Friday, May 30, 2014

Question on Breviary Unity

A reader from Pennsylvania writes:

  I am about 2/3 of the way through your book, and have been praying morning and night prayer for about a month.  Since you mention that there will be a revision of the breviary in the next few years, I searched that topic on the web, and came upon some posts that talked about the 1961 Roman Breviary from Baronius Press.
     I am currently homeschooling my 2 youngest children and they study Latin.  I have been to an EF Mass, but normally attend a Novus Ordo Mass.  Are the liturgical calendars between these 2 forms completely different?  I was wondering (and will pray about) whether I should get this 1961 breviary because it has the Latin, which will help me learn it, and it won't change in the future (I assume).  But I am confused about how we can be "united to the Church universal"  if we are praying different forms of the breviary.
     If you have any thoughts/suggestions about this, I would really appreciate it!  Thanks!!

Happy to answer the several questions you bring up. I'm publishing your letter as a post since some of my readers are more knowledgeable than I about the 1961 (EF) Breviary than I am, and I want them to have the chance to chime in. What I love about Coffee&Canticles readers is that they are able to discuss features of Ordinary Form vs. Extraordinary form in a way that sheds light (knowledge) without generating heat (in the form of acrimonious debates about which form is superior and whether Vatican II liturgical change was a huge mistake or a needed reform, etc.)

The revision I referred to in The Everyday Catholic's Guide to the Liturgy of the Hours is a new translation of the existing Ordinary Form breviary. Just as we received a new translation of the mass a couple years ago, the same thing is being done with the breviary, and mostly for the same reasons to conform more accurately to the official Latin texts. Also, this new breviary will include a more accurate translation of the psalms, and will eliminate the psalm prayers since these do not appear in the body of the psalter in the official Latin breviary nor in those of other countries. You can read more about it here.  

The Baronius Press breviary is a new (beautiful but pricey) edition of the 1961, EF breviary. A cheaper alternative would be to find old pre-Vatican II breviaries on ebay. Or, to use one of several online versions, which I hope an alert reader or two will post in comments. Probably it would be a good idea to try praying the traditional, EF breviary online for a while to see how you like it before making the investment in a new breviary. 

Are the two calendars "completely" different? I wouldn't say that. Both observe the same liturgical seasons. The spaces in between the seasons that the OF now calls "ordinary time" have different names in the EF, for example, "The xth Sunday after Pentecost" rather than "xth Sunday of ordinary time."  The big difference is with the feastdays of saints throughout the year. Both EF and OF match up on some of them, but not all. Plus, the EF includes many more saints in the general calendar as obligatory commemorations than the OF does. 

If the majority of masses (Sunday and/or daily) that you attend are EF, it would make sense to use the EF breviary, because I think you'd want to commemorate the same saint during lauds and vespers that you did at mass that day. For the same reason, I stick with the OF. 

One exception--the Office of Readings. Many of my traditional friends use the EF breviary for most of the hours, but do the Office of Readings from the EF, because they prefer the Office of Readings to its EF equivalent. 

Now--how can we be united to the prayer of the Universal Church if there are two different breviaries? Actually, there are more than two. The eastern rites have something different than us western rite folks, and many monastic orders use a monastic breviary that differs from the one that we lay people and parish priests use.   Also, the new Anglican ordinariate (for Catholics who have converted from the Anglican/Episcopal churches) have a breviary that retains elements of the Book of Common Prayer. And each religious order has its own "ordo" wherein on any given day, its members are commemorating one of their own saints or blesseds, and thus even though they use the OF breviary, might be using a different common, prayer, or reading than the one you and I are using that day. 

So how is there unity?  In the same way that we are  all united as we participate in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, despite a number of varying rites (Latin, Greek, Ruthenian, Ambrosian, etc.) and forms (ordinary Latin, extraordinary Latin).  It's the same sacrifice of Jesus, made once on calvary and renewed in every mass. So every variety of the Liturgy of the Hours (so long as the texts are approved by the church as liturgical prayer) is the public
 sacrifice of praise that Jesus offers eternally to his father, and we, as members of his body, get to offer through, with and in him. 

So, no, you don't have word for word unity across all Catholics every day.   That being said, there are many common elements across the OF and EF breviary. For example, today (Friday)  everyone is praying Psalm 51, which is the penitential psalm par excellence. The daily Invitatory of Psalm 95 is the same in both forms. Night Prayer for Saturday night is the same one that the EF uses every night of the week. There are probably other points of intersection as well. 

Realize that priests who use the EF breviary are required to pray it in Latin. The English text is there for study purposes, but they must say the Latin for it to "count" as their daily obligation. Not sure whether this would apply to laity who want to pray liturgically rather than as devotion. 

One more thing. You can pray the modern,  OF  breviary in Latin by using the ibreviary app. There's a place in the settings where you can select various languages an Latin is among them.

As a homeschooler, you might be interested in an excellent new book about praying the LOTH as a family.  It's called The Llittle Oratory.  The authors discuss different breviaries and all kinds of tips for introducing the rest of your family to liturgical prayer. 

I hope this helps, and maybe a few readers will have some more ideas for you once this post has been online for a few hours.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Loving Daytime Prayer

We (well, I for certain) tend to take the daytime hours (terce, sext, none) for granted. They aren't very long and therefore don't "feel" as important as the principle hours of Lauds and Vespers. It's easier to get excited about the Office of Readings, with it's nice daily chunk of scripture and the daily novelty of yet another beautiful sermon from the church fathers or the saints.

But have you ever noticed how desperately relevant daytime prayer is to your daily life? About as relevant as the life preserver tossed to drowning man!  Whichever daytime hour we customarily pray, it usually comes as a much needed break from our daily work. And that is especially true if your work, either temporarily or chronically, is not going very well. Daytime prayer pulls us out of the 9 to 5 rat race and places us for a few moments under a shady tree, or maybe on a mountain top, where we both rest and remember to look at our lives from the perspective of eternity. It reminds us that God is in control at precisely the time of day when we likely have been deluding ourselves into thinking that we are in control.

At the same time, the majority of the daytime psalter (Psalm 119 and psalms with similar themes) doesn't take us too far away from mundane concerns. Instead, it heartens us to take courage and get back to our daily grind with hope, knowing that we work out our salvation precisely through putting one foot in front of the other insofar as those footsteps are God's will for our lives. More than that, it encourages us to find joy in just doing the right thing, day after day, without concern for whether anyone notices or rewards us for it.

Today (Wednesday, week I) contains some of my favorite verses on this theme. They startle me every time I read them:
I rejoice to do your will
as though all riches were mine. 
Imagine that--feeling like you've won the lottery because, on reflection, it seems that so far today, you've done what God wanted you to do, even if that just means doing dishes and laundry, or filling out paperwork, or enduring a really boring meeting at work with a pleasant expression on your face.

Today also includes Psalm 17. Here, the psalmist begs God to protect him from people who want to ruin him, probably kill him. He mentions that these people have comfortable lives, lots of money, and lots of children to whom they can leave their riches. Is he saying that this is unfair? No, because he follows up that description with this:
As for me, in my justice I shall see our face and be filled, 
when I awake, with the sight of your glory. 
This sounds to me like he thinks his enemies will succeed in killing him, that God will not answer the prayer for protection in this world, but that's okay, Lord, because the sight of your face in heaven will make all my pain seem like nothing. Again, this is just the sort of thing we need to hear when the boss is making life miserable for us.
One more thing. The reading for midday continues the theme: Who indeed is victor over the world but the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?

Daytime prayer is certainly the worker's prayer. Don't neglect it, especially when your job is driving you crazy.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Memorial of Our Lady of Fatima Tomorrow

A closeup of the statue Bill travels with.

A long time ago, when I was a sixth grader in Catholic school, Sister had us study the conversion of Saul of Tarsus (aka St. Paul the apostle) and assigned us an essay "The Conversion of (insert student's name)" I remember describing as my Damascus road moment a time several years before when I'd read a book about the Fatima apparitions, and the incredible miracle witnessed there by tens of thousands. I went on to declare that if the visionaries--kids my age--could take on the daily rosary and "offering up" their daily crosses, so could I.

So you could say that Fatima was a formative part of my spiritual journey. And wouldn't you know it, I ended up marrying a man who has worked for many Catholic organizations and today promotes the message of Fatima.

A friend recently remarked that the work my husband and I do adds up to a perfect blend of liturgy and devotion.

 Bill, my husband, travels the country with the National Pilgrim Virgin statue of Our Lady of Fatima. He speaks about the Fatima message, particularly a part of the message that is least noticed but most practical. This would be the part that we can play daily in answering Our Lady's requests: that we accept, bear with submission, and  "offer up" every big and small pain, inconvenience, frustration, suffering, etc., for the love of God, in reparation for sins committed against the Immaculate Heart of Mary, and for the conversion of sinners.   This facet of the Fatima message gets a warm welcome from everyone who hears it. Many people who come to Bill's talks  don't feel up to a commitment to the daily rosary or making the five first Saturdays, but are relieved to learn the core of the message is something that they can do. After all, daily suffering comes to everyone regardless of their degree of piety and devotion to prayer. Traffic jams, stubbed toes, overdue bills. So much daily straw that can be spun into gold.   A brief prayer of offering that makes suffering meaningful is within everyone's grasp. So Bill goes around telling people about this valuable and easy spiritual practice.

Instant penance, joining our little problems to the sufferings of Christ.  No hair shirt required.

And I write about the Liturgy of the Hours. So today my work intersects with my husband's a bit: tomorrow we have  optional memorial of Our Lady of Fatima. This memorial was only put on the calendar a few years back, so the second reading and the concluding prayer will not appear in your printed breviary. But you will find them at Scroll down to the end of each hours to find the Our Lady of Fatima elements.

Here is a Fatima Morning Offering from the World Apostolate of Fatima.

O my God, I believe, I adore, I hope and I love you. I beg pardon for those who do not believe, do not adore, do not hope and do not love you. O God I accept and bear with submission whatever suffering You permit in my life, for the love of you, in reparation for sins committed against the Immaculate Heart of Mary and the conversion of sinners. 

Friday, May 9, 2014

Why Should Prayer be Structured?

Replaying a popular post from last year. It's on that perennial question of formal vs. "spontaneous" prayer. 

"Why should prayer be structured? Why shouldn't we just pray to God in our own words?"

That was a question that a caller asked me yesterday on Relevant Radio's "On Call" program. The host, Wendy Wiese, had been discussing the Liturgy of the Hours with me for the better part of half an hour when caller asked his question. I didn't ask first whether he was Catholic or Protestant. That might have given me information that would have helped me tailor my answer. But there's nothing like unscripted Q&A's to induce a grand fit of I-should- have-saids  later on.

I answered that prayer could and should be both: at times informal, simple conversation with God. Brief phrases of faith, trust, praise and love. But most of us need structure at times as well. Unless our energy level and emotions are at perfect pitch, we often don't know what to say when we pray, or don't feel much like praying. Structured prayer--by which we mean using words that others have written, in a certain pattern or method--is a great help. These prayers give us, as Pope Benedict put it, "the language for the encounter with God."  And when God has given us inspired prayers, such as the psalms, it's probably because he wants us to use them!

Later, another caller supported what I was saying by bringing up the example of buying greeting cards for our loved ones on special days. Sure, we are perfectly capable of saying "I love you." "Happy Birthday" , and whatnot. So why do we waste time browsing through phrases and verses printed with a pretty picture and hawked by Hallmark?  That's a very "structured" way to communicate love or good wishes, don't you think?

I wonder if people who defend spontaneous prayer by denigrating structured/memorized/liturgical prayer less likely to buy greeting cards for their spouses, lovers, children, etc., than the rest of us? They ought to do  a study on this.

Do you have any simple, articulate responses to the informal vs.formal prayer issue? If so, share them here.

Monday, May 5, 2014

Offices for Polish Saints Online

As you probably know, there are far more saints than there are days on the calendar. Each of them does a feast or memorial. But there are only a limited number of saints that appear on the "Universal Calendar", to be commemorated by the Church throughout the world.  Saints which do not appear on the Universal Calendar are still commemorated in the countries of their birth, or in the religious orders they belonged to, or in places where there is great devotion to them. 

So the breviary and missal  used in Africa has prayers and readings for, say,  Blessed Clementine Anuarite that we don't have in the USA. Our American breviary has prayers and readings for St. Elizabeth Seton that you won't find in the African breviary. And so on. 

My ethnic background is Polish, and I've often wished I could celebrate the memorials of Polish saints beyond those few that appear on the Universal calendar. So imagine how happy I  was to learn yesterday about the Polish Breviary.  The author of this relatively new blog posts facts about every feast and memorial celebrated in Poland, tells you which of the commons is used, and then links to a pdf of the proper for each memorial, including reading 2 of the Office of Readings. (And all this is in English, not Polish.)

I will certainly go back to Polish Breviary in the fall for the memorials of St. Pope John Paul II and Blessed Jerzy Poplieluszko.  In fact, I'm going to sign up to get notices in my email for every Polish feast and memorial.   

I wonder whether there are online breviary supplements like this for saints of other nations?  I'll be happy to publicize them if they turn up. Meanwhile, thanks to "kodakkk" for letting me know about this fine project. May it thrive.