Wednesday, March 30, 2011

What R Antiphons Phor?

Each hour of the Divine Office begins with a couple of Psalms and a canticle. But before you  plunge into the psalm there's a little one-liner to read known as the Antiphon. At the conclusion of the psalm or canticle, the Glory Be is said, and then the Antiphon is repeated.

What is the point of that? Inqiring minds want to know, especially the inquiring minds of those who use the one-volume breviary, which unfortunately does not reprint the Antiphon at the end of the psalm. You have to flip back to the beginning to find it.  As this is ever-so-slightly irritating to the non-saint, one at least wants to be assured that it is  worth doing.

I'm probably just articulating something that most of you have already  intuited, but here it is. The antiphon gives us:
a. a focus
b. a suggestion from the Church about how to view that psalm or canticle
c. a thought to take away with us after the breviary is closed.

That's a lot for one little antiphon, isn't it? And please, if any of this is new to you, don't drive yourself insane trying to  think of all this at once with every antiphon you see. Just do it with one or two of them. The Divine Office is a very rich smorgasboard of prayer and scripture study, and you aren't supposed to take  a helping of every single item each time you partake of it.

 If you pray the liturgy at home, you are not having the same experience as a nun in a monastery choir. You are frequently distracted by what is happening around you, or by thoughts of what has to be done as soon as you finish praying. That state of  being "recollected" that spiritual books talk about is something your rarely acheive, right?   You  read a psalm, trying to make a prayer out of  this blah-blah-blah about King David and the strong walls of the city and the glory of Jerusalem.  You reach the end thinking, so why did I read this? And face it, we don't always have time to go through line by line finding all the biblical types that remind us of Jesus, the apostles, the Pope, and  the Church. The oven timer is about to go off and there are hungry kids downstairs. You can't sit in your bedroom pondering scripture all evening.

That's where the antiphon comes in. So what was the point of what I just read? Check the antiphon:
Give joy to your sevant, O Lord, for to You I lift up my soul.
Blessed is the upright man who speaks the truth.
Those who sow in tears will reap in joy.

See? Each of these is short and easy to understand. You read it before the psalm, and know what to look for. Re-read it after the psalm, to recall to your distracted mommy-mind (or daddy-mind or praying- this during-a- break -at- work- mind) exactly what it was you just prayed about.

Then, when you're done, if one of the antiphons was especially striking to you, you might try to bring it to mind again during the day. Maybe put it on a sticky note over the kitchen sink. (this is just an idea, please don't do this if it does not appeal.)

And here's something else I do with antiphons. (Devout people with well-ordered prayer lives please do not read any further.) If it's one of those days when events plus my own laziness/scatteredbrainedess  conspire to make me miss one or more of the hours, I go back at a later time, and only read the antiphons of the hour that I missed. Then I proceed with the hour that it is actually time to say.

One more cool thing about antiphons. During the seasons of advent, lent, Christmas and Easter, the antiphons for the Benedictus and the Magnificat come from the gospel of that day's mass!  I think it's Benedictus during year B and Magnificat during year A. (Or maybe its the other way 'round.)
So, if you don't get to daily mass, this is a quick clue to the day's gospel. Or if you did go to mass, it's a quick review of the day's gospel. Anyway, it's just one more of the things I love about the Divine Office, and how it ties into the Eucharistic sacrifice that is going on at every hour around the world.

And let this suffice about Antiphons. (As Herodotus would say if he was writing about the Divine Office.)

Monday, March 28, 2011

Why My Name is So Weird

"What an unusual name you have! What nationality is that?"

I used to hear this quite a lot back in the 20th centtury, but not so much anymore. Today it is  politically incorrect to ask such questions and reveal that you have some arbitrary,ethno-centric,  and hopelessly un-diverse  notion of what constitutes usualness in names.

But I know you are all curious.

I wish I could tell you my mother named me Daria because of my eastern European heritage. Both my  parents are  Polish, and three of my four grandparents were immigrants. Daria, or Darya, is a fairly common name in Russia, at least, and the way those borders have shifted over the centuries, there's probably some Russian blood in me or some Darias in Poland.

But my mother had  very American reasons for my name. Her favorite actress, Gene Tierney, named her daughter Daria (after then husband Oleg Cassini's Russian grandmother.  By the way, if you haven't seen Laura, that's a great movie.)  Then, as now, people like to feel a connection to  their favorite celebrities.  Or songs--my parent's second choice for my name was Mona--after "their song": Nat King Cole's Mona Lisa.  Daria won.  If anyone had asked my opinion, I might have tried to signal them in Morse code fetal kicking: "Mary!  Patricia!  Kathy! Anne, with or without the E! But please,  don't give me an unusual   name!"

Alas, nobody asked. So I grew up with "How do you spell that? How do you pronounce that?" ringing in my ears, not to mention the giggled schoolyard  taunt of an unpleasant intestinal condition. I get mail for Doria, Darla, D'Aria, Dairy, Daris, Doris, Diaria, and Darian.   And yes, I will answer either to the Russian-sounding version, or the short-a, American-sounding version. I'm pathetically grateful for anything that sounds close.

Since my maiden  name was also weird--a Polish name that looked Greek and whose pronunciation was not immediately evident to the reader--I grew up vowing to find and marry  a man named Smith, hoping to balance out the weirdness somewhat.

Instead I married someone who was Irish,German, and a small fraction of Choctaw Indian. Naturally, his father is the  Choctaw. So even in marriage I am still  weird from first to last.

Ironically, my name became cool in a nerdy sort of way in the late 90s because of the MTV cartoon character, Daria Morgendorffer. At that time my long hair, bangs,  and round glasses bore a striking resemblance to my cartoon counterpart. Being  a conservative, non-cable-subscribing, homeschooling mother, I did not know what to think about having a namesake who was a spin-off from  Beavis and Butthead  appearing on the legendarily evil MTV.

My kids' names are Theresa, Bernadette, William, Maryanne, Joseph,  Katherine, and Michael. When Bernadette--who grew up among homeschoolers and attended Thomas Aquinas College--told me that she sometimes felt her name was weird--I laugh so hard that I wet my pants.

Its been years since I came to terms with my weird name and even got to like it. It has its uses as a conversation starter. I have been told (don't know the scripture or theology behind this) that in heaven God will give us each a new name that He chose for us from all eternity. And my heart leaps as I wonder about that.

Mine will probably be Mona.

My Blog is New, My Followers Few

My Blog is New,
My Followers Few,
I'm guessing this is nothing new,
But Just in case you have not heard,
I'll doing my part to spread the word:

Faith&Family Mom's Day Away  on Saturday, April 2.

Time is almost running out, but you can still register!

For those of you who would like a little more information about the event before registering, or for those of you who are coming but would like to know more about what to expect, I thought I would post our schedule for the day.

Faith and Family “Mom’s Day Away” Schedule

8:00-9:00 Gathering/ Sign–in/ Coffee & Light Breakfast

9:00 Welcome /Introductions

9:15 Morning Prayer

9:30 “One ‘Yes’ at a Time” – Danielle Bean

10:00 Small Group discussions (at tables)

10:20 Large Group discussions (whole group)

10:30 Break                          

10:45  “Letting Go of Fear Can Change Your Life” – Jennifer Fulwiler

11:15 Small Group discussions

11: 35 Large Group discussions

11:45  “Connecting with Christ in Confession and Adoration” -  Special Guest, Fr. Chip Hines

12:00pm Lunch
            Confession (Fr. Chip)     Optional    

1:00 Adoration  Optional

1:30 Rosary Optional

2:00 Gift Giveaways/Break

2:15 "You Too Can Be a Saint!" - Rachel Balducci

2:45  Small Group discussions

3:05  Large Group discussions
            Confessions (Parish Priests)   Optional

3:20 Reflections on the Day

3:40 Closing Prayer & Dismissal

4:00  Parish Vigil Mass*  Optional, Main Church
*Those attending Mass may leave coats and conference materials at their tables until the end of Mass. If you do not wish to attend Mass at this time, you may enjoy quiet conversation in the Hall until 5pm.

I hope I will see you there!

Saturday, March 26, 2011

How to say Morning Prayer in Only 3 Hours

"How does a busy parent find time to pray the Divine Office?" the radio host asked me a few weeks back.

"It's not  that hard if you're motivated," I replied. "Just choose one of the liturgical hours, and link it to some other event on your schedule. Like, as soon as the kids leave for school, sit down and say morning prayer. Or right after dinner, while the kids clear the table and start the dishes, you go sit down and say evening prayer. Don't forget, each liturgical "hour" is nowhere near an hour. Ten minutes is more like it. So it's not that big a deal."

Fast forward to  Saturday, March 26th.

7:30 AM. Found myself awake and strangely rested.  Propped the pillows, grabbed the breviary, and got started on the Invitatory Psalm. Then  my youngest awoke. He has a condition that requires daily medication, and if he doesn't get it quickly, we are all Very Unhappy. So down the stairs I go to give him that plus something to eat.

7:45- I run back upstairs to do Morning prayer in my quiet room, but then remember that in one hour I'd be taking another child to a babysitting job. Better shower and dress now, and then do Morning Prayer.

8:15 - Back downstairs, dressed and with breviary in hand, I address the needs of my early riser, who, as a growing boy, now  needs a second  breakfast. I open the breviary on the kitchen counter,  put water on to boil, and then read the first psalm.  I touch the counter and realize that it is coated in crumbs, yesterday's tacky juice spills,  assorted dirty drinking vessels, scattered lists, and coffee grounds. This really can't wait--it has to be cleaned so the other kids will  have a sanitary kitchen to mess up again. I finish Michael's farina, serve it to him, and attack the counters.

8:35 - I read two more psalms,  the reading, the responsory.  Babysitter-girl  pops into a kitchen, inhales  the rest of the farina, and says we have to get going.

9:20 -Back home.  I sit down and read the antiphon for the Benedictus. Then I look out the window and see that the birds hopping around an empty feeder. And it is so cold today.--poor little things! I run out and fill the feeder,reciting the canticle all the while,  and grab the morning paper on the way in.

10:00AM - Halfway through Parade magazine, I remember that I still haven't finished Morning prayer. Find breviary. Finish.

  I'm not sure what happend to the confident woman who explained it all to the radio announcer. That's what Saturday morning does to me.      

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Small Successes

It’s important for moms to recognize that all the small successes in our days can add up to one big triumph.  Here's mine:

1.Cleaned the horrible dusty mess off the shelves heading down the cellar stairs, threw out or relocated lots of the tools and miscellaneous junk that were there, Painted the shelves, and replaced the items that it actually made sense to store there. This was several bags' worth of my 40 bags for lent.
2. Made orderly two huge hall bookcases that had also become "storage" for an assortment of winter gloves, dog grooming tools, and flower vases. Filled a bag with books to give away and relocated the non-book items. Dusted bookcases.
3. Created a single place to keep all those computer user names and passwords that I imagine I will remember and never do, or else write on little scraps of paper that get lost. Also went and changed  the passwords I use for online purchasing, something that I read should be done at least yearly. Now that I have a safe place where these are written down, I am no longer afraid to change them and then forget/lose the paper scrap. 

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Goodnight Moon for Grownups

The Church teaches that the primary hours of the Divine Offices, the "hinges" of the day, are Morning and Evening prayer (Lauds and Vespers).  These two hours are the ones we should try to fit into our day.  But my own feeling is that for the purpose of learning to pray the Office, and for becoming comfortable and personally attached to it, there's nothing like Night Prayer (Compline).

Night Prayer is on a 7-day repeating cycle. No matter what the liturgical season, there is no need to flip from psalter to propers--everything is there for each day, about 3 pages' worth per night. Night prayer is short and sweet--just one psalm or--on Saturday and Wednesday--two very short psalms. Say Night prayer every night for a week or two, and you will have acquired the rythmn and feel for liturgical prayer.

What makes Night Prayer special is the the "bed time" character of the psalms and prayers. It's as if God were tucking you in for the night, reassuring you that everything is going to be all right, little one, now go to sleep and don't be afraid--I'll be here if you need Me.   For example:

I will lie down in peace and sleep comes at once, for you alone,Lord, make me dwell in safety.(ps.4)

Into your hands I commend my spirit (ps. 31)

Protect us, Lord, as we stay awake; watch over us as we sleep,that awake we may keep watch with Christ, and asleep, rest in his peace. (antiphon for canticle of Simeon)

Night holds no terror for me sleeping under God's wings. (amtiphon for ps. 91)

I will bless the Lord who gives me counsel, who even at night directs my heart. (psalm 16)

Lord, we beg you to visit this house and banish from it all the deadly power of the enemy. May your holy angels dwell here and keep us in peace, and may your blessing be upon us always.

Then there is the fuller sense we should always look for in the liturgy. We aren't just praying about going to sleep, but about dying, and receiving His loving reassurance about that as well.  Indeed, the psalms of Tuesday' and Friday's night prayer are of a more sorrowful type, meant to put us in mind of Gethsemane and give voice to our own sorrows or those of others. But that refrain of ultimate trust and abandonment to  Mercy: "into your hands" ties the whole day together into a package that we can give to him and forget about.  Christ  is here. Tomorrow is another day.

Monday, March 21, 2011

A cruise through today's office - Part I &2

Office of Readings
Don't want to spend too much time on this since many of you only use the one-volume Breviary. But every lent we are taken through the book of Exodus, since the story of Moses is the scriptural pre-figurement of our salvation. I need to re-read Exodus regularly to fill the gaps in the Prince of Egypt version that is sadly lodged in my brain. Today I am noticing how sarcastic the Israelites are when they complain to Moses: Were there no graveyards in Egypt that you had to bring us out here to die in the dessert?

Morning Prayer
Monday Week II – my favorite day of the psalter after Sunday Week I , since it contains two very beautiful psalms. First Psalm 42: Like the deer that years for running streams, so my soul is thirsting for you, my God...when can I enter and see that face of God? It's that perfect pattern of sorrow, complaint, and trust in God that truly teaches us how to pray. Look at this frightening yet beautiful description of being overwhelmed with sorrow: deep is calling on deep in the roar of the waters: your torrents and all your waves swept over me. But through it all, the soul returns to Hope in God,I will praise him still, my savior and my God.

Then there's Psalm 19A, which C.S. Lewis calls the greatest poem of all the psalms, and perhaps one of the greates poems period. The heavens proclaim the glory of God, and the firmament shows for the the work of his unto day takes up the story and night unto night makes known the message. Say this one while you watch a sunrise. The New Covenant application is to Christ, the Sun of Justice, the Dayspring who shines on us who dwell in death's shadow.

Now for the afternoon. I tend to not get to day time prayer until well after lunch.

Psalm 119: You commands have been my delight; these I have loved. It always gives me pause to read the daytime prayer psalms which so often express a passionate love for God's law. Too often we see God's laws as mere duties. Things we have to do. Sure, we love God. We love Him for coming to earth to save us. We love His Church. And because we love Him we willingly follow (more or less, in varying degreees of faithfulness) His law. But these psalms express wild enthusiasm about the law itself. There's another line in one of the daytime psalms that says Your commands have been my song in the land of my exile.  I hope that verses like this will come to haunt us next time we are fretting about how honest we have to be when filling out government forms, or fussing about NFP abstinence, or trying to justify doing unnecessary  physical labor on a Sunday.

Evening Prayer
The highlight here for me is Psalm 45, which is split in two parts: one about the bridegroom and one about the bride. Since the part about the bride is always the responsorial psalm on the feast of the Assumption and possibly other marian feasts, I have always thought of it being applied solely to Our Lady. But there is another interpretation which I read today in The School of Prayer, and excellent commentary on  morning and evening prayer from Liturgical Press. Thanks to Scott Hahn and other commentators, most of us are familiar with the office of the Queen Mother in Israel. The "bridegroom" half of Psalm 45 ends with The Queen stands at your right hand arrayed in gold. This is the Queen Mother, since the bride doesn't even enter until later in the "bride" half of the psalm, led to the king with her maiden companions. So, we see the Queen in gold as Mary, the mother of the King, Jesus. The bride of Christ is the Church, bringing along her maiden companions--people of all races and nations. Is that cool or what?

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Friday, March 18, 2011

Welscome, SonRise Morning Listeners!

I hope you had a good laugh this morning  when I got Brian's name wrong not once but twice!  I had just gotten up and my brain wasn't entirely warmed up yet.

This is the place to learn about using the Divine Office in daily prayer routine. Look through the older posts, especially those labelled "How-To" and "Thoughts on the Psalms". These will help you get started with understanding and using the ancient prayer of the Church.

If there is any particular question you have about the Divine Office, please feel free to ask in any comment box, and I will answer you. Maybe you can't figure out how to find your place in the breviary. Maybe you want to know which breviary to buy. Mabye you aren't sure what to do with those antiphons. Just ask. LIke they say in school, there are no stupid questions.

If you want to keep up with this blog, either sign up to follow me, OR if you prefer, friend me on Facebook, since I usually link there when I have a new post.

Let us bless the Lord, and give Him thanks.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

The Psalms are so violent!

"I don't like the parts of the psalms that talk about war and vengeance and squashing my enemies like bugs. I mean, some psalms are really beautiful,  but these  other ones...aren't we supposed to love our enemies, to be peaceful and forgiving?"

Today's Office of Readings  put me in mind of this complaint. Apparently King David is celebrating and thanking God for some victory. Mixed in with the praise and thanksgiving is a lot of gloating:

I pursued and overtook my foes, never turning back till they were slain.  I smote them so they could not rise; they fell beneath my feet.. I crushed them fine as dust before the wind; trod them down like dirt in the streets...foreign nations came to me cringing....( from Ps 18)

Kinda harsh, don't ya think? You can almost hear the "BWAH-HA-HA-HA!"

Luckily, we don't have to make any judgments about Kind David or the righteousness of whatever battle he is celebrating in this psalm. We do have to decide what to do with such language in our prayers. Here's some ideas. 

1. Suppose you have just made some huge strides towards overcoming the worst of your faults. You know--the one you have to confess every single time you go to confession. The one that never seems to improve. Suddenly, through a combination of grace and grit, it's no longer a problem. And you are now making strides in the opposing virtue. Wouldn't the victory boast of psalm 18 express perfectly your feelings towards the evil inclinations you have crushed, and  towards the evil spirits that had tempted you to this sin?

2. Imagine that you have read in the news of some impressive pro-life victory in the courts or in an election. Or you've just read some impressive statistics of the growth of the Church in, say, Africa? Again, these words would be just the thing to celebrate success against the forces of error and death, would they not?

3. Imagine Jesus praying this psalm and anticipating his own victory over sin, Satan, and death. Fr. John Brook, in his commentary The School of Prayer, says "It was on the cross, not the battlefield, that the great victory over our enemies was won. As we pray the psalm we rejoice in the triumph of the cross."

So you see, there are enemies one should be happy to crush, smite, and squash like bugs.

Websites and Podcasts, Bless The Lord! Apps and Ipads, Bless the Lord!

The Divine Office is the big winner in this year's Best Catholic Media Awards. Divine won best website and best podcast (Congratulations Dane Falkner)   Divine Office apps also  won best Iphone and best Ipad applications.

This tells me that the Liturgy of the Hours is really catching on among the Catholic laity, and in particular among the younger demographic. Marvellous news.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Something to Offer Up

So I had gathered ingredients and found an easy version of the hot and sour soup I enjoy at the local Chinese buffet.  I added the ingredients one by one and it was  starting to smell good (to me,that is. The kids hate mushrooms and will be eating something different for dinner.) Last came thickening the broth with a mixture of cornstarch and water.

As I poured this in, the soup startled  me by foaming and rising up in the pot, and almost spilling out. "That's weird," I thought. "Almost like one of those  science experiments where you mix vinegar and baking powder....aaaaaaaaaaaaaaack! I put baking powder  instead of cornstarch in my soup!"

An easy mistake to make, since the brand of my baking  powder was Argo. Yes, the cornstarch folks make baking powder too, and I recently bought it because it is one of the few brands that doesn't contain aluminum.
More's the pity--the soup tasted pretty good, except for the strong  after taste of baking powder.

Not up there, I know, with losing my home to a tidal wave.God knows that would probably be too much for me. So instead he just lets me live with the results of my scatterbrained-ness.  And there's  one more tiny scrap to place on the altar.

Coffee and Canticles on SonRise Morning Show!

If it's your habit to lisen to the EWTN Sonrise morning minute, I'll be filling in on Friday morning for Danielle Bean. Presumably the topic will be the Divine Office and how to fit it in to one's day.

Please just say one Hail Mary (Now! Just do it!) that I will be able to say something intelligent that early in the morning, with a minimum of uh-like-well-um....


Monday, March 14, 2011

I'm sure you've already seen this, elsewhere, but...

Find this on facebook, hit like, and get entered in a drawing for an Ipad 2!!!

Monday, March 14, 2011

Spread the Good News About Catholic Media!

"The web is contributing to the development of new and more complex intellectual and spiritual horizons, new forms of shared awareness. In this field too we are called to proclaim our faith that Christ is God, the Saviour of humanity and of history, the one in whom all things find their fulfillment (cf. Eph 1:10)"

Faith&Family Contestants!

Please comment here if you wish to be elible for the drawing for a copy of the easy to use Night Prayer book from Sacros publications.

You also might want  to sign up to follow this blog if you are still interested in Divine Office stuff--how-to's, meditations, and conversation about the Liturgy.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

How About Them Intercessions?

The home user of the Divine Office might  find the Intercession sections of Morning and Evening prayer kind of awkward. The are so clearly designed for a group divided into two "choirs", that it feels funny doing them on one's own. And funnier still  reading the two parts to each petition and then having to jump back to the repeated response (e.g.,"Lord, show us your mercy").  Furthermore, the two-part petitions are often so verbose that the tired woman reading them can lose the train of what exactly it is she is praying for.

At least, this is what I have sometimes felt. Here is some help for Intercession Discomfort Syndrome, gleaned from the General Instructions on the Liturgy of the Hours.

If you are praying by yourself, you  need not read the introductory/invitation statement (e.g. "Christ is our Savior, in joy let us cry out to him:") nor do you use the repeated response (e.g. "Lord, show us your mercy"). This is meant for public occasions when a priest or other minister is leading the congregation. Instead you just dive in to the actual petitions. Read each one.The second part of each is the "response". 

And if, like me, you would like to sometimes see some shorter, more to-the-point petitions: the Church, thoughtful Mother that she is to her ADHD children, has some  optional petitions  that are made to order. You can only find these in each volume of  the four-volume breviary.  They are only to be used at Evening Prayer. When we are too tired to follow the more flowery petitions, I guess.

Another nice suggestion from the General Instructions: "it is permissible to include particular intentions at both morning and evening prayer." So after you read what's in the book, you may pray for the particular needs of your family and friends.

All of the above make me a lot more comfortable with the Intercessions than I used to be.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

So Elegant

The whole spontaneous vs. recited prayers argument is not really an "either/ or' argument. It seems to me that if you recite  the psalms until they are memorized, then they eventually become part of your spontaneous prayer: Those phrases phrases spring to your lips when you are away from the prayerbook. The net effect is that your personal prayer language becomes lovelier. Instead of "Lord, please help me keep my big mouth shut so I will stay out of trouble", becomes:

Set, O Lord,  a guard over my mouth;
keep a watch at the door of my lips.(psalm  141)

In other words, using formal prayers will inform or expand your spontaneous prayer life. Don't you agree?

Friday, March 11, 2011

Novena Time

Being the forgetful and disorganized sort, I rarely complete a novena. But I do start them. St. Joseph is one of our family's dearest saintly friends. Start this novena today (it's not one of those long ones, so take heart) and you will finish on his feastday.

St. Joseph is also dear to my children, since his solemnity is a day off from lent.               

    Prayer to St. Joseph
  O St. Joseph, whose protection is so great, so strong, so prompt
before the Throne of God, I place in you all my interests and desires.
O St. Joseph do assist me by your powerful intercession and obtain for
 me, from your Divine Son all spiritual blessings + through Jesus Christ
Our Lord; so that having engaged here below your Heavenly power, I may offer
 my thanksgiving and homage to the most loving of fathers. O St. Joseph,
I never weary contemplating you and Jesus asleep in your arms, I dare not
approach while He reposes near your heart. Press Him in my name and kiss His
fine Head for me, and ask Him to return the Kiss when I draw my dying breath.
 St. Joseph, Patron of departing souls, pray for us! Amen.

  Our Father;  O Good St. Joseph Patron of departing souls, pray for us now,
                  and at the hour of our death. Amen
                               Jesus, Mary, and Joseph, I love you, save souls!
  Hail Mary;   O Good St. Joseph, Patron of departing souls, pray for us now,
                  and at the hour of our death. Amen
                               Jesus, Mary, and Joseph, I love you, save souls!

  Glory Be;    O Good St. Joseph, Patron of departing souls, pray for us now,
                  and at the hour of our death. Amen
                               Jesus, Mary, and Joseph, I love you, save souls!

       Blessed be St. Joseph, Her most chaste spouse.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

 It’s important for moms to recognize that all the small successes in our days can add up to one big triumph
1. I overcame the temptation to lie and answer no on a health insurance application where it asked "Have you ever been denied coverage before?" I had a few horrible minutes of rationalizing that this was not their business, since after all I had been scrupulously honest about my health history. I put the application away and said daytime prayer. There was one of those typical daytime  psalms about the joy of Loving God's commands and never speaking falsely...and I knew I couldn't do it.  So I went back to application (online), hit Yes, damn it! I've been denied for coverage! And sent it in. And guess what?  I received an acceptance notice 24 hours later!

2. I made a firm decision to serve meatless meals Monday thru Friday during lent. And today, I followed through, with help from and her wonderful "40 for 12" series. Loved the black bean soup, Celeste!

3. Today when something rather unpleasant and upsetting happened, I had the presence of mind to Offer it Up almost immediately, rather than first wallow in my misery for an hour, and then, later, as an afterthought, join my sufferings to Christ's for the salvation of the world.

After the Woe - take comfort and take up arms

My previous post talked about applying the sad psalms of today's Morning Prayer and Office of Readings to a devastating contemporary situaion. Now for a more hopeful conclusion.

You'll notice that there is never a time when all 3 psalms of either Morning or Evening Prayer are strictly of the mourning/complaining/despairing type. There is always a call to rejoice and be glad despite all the suffering. So this morning we have, after the distress of Ps. 143, the comfort of a canticle from Isaiah, where God promises to care for us like a nursing mother cares for her baby. And then, Ps. 147, where we are called to rejoice in  the beauty of creation, and to praise God for that despite whatever else is going on around us.

(Just as an aside--I love nature psalms!  I love imagining this Israelite from thousands of years ago enjoying the same sorts of things that I do. Here he has noticed a nest of hungry young ravens calling for food. Details like this help connect me to these spiritual forefathers.)

Okay,  we've had some comfort after the prayer of woe.  But this evening, we must  pick ourselves up and get back into the battle that promises eventual and inevitable victory. Blessed be the Lord, my rock who trains my arms for battle, who prepares my hands for war. He is my love, my stronghold, my Savior, my place of refuge...(Psalm 144)   Hmmm...psalms 143 and 144.  Makes me think there might be a particular purpose to the ordering of the psalms in the Bible. As a matter  fact, there is. Emmaus Road publications has a book about just that. It's cutely titled Singing in the Reign.  I'll confess to not having read it yet. One of these days...

This battle training language is perfect for lent. That's what we're doing with all these pathetic little sacrifices that seem to loom so large. Will giving up chocolate today fit me to endure the criticism that comes when I'm forced to take an unpopular stand tomorrow? Will hauling myself out of bed for weekday mass prepare me for martyrdom? Hope I'm not forced to test that one out.  In the meantime, I'll just plod along

 This was not meant to be a long post. Just wanted to show you an example of how the day's psalmody all fits together. Now it's time to plan another meatless dinner. Will I do battle with black beans or lentils tonight?

One good use for Psalms of Woe

Today's Office of Readings and Morning Prayer both start with Psalms of Misery (psalms 44 and 143). In each the psalmist bewails the suffering of his  people, and wonders why God is letting this happen. He reminds God of how good things used to be, and wonders why things are so bad now.  And above all, the present state of affairs isn't just painful.  It's humiliating:

You make us the taunt of our neighbors, the laughing stock of al who are near. Among the nations you make us a byword, among the peoples a thing of derision.
All day long my disgrace is before me: my face is covered with shame at the voice of the taunter, the scoffer, at the sight of the foe and avenger. (Ps. 44)

Psalm 143 expresses more than humilitation. It borders on despair.
Therefore my spirit fails; my heart is numb within not hide your face lest I become like those in the grave...

Yesterday I read that the diocese of Philadelphia put 21 priests on administrative leave due to allegations of sexual abuse. This kind of news--will these stories never end?--makes it all too easy to pray these psalms, crying out to God about the plight of our beloved Church. This is what  we pray when thinking about  the victims of abuse. This is what we pray when we think of the  humiliation experienced by the  good, holy priest who now feels the suspicion of those who are wondering whether  he too  is a perverted creep. This is what we pray, thinking of Pope Benedict's lonely struggle to lead the Church out of this vile pit. This is what we pray in union with  the the horror and revulsion Our Lord felt in the garden of Gethsemane as He contemplated  these same sins.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

The Hours of Ash Wednesday

If you have taken up the Divine Office for lent,God bless you!  It's a little bit harder to figure out the breviary during one of the Church's liturgical seasons  than during ordinary time.

Ash Wednesday is unusual in that there are two choices. The default is Wednesday of Week IV, but a suggested alternate is Friday of Week III. The alternate makes sense, since this is a great day to recite  the penitential  psalm 51 ("a clean heart create for me O God, put a steadfast spirit within me") I am going to stick with Wednesday week IV this year, because of its opening psalm which begins, "My heart is ready, O God." This will be my thought for the day.  I figure if I keep telling myself my heart is ready to fast on food and (worst of all) shopping, then maybe the flesh will follow the spirit.

So--do the psalmody of Wednesday Week IV, but STOP before the reading. Turn to the front part of the book, the Proper of Seasons. My edition of the one-volume breviary puts Ash Wednesday at p.255. Continue to the end of Morning Prayer. When Evening Prayer comes around, it's the same thing. Wednesday Evening of the Psalter, then turn back to the proper for the reading thru the conclusion.

Potential problems: trying to find the Canticl of Zachariah and the Magnificat. They're in the ordinary between pages 691and 696. The best thing to do is make copies of these and paste them inside the front and back covers. Much easier to find that way.

If you are not sure you've found the right places, you can always go to . And feel free to ask me any questions at all.

Today's Top One-liner

Don't let some of my longer commentary on the day's liturgical prayer fool you into thinking that I pray each liturgical hour in a deeply recollected, reverent, lectio divina style.  I don't generally have time for this. I've been known to have a cookbook and a breviary lying side by side on the counter while I go back and forth from one, to the stove, to the other, to answer the phone, to stick my head out the window and yell at someone to stop jumping in the mud, and back to the breviary again.

Even when I'm sitting, undistracted, and reciting the hour without interruptions, I don't  focus on every last word, mining every bit of meaning out of every verse of every psalm. I'm way too ADD for that. But what I usually do manage is to find at least one line or phrase  from each hour to think about, apply to my life, and praise God for what He taught me with this one little line.

Today's one-line inspiration comes from Morning Prayer of Tuesday, week I. The canticle of Tobit says,

In the land of my exile I  praise him

As I read this tiny scrap of a much longer verse, I wasn't reflecting on Tobit's literal exile from Israel to Nineveh, or that in some way this world was a land of exile for Jesus, who emptied himself and came down from heaven to dwell among us. Instead, I  remembered that I am an exile too. It's no wonder at all that so many things happen here that don't make sense. This is not my true country any more than it would be if I woke up tomorrow and found myself stuck for the rest of my life in France or Bulgaria or Malaysia.  True, there would be some charming and even beautiful features that would give me temporary gladness in any of these countries. But I'd still be longing to go home someday.

So here I am, in the land of my exile, with my book of Praise, trying to connect several times a day to my true home in the Kingdom of Heaven. God has sent me to live in the colonies for a while, and I'm making the best of it.

There is tons more of food for meditation in Morning prayer of Tuesday, week I that I did not notice today. Maybe I'll catch some of that next time it cycles around.

(None of the above are original thoughts, by the way. Millions of other Christians have said it better than this.)

Monday, March 7, 2011

Words and Books

Just so everyone is clear: Liturgy of the Hours = The Divine Office. Two names for the same thing. I tend to use "Divine Office" because it's fewer keystrokes. Liturgy of the Hours is a somewhat more official title, I gather, since that is the title on most breviaries.

Next: types of printed breviaries. The most widely used breviary in the United States is put out by the Catholic Book Publishing company. The 4-volume version (around $125 on Amazon) has all the liturgical hours for every day of the year. If you are committed to praying more than just Morning , Evening and Night Prayer, than you want to get the 4-volume. If this is too big a chunk of change, you may buy one volume at a time for $32.44 a piece. The one to send for now  is volume II- Lent thru Easter.

The more economical thing to do,  is to purchase the one-volume version. (Also from CBC) It include the complete Morning, Evening, and Night Prayer for the entire year.It also has selection from Daytime  Prayer. This is enough for most people, an d probably enough for anyone who is just beginning.

The Daughters of St. Paul used to have a one volume book which I liked better than CBC since instead of wasting pages on a section of hymns, their breviary included the complete Daytime Prayer as well. If you find this breviary, it is for now the best one-volume version. Currently it is out of print. The Daughters are planning on a new edition, but it won't be out until 2012 at the earliest.

CBC also has a slimmer volume titled Shorter Christian Prayer. This is the basic 4-week Psalter for Morning and Evening Prayer. It does not include the variations needed for the Church seasons or feast days.  But a beginner who has this book lying around should use  it for a few months, since it is very easy to learn to use. You can always buy the real thing later.

Full fledged members of the digital generation might prefer to not bother with books and simply use   All the how-to's on this blog are for old and young fogeys who just like to hold a book and turn the pages, and who want to be able to read the Office when there is a power outage.

March 7th Daytime Prayer - a good petition to make

From Psalm 19

But who can detect all his errors?
From hidden faults acquit me.

C.S.Lewis has a wonderful essay called "The Trouble With X".  I  have it in a collection called God in the Dock, but perhaps it appears in something else nowadays. It's about how there is always someone we have to live or work with who has some flaw or fault that really annoys, grieves, depresses, or otherwise makes us miserable. And no matter how you try to nicely make that person see and correct this fault, he just doesn't have a clue, and goes on being being unpleasant in that particular way. By the end of the essay, Lewis leads us to see that each of us also has a fatal flaw that we can't see, but that everyone else has to live with. And we are so clueless that we probably don't even think to confess this thing that makes life so difficult for everyone else. 

So this little psalm verse is a prayer to be aware of that hidden fault, and hopefully, with God's grace, to begin to remediate it.

Cruising through today's Liturgy - March 7th

Monday morning. The kids have left on the school bus. Time to pull out the breviary...let's see. I could go with Monday Week I, but I do have the choice of the memorial of Sts. Perpatua and Felicity. I like these girls a lot, so I will go with their  Office. This means using the Common of Several Martyrs. Commons can be thought of as generic offices for saints grouped by their category, for example, martyrs, holy men, holy women, pastors, virgins, apostles, religious. If you were martyred in a group rather than individually, you fall into the Common of Several Martyrs.

Every feast and solemnity  has the same morning prayer psalms--those of Sunday Week I. I love this, because these are beautiful psalms:
Oh God you are my God, for you I long, for you my soul is thirsting...I gaze on you in the sanctuary to see your strength and your glory....for your love is better than your name I will lift up my soul shall be filled as with a banquet... Psalm 63 is at once so Hebrew and so Eucharistic that to me it is the perfect and greatest example of why praying the psalms is such a privilege, and so worth doing the work of getting comfortable  praying them.  If I were a saint I'd probably go into ecstasy every time I read this psalm, it is so beautiful.

From there we go to the next psalm, which is not a psalm but a Canticle. It's from the book of Daniel, a long litany where we ask every created thing--angels, ice, rain, snow, stars, mountains, lightning, dolphins, and men to "praise and exalt Him above all forever." The poor Protestants count this canticle as "apocryphal" -- one more thing for which to pity them.

Moving on to Psalm 149, where it says of us faithful, Let the praise of God be on their lips and a two-edged sword in their hand.  Some people don't like the violence of the psalms.  I just tell them to apply it to a desire to  kill off their own sinful inclinations. Whack!  It works for me. In addition, I can never recite this line without thinking of the Riders of Rohan who "sang as they slew, for the joy of battle was upon them". (Sorry. Major Tolkien geek here.)

If I have time for the Office of Readings today, I get to read an eyewitness account of the martyrdom of Perpetua and Felicity. Perpetua actually had to guide "the shaking hand of the inexperienced gladiator to her throat. Such a woman...could perhaps herself not been killed, had she herself not willed it."

When I was a romantic and ignorant adolescent, I used to ask God to grant me the grace of  martyrdom. I have since told him  that I take it back. I worry about this from time to time, since who knows which prayer He will grant?  Evening Prayer for the Common of Martyrs consoles me with Psalm 116, one of the many psalms with the God-will-get-me-through-this-and-eventually-I'll-be-glad-it-happened theme. I was helpless so he saved me...I trusted even when I said: 'I am sorely afflicted'...the cup of salvation I will raise; I will call ont he Lord's name...I will walk in the presence of the Lord in the land of the living." Besides applying this psalm to my silly fears, I can also pray it in solidarity with  real martyrs in places like India, Sudan, Egypt, and Iraq.

So that's my Office for the day.

By the way, do you ever wonder why its called the Office? Maybe I'll talk about that next time. It will be a much shorter post than this one.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Welcome Faith&Family Readers!

A warm welcome to anyone who comes here as result of my guest posts this week on Faith&Family blog .   I've been with Faith&Family magazine from the very first issue in 1999, so the editor, writers, and readers really feel like an extended familiy to me. I'm happy that you are visiting me here.

If you are interested in trying the Divine Office (aka Liturgy of the Hours) this lent, I'd be happy to help you with any questions related to it. Check out past posts, and especially the archived "How To" posts if you want to get started.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Lenten Cooking here I come!

Lenten Cooking Here I come!
This year I will not be glum!
I'm gonna, have fun-na
Planning some meals,
with tofu, and pasta
good-bye to Happy Meals, but
All my children know the drill
that's why they'll just have to chill,
bug off, not complain until
Lenten Cooking days are done!

I hope to go through my mess of cookbooks and magazine clippings tomorrow to plan lenten menus of meatless recipes to use for every single day this lent. (With an occasional "flavored with meat" dish when we get really desperate). My work is cut out for me since, as you see, I do not have a highly organized collection. Don't let the recipe box fool you either--it is stuffed with cards and clippings in no particular order. The tabbed category cards are still segregated in the back of the box.

For the curious--yes, it's a stuffed brown frog, a souvenir from Puerto Rico, whose national (territorial?) sympbol is a much tinier brown frog that is heard  singing every night of the year.

Part of me would like to just stuff the whole mess in a box to free up counter space, and simply rely on the incredible lenten recipe collection  that Celeste Behe will soon be posting on her blog, A Perpetual Jubilee.
She calls her project 40 for 12 because these recipes are meant to serve 2 parents plus nine kids, including goodly amount of teenagers. Since my own nest is  somewhat diminished, I'm counting on having lots of nice leftovers or freezables.  Celeste also promises shopping lists to make out lenten lives a little less time consuming. All that list writing time can now be devoted to prayer and good works!

And unless Celeste, queen of the kitchen that she is, also has advice for recipe orgnization, I do think this stuff  on the counter is going on vacation for the next seven weeks.

Friday, March 4, 2011

hard to appreciate the symbolism

 I know, I know!  I get the symbolism. But being a Mom, all I see is a mess and a laundry problem when I read psalm 133 .  I can just hear Mrs. Aaron: "That's a brand new robe you've got on, and look at that collar! That oil will never come out."

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Small Successes

I love joining the feature at Faith& blog. It forces me to realize that I have done somethihng right.
1. I overcame an attack of phone phobia and did a ton of interviews for several writing projects that I have going. At one point I was just sick to my stomach from it all, but forged ahead and Praise God! Its done!
2. I got back from a 2-hours-each-way trip to Pittsburgh that I have to make every few months with my son to see a specialist. Since Michael is really hyperactive in addition to being autistic, these trips can be purgatorial. Today's was no so bad and Praise God! It's done!
3. I overcame my indecisiveness and signed up for the Faith&Family Mother's Day Out. Anyone who is on facebook will have heard of this, so go there or to the F&F website for more details if you are interested. I know I should import the event link here, but you know what? I'm too tired.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

But that is, like, sooooooo Old Testament!

There are several reasons people who try the Divine Office have a hard time getting into it. (Even after they've figured out the ribbons and propers and such) They find the psalms and canticles of the Old Testament  too sad, or too violent, too vengeful, or sometimes, too Jewish. This blog will blow away all objections with the laser-blaster of my brilliant insights, which I have in turn more or less stolen from the saints and fathers of the Church. Today we will look at "too Jewish."

I am not addressing antisemitic, RadTrad conspiracy theorists, by the way.  I'm speaking to normal people who don't see the point in praying about the temple, burnt offerings, etc.  Today's morning prayer, for example, has us praying a Canticle from the book of Daniel. Azariah (one of the kids thrown in the fiery furnace by wicked King whatshisname but miraculously preserved--Im sure you've seen the Veggie Tales version which I believes takes place in a chocolate bunny factory.) is making one of those beautiful prayers that both complains and mourns while at the same time praises and trusts God. Azariah bewails the fact that,

we have in our day no prince, prophet,or leader, no holocaust, sacrifice, oblation, or incense, no place to offer first fruits, to find favor with you. ( Daniel 3: 38  inChristian Prayer, Tuesday, Week IV)

Why does the Church want us to pray these lines? After all, the One perfect sacrifice has been made. And we can tap into it every day of the week at the nearest Catholic church. Even that one with the gurgling Home Depot garden pond on the side altar.  So what has Azariah's lament got to do with me?

This can be answered on many levels, because we are supposed to read and pray scripture on many levels. But the overarching principle, as I've mentioned in in other posts is, It's not about You. Because:

It's about Jesus. Never forget when praying psalms or scripture that these were the prayers He grew up with and prayed, both in the synagogue and at home. Picture Jesus praying these lines about having no holocaust or place to offer it. What was He thinking as He prayed that? Was He reflecting that He would be the holocaust and Calvary would ber the place of offering? Whenever you stop and picture Our Lord praying the verses that He would fulfill, it can't result in anything but a really profound, stopped-in-your-tracks insight into the greatness and wonder of our God. (at which point it is probably better to just go with the meditation rather than plow on ahead with the rest of the Office, if time constraints are forcing a choice between the two.)

It's about God's People (Us and Them)  These Old Testament folks  are our Fathers in Faith. So this is our history. Knowing that we have the One Sacrifice should make us appreciate all the more what Azariah was mourning about, all the more glad that the terrible lack he spoke of has been supplied with overabundance, and all the more longing  for our Jewish siblings to recognize their Savior. Also, since Azariah follows up with a statement of substituting a spirit of contrition and humility for the burnt offereing, we are seeing a kind of prophecy of our own participation in Christ's sacrifice. So this Jewish stuff in the end really is about You. And Me. And all of us.