Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Flaming Yet Unburned!

There's a description of Our Lady--in her fruitful virgnity--from tonight's liturgy, that you may keep in mind as you watch New Year's fireworks on television, or maybe live if you live in a pleasant climate.

Just as we pass the baton of each liturgical hour around the globe in a perpetual relay of praise, some of you are already celebrating the new year in Japan, Australia, and other Pacific places. Those in Europe and Asia are next. It's a blessing to be aware and connected, thanks to the internet and the Hours.

I hope none of you have had much trouble with the days of Christmas, which tend to give us a saint's day in the morning and a celebration of the Octave in the evening. Now we have a solemnity, which is pretty straightforward since everything is in the proper of seasons.

New Years resolutions, anyone? How about greater regularity with your Liturgy of the Hours, OR to add one more daily hour to your routine. 

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Christmas Blessings!

In the beginning, before time began, the Word was God; today he is born, the Savior of the world. (Antiphon Evening Prayer II of Christmas Day)

I can wish you nothing merrier this day than that you may all sense--in prayer, in the Eucharist, and in all things--that God is with us.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Isaiah: 4 kids per Bedroom a Good Thing!

 Every December 22nd I read those blessed verses from Isaiah reminding us that a home crowded with children is a something  Greatly To Be Desired.

Today's first reading in the Office of Readings, from Isaiah, contains lines that were enormously consoling to me years ago when I was expecting my fourth child. We were living in a smallish 3 bedroom ranch in California--no attic, no basement, and a one car garage that held all the things one would normally store in an attic or a  basement.

Although I laugh now to think about it, I was at the time in a minor panic over how I would house the next child were it to be a girl. My two older daughters were in one small bedroom, and our son in the other. A certain relative hinted that putting three children in one bedroom simply is Not Done, nor does one ever, ever, let children of opposite sexes share a room, even if one is a preschooler and the other a newborn.  I was still young and silly enough to care about keeping  this person's good opinion, even though it had already  been lost years before when I had the bad taste to become  pregnant on my honeymoon.

Sure enough, I had another girl. Little Maryanne had no idea how unhappy she was supposed to be, sharing a 10x11  room with two adoring sisters who were in fierce competition to see who could make her smile often. When she was 5 weeks old I picked up the breviary and read this December 22nd  passage from Isaiah:

Though you were waste and desolate,
   a land of ruins,
Now you shall be too small for your inhabitants,
   while those who swallowed you up will be far away.
The children whom you had lost
   shall yet say to you,
“This place is too small for me,
   make room for me to live in.”

And guess what? This was not a prediction of woe for Israel, but a promise of hope and blessing!

In other words, God used my predicament --a predicament I would have at regular intervals for the next 20 years--as an illustration of a good, highly to be envied  situation.  And the people of Israel, uncorrupted by  articles in Parents Magazine about the pitfalls of siblings sharing a room, understood this.  

 Isaiah helped me to realize that my problem was a pretty good one to have.

This post originally appeared in December of 2012.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

From a Reader in England

The Church has a lovely but hard-to-realize vision of the Liturgy of the Hours becoming part of parish life. This cant happen unless those of us who have already discovered this hidden treasure make the attempt to share it with others and approach their pastors about initiating a daily or weekly time for one or more of the Hours. A reader just wrote to tell me about just such an attempt. 

I wanted to share with you a lovely Evening Prayer for Advent initiative that we have tried with great success this year. As a parish lay group we have run 6 to 7pm Adoration on Mondays starting with the Angelus and finishing with Evening Prayer. We are a small rural parish but have attracted about 20 people every week. Not all the usual weekday Mass attending folk. Most people haven't experienced LOTH before. I wondered if they would come back the second week - but they did! It was this blog and your book which gave me the confidence to suggest it. As well as introducing LOTH to people it has been a really powerful prayerful experience. I would recommend the idea to anyone. One of the reasons for the success, I think, is that we are encouraging busy people to commit to a season of 4 weeks rather than a lifetime. That's something I learnt from The Everyday Catholic's Guide - don't be too ambitious as a beginner! 
Our last evening is Monday, December 23rd. r. If you are reading this in USA we will be passing on the prayer to you as the world moves on. 
If you are interested - our website www.catholicchurchmarch.co.uk is a good window into our parish community. 

Thank you so much for this note, Anonymous! I'll be thinking of you at Evening Prayer on Monday. Hopefully you can offer this in your parish again during lent. If you aren't already doing this, you might want to offer a short information card to those who attend explaining briefly what the LOTH is and what to do if they'd like to do it at home. Feel free to copy paragraphs from my book if that makes it easier. 

Monday, December 16, 2013

O My! O Gee! O Antiphons!

Breviary novices find a season such as Advent a little tricky, since that puts an end to simply using everything in the 4-week psalter for the day's prayers. Instead, we have that extra flip to the front of the book, known as the Proper of Seasons. Starting tomorrow, it gets even more confusing, as we start the season-within-a-season that occurs from December 17th thru 23rd. It's the Octave before Christmas. If you add December 24th and Christmas day, you might say we are starting the Christmas Novena. 

This means that whenever December 17th rolls around, we ignore the advent weekday in the Proper --in this case Third week of Advent,Tuesday--and instead turn ahead to December 17th. (p. 318 in volume I of the 4-volume breviary, and page 116 of the one-volume Christian Prayer. And page 292 if you are using the 4-volume African breviary. 

Why this weirdness? Because December 17th thru 23rd can occur in various places during  the third and the fourth week of advent, depending on what day of the week Christmas comes each year. We have to have four Sundays of Advent. But the fourth week of advent might only last a day or two.  Hence this 17th thru 23rd section, separate from the advent weekdays in your breviary. The whole point of 17 thru 23rd is heightened anticipation as we begin a countdown til Christmas. The Church is a little kid that just can't wait, and that is reflected in the liturgy. Our invitatory antiphon moves from a sedate reference to "the King who is to come" to a more excited "the Lord is close at hand!"  We have hymns such as Lo! How A Rose and Behold a Virgin Bearing Him, which are more Christmas-y in character than what we used throughout Advent. 

Best of all, the Magnificat antiphons during 17-23 consist of the beautiful prophetic names of the Messiah, otherwise known as the O Antiphons. We know them well in their rhyming verse form as the verses of the hymn O Come O Come Emmanuel. The liturgy saves verse 1 for December 23rd since it is the greatest of these holy messianic names. 

If you have kids at home, the O antiphons all by themselves make a wonderful family devotion. A search on the internet will show you all kinds of crafts and activities built around them for the craft-and-activity-inclined. In our family, we simply read the O Antiphon each night at dinner as we light the advent wreath. Some years I'd also make the kids sings the appropriate verse of O come O come Emmanuel, but that has fallen by the wayside as the more enthusiastic singers among them have grown up and left home. But it is certainly worth making a Big Deal out of the O antiphons each year. Here is my favorite website for information related to the O antiphons and other ideas related to family advent and Christmas customs.

For the adult mind and heart, you can't beat Father Z for these reflections on the O Antiphons, although admittedly I haven't examined every O antiphon link out there. If any of you come across something you like, please share it here.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

What Gives with Online Breviary Discrepancies? Plus Q&A

 This is from alert blog follower Russ Stutler, who lives in Japan, and thus is a day ahead of us.  First he said some very kind things about   The Everyday Catholic's Guide to the Liturgy of the Hours. I blushed  modestly and went on to read:
All the navigating between different pages and options during Advent finally convinced me to buy a cheap tablet so I could let iBreviary and/or Divine Office navigate for me. Well, my first day, today has different ending prayers for Evening Prayer (Sunday I -- I live in the future still). iBreviary has prayers about St. John of the Cross while Divine Office talks about Advent. Which is correct?
My answer: iBreviary is pretty clearly wrong this time, which surprises me. Both iBreviary and Divine Office occasionally make mistakes, but my experience is that ibreviary has a slight edge over DivineOffice.org in posting the correct prayers. But the only people who might possibly use prayers for St. John of the Cross this evening are the Carmelites, who might celebrate this saint with a solemnity. No, I take that back! Sundays in Advent (as opposed to those or Ordinary Time) take precedence over solemnities. So yes, iBreviary fail here. 
I'm imagining the webmasters cutting, pasting, and posting these prayers on the sites weeks ahead of time, and just getting a little tired and perhaps looking at the wrong day on the calendar now and then. Or just forgetting some rule about the order of precedence for a given saint's day. It could happen to anyone. 
Now, you will frequently find legitimate discrepancies between these two apps on weekdays.  DivineOffice.org will sometimes choose to run a weekday office without reference to a saint whose memorial is optional. iBreviary usually lets you know about every possible saint's memorial on the universal calendar, but then chooses which one they want to have on the day's page, leaving the reader to go find the commons in the "Prayers" section should he want to choose a different saint. 
Both sites have ways to contact the administrators to let them know when something is incorrect. In fact, they are grateful to have mistakes pointed out. In general, digital breviaries make fewer mistakes than we ribbon flippers normally do, so we should forgive their occasional glitches.
Welcome, new blog followers Andrew and Vicki.
It's Q&A time. Congratulations to any of you, especially mothers, who are keeping up with most of their LOTH routine despite the insane amount of work Christmas preparations  can impose upon us. If  you even have time to think about items in the breviary that confuse you, much less  formulate rational questions about them, then you are REALLY dedicated, and really keeping your mind on prayer and praise during this holy season. 
 I will check back whenever there is no cookie dough on my hands, in case any answers are required.

Friday, December 6, 2013

Time Running Out for Autographed Book Special.

A re-run of a previous post in case anyone missed it a few weeks back. Just to help with your Christmas shopping. I've got a dozen left now.

Have I got a deal for you! I have thirty copies of The Everyday Catholic's Guide to the Liturgy of the Hours sitting here in my bedroom. Let me bill you for $12.75 via Paypal (that's only a few cents more than the price at Amazon), and I'll send you an autographed copy. Shipping  (book rate) is free!

You may specify how you want the book inscribed, e.g., a mere "Daria Sockey" or something more elaborate such as,  "To John Smith, Pray always and never lose heart, with best wishes for a Blessed Christmas 2103 from Daria Sockey" or whatever else seems good to you.

Here's what you do. Email me with the relevant names, address,autograph preferences  and the email address  of your Paypal account. My email is thesockeys"at" gmail "dot" com.

This offer is only good until December 10th.

Another suggestion: for a really special gift, send my book along with a Christian Prayer breviary and a St. Joseph yearly guide (Which you would have to obtain elsewhere).

Psalms Keep Shipwrecked victim Sane! + weekly Q&A

It's been said here before, but bears repeating: one of the many side benefits of praying the Liturgy of the Hours is that after a few years,many psalms, or at least many verses of them, become embedded in your memory. These verses will spring from your heart and your lips at odd times, in response to life's joys, life's sorrows, life's crises, and just life in general. In other words, your personal, spontaneous prayer becomes formed and informed by God's word.

Just a few examples.
When I feel weary, bored, jaded: O God, Your are my  God, for You I long. My body pines for you like a dry weary land without water....

When stressed worried about the dozens of things that plague a mother: Though an army encamp against me, even then I would trust....
...He will conceal you with His pinions, under His wings you will find refuge.

When conscious of sin: Create a clean heart for me, O God, renew in my a steadfast spirit.

So when I read this story of a shipwrecked Nigerian man who kept himself calm by reciting psalms 54 thru 92, I just thought, "There you go."

What are the psalm verses that come to you as you go about your day or face stressful situations? Feel free to share them in comments. It's also weekly Q&A time, so your questions about the Divine Office are welcome as well.

And welcome new blog followers Doug, Owen, and anyone else who joins us but whose name is not available to me. This is the place for us psalm-sayers to learn more about our favorite prayer, so feel free to ask or say anything you like on that topic.