Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Charles Borromeo and Preparing for the Office

Today's Office of Readings includes advice from today's saint to his priests. But of course most of it applies to laymen as well. Here is one passage that naturally jumped out at me today:

Another priest complains that as soon as he comes into church to pray the office or to celebrate Mass, a thousand thoughts fill his mind and distract him from God. But what was he doing in the sacristy before he came out for the office or for Mass? How did he prepare? What means did he use to collect his thoughts and to remain recollected?

I was brought up to arrive several minutes before mass begins, in order to prepare myself for this great and holy sacrifice. In practice, I'm often walking in mere moments before it starts. Highly excusable in the days when babies or toddlers came along: you don't want to waste the 10 or 15 minutes of "quiet baby" time-- before the sweet little time bomb goes off--on non-mass minutes, so arriving just as mass started was a survivors strategy. But nowadays, not so much. 

And  how about preparation before beginning one of the liturgical hours? I really hadn't thought much about that. Usually, I plop down in a chair, find my place in the breviary, and plunge right in. Although, on reflection, it seems that the Invitatory psalm at the start of the day does serve the purpose of preparation quite well. It reminds you that you are about to offer the sacrifice of praise. 

As for the othe hours, maybe forming the habit of --after you sit down and fix those ribbons---just taking maybe 5 seconds, or two deep breaths--to mentally close the door on your work, your to-do list, and whatnot, and just tell yourself, "Now I am here with you, Lord, to praise you and hear your voice.  

Alternatively and more traditionally, you can go to the "Prayers" section of at the top of the list you will find this Prayer Before the Divine Office. Print it out on a bookmark and stick it in your breviary for ease of use.

Open, O Lord, my mouth
to bless your holy name;
cleanse my heart
from all vain, evil, and wandering thoughts;
enlighten my understanding and kindle my affections;
that I may worthily, attentively, and devoutly
say this Office,
and so deserve to be heard
before the presence of your divine Majesty.
Through Christ our Lord.
R. Amen.
Aperi, Domine, os meum
ad benedicendum nomen sanctum tuum:
munda quoque cor meum
ab omnibus vanis, perversis et alienis cogitationibus;
intellectum illumina, affectum inflamma,
ut digne, attente ac devote
hoc Officium recitare valeam,
et exaudiri merear
ante conspectum divinae Majestatis tuae.
Per Christum Dóminum nostrum.
R. Amen,
in union with that divine intention,
with which you praised God
while you were on earth,
I offer to you these Hours (or this Hour)