Monday, February 1, 2016

Liturgy of the Hours Bootcamp

Since many people decide to start praying the Liturgy of the Hours as a lenten project, I thought this would be a good time to re-run some old "how-to" posts.  If you know someone like this, feel free to share. 

All right. You want to start praying the liturgy of the hours. Unless you are  are super-zealous,  it is probably not a good idea to attempt all 5 liturgical hours (or seven since you have the option of doing daytime prayer 3 times instead of just once). The Church recommends that the laity use Morning and Evening   Prayer, calling these two hours the "hinges" of the liturgical day. So that is a worthy goal.

But for  those in the  just -starting- and -not-so-sure-I can-handle-this category, I'm going to recommend beginning with the hour of Night Prayer. There are several reasons for this:

1. It is shorter than Morning or Evening prayer, ever an advantage to those of us who are piety-challenged.
2. Night Prayer is on a simple 7-day repeating cycle. It does not change during Advent, Lent, or for feast days.  It's in the no-flip zone of your breviary.
3. For those who already  pray around bedtime, there is no huge change in habits to form.
4. The psalms of Night Prayer are just about the best ones there are in terms of beatiful imagery and inspiring one-liners that will soon become part of your spontaneous prayer language. For example, Psalm 130 (the De Profundis for you Latin geeks), and Psalm 91, the "Warrior's Psalm".

Okay, here we go. Note that in the "Christian Prayer"  breviary , there is no night prayer for Saturday. Saturday night is called Sunday I (as in the vigil of Sunday) and Sunday is called Sunday II. In the Pauline Media breviary, Saturday is called Saturday.

1.Begin with the sign of the cross while reciting O God come to my assistance. O Lord make haste to help me. say the Glory Be*. And unless it's lent, you may add Alleluia
2. Do a brief examination of conscience and make an act of contrition (your choice which version to use)
3. Sing or recite the hymn.
4. Recite the antiphon. Recite the psalm and the Glory Be*. Repeat the Antiphon. (note: the subtitle and the scripture citation directly under the psalm number is not meant to be recited out loud as part of the Office. It is there for private meditation. Of course, if you are doing this by yourself, the whole thing is private, but I just want you to distinguish the essentials of the prayers from the little extras that are thrown in.)
5. Do this with the second psalm if there is one.
6. Read the reading. Pause a moment for reflection: What is God saying to me here?
7. Recite the responsory.(Into your hands,Lord, I commend my spirit, etc.)
8. Canticle of Simeon (the ultimate bedtime prayer): Aniphon, canticle(make the sign of the crossas you begin it), Glory Be*, Antiphon.
9. Recite the final prayer, and then, while making the Sign of the Cross, say the concluding verse: May the all powerful Lord grant us a restful night and a peacful death. Amen. Then recite one of the traditional Marian Prayers listed. (Hail Holy Queen, Hail Mary, or Ave Maris Stella)
10. Enjoy the peaceful restful mood Night Prayer will give you as you drift off to sleep.
*Whenver you begin the Glory Be, it is customary to bow your head during the words, Glory be to the Father adn to the Son and to the Holy Spirit. 

That's it. The whole thing takes 5 minutes once you've got the basic routine down.  Longer, of course, if you were to sing the hymn, and/or take your time meditating on the psalms.

Next week we'll run Bootcamp II.  


  1. Great reminders, Daria. As we say in Irish "Tus maith leath na hoibre."
    pronounced "toss maw law na hibbra" A good beginning is half the work.
    Lent is a great way to begin a new positive something for two weeks straight and it can become a part of your life routine, and praying the Liturgy of the Hours is a wholesome routine to adopt....and this site a great resource.

    1. Thanks, Tom. And happy St. Brigid's day to you.

  2. I love bootcamps at 71! I do Liturgy but up to Office of Readings and sometimes night are to be admired for this blog...

  3. Daria,

    Thanks for this wonderful blog. I wanted to know your opinion of the revised Grail Psalms. Do you like them, in comparison with the original Grail? (I own a copy of the revised and of course pray the current LoTH.) I have found the original Grail to be much more smooth in praying and reciting, compared to the revised. Of course, that is just my own personal opinion.

    1. HI Tim! I've actually been using a breviary from Kenya (published in 2009) which uses the Revised Grail psalter. There's always that tension between poetry and accuracy, isn't there? That being said, I find that some of RG psalms beatthe original for poetry. For example, my husband pointed out this one. Psalm 107, verse 23 (Sat.III OOR): "Some went down to the sea in ships" has a better rhythmn than "some sailed to the sea in ships". And in Psalm 110, I prefer the Revised "Sit at my right hand,until I make your foes your footstool" better than "Sit at my right: your foes I will put beneath your feet." I also like that where the original Grail always uses "love" the Revised speaks of "mercy" or "merciful love", which is a richer concept and hey, it's the year of Mercy. On the other hand, yes, I have a few favorites psalms--especially ones I've memorized after all these years, where the original does feel more comfortable to me. Ps. 63, for example. But on the whole, I prefer the Revised Grail. You will have noticed that the original often leaves out entire verses, or changes up the order of verses. Poetic or not, I like my psalter to match up with the real Bible.

    2. Daria, I also like my psalter to line up with the Bible. Does the Kenyan LH leave in verse 6 of Psalm 110?

    3. No Mike, it does not. The verse numbers are printed in the margin next to each verse and you see "5" and then "7". If you simply buy a copy of the Revised Grail Psalms, you will see verse 6. But the deletion of certain "imprecatory" verses was directed by the Vatican II decree and so, national bishops' conferences cannot get around that when they issue breviaries.

  4. I'm fairly new to the whole LoTH. Admittedly, I'm not even Catholic, but I figured that as a Christian, I could find some enrichment and blessing or spiritual preservation by heart-fully praying these prayers. This blog has definitely been helpful in motivating me and helping me work toward that endeavor. Praying at certain times of the day isn't very popular in most Protestant traditions, so when I say that I'm seriously hanging on to every article written here, that's exactly what I'm doing. Sometimes I just open this blog to read on my free time, and I find it highly enjoyable. Anyway, I felt like you really deserved a huge thanks for taking on such an endeavor and indirectly instructing a once-wayward college student. Thank you so much!

    1. Thank you for your kind words, Jon. I'm always glad to get this kind of feedback. You are not the only non-Catholic following this blog, by the way. I've noticed a trend in the last ten years: many Catholic practices are being adopted by Christians of other denominations. I've seen books written by evangelicals and/or Baptists promoting a more liturgical Sunday service, acknowledging the seasons of Advent, Lent, etc., and even one on an adapted version of the Stations of the Cross. There are quite a few books advocating using the Psalms as one's personal prayer. And you might particularly enjoy a book called In Constant Prayer by Robert Benson, which is all about his discovery of the daily office, although I believe he uses the Anglican Book of Common Prayer. The BCP has it's good points (easier to figure out how to use it than the LOTH for one thing), but I think the Office of Readings is what makes the LOTH more attractive. If you send me your address I'd be happy to send you a copy of my book, The Everyday Catholic's Guide to the LOTH. Despite the title, much of what I wrote there would be of interest to any Christian who is interested in the psalms and liturgical prayer.

  5. I am a secular franciscan and would like to pray office of the reading and morning prayer to start my day, but confused which psalm to pray.

  6. I am a secular franciscan and would like to pray office of the reading and morning prayer to start my day, but confused which psalm to pray.

    1. I'm happy to help, but need more information to understand your question. Do you mean you are not sure which week in the psalter you should be using? This week (19th week in ordinary time) we are in week III of the four-week psalter. Next week it will be week IV, then back to week I and so on. Whenever we start a new holy season (advent, lent, etc. start with week I of the psalter) Please write again if you need further information.