Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Renewing Your Youth Like an Eagles

I'm in bird watching mode these days, since spring migration yields many interesting species in my yard, in the wood, and along the waterways here in Pennsylvania. It's also nesting time for many birds. On a recent walk I spotted a bald eagle's nest along the Allegheny River.

So when I read  Psalm 103 this morning (Office of Readings), my eyes lingered on verse 5 and I recalled an old post I'd written about that several years ago. Here's a rerun of that.

Reading Psalm 103 during Office of Readings today, I remembered this 2011 post wherein I satisfied my curiosity about the eagle verse. Have you ever wondered why it's an eagle's youth that is renewed, as opposed to that of, say, a chickadee?   I finally looked it up and here's the result:

Psalm 103 comprises the psalter for today's (Wednesday, week IV) Office of Readings.In verse 5, after listing some of God's blessings--forgives guilt, heals your ills, redeems you, crowns you with love and compassion, fills your life with good things--the psalmist adds, renewing your youth like an eagle's.

Every time I read this line, I first give the little happy sigh with which I respond to beautiful  biblical nature imagery, a mini Hallmark poster of the image flashing in my brain.

Then I stop and say, Wait!...  what?

 Because I can't figure out what's so special about an eagle's youth.
Not his strength, power, beauty, far sight, but his youth.

My first guess--could it be there was a phoenix-type myth going on about eagles that the psalmist had picked up on?

I did a search and found that many people share my question. An interesting "biblical birdwatching" site gave a lengthy description of how many times a bald eagle molts until he acheives the mature, white-head-and-tail plumage at 5 years of age. The evangelical writer considered this molting a kind of renewal. Not bad, but 1. this would teach a lesson about the desirability of Maturity, the wisdom of old age, not about youth. and 2. the bald eagle is a North American bird.

Luckily, I remembered that the Fathers of the Church have commented at length on just about every verse of scripture. Good old New Advent has St. Augustine's comments. Augustine claims that an eagle's beak tip never stops growing, and that after many years have gone by, it curves down and around the lower mandible such that the eagle would be unable to eat.  He grows weak from hunger, and then, in desperation, bashes the end of his beak off against a rock. Once again able to eat, his strength, vigor, and plumage are renewed, and he is once more like a young eagle. Augustine concludes:

 ...the eagle is not restored unto immortality, but we are unto eternal life; but the similitude is derived from hence, that the rock takes away from us what hinders us. Presume not therefore on your strength: the firmness of the rock rubs off your old age: for that Rock was Christ. 1 Corinthians 10:4 In Christ our youth shall be restored like that of the eagle....

My own knowledge of birds tell me that eagles don't really need to break off their beaks. I have seen crows and pet parrots rub their beaks against hard material.  And I've known pet parakeets to need a beak trim when they haven't had something hard to chew on. Probably eagles wear their beaks down by tearing at the bones of their prey.   But as St. Thomas points out, an analogy does not have to be true to be a good analogy.

So it looks like Christ, our rock, rubs off or breaks off our weary, aged sinfulness, and restores to us the youth of our baptismal purity. Enabling us to soar to heaven. On eagles wings  the wings of eagles.

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

From the Catholic Hipster

I always love to share someone else's published enthusiasm for the Liturgy of the Hours. So when Alert Reader Rachael Murphy told me about this article by Tommy Tighe, I had to drop everything and let you know about it at once. Here's the beginning:

In 1 Thessalonians 5:17, St. Paul makes a recommendation that at first glance seems flat out impossible: “pray without ceasing.”
When I hear that, my first reaction is something akin to, “He can’t be serious, right?”
I react that way, despite the fact that I pretty much check my social media feeds without ceasing, snack without ceasing, and complain without ceasing. For some reason, those come pretty easy to me. 

Praying without ceasing though? Not so much!

There’s just too much to do! I’m working full-time, spending most of my time away from work corralling three kids into our minivan and around town, and I’ve got WAY too many shows to stream on Netflix after the kids finally fall asleep. 

I feel pretty lucky to cram a single Hail Mary into the midst of all that, but “pray without ceasing?” I can’t even imagine!

A few years ago, however, I made a Lenten goal that changed my entire way of viewing St. Paul’s directive...
By the way, this author, who styles himself "The Catholic Hipster", has a book out with the same title. I read and reviewed it  on Catholic Digest when it came out a year or so ago. It's a fun book. 

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Old Latin hymns restored in the 1985 LH

An interesting article in the Corpus Christi Watershed blog about the old Latin hymns that were redone in Ciceronian style Latin in 1632 for the old Roman Breviary and still in effect today. Monastic orders were allowed to keep the ancient hymns and they are still sung by a few even today.
In 1985, these old Latin hymns were added to the LH. Check it out.

Urban VIII Consecrates St Peter's Basilica

Thursday, April 12, 2018

April newsletter from Universalis

Martin Kochanski from has graciously given us permission to reprint his latest newsletter:

Happy Easter!
There is really nothing that can be added to those two words, in their fullest meaning. Easter is why we are Christians at all. Easter is why there is any point to the world. Some of our yearly Easters seem to pass without much happening, but when God chooses to use one of them to the full, what an Easter that is! So again, happy Easter. He is truly risen, alleluia!

The Office of Readings
One Easter Sunday many years ago, I rolled into the Downside Abbey bookshop after Mass, drunk on the Resurrection, and saw a second-hand three-volume "Divine Office" on the shelf. In the end, that is what led to Universalis. But what happened shortly after I incautiously bought those books is the experience I would like to share with you today.
It is the Office of Readings.
Because it doesn't have a fixed place in the timed cycle of the Hours, it is easy to neglect the Office of Readings. The more affordable books don't include it because it is too long to fit in one volume, and many people's prayer routine doesn't include it because its name makes it sound long and rather heavy. That is a pity, because the Office of Readings contains something unique: the Second Reading, the patristic reading, for each day.
These Second Readings are something that no other liturgical texts are: they are not Scripture, but something far more varied. You can read letters from St Ignatius of Antioch on his way to martyrdom in Rome in about 107, begging everyone not to rescue him. You can read the official transcript of the trial of St Cornelius on 14 September 258, a trial conducted with correctness and stately courtesy on both sides. There are commentaries on Scripture and the Psalms by St Cyril of Alexandria and St Augustine, St John Chrysostom and many others. On many saints' days there are lives of the saints in question, or letters from them; sometimes, for modern saints, there is the Pope's sermon at their canonization. Whatever you get, you get directly from the original writer. You see the Church as it truly is: of every time and of every place.
The reason for mentioning the Second Readings at all at this time of year is that the Second Readings in the Easter season are particularly glorious. They contain some of the most ancient writings on the Paschal sacrifice and on the Cross and Resurrection of Jesus. They contain the basic catecheses taught to the newly baptized in fourth-century Jerusalem. They contain Justin Martyr's explanation, for pagan readers, of exactly what the Eucharist is (and is not). They contain moving sermons, and reflections whose authors have long been forgotten.
I thoroughly recommend following the Second Readings in this season, even if you don't bother with the rest of the Office of Readings. In fact, I recommend going back ten days and starting with the Second Reading for Holy Saturday, that enchanting description of Christ visiting the patriarchs to release them from Hell, with its narration of what Christ says to Adam and what Adam replies.
With Universalis, it is easy to go back in time and do this. The Universalis apps and programs have no time limits of the kind the web site has, so you can go back and forward as far as you need. If you do not have an app or program yet, now is the time to get one. It doesn't cost much, it lasts for ever, and if you are really cautious, you can even have a month's free trial before you commit yourself. Read about the apps and programs here.
Once you are looking backwards, you don't have to stay permanently ten days behind. If, each day, you read today's reading plus one reading from the past, you will soon catch up. Once you have caught up, if you still can't manage the whole Office of Readings, there is now an alternative. In any Universalis app or program, you can choose an "enlarged version" of Lauds (Morning Prayer) which includes the Second Reading and also the Gospel of the day. It is the "one-a-day multivitamins" approach to spiritual reading. Just click or tap on the menu button to the right of the "Morning Prayer" heading, and you will be able to select the enlarged version.

Study Hymns
A learned priest has gone through all the Latin hymns in the Liturgy of the Hours and made a literal line-by-line translation of each one. He has kindly given them all to us, together with a brief commentary putting each hymn in context, and we have included them as an option in Universalis. If you are reciting your Hour privately rather than in a group, you will probably be muttering the hymn anyway rather than singing it out loud, and the "study hymns" are a way to connect with the rich, original Latin without having to wrestle with the language itself. In any of the apps and programs, click or tap on the menu button to the right of the hymn, and the study hymn is the one that has a dagger † next to its name.

Lectio Divina
We have never had as many messages of thanks for a new feature as we have had for the new Lectio Divina page. If we had known how much people wanted it, we would have added it a long time ago. For those of you who subscribe to the spoken audio of the Gospel at Mass, you can now listen to this in the Lectio Divina page as well as in the Readings at Mass page.

The new season's e-books
Those of you who buy your ready-made Universalis e-books from Amazon will find that your half-year Liturgy of the Hours e-book will end at Pentecost. It will soon be time to get the next one. The new e-books are now available. The complete catalogue is here.

How to update
The study hymns are a new feature in the Universalis apps and programs. Updates are (or should be) automatic on Android and iOS, while on the Mac and Windows Universalis checks for updates from time to time and lets you know when one is available. This page has full details.

Thank you all for using Universalis. If you have trouble or questions, or suggestions, do write to us at or use the Contact Us button in one of the apps. Don't reply directly to the email this newsletter came in unless you really want to stop getting the emails! Let us all keep one another in our prayers as always.

Martin Kochanski
Universalis Publishing Limited
Facebook: Universalis
Twitter: @CatholicFeasts

Wednesday, April 11, 2018


If I had to do high school all over again, I'd take 3 or 4 years of Latin. I had a great Latin teacher (Miss Houk) but I didn't think about taking more than the two years that I did managed to pass. Anyway, if you're interested, you can download ebooks of the latest edition (2010) of the Liturgia Horarum in four volumes, 11.50 euros each which comes to about $14.23 per. It's also available in Italian. No English yet. Check it out.

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

So..How's that Revised Breviary Coming Along?

My co-blogger Mike's previous post about a reprinting of the Latin Liturgy of the Hours led to some discussion in the comments about the long awaited revision/retranslation of the American English edition.

Obviously this is something we are all waiting for with great longing, or great curiosity, or perhaps great trepidation, depending on one's perceptions on the abilities of the U.S. Bishops' committee on Divine Worship and ICEL --that is, International Commission on English in the Liturgy. 

This blog was probably the first source to break the story about the proposed revision in this post and in  this one. But that was back in 2012. Progress since then has been slow but steady. If you want more details on this from the only reliable source, then go to this page from the USCCB website for a complete rundown. I'm so glad that Mike noted this pages in those comments the other day. It gives the reader a good sense of why this process is so slow. Some parts of the LOTH (in the United States) are taken from the New American Bible, while the psalms are the Revised Grail Psalms, the work of the monks of Conception Abbey in Missouri. Then there's the antiphons, Intercessions,hymns and concluding prayers, which are the work of ICEL, translating texts that come from the Vatican publishing house. So we are talking about four different entities, four different copyright holders.

You have to be a serious breviary nerd to read the entire piece, but it should answer all your questions.  Unless, of course, you are from the UK. If any Brits, Aussies, Canadians, or Kiwis out there know how, if at all, the Commonwealth bishops are coordinating with the USA on this,or just doing a new translation of their own, please share the news!

As I keep telling people, the Bishops and these other entities are share this trait in common with the Lord: to their eyes, "a thousand years are like yesterday, come and gone, or like a watch in the night."(Psalm 90:4)  So the rest of us just have to be patient.

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

Reprint of the Liturgia Horarum Coming Soon

From the New Liturgical Movement:


Some readers of NLM may have already seen the recent announcement by the Libreria Editrice Vaticana: the Latin editio typica altera of the Liturgia Horarum, out of print for some time, is being reprinted. The first volume is expected by June. Those who are interested in acquiring a copy can e-mail the Sales Department ( for pre-orders and more information...

The first volumes of Liturgia Horarum, which are currently being edited, will be available in print starting this June. Two different versions will be published: classic and with gilded edges. The cover price is not yet available, but the four volumes can already be pre-ordered by emailing our sales office at

Saturday, March 31, 2018

A Poem for Holy Saturday

I run this every year either on St. Josephs day or Holy Saturday.  Even if you are not a huge fan of poetry, I guarantee you will be moved by this one. Note: the "Benedicite" Moses requests is the canticle from Daniel that we pray in the psalter on Easter and every Sunday week I. 
 If this your first time reading this piece, pass it on to anyone else you know who loves St. Joseph. 

Limbo by Sister Mary Ada, OSJ

The ancient grayness shifted
Suddenly and thinned
Like mist upon the moors
Before a wind.
An old, old prophet lifted
A shining face and said:
“He will be coming soon.
The Son of God is dead;
He died this afternoon.”

A murmurous excitement stirred
All souls.
They wondered if they dreamed –
Save one old man who seemed
Not even to have heard.

And Moses, standing,
Hushed them all to ask
If any had a welcome song prepared.
If not, would David take the task?
And if they cared
Could not the three young children sing
The Benedicite, the canticle of praise
They made when God kept them from perishing
In the fiery blaze?
A breath of spring surprised them,
Stilling Moses’ words.
No one could speak, remembering
The first fresh flowers,
The little singing birds.
Still others thought of fields new ploughed
Or apple trees
All blossom-boughed.
Or some, the way a dried bed fills
With water
Laughing down green hills.
The fisherfolk dreamed of the foam
On bright blue seas.
The one old man who had not stirred
Remembered home.

And there He was
Splendid as the morning sun and fair
As only God is fair.
And they, confused with joy,
Knelt to adore
Seeing that He wore
Five crimson stars
He never had before.

No canticle at all was sung
None toned a psalm, or raised a greeting song,
A silent man alone
Of all that throng
Found tongue –
Not any other.
Close to His heart
When the embrace was done,
Old Joseph said,
“How is Your Mother,
How is Your Mother, Son?”

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Page numbers for the Divine Office

Here's a helpful source from the St. Thomas More House of Prayer website giving the page numbers for the Morning  and Evening Prayers of the Liturgy of the Hours each day in the single volume Christian Prayer and the four volume Christian Prayer for the entire calendar year. They are also downloadable in PDF format. It's a big help if you use the print version of the Liturgy of the Hours especially if you're a beginner or if you simply don't have time to flip back and forth in a calm, unhurried, and serene manner.

Friday, March 23, 2018

Morning Prayer (Enlarged Form) from Universalis

I use the Universalis app on my smartphone (Android), my PC (Windows 10), and my Amazon Fire tablet. It's very convenient and very reliable. It's also available on iPhones, Mac, Kindle, Nook, and eBooks.  

I noticed two new things now available on the Universalis app: Lectio Divina and an enlarged form for the Morning Prayer. The Lectio Divina is based on the Gospel reading of the day. The enlarged form for the Morning Prayer adds the readings from the Office of Readings and the Gospel of the day's Mass. I really like both features but the enlarged form of the Morning Prayer is perfect for me.

The app costs $10.99, $12.50, or $24.50 depending on your options. Once you get the app downloaded you don't need to be online. If you get the registration code, you're set for life. 

Books are expensive. The Catholic Book Publishing Corporation publishes fine books for the Liturgy of the Hours but they've never been updated. It still contains the original English translation from 1976 with the old collects that are no longer used at Mass. It's sad but the reality is that publishers don't really see a big market for these books. It looks like we won't see any new books until 2025 when the second edition is, supposedly, due. I'm going to be really old then so I'll just go ahead and use the Universalis app now.

Monday, March 19, 2018

Book Review: Psalm Basics for Catholics

In my 2013 book, The Everyday Catholic's Guide to the Liturgy of the Hours, I touch here and there on the Jewish roots of the psalter. I briefly described to readers how to think about both the literal, historical sense of the psalm (i.e., what the psalmist had in mind when he wrote them) as well as the christological sense (how the inspired words of the psalms are often messianic hints about Jesus.)

But one thing I don't do is explain how the psalms fit together as a coherent book of the Bible. Why are they in this specific order? Is there any pattern there? Are they organized by theme or topic? Is there an overall, "big picture" message to the book of Psalms?

There is one book, Singing in the Reign, listed in my chapter on Resources, that covers this topic very well. But now there's another one which I must recommend.

Psalm Basics for Catholics is an easy, and even entertaining read that explains how the Psalms encapsulate Salvation History, and why they are divided into five "books". It tells you the significance of the authorship of the psalms (some by King David, some by others, and even one--which somehow I'd missed all these years--by Moses! It's Psalm 90.).  And while focusing primarily on what these psalms meant to the Chosen People, the author continually links these meanings to their messianic significance.  He also recommends five psalms from each book that are Really Worth Memorizing. Those of us with a longstanding LOTH habit will have a good headstart on this. I found I"d already memorized many of his recommendations.  

Author John Bergsma's tour of the the Psalms is made easy and memorable by his stick figure mnemonic illustrations that portray the Davidic kings or kingdom in various stages of trial, triumph, suffering, and hope as the fortunes of the Kingdom of Israel/Judea go up to the height of David and Solomon's rule, go down with their dissolute heirs to eventual destruction, enter a plateau of reflection during the Babylonian captivity, and then rise again in hope as they return from exile and the temple is restored.

The author recommends that at least once, but preferably several times, we read through the psalms in order, since this will yield a richer understanding and appreciation of the psalms that we won't get if we only read it in the rather mixed up order of our breviary psalters.    If you don't have time to do this separately as well as your daily LOTH, you might want to switch to "devotional" mode for a month: with bible in hand, do each hour of prayer, but instead of the 4 week psalter, just read three psalms, in order for each hour until you've gone through all 150. This of course, is no longer  official "liturgical" prayer. But it's certainly a worthwhile experiment to do just once.   But first read Bergsma's book, then you can read and pray through the book of psalms able to notice all the themes of Davidic covenant history which he points out. 

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

From The Christian Century: Spiritual detours

Spiritual detours

Sometimes prayer takes us where we don't intend to go.
March 14, 2018

I carried these questions with me, as I tramped from the lake up the hill, to the abbey, for five o’clock prayers with the monks. Happy to be someplace warm, I filed into the choir and sat down in one of the heavy oak choir stalls. There are four daily prayers in the liturgy of the hours at St. John’s. But on the shelf in front of me were seven prayer books: seven little blue plastic binders, the kind with three holes and silver rings. Which book? Morning, Midday, Evening, Book of Song, Feasts, Common, or Responses/Canticles? I chose Evening, and a thin, black-robed monk behind me immediately came up and pulled out the Book of Song. “This is Mass 8,” he said quietly, and opened the book to the Psalms for Monday, Week 1 in Ordinary Time.

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Liturgy of the Hours: The Church’s pattern for the laity’s holiness

Another good one from Angelus by Peter Jesserer Smith:

“I asked myself, ‘Do Catholics have a whole other book that I’m not aware of?’ ” he said, recalling that moment. “But I could tell it was a source of much affection for her.”
Goodnight had prayed for a moment of solace, but this encounter more than seven years ago would introduce him to the Liturgy of the Hours, a constant source of spiritual solace, conversion and strength. The nun told him she was praying with her book on the Liturgy of the Hours, and invited him to join her and other Catholics who had gathered to pray together during the Church’s liturgy called Morning Prayer — not the Mass.

Read the whole thing.

Monday, March 12, 2018

To give up your phone or not to give up your phone by Tommy Tighe

From the Angelus [Archdiocese of Los Angeles]
I just took a glance at mine, and was unsurprised that Twitter led the pack, with an app I use for praying the Liturgy of the Hours coming in a distant second. I’m hoping this phone feature isn’t presented to me at my judgment, because that would be a really awkward conversation with the Lord to say the least.

Friday, March 9, 2018

Liturgy of the Hours, Second Edition

I guess things are moving along but who knows when it'll be published. Here are excerpts from the USCCB website:

Revised Grail Psalms
March 19, 2010: The Revised Grail Psalms were granted recognitio from the Holy See's Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments.
After four years of use by some religious houses and review by the USCCB, a series of modifications were proposed.

November 11, 2014: the U.S. Bishops voted to accept the modifications. If confirmed by the Holy See, this new version of the Revised Grail Psalms will be used in the Liturgy of the Hours, Second Edition. They are known for being remarkably faithful to the original Hebrew while also being rendered in a "sprung rhythm" to facilitate singing.

As of early 2018, the modified Revised Grail Psalms are awaiting confirmation by the Holy See.

Old and New Testament Canticles (including Gospel Canticles)
June 11, 2015: The USCCB approves new translations of the Old and New Testament canticles. Prepared by Conception Abbey, these canticles are rendered in the same "sprung rhythm" as the Revised Grail Psalms.

As of early 2018, the Old and New Testament canticles are awaiting confirmation by the Holy See.

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Sts. Perpetua and Felicity- March 7th

Have you ever noticed that the normal trials of life are always worse when you have children? Back when I was single, or newly married, getting sick wasn't so bad. To take a day off of work and curl up with a good book, a cup of tea and a touch of the flu was almost pleasant. But dealing with the same flu when you have a newborn and a preschooler to manage, let alone a flock of homeschoolers—it's horrible.

Or think about your car breaking down on the highway. Never any fun under the best circumstances. But when there's a two year old in a car seat and no more spare diapers, the situation becomes a hundred times more desperate.

Sts. Felicity and Perpetua are the patrons of Women in Bad Situations Complicated Further by Children. Both were imprisoned and facing martyrdom. Normally not a pleasant situation, but had they both been childless, it might not have been so bad. They were in prison with four other devout  Christian friends. They could all encourage one another, pray together, and help one another to stay focused on their heavenly reward. But thanks to being mothers, Felicity and Perpetua  them had an additional problem. Perpetua had a baby at staying at home with her extended family. And she was a nursing mother. Any mother can imagine her misery: in pain from engorgement, probably  a soaked, leaking mess, and worst of all, heartbroken from the separation. Her family brought the baby for her to nurse when they visited her each day, but that was hardly adequate.

Her friend, Felicity, had a different kind of baby trouble. Felicity, you see, was a pregnant widow. She was due pretty soon, but not soon enough. Romans, for all their pagan cruelty, did have some feeling for the unborn. The rule was that a condemned pregnant woman was not to be executed until after giving birth. Felicity was sick with worry that her friends would be martyred ahead of her. She was frightened at the idea of possibly having to face death all alone.

We know the story has a happy ending because Perpetua kept a diary in prison. It's a remarkable document. “Such anxieties I suffered for many days, but then I obtained permission for my baby to remain in the prison with me, and, being relieved of my trouble and anxiety for him, I at once recovered my health, and my prison suddenly became a palace to me and I would rather have been there than anywhere else.”

Felicity's problem was solved as well. The group prayed for her, and God granted her a slightly early delivery. The baby was adopted immediately by a Christian couple, and Felicity was able to face martyrdom with her friends, “rejoicing to come from the midwife to the gladiator, to wash after her travail in a second baptism.”

So, next time your find yourself spending your own 24 hour virus lugging a bucket, mop, and basket of soiled bedding as you struggle to care for other sick family members—ask these two martyrs to help you get through it. They are sure to understand.

The diary of St. Perpetua to which is added commetary from a Christian observer of their martyrdom, is a remarkable document. You can read it here.  Excerpts from it appear in today's Office of Readings.   Felicity and Perpetua  are among the handful of women martyrs mentioned at Mass in the Roman canon. (First Eucharistic Prayer)

Tuesday, March 6, 2018 Co-blogger

As you all must have noticed, my posting here has been pretty spotty for well over a year. This is due to several causes, such as a. my besetting fault of laziness combined with perpetually poor time management skills; b. lots of family stuff, some positive and some negative, that have preyed upon my time, and c. a feeling that I've said pretty much all I have to see about the Liturgy of the Hours, and have said it many times. I no longer have a big supply of fresh insights to share.

So it seemed it was time to bring someone else on board. Mike Demers has been following this blog for years. He comments frequently, often supplying the correct answer to the questions people ask here before I've even noticed that a question was asked! He has no agenda other than to express his  enthusiasm for the Liturgy of the Hours, and to help others to love it the way he does.

Therefore, you will be seeing Mike's posts here pretty regularly from here on. In fact, his enthusiasm was such that he  already posted before I got around to introducing him. Who knows? Maybe his zeal will inspire me to be here a bit more often than I have of late.

So please give Mike a warm welcome. And feel free to ask him lots of questions. Keep him busy. 

Liturgical Calendar For The Dioceses Of The United States Of America for 2018

If you look at the liturgical calendar for the U.S., you'll find it a pretty handy guide for locating your place in the Liturgy of the Hours [LH]. For example, Pss III shown at the end of the selected readings for Mass on Sunday indicates Week 3 in the LH. The whole calendar is available for downloading as a PDF document. Enjoy!

Ex 20:1-17 or 20:1-3, 7-8, 12-17/1 Cor 1:22-25/Jn 2:13-25 (29) or, for Year A, Ex 17:3-7/Rom 5:1-2, 5-8/Jn 4:5-42 or 4:5-15, 19b-26, 39a, 40-42 (28) Pss III

5  Mon Lenten Weekday* violet
2 Kgs 5:1-15b/Lk 4:24-30 (237)

* The following readings may be used on any day this week, especially in Years B and C when the Gospel of the Samaritan Woman is not read on the Third Sunday of Lent: Ex 17:1-7/Jn 4:5-42 (236)

6  Tue Lenten Weekday violet
Dn 3:25, 34-43/Mt 18:21-35 (238)

7  Wed Lenten Weekday violet [Saints Perpetua and Felicity, Martyrs]
Dt 4:1, 5-9/Mt 5:17-19 (239)

8  Thu Lenten Weekday violet [Saint John of God, Religious]
Jer 7:23-28/Lk 11:14-23 (240)

9  Fri Lenten Weekday violet [Saint Frances of Rome, Religious]
Hos 14:2-10/Mk 12:28-34 (241)

10 Sat Lenten Weekday violet
Hos 6:1-6/Lk 18:9-14 (242)

Hymn Primer for Breviary Beginners

"I don't know the tune to this hymn."

Well, join the club. But there's several things you can do about that.

1. Just recite the hymn lyrics, like a poem. This is the obvious solution unless you have time for one of the following:

2. Choose a different hymn that you do know, so long as it's appropriate to the season. For example, during ordinary time you could always pick "Holy God We Praise Thy Name" or any other general hymn of praise. During lent, do "O Sacred Head Surrounded" or "When I Survey the Wondrous Cross" or "The Glory of these Forty Days."

3. Get acquainted with the meter posted at the beginning or the end of the hymn. That's the little series of numbers and periods.   For example, if it says """  The tune that we use for "Praise God From Whom All Blessings Flow" or "From All that Dwell Below the Skies" will fit those lyrics. If you get "77.77" and know the hymn "On this Day, the First of Days" then you can plug that tune into the strange lyrics. If it says "76.76" then go with "Sing Praise to Our Creator, O sons of Adam's race"  If you go to Cyber Hymnal  you can find tunes to go with every meter imaginable.

4. Better yet.  Go to Kevin Shaw's wonderful Breviary Hymns blog. There you can look up just about any hymns you want, and find a video performance thereof, as well as notes about the hymn's background and history.

Okay...time for  and comments and questions from newcomers or oldcomers who are in search of information that will improve their understanding and recitation of the Liturgy of the Hours.

Monday, January 29, 2018

EWTN Series on Liturgy of the Hours

Don't miss it.

Although I"m afraid I'm a little late here. The first one already ran tonight. Luckily, you can access most EWTN programming on their website. 

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

St. Francis DeSales and Laity Praying the Hours

Tell me, please, my Philothea, whether it is proper for a bishop to want to lead a solitary life like a Carthusian; or for married people to be no more concerned than a Capuchin about increasing their income; or for a working man to spend his whole day in church like a religious; or on the other hand for a religious to be constantly exposed like a bishop to all the events and circumstances that bear on the needs of our neighbour. Is not this sort of devotion ridiculous, unorganised and intolerable? Yet this absurd error occurs very frequently, but in no way does true devotion, my Philothea, destroy anything at all...  
...that the type of devotion which is purely contemplative, monastic and religious can certainly not be exercised in these sorts of stations and occupations, but besides this threefold type of devotion, there are many others fit for perfecting those who live in a secular state
-from the Office of Readings, memorial of St. Francis DeSales bishop

While reading St. Francis DeSales' advice to a laywoman about how create a practical spiritual life, I realized that today's saint is a good patron for us Coffee&Canticles folks. We're ordinary laity who have discovered a treasure in the Liturgy of the Hours. We've found that praying with the Word of God, arranged by the Church to fit the liturgical calendar, gives our days a holy framework that manages to be structured and "official", yet at the same time deeply personal, as we make the psalmists' cries of praise, thanksgiving, sorrow, contrition, and love our very own. 

At the same time, we sometimes struggle when our (good and praiseworthy) desire to say each day's Office properly--the correct choice of prayers (or a theoretical 'best" choice when options are offered), the right time of day, the right rubrics--comes smack against the wall made up of our personal time constraints, our jobs, our duties to our families, and our own habits, personalities, and desires. I see this all the time in the questions that I"m asked. Things like:

"I work a night shift and go to bed at 8am. Do I say morning prayer before I go to bed, or may I say Night Prayer?"
"Someone told me that I have to say Morning Prayer at 6am and Evening Prayer at 4pm because that's what monks do."
"Is it wrong to substitute a hymn that I actually known how to sing instead of just reciting the words of one that I don't know how to sing?"
"I used to do all 7 liturgical hours each day but now that I've had a baby I can't handle this and I'm feeling guilty. Is it okay to scale back to just lauds and vespers?"
"Does listening to an audio version of Morning Prayer on my way to work "count"?

 If St. Francis DeSales were the one writing this blog, well, it would be a much better written blog. But beyond that little detail, I  think he would frequently begin answers to such commenters with the words, "Relax, my child."

Because we are not monks. We are not religious. We are not contemplatives. Therefore we should know that, "He brought me into a place of freedom" (Psalm 18 v.20) where we can adapt our daily prayer routine to the circumstances of our lives. The times of day we chose, the book or app we use, the number of daily hours we consistently mange to do--it's all up to you.  Yes, some days it may not be a strict act of liturgy, but it will still be prayer!  

Here are a few ways I've adapted the Liturgy of the Hours to my secular state in life, when the need arises:

*I've often chuckled to find myself praying "Awake lyre and harp, I will awake the dawn," at 10  or 1030 in the morning. No, I do not feel compelled to instead do mid-morning prayer because I'm no longer in the vicinity of sunrise. I'm not a monk. 
*On Sunday morning, getting ready for mass often precludes sitting down at length with my breviary. So I consider mass itself to be my "morning prayer" and later, after we've come home and had breakfast, I go straight to the Office of Readings.
*If I have to be driving somewhere at the time I"d normally pray on of the hours, I bring a tablet and listen to an audio version of the Liturgy of the Hours, a combination of listening and joining in aloud for the parts that I know by heart. 
*I only pray one of the daytime hours, choosing the appropriate one according to what time of day it occurs to me to do it. Most of the time that is mid-afternoon prayer, and often at the time those fabled monks are already saying vespers.
* If I've missed (whether through competing  duties OR neglect) one or more hours, I simply let it go. I don't try to say them all at the end of the day to make up for it. I'm not a priest. Alternately, I might go back and just read through the antiphons and/or the reading. 
*If I've crashed into bed in exhaustion, then realize I didn't do Night Prayer, I'll say Sunday Night II from memory ("Night holds no terror for me, etc.") no matter what night of the week it actually is. 

How about you? Do you find ways to follow St. Francis DeSales advice to adapt prayer to your vocation when life gets crazy? (Even if it is crazy every day?)

Saturday, January 13, 2018

Ordinary, but not Dull plus Q&A

So we're completing the first week of Ordinary time.

I've said it a couple of times, but it bears repeating."Ordinary" in this context does not mean routine, let alone dull or uninteresting. It means that the weeks are ordered, or numbered. With ordinal numbers, get it?

But there's nothing ordinary (in the sense of dull or unimportant) about the breathtaking  poetry in the book of Sirach this week (Office of Readings).  Nor this past Monday's  reading from Pope St.  Clement I, which was a lovely, long petitionary prayer which certainly covers every base. Nor Monday's  daytime reading (midafternoon) from 1 Peter ever fail to inspire awe: realize that you were delivered not by any diminishable sum of silver or gold, but by Christ's blood beyond all price!

This coming Wednesday we learn how to become a hermit from St. Anthony. The heart-breakingly beautiful Psalm 42 pops up again on Monday morning. Tuesday's daytime readings remind us of the mystery and privilege of being a member of the Body of Christ.

And so it goes. The liturgy fills us with a thousand gifts, all year long. Never "ordinary".


At the same time, I feel a good kind of ordinary (in the "ordinary" sense of the word) whenever I put away the Christmas paraphernalia, put the furniture back where it belongs, and get back down to the business.  The relative quiet and the relatively  slender to-do list clears my mind.  And leaving behind for a while the page flipping and calendar checking of Christmastide does much to fuel the notion that ordinary time in the liturgy, is a little less cluttered, and breathes upon us a goodly simplicity. A needed break until Lent.

  Now then, it's been a while since I've done a formal "Q&A" post, partly because I've been a bad, neglectful blogger, and partly because you are free to ask any question on any post.  but perhaps newer people don't know that.    So please, if anything about the Liturgy of the Hours is confusing you, fire away!  

Friday, January 12, 2018

Drive forth, O Lord, O Darksome Things

A Canadian Mom-blogger (and Coffee&Canticles follower) has written this lovely post about the Liturgy of the Hours.

Like so many of you, she has discovered that, far from being a piece of arcane, elite spiritual practice for those of a monastic bent, the Liturgy of the Hours, particularly in its psalms, expresses and addresses our very down-to-earth situation:

We all have suffering and darkness in our lives, and we want God to take it away. Sometimes, the only prayer we can muster is, "God, help me; I can't deal with this crap."  But if we're going to pray that prayer, we might as well use beautiful language--not because God needs to hear it (he knows all the words, even the bad ones), but because we do.  God is everything that is true, good and beautiful. And good Art is the same thing. True Art leads us to God.

So read the rest. Maybe follow the blog too. Looks like she has lots of interesting things there. I mean, pot pies, St. Iraneus, Tupperware fandom, and homage to the PBS Hercule Poirot series. Quite a spread of topics. 

By the way, isn't it kind of nice to be back in ordinary time, with no more wondering how to find the pre and post-Epiphany office each day?