Thursday, February 27, 2014

Poor Qoheleth! 7posts,7 days,#4

If you do the Office of Readings this week, then you'll know what I mean when I dare to pity King Solomon, the wisest man who ever lived, aka "Qoheleth" who wrote the book of Proverbs. He drives home one main point, with diverse, poetic, and elegantly written examples: Life is a bummer because we are all going to die. Which just goes to show the limits of mere wisdom.

Each time I this week I finish the first reading and think, "I just wish this poor man knew about Jesus."

And I'm so grateful that most readings this week are direct commentaries on Ecclesiastes, and thus antidotes to Qoheleth's sad wisdom. Even St. Jerome, whose comments on Wednesday largely say "Amen" to Qoheleth, manages to lift our hearts with his references to Christ who is the answer to all those unfulfilled longings and existential sorrows. Looking ahead to Friday and Saturday, a quick skim of the readings shows that we will actually finish this week-long study of Ecclesiastes on notes of Eucharistic joy and ultimate glory. Thank you, Fathers of the Church!

Other stuff:
Laura, a lovely young Australian blogger, has written this lovely, enthusiastic, and comprehensive review of my book.  Thank you Laura!    And do check out her blog, Catholic Cravings, which is really well written and lots of fun.

Next, have you seen the Catholicism dvd series? This is a gorgeous TV miniseries that has been responsible for many conversions, as viewers discover not only the intellectual coherence of the faith, but it's breathtaking beauty and cultural diversity.  It certainly played a large part in the conversion of my soon-to-be son-in-law.  I had purchased a set for myself and my family when the series first came out in late 2012, and immediately "loaned" them to my daughter's boyfriend. Well, the loan had to become a gift, because Dwight wanted to watch them over and over again. He entered the Church last Easter, and the wedding will be Friday in the octave of Easter, less than two months away. Best $139 I ever spent.    Anyway, when  saw this offer from Catholic, I decided to get another set so I can use it to deepen the faith of people around me who are already Catholic, or else be ready when the next potential convert shows up in our family circle. Only $89, plus they throw in a copy of the Catechism of the Catholic Church.

This series would be an easy small group event at your parish. Much less work than doing a bible study. Just show the video each week (there are five in all) and then discuss. I believe there is a study guide available from Word on Fire to help that along, but you could probably get by without it if the leader is knowledgeable and can guide a discussion.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Q&A time.(7 in 7, Day #3)

Tonight at Evening Prayer I shall have a hard time getting into the spirit of Psalm 126 verse 6:
they go out, they go out, full of tears, bearing seed for the sowing...

It's been a long hard winter, and the thought of sowing seeds in my garden fills me with joyous longing.  But I get the analogy. The sowers are working hard and have nothing to show for it for a lon time.  This is how it feels when we suffer. Even if we remember to unite our suffering to Christ's, we may not see what good that does for a long time. Maybe not until we reach eternity, when our deliverance will seem "like a dream."

Will Stuart McLin and Joseph please send me their addresses so that I may send them the books they won in last weeks' giveaway. write to thesockeys"at"gmail"dot" com

Welcome, new blog follower, Arthur!

Q&A time. On yesterday's post Michelle  asked me what books I was thinking of reading for lent, but I"m thinking of writing a special post of recommended books later this week. Today's Q's and A's will be strictly breviary related.

Of course, there may not be many questions this time around. It's been a quiet week, liturgy-wise. No saint's days to worry about. The last hurrah for ordinary time until after Pentecost. The Proper of Seasons will become a daily companion starting next Wednesday. And we four-volume people get to switch books.

But if you have any questions at all, like what it the point of an antiphon, or a psalm-prayer, or how one prays the intercessions properly, then fire away.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Whacha doin' for lent? (7 in 7, #2)

Sheesh! So much for diligence in posting every day for a week: I almost forgot all about it. But after having to spend a freezing cold morning outdoors, then an afternoon shopping for my youngest's birthday, maybe there's some excuse.

Lent is on my mind. I haven't thought much yet about what I'll be doing other than aiming at daily mass Monday thru Friday rather than the two or three times weekly that usually happens around here. I've got some good books piled up, but certainly can't read all of them. Still have to narrow it down to that single, perfect one.

Food: for the past two years we've gone meatless at dinner time Monday thru Friday. Wondering whether I"m up to that again.  They have a nice meatless recipe feature at so I can vary my standard menus.

What I really need is to work up the enthusiasm for all this. Get up the vim and vigor to do spiritual battle! Lenten warfare!   But I'm just not there yet.

How about you? Whacha doin' for lent?

Monday, February 24, 2014

7 Posts,7 Days, #1

It's been a long time since I've joined a blog link-up, but this one at Conversion Diary caught my eye.  Basically, it's a challenge to blog every day for a week. Since laziness (in all areas of life) is my besetting sin, I figured this might be good for me.

If you have a blog, but never did a link-up, this might be a good one to try.

One of my top favorite psalms, 84, came up in morning prayer today. It has two images that really speak to me. First, I love how the psalmist, in his longing to be in God's house, speaks enviously of the swallows that build their nests high along the walls of the temple, near the altar. 

Next, I love this:
Blessed are those whose strength is in you, whose hearts are on the road to Zion
As they go through the bitter valley, they make it a place of springs
the autumn rain covers it with blessings.
They walk with every growing strength;
they shall see the God of gods in Zion.
Whenever I"m going through a "bitter valley", or am praying for someone else who is, I love when this verse pops up.  It reminds me so vividly of how we participate in Jesus' salvific mission whenever we accept, bear, and join our pain to His. That very offering at once makes my bitter valley into a place of springs.

Don't forget to sign up for this book giveaway by leaving a comment on that post.

And welcome, new blog follower, Shelly.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Weekly Q&A + Welcome Newbies!

Welcome to new blog followers Jason, KT Cat, Michael, Veronica Mae and Collette.

Only two weeks of ordinary time left, and then owners of 4-volume breviaires will be switching to volume II, and all of us who use a printed breviary will be adding that extra daily ribbon- flip to the Proper of Seasons in the front third of the book after the psalmody is done. It's even more fun when you have a saint's memorial during lent. Don't worry, breviary novices, you can do this. And if you can't, there's always the digital route.

I just received a review copy of a new book by Anglican bishop N.T. Wright called The Case for the Psalms.  Idon't know much about this author, but he appears to be a decent, "mere Christianity" kind of writer. I haven't read too far into the book yet, but so far  like what I see. This quote, for example, where he talks about the need for the psalms in worship as opposed to a more free-form, modern "praise&worship" style:
 "Good liturgy, whether formal or informal, ought never to be simply a corporate emoting session, however 'Christian', but but a fresh and awed attempt to inhabit the great unceasing liturgy that is going on all the time in the heavenly realms.(That's what those great chapters, Revelation 4 and 5,are all about.) The Psalms offer us a way of joining in a chorus of praise and prayer that has been going on for millennia and across all cultures. Not to try to inhabit them, while continuing to invent non-psalmic 'worship' based on our own feelings of the moment, risks being like a spoiled child who, taken to the summit of Table Mountain with the city and the ocean spread out before him, refuses to gaze at the view because he is playing with his Game Boy."

I like that.

A couple of readers here at Coffee&Canticles are Anglican/Episcopalian. Do you know much about this N.T. Wright and could you recommend other works of his?

Okay. Questions from the confused are welcome in the comments below. Also, comments from the non-confused who just want to share a favorite passage from today's hours or anything else you might want to say. Don't forget to enter the new book giveaway that is a post or two behind this one. 

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

What week and day in the psalter I should be on?

Another vintage post that gives anyone with slight mathematical ability, and a church calendar, the power to figure out what week in the psalter you should be using.

A reader pointed out that there is a yearly booklet to go with your Christian Prayer book, that tells you what page(s) you should be on every day of the year. True. I used to use one of these. Then the new year came and I'd forgotten to order the new booklet, and since I'd been lax in praying the office over the Christmas holidays, I'd lost track of what week it was. And even when I still had the current booklet, I had the habit of misplacing/losing it. Homeschooling mothers do a lot of that.

But I learned that if you keep your parish calendar at hand, you can figure everything out yourself. All you need to know is your 4x  table. Look at the most recent Sunday on your calendar. It will say what Sunday in ordinary time it is. If by chance it's a multiple of four (4,8,12,16, etc.) then your should use week IV of the Psalter. If it's a multiple of 4, minus 1, (3,7,11,15...) then you want week III of the psalter. If it's a multiple of 4 minus 2, use week II. 4 minus 3?  Week I.

The four weeks of advent correspond with weeks I thru IV of the psalter. The six weeks of lent correspond to weeks I thru IV, then I and II again.  Same deal with the weeks of the Easter season.

Of course,  you can also find this on the computer, thanks to,, and probably others. But I like being able to manage without a computer.

Giveaway Winner /New Giveaway Begins!

The winner of an autographed copy of The Everyday Catholic's Guide to the Liturgy of the Hours is the Anonymous profile/"Kathy" who posted about thirteen comments down on last week's blogiversary giveaway.

If Kathy does not contact me with her mailing info within a couple of days, I'll go back and pick a new name. (You'd be surprised how often this happens with giveaways.)

And now for a new giveaway. This time I have two books, so there will be two winners.
The titles are:
Good Pope, Bad Pope by Mike Aquilina - biographical profiles on a dozen different pope. Some were great and made important contributions to the church and to history. Others, not so much, but seeing how the Church survived their sins and blunders teaches us important lessons about God's providence and promise to remain with His Bride "in sickness and in health".


The Romance of Religion by Fr. Dwight Longenecker if you visit his blog, Standing On My Head, you have some idea of what a delightful writer this convert from Anglicanism is. Written in the tradition of G.K. Chesterton, Father Longenecker's book exhorts us to courage, wonder, and a sense of humor as we fight the good fight on this earth.

So, comment away! You may state a preference for one of the books if if you like.  This will not guarantee which one you get, but it might help. The winner will be chosen next Tuesday.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

So How Do I do this? or Bungling through the Breviary

As promised, here is the first in  a series of, um, Vintage posts from the early days of this blog, for the benefit of newer readers. As always, comments and questions are welcome.

The single biggest obstacle to adding the Liturgy of the Hours (Divine Office) to one's prayer life is not finding the time to say it so much as finding the time to  learn how  to say it. Breviaries seem to be designed for people in seminaries and religious communities who  learn the Hours largely by watching  and imitating those who are experienced. I mean, is it likely that any new  seminarian has to look up the "Ordinary"  pages ( buried between solemnity propers and the psalter) to learn the opening verse of morning prayer? Of course not. He watches the others making the sign of the cross,while reciting O God come to my assistance/O Lord make haste to help me. Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit, as it was in the beginning, is now,and will be forever. Amen. Alleluia. He then listens and learns that the first antiphon and psalm are recited, followed by the Glory Be and a repeat of the first antiphon.

In contrast, the poor lay person --assuming she is fortunate enough to have figured out which week in the psalter and the season is to be used today-- finds each day's  morning prayer beginning with the cryptic God come to my assistance. Glory Be to the Father. As it was in the beginning. Alleluia. Even if she does manage to unearth the Ordinary instructions, she still won't see anything about making the sign of the cross during the opening verse.  Nor will anyone tell her that the  psalm prayer is optional.  After the psalms, reading, and responsory, there's an antiphon for the Canticle of Zechariah, but--unless you use the Daughters of St. Paul breviary--said Canticle appears to be AWOL. Another hunting expedition back to the" Ordinary" to find it. At this point what you thought would be a prayerful experience is getting to be a bit irritating.
(Hint: make photocopies of this canticle and of the the Magnificat. glue them to the inside front and back covers of your breviary. If you persevere with the hours, you will know them be heart in a month or so.)

It gets worse if our poor lay Divine Office acolyte  is trying to get started  in the middle of advent or lent. So much so that I advise all beginners to get started while we are in Ordinary time. (that leaves you about 3 weeks, folks. So stay tuned to this blog. We can do this.)

So the poor layperson has a considerable swath of work cut out if he wants to use a breviary. If American Catholics are as contentious and political as it's said we are, we would have long ago launched a Breviary Accessibility Act  modelled on the laws which guarantee parking spaces and wide doorways for Americans with disabilities. We would have sued for large print instructions IN FRONT OF THE BOOK that assume no previous experience in a monastery or seminary.

Now the good news.  Thanks to several wonderful lay initiatives, you can get up and running almost effortlessly.   Digital breviaries and Universalis are three fabulous online breviaries. The prayers for each liturgical hour are all laid out for you at the click of a button. even has podcasts so you can listen to people praying the liturgy in conmunity if that's something that appeals.These podcasts are particularly helpful for use on a daily commute to work, so buying the  DivineOffice app for phones and tablets is a worthwhile investment. If you don't need podcasts, the iBreviary app is free.   If it's true that virtual books are going to eventually replace real books, these websites might be all you will ever need.

Unless you like to get away from your computer once in a while.
Unless you are an old (or young) fogey who just thinks it's nicer to hold a real book in your hand when you read or pray.
Unless you value the breviary as a sacramental. (which an app is not.)
Unless you want to be able to pray the liturgy when you don't have access to a device or can't get a signal.

That's why I'll be here for you at Coffee and Canticles. To guide your through the book , to answer any questions, and to share with you what I love about the Divine Office. I'll be doing some how-to's over the next few weeks. Feel free to jump ahead with your questions about the parts of the Office that I haven't gotten to yet in my posts.

I suggest you sign up to follow this blog, that way your email will be updated whenever there's something new.

Let us bless the Lord.
And give Him thanks.
And don't forget to enter a comment in yesterday's post to win a free (autographed!) copy of my book.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Bernadette, Blogiversary, and a Giveaway!

File:Bernadette Soubirous.png
Did you know she was only 4 foot 7?

Sometimes I forget to check my Catholic calendar, or to turn to the proper of saints in the breviary and end up missing a favorite memorial, but Our Lady of Lourdes is one I don't forget.  Three years ago today I became an intentionally and joyfully unemployed caseworker. Next to  recovered abilities to fix decent dinners and  be home when my kids got off the school bus, one of the happiest side results of this was time to a. consistently pray 5 liturgical hours daily and b. blog about it.

So I guess Our Lady of Lourdes is an unofficial patron of this blog. Never thought of it that way until today.  The story of Lourdes loomed large in my spiritual consciousness when I was young. It was always a major event when a TV station aired The Song of Bernadette. (This was the pre-VCR/DVD era).  More recently, the life and example of St. Bernadette has come to mean more to me than the apparitions and miracles.
Here are my favorite St. Bernadette resources:
St. Bernadette Soubirous by Francois Trochu - the definitive biography
A Holy Life by Patricia McEachern is a collection of Bernadette's writings. No one gets canonized because they had visions of the Blessed Mother. Here is a look into the heart of a saint.
Bernadette, directed by Jean Delannoy starring Sydney Penney

The Passion of Bernadette (same director and star as Bernadette)

Although Hollywood's The Song of Bernadette is a happy monument to the golden age of Catholic-themed films, and has many fine features that cinema nerds can tell you about, I prefer Sydney Penney's more down-to-earth portrayal of the saint. Her courage and sense of humor come through, while Jennifer Jones' Bernadette is too much of the luminous, other-worldy, pre-canonized, too-good-for-this-earth variety. Plus it's all shot on location.

Now, back to the blog and the breviary.  I'll be re-running some popular  older posts in the next few weeks for the benefit of more recent followers.   Also, because after 3 years of blogging Liturgy of the Hours every week, and writing a book about it, there isn't much else left for me to do but repeat what has been said before.

Blogiversaries need giveaways.  I'll be doing one a week for the next few weeks. Put your name in a comment below, and on Sunday night I'll choose a winner. Please share a link to this post with your friends, since giveaways help bring in new readers. This week's giveaway prize is an autographed copy of The Everyday Catholic's Guide to the Liturgy of the Hours.  I know lots of you have it already, but this is a chance to get a copy to give to a friend, or, as I already said, to alert other people you know to this giveaway.

Welcome, new follower, Stuart, and everyone else who follows thought Feedly or other reader apps. Good to have you. Questions or comments are welcome anytime.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Q&A time - Japanese Martyrs edition

One of the most riveting readings in the entire Office of Readings has to be today's account of St. Paul Miki and companions. Here it is for those who might have missed it:

The crosses were set in place. Father Pasio and Father Rodriguez took turns encouraging the victims. Their steadfast behavior was wonderful to see. The Father Bursar stood motionless, his eyes turned heavenward. Brother Martin gave thanks to God’s goodness by singing psalms. Again and again he repeated: “Into your hands, Lord, I entrust my life.” Brother Francis Branco also thanked God in a loud voice. Brother Gonsalvo in a very loud voice kept saying the Our Father and Hail Mary. 

Our brother, Paul Miki, saw himself standing now in the noblest pulpit he had ever filled. To his “congregation” he began by proclaiming himself a Japanese and a Jesuit. He was dying for the Gospel he preached. He gave thanks to God for this wonderful blessing and he ended his “sermon” with these words: “As I come to this supreme moment of my life, I am sure none of I am sure none of you would suppose I want to deceive you. And so I tell you plainly: there is no way to be saved except the Christian way. My religion teaches me to pardon my enemies and all who have offended me. I do gladly pardon the Emperor and all who have sought my death. I beg them to seek baptism and be Christians themselves.”

Then he looked at his comrades and began to encourage them in their final struggle. Joy glowed in all their faces, and in Louis’ most of all. When a Christian in the crowd cried out to him that he would soon be in heaven, his hands, his whole body strained upward with such joy that every eye was fixed on him.Anthony, hanging at Louis’ side, looked toward heaven and called upon the holy names—“Jesus, Mary!” He began to sing a psalm: “Praise the Lord, you children!” (He learned it in catechism class in Nagasaki. They take care there to teach the children some psalms to help them learn their catechism.)

Others kept repeating “Jesus, Mary!” Their faces were serene. Some of them even took to urging the people standing by to live worthy Christian lives. In these and other ways they showed their readiness to die.

Then, according to Japanese custom, the four executioners began to unsheathe their spears. At this dreadful sight, all the Christians cried out, “Jesus, Mary!” And the storm of anguished weeping then rose to batter the very skies. The executioners killed them one by one. One thrust of the spear, then a second blow. It was over in a very short time.

It's weekly Q&A time. Any and all confusion about the Liturgy of the Hours can be cleared up here. Just hit comment and tell me your difficulty.

Welcome new blog follower, Carmel.

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Presentation Sunday!

It's very special to have the feast of the Presentation of Our Lord on a Sunday. It means we get to use Evening Prayer I for this feast. And that includes this lovely antiphon for the Magnificat:

The old man carried the child, but the child was the old man's Lord. The Virgin gave birth to the child yet remained a virgin forever. She knelt in worship before her child.

Do you know why this feast is also called Candlemas? 

Well, yes, because we get blessed candles to take home on this feast. But do you know why this is the day to get candles? Find the solution in the Canticle of Simeon, which we say every night at Night Prayer.