Sunday, November 29, 2015

Advent Reading for Liturgy of the Hours Geeks

Tonight I was researching Church documents in order to answer a question someone had asked me. And once again I was moved by these words of Pope Paul VI in the decree promulgating the revised Divine Office. He calls it:
The hymn of praise (laudis canticum) 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 constand fidelity over many centuries, in a rich variety of forms.

Every time I read those words, my reaction is the same. Something along the lines of "Wow! Is that what's in this book I'm holding? How can I ever take it for granted? What  privilege to pray this way each day! But I've got to be more careful not to let it become mechnical--to pay attention and focus on the riches that are here--please grant it, dear Lord, today and always."

So I was thinking. Do you want to pray during Advent with greater fervor? With a mind and heart open to all the mysteries of the Incarnation that are there for us in the psalms and scriptures of the Liturgy of the Hours? Are morning and evening prayer becoming a little too routine and boring?

Then renew you love for the breviary by reading what Pope Paul VI and the second Vatican Council had to say about them. Read the Apostolic Constitution Promulgating the Divine Office. And read the General Instruction for the Liturgy of the Hours. If you own a four-volume breviary, both of these are found in their entirety in the beginning of volume I, which you've just started last night for Advent.
If you only have the single volume Christian Prayer, or only use a digital app, you will have to go elsewhere.  You can find the General Instruction by hitting the tab at the top of this page. But first read the Apostolic Constituion of Paul VI here.

There is so much in these two documents. You will learn some of the history of the Divine Office and the breviary. You will learn what the psalms mean in the life of the Church. You'll learn how and why the Liturgy of the Hours has been arranged the way it is. You will also learn lots of trivia about rubrics, praying in public vs. private celebrations, and what the precedence is for various solemnities, feasts, memorials, and whatnot. Admittedly, some of it may be a little dull and arcane. But most of it should really deepen your understanding and appreciation of what you are doing when you open up that breviary or app each morning and evening.  

Both documents total around 80 pages. You could read it straight through in an hour or two. Or just read a dozen or so of the numbered paragraphs each day throughout advent. Take my word for it--you will be very glad you did. In fact, once you've done this, let me know and I will designate you as an official Liturgy of the Hours Geek, whose answers to other commenters on this blog will have some actual oomph! behind them.  You could even sign your comments with some faux honorific. Let's see...maybe LhG, since that rhymes with PhD.

Now, dont write and tell me you've read these things years ago. You still have to refresh your knowledge by re-reading this year if you are to receive your LhG from Coffee&Canticle University. Okay?

Monday, November 23, 2015

Memorial of Blessed Miguel Agustin Pro

We have three memorials to choose from today--St. Clement I, pope; St. Columban, abbot, and Blessed Miguel Agustin Pro, martyr. As an North American, and one with a particular attachement to modern saints, my choice would be the last one. Unfortunately, Blessed Miguel does not have his own second reading in the Office of Readings. But then I remembered that religious orders often have their own "ordo"--a calendar of feasts and liturgicall texts  for members of their orders who have been canonized or beatified.  A quick search revealed that although the Jesuit calendar is online, the extra texts are not. The "Jesuit supplement" can be purchased, but alas! the second reading for Bl. Miguel does not appear to be available online.   However, I did locate an excerpt from it, which appears on two different spirituality blogs. This is from a letter of his. Itt's short, but contains plenty of food for reflection: 

"Nonetheless, the people are in dire need of spiritual assistance. Every day I hear of persons dying without the sacraments; there are no priests who confront the situation; they keep away due to either obedience or fear. To do my little bit may be dangerous if I do it the way I have so far; but I do not think it temerity to do it with discretion and within certain limits. My superior is dead scared and always thinks that, out of two possibilities, the worse is bound to happen. I dare say there is a middle way between temerity and fear, as there is between extreme prudence and rashness. I have pointed this out to the superior but he always fears for my life. But what is my life? Would I not gain it if I lost for my brothers and sisters? True, we do not have to give it away stupidly. But what are sons of Loyola for it they flee at the first flare?"
Miguel Pro.gif
source wikimedia commons

I haven't posted lately, so just a reminder: you may ask any question you have about the Liturgy of the Hours at the end of this or any post. If there is something you want to know about the correct way to say the prayers, about celebrating saint's days, about various print and online editions of the Liturgy of the Hours, or anything else in that ballpark, please do so. 

Welcome to the new readers who have joined us in recent weeks. 

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

St. Martin of Tours -a Feast on a Memorial

St. Martin of Tours--love that guy.
source: wikiimedia commons

Love the story of Martin, still a catechumen, as a Roman soldier sharing his cloak with the beggar.

Love that his special day on the calendar coincides with Veteran's Day/Remembrance Day.

Love reading about the end of his saintly life as the saintly abbot willing to drag himself out of bed on an errand of mercy (to reconcile quarreling clergymen) when he knew it would be the death of him. (Office of Readings).

And love getting that surprise and momentary confusion  of finding that this saint gets a full office of his own with all the trimmings (even custom made antiphons!) even though his day is only ranked as a memorial.

The quick explanation is that before the liturgical calendar was revised after Vatican II, St. Martin's day was a much-beloved feast of longstanding tradition throughout Europe. So, being a sentimental favorite, he still gets to keep a fancy office even though his day no longer rates as a feast on the universal calendar. St. Mary Magdalene is another one who is in this category. I can't recall any others off the top of my head.   If any of you can, then let us know in the comments. 

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

A Quick Question for Lithuanian Readers

Some time ago, I was informed that the Lithuanian-language rights to my book, The Everyday Catholic's Guide to the Liturgy of the Hours, had been purchased from the publisher.

I would love, love, love to receive a copy of my book in Lithuanian. So if any of you know anything about this, and could help me get a copy, I'd be very happy.


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)