting the strophes of each psalm. It's all very cooperative and complementary. Like marriage should be.

Then, the other day, I mentioned in a post on this blog that when my husband and I say Morning Prayer together, we repeat the antiphon of the Invitatory psalm  after each strophe. (Not that we do this often--Bill's job has him travelling a lot). This prompted another reader to ask me to write about getting a  spouse interested in praying the Divine Office  together. It got me thinking of this whole topic of joint spousal prayer.

We women, who buy and read nearly all  of the popular Catholic Marriage  books sold in this country, frequently read about the importance of Husbands and Wives Praying Together. And we're told  that family rosary with all the kids kneeling or slumping around the living room does not count. We're talking about  a special, quiet, set-aside time with you, your spouse, and God, where the two of you join hands and offer your spontaneous and  heart-felt praise, thanks, and petitions. Out loud. Together. Well, together but taking turns.

Are there more than 100 Catholic  male, non-Steubenville graduates * in this country  who enthusiastically  go along with such a program?  (not just  tolerate it  out of love for their wives, but really enjoy it?) I'd be surprised.

 This type of intimate, spousal prayer might sound beautiful  to women.  But to most guys--good, devout guys--not so much. It requires seat-of-the-pants verbal skills that many of them do not have. Not to mention a willingness to, at times, express  emotions that are hard for a guy to discuss with his wife in an ordinary conversation, let alone talk to God  about  with his wife listening in. It's one more example of a  woman finding it therapeutic to talk about her problems, and the man finding the same activity to be close to torture.

So wives who want to persuade their husbands to pray with them, but find them recalcitrant, would be well-advised to drop the hand-holding, spill- your- guts- to -God- together idea, and go for something that is more realistic. That is,  utilizing the type of prayer that the Catholic tradition excels at. Namely, reciting formal  prayers that were written by someone else! Or I should say, reciting formal prayers while investing them with your own will, intentions, feelings, etc.

I could write a whole 'nother essay on why reciting or reading pre-written prayers is such a wonderful thing. Not at all the rote, meaningless ritual that the Church's critics make it out to be. Converts from Pentecostalism have expressed the overwhelming relief that comes from being able to pray, say, the rosary, in a group of friends, and not having to anticipate one's turn to pray "spontaneously", mentally composing a suitable script ahead of time, and then delivering it to one's audience.  For myself, I know what an incoherent, stammering mess my private conversations with God would sound like to a companion  if uttered aloud. Blessed be the Lord for Psalms, mass texts, Our Fathers and Hail Marys!

But I digress. Getting a husband to pray with his wife will be much easier if it takes the form of the rosary, a novena prayer, or maybe the acts of faith, hope and charity. If a husband is willing to do this, be content. Be very content. You can state some prayer intentions before beginning, encourage the man to add to these, but don't force it.  Or here's another  idea: do a short scripture reading together each night, maybe with the husband being the one to do the reading. Perhaps  the daily gospel from the mass of the day. Begin with the Holy Spirit prayer and conclude with a Glory Be.

My husband and I have both prayed the Divine Office for many years, but for most part, due to different schedules, do it separately.  There was a time when we both prayed Night Prayer together fairly regularly, right before bedtime. Because it is short and easy to do, I'd recommend this to couples who might be inclined to do the Divine Office together.

For those who cannot get their husbands interested in any kind of prayer as a couple, here is one more thought. Do the two of you attend Mass together?  Then you have already been praying together in the best way possible! Be grateful for this.  If you want to make it a little more intentional, wife, then tell your husband how glad you are to have him praying at your side at Mass. Tell him what intentions you are praying about at mass, and ask him if he would please bring those needs to the altar as well, and share them with Jesus after communion. Ask him whether there is anything in particular that he would like you to pray for.And  if he just shrugs his shoulders, you are to smile, say "I love you", and let it go.

Now, maybe all of the above is just me speaking from my personal experience and prejudice. So.... Comments are welcome, especially from men.

*This is not to knock Steubenville. I love the place, and sent my oldest daughter there. 

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Gimme a G! Gimme an I! Gimme a L! Gimme an H! What's that Spell?

But it stands for General Instruction on the Liturgy of the Hours. Promulgated in 1971, it is the official guide from the Church's magisterium regarding all thing Divine Office. It's about 70 pages of  fine print, and covers every topic you can imagine.

The GILH devotes chapters to the Importance of the Liturgy of the Hours, the Santification of the Day and description of each liturgical hour, the individual elements of the hours, the Various Celebrations in the Church Year, and Rites for Celebrating the Hours in Groups.

You can find this document here on the EWTN library website. It also appears in its entirety in the first volume of the four-volume breviary. The one-volume Christian prayer only contains excerpts. Most people, even those who like the Divine Office, won't be inclined to read it all in one sitting. But it's the best reference there is. For motivation to stick to your daily recitation of whichever hours you use, the first two chapters can't be beat.

I'm going to start a series on the GIHL which should last a good long time, since its five chapters  contains 284 sub-sections. What I'll do is reprint a short passage from the GIHL, and then maybe, if it seems necessary,  add some comments of my own. As always, I'll invite comments on my comments, because my only qualification for commenting at all on Church teaching is that I'm a Catholic who can read. (Well, there were 12 credits towards a Masters in religious studies 27 years ago, but they've since  expired)  This will happen on days that I feel like posting but am not all wide-eyed and breathless over some particular  psalm or reading  from the day's office, or its saint.

I know that lots of people are allergic to reading Church documents. They have good intentions, and often resolve to try an  enclyclical or an exhortation, but soon find themselves getting itchy from all the dryness, or succumb to sleep apnea brought on by too much inscrutable philosophy and theology. Or, like me, they're just lazy and would rather read a novel.   But I hope you'll check it out whenever there's a "GILH" in the post title. I promise we'll take it in very small bites.

So stay tuned.