Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Hitting a Roadblock...

...on your way to praying the Liturgy of the Hours? Maybe you're interested in starting, but don't know where to begin: which book (or online breviary) to use? How do I find time to do this?

Or maybe you've just cracked open that shiny new breviary...and have no idea how to find your place. Or you're not sure about what to do on a saint's memorial.

Or maybe you're pretty good at this, but have noticed on a visit to a monastery that the monks do things quite differently from the way you have been doing it, and want to know if your way is a valid option or whether you've been doing it wrong.

Or maybe....there's something else you want to know. Ask here, and I'll ransack the relevant Church documents to find the answer. Or if it's not a Church Documents sort of question, I'll tell you based on long experience and obsessive liturgical information gathering. 

Divine Office Glossary for Beginners

Since many new readers are visiting Coffee&Canticles via the Catholic Exchange homepage, I thought I'd run this post from last year.

Time to acquire your  cool liturgical vocabulary. Impress your friends!

Divine Office or Liturgy of the Hours: official prayer of the Catholic Church, constituting, along with the Mass, the Church's liturgy. A repeating cycle of psalms, biblical readings, and other prayers, coordinated to the liturgical season and/or the feasts of the Church. The word "office" comes from a Latin word meaning "service" or "ceremony".

Breviary: the book in which one finds the Divine Office. Usually titled "Christian Prayer." The full breviary contains four volumes. One volume breviaries contain the full morning, evening, and night prayer for the year, but not the full Office of Readings. Some one volume breviars also contain the full office of Day time prayer.

Antiphon - the verse said before and after each psalm and canticle. The antiphon usually gives a point on which to focus while praying the psalm. The antiphon is often a key to understanding the Old Testament psalm in the light of its fulfillment in Jesus.

Canticle - a psalm-like passage from a part of the Bible other than the book of Psalms.

Invitatory - The psalm that is recited before the first liturgical hour that you say each day. Usually Psalm 95

Benedictus - Latin for the Canticle of Zachariah
Magnificat - Latin for the Canticle of Mary
Nunc Dimittis - Latin for the Canticle of Simeon

Morning Prayer/Lauds - one of the two main hours or "hinges" of the liturgical day, morning prayer may be said any time from when you wake up until mid -morning.

Evening Prayer/Vespers - the other main hour or "hinge" of the liturgical day, evening prayer may be said between 4 and 7PM.

Night Prayer/Compline - to be said later than evening prayer, usually close to bedtime. This last hour of the day speaks of sleep, resting in God with trust, death and eternal rest in heaven.

Daytime Prayer - a liturgical hour with 3 subdivisions: Mid-morning (terce); midday (sext); midafternoon (none). The general custom is to choose one of these, according to what suits one's schedule. Monastics (or anyone who is a real Divine Office fanatic)  may still use all three.

Office of Readings-  This is the longest of the hours, due to its two lengthy readings. It may be prayed at any time of day, although generally it is done preceding morning prayer, or after evening prayer on the previous day. In monasteries where it is still customary to get up in the middle of the night to pray, the Office of Readings is the hour that is prayed.   The Office of Readings consists of psalms followed by two longer readings; one from the Bible and one from the writings of the fathers/doctors/saints of the Church. Read in private, it takes fifteen to twenty minutes. Well worth the effort if you have the time.  You will not find the OOR in the one-volume Christian Prayer book.

Ordinary - rather inadequate instructions on how to pray the office, buried about one-third of the way through the breviary. Feel free to ask me questions in the combox  if  the ordinary leaves you with unanswered questions.

Proper of Seasons-the first third of the breviary. It gives all the readings and prayers substituted for what's in the 4 week Psalter during the seasons of  Advent, Christmas, Lent, and Easter.

Proper of Saints - gives the dates, and prayers for saint's feasts and memorials, plus directions on which of the Commons to use if you want to do the day's  hours  in honor of  the saint, rather than just going with the psalter.

Commons - these are all purpose or generic offices for celebring a feast of Our Lady or of a saint, with headings such as Apostles, Martyrs, virgins, holy men, pastors, doctors of the church, etc.

Putting the Breviary on Your Kindle

I've had two inquiries in two days about how to get the mobile  app/ widget to one's Kindle.
And with all the Kindles being purchased this Christmas, I'm guessing that more of you will need this info really soon.
My experience is with the 3rd generation, "Kindle Keyboard" model. The others appear to have the same web browser and some way to type in web addreses, so...
1.Click Menu, then "Experimental".
2. From the Experimental menu choose launch  browser.
3. Click Menu again, and choose "Enter URL"
4. Type in  This will bring you to the ibreviary homepage.
5. Click on "English" at the top of the page so that it will switch from Italian.
6. Get about halfway down the page using the down arrow key. Find a white rectangular button or sign that says IBreviary app for prayer/click here to pray now. This should bring up the ibreviary menu for the day, similar to what I have here on the left side of this blog.
7. Before you do anything else, hit Menu and arrow down to "Bookmark this page" THIS IS VERY IMPORTANT UNLESS YOU WANT TO GO THROUGH ALL THIS AGAIN EACH DAY.
8. Now you may choose your prayers from the menu.
9. Note well: ibreviary is on a European time zone, and will change to the next day's prayer at 6:00 PM. If you routinely say Evening prayer after this, make sure to choose it from the main menu as soon as you finish the previous hour you've prayed, so that it will be there when you want it. There is a way to re-set to the previous day if you get on after 6 PM, but it is a bit of a bother.
10. That's it. After this, all you have to do is launch the browser and choose ibreviary from your bookmark page.

I will label this post under "Amazon Kindle" in case you need to refer to it in the future.

New note in 2014: Father Nathan Miller recently noted that the URL for the Kindle mobile version is now:  
As Kindle keeps getting updated, things are bound to change. Also, please note that this process is for the regular, e-ink Kindle reader, not the Kindle Fire tablet, which uses the Android app version of iBreviary.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Great News! Ibreviary steps up with new English translation prayers!

A week or so ago I treated you all to the little scissors and paste project that brought my breviary up to date with the new translation of the concluding prayers (mass collects=breviary concluding prayers).

A friend of mine on Facebook remarked that my idea was nice, but also bemoaned having to go back to relying on the print breviary when he was so happy with the convenience of a mobile version.

This morning, my husband  and I read morning prayer together. Bill had the Kindle and I had my jerry-rigged  Volume I of Christian Prayer. When we got to the end, Bill paused to let me read the concluding prayer, as we have done for the past couple days.  Suddenly, he began praying along with me the newly re-translated prayer!  "How did you do that?" I asked.

"It's right here online,as an alternate under the old translation."

Sure enough.   had added the new English translations each day as a second choice.  Just scroll down past the old prayer and there's the new. It's interesting to have both the old and the new to compare--a reminder every single day to thank God that we have this more prayerful and poetic new translation. Check the widget on the left to see what I'm talking about.

I know that also  plans to add the new translations in the near future.

So there's one very real triumph of the digital revolution over traditional print publishing. We don't have to beg and wait until Catholic Book Publishing Company gets around to issuing a new breviary. We've got it.

Am I feeling a little sheepish about all the trouble I went through to retro-fit my breiviary? A little. But it will still come in handy during not uncommon power outage days around here. So I'll probably continue to cut and paste my way through a year's worth of Word Among Us magazines.

Monday, November 28, 2011

From Niche to Mainstream

These are the words that start your day with the Divine Office.

Welcome, Catholic Exchange readers to Coffee and Canticles!

When the folks at CE invited me to appear on it's homepage, I felt pleased, honored, and a little surprised. After all, mine is not  a brilliant apologetics blog. Nor a  fun- yet- inspirational Catholic Mothers' blog. Nor a blog of astute and witty commentary on world events from a Catholic perspective.

Aside from occasional forays into other areas, this blog focuses on a narrow topic:  the most under- appreciated prayer in the Catholic Church.

The prayer that three popes have exhorted us to use. Pope Benedict in particular has been begging the faithful to take this prayer out of its clerical and monastic niche and turn  it into mainstream Catholic spiritual practice. Or, in the Church's words, "the prayer of the whole people of God."

I refer to the Liturgy of the Hours, aka the Divine Office, aka the breviary.

Looking to the left of the Catholic Exchange homepage, I see a  link to the day's liturgical hours, courtesy of  That tells me CE and many of its  readers are part of the  rapidly expanding group of Catholics who have taken seriously the Pope's request (made again as recently as two weeks ago), asking  "everyone to pray the Psalms, to become accustomed to using the Liturgy of the Hours, Lauds, Vespers, and Compline."

That "becoming accustomed" is what we do here at Coffee and Canticles. Learning to pray the Office is not like reading a novena off a holy card. It's more like learning to drive a car. There's vocabulary and rules and skills to acquire. That can be a bit frustrating at first. But once you get it down, you'll be like the newly licensed teenager: a whole new world will be open to you. A world where Sacred Scripture becomes your prayer. A world where you are praying in Christ and He is praying in you.  A world where you join with your brothers and sisters around the world in a magnificent sacrifice of praise, you own little pathetic squeak of a voice miraculously harmonizing with an eternal song.

You'll have no idea how cool this is until you try it. Next to the mass, there's no better way to pray.

So take a  look around at the tabs and archives. Note that questions and comments are invited and welcomed. I hope you'll want to come back again and again to learn and to share your own thoughts about sanctifying the day with the Liturgy of the Hours.

Cyber Monday: Everybody's Getting in on the Act


They're having a Cyber Monday sale on their iOS, Android, and Mac apps. I can't tell you much about these, since I use a Kindle for my mobile breviary. But if you own one of the above gadgets, or better yet, have a friend who owns one, check it out. This might be just the motivation someone was waiting for to start a new Divine Office habit.

Let's Ramp Up our Office for Advent

Advent is a time of  preparation for the Second Coming, right? We want to be found ready when that happens, whether "that" is the Lord's final coming in glory, or just His ordinary, garden variety "coming" for each of us when we die. One way to do this is to expand our prayer life. And a great way to do this is to take the best prayer there is--the Liturgy--and increase our participation therein.

For some of us, this might mean the effort to get to daily mass, or maybe one or two daily  masses per week. For anyone who already participates in the Liturgy of the Hours, there's lots of ways to expand it. Here's a few:

1. If your practice of the Divine Office is patchy or irregular, strive to be consistent with the hours you already do say.
2. If you aren't already praying all of the liturgical hours, try adding one more. Or even part of one,say,  the psalmody or just the readings. For example, the Office of Readings. Maybe you don't have time for the whole thing. But for advent, doing just the Bible readings (Lots of Isaiah  and other prophetic texts),or just the second readings from the church fathers and saints would be  a really worthwhile  project.
3.  Stick with the hours you already pray, but to resolve to pray them with greater mindfulness. Perhaps make a project of focusing on one part of each day's office:  noticing  how the three antiphons  fit together, or asking yourself how you can better conform your heart to whatever the concluding prayer says.
4. Resolve to encourage a friend or family member to pray the morning or evening prayer with you during advent.

Realize that you only have to ramp up your liturgical prayer for the season of advent. Maybe what you choose to add during advent will become a new habit, maybe not. There is nothing wrong with doing something extra for a time, and then stopping.

My own plan is to be more consistent on Night Prayer, as it is the hour I'm most likely to skip. What I should do is try to get in the habit of saying  it by 9 or 10 each night rather than waiting for the bitter end when I'm collapsing into bed and can't keep my eyes open.

If you are planning to go deeper into the Liturgy of the Hours for Advent, tell us what your plans are. Maybe we can check up on each other as Advent proceeds.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

First Sunday/Share Your Advent Wreath

Ground pine from our woods, rose and violet  balls from Walmart
Stir up Your might, we beg You, O Lord, and come, so that we may escape through Your protection and be saved by Your help from the dangers that threaten us because of our sins. Who lives and reigns for ever and ever. Amen   
-traditional advent wreath prayer for the first Sunday.

A new liturgical year has begun. This year, with a new missal that will hopefully draw us even deeper into the mysteries of our redemption and union with Christ in His eternal offering to the Father.

Yesterday we had unseasonably warm weather for our advent greens scrounging hike. With  no snow on the ground this time, it was a cinch to locate and pull up  lots of ground pine. My 17- year- old daughter  threaded the greens through our rusty old wreath frame, and I wired on the pink and purple mini Christmas balls. These are a recent addition to our advent wreaths.  We don't put up our tree until Gaudete  Sunday, so the kids appreciate a little early sparkle. So nice of Walmart to provide balls in Advent colors.

If you do an advent wreath at your house, send me a picture to post on this blog. Also, if you have any other visually appealing advent items in your house--Jesse trees or what have you, send those. If your children are in the pictures, so much the better.  I don't do lots of family/homemaking/kid stuff here, but there's no better time of year to make an exception.

Come, Lord Jesus.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Sing but Keep Going, says Augustine

Augustine talks about singing so much that he makes me think that maybe I ought to sing the hymns at the start of each liturgical hour, even if I'm by myself. Augustine is the one who came up with He who sings prays twice, a line used frequently by frustrated choir directors to browbeat non-musical catholics  into singing.

But this sermon of Augustine, "Alleluia versus Anxiety", is wonderful. Especially the bit about singing on a journey, and the bit about us being pottery in the oven. If you don't have a 4-volume breviary, it's on the ibreviary widget to the left on today's Office of Readings. If you read this after 6pm EST, ibreviary will have changed over to Sunday, so here are a few excerpts. If you are intrigued, you can go over to and read the whole thing.

Let us sing alleluia here on earth, while we still live in anxiety, so that we may sing it one day in heaven in full security.

How can all be well with people who are crying out with me: Deliver us from evil? And yet, brothers, while we are still in the midst of this evil, let us sing alleluia to the good God who delivers us from evil.
Even here amidst trials and temptations let us, let all men, sing alleluia. God is faithful, says holy Scripture, and he will not allow you to be tried beyond your strength.
You are like a piece of pottery, shaped by instruction, fired by tribulation. When you are put into the oven therefore, keep your thoughts on the time when you will be taken out again; for God is faithful, and he will guard both your going in and your coming out.

O the happiness of the heavenly alleluia, sung in security, in fear of no adversity! We shall have no enemies in heaven, we shall never lose a friend. God’s praises are sung both there and here, but here they are sung by those destined to die, there, by those destined to live for ever; here they are sung in hope, there, in hope’s fulfillment; here they are sung by wayfarers, there, by those living in their own country.

So, then, my brothers, let us sing now, not in order to enjoy a life of leisure, but in order to lighten our labors. You should sing as wayfarers do—sing, but continue your journey. Do not be lazy, but sing to make your journey more enjoyable. Sing, but keep going. What do I mean by keep going? Keep on making progress.... If you make progress, you will be continuing your journey, but be sure that your progress is in virtue, true faith and right living.         

Sing then, but keep going.

Take courage and Be a Man! (you too, ladies.)

Thus we are exhorted in the reading of Midday Prayer, which is taken from the book of Kings. The dying King David is exhorting the young King Solomon. But in placing this short reading in the Liturgy of the Hours, the Church is exhorting us to courage in obeying God and following His will.

What do politically correct or hyper-feminist women do with such a a reading? "Take courage and be a person!" doesn't have the same ring to it. Nor the same meaning. No woman should be offended at this verse. Men are physically stronger than we are. In addition--at least this is true of the men in my life--they have less of a tendency to cavil about doing something on petty grounds such as "it's too hot! it's too cold" it's raining, I don't want to get wet!"  No one tells little boys to dare each other to feats of daring or pain endurance. They like that kind of stuff by nature.

I know, I know, women have a different kind of strength that make them better able to endure long term hardships, childbirth, etc. But men still own the standard for sheer physical strength and willingness to fight.

In the liturgy, then, we women are being told to exercise a strength of virtue (you know the Latin root of virtue,don't you? it means manliness.) that mirrors the physical strength of men.

St. Teresa of Avila similarly exhorted her sisters: "I want you to be strong men!  If you do all that is in you the Lord will make you so manly that men themselves will be amazed."

Advent starts tonight. This reading is appropriate as we begin what is on the one hand, a season of penance (or at least, spiritual preparation), and also, especially for us women--A LOT OF HARD WORK. So ladies, let's not whine about making ten thousand cookies (of 8 varieties), purchasing 100 gifts, getting the house cleaned, making a wise man costume after being informed the night before it's needed, etc. etc. etc. Enter into the joy of it all and Be a man!

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Wishing all you Psalmsayers a blessed Thanksgiving Day.  God is so good!

 For readers in Canada, the  Phillipines, the UK, Austrailia, Guyana, Russia,Malaysia, and Germany and other nations that do not have this celebration today, I am thankful and honored to be able to share with my  brothers and sisters from all over the world a love for the Liturgy of the Hours.

Praying the psalms daily can equip us with the habit of gratitude, teaching us to "give thanks in all circumstances,"  (as St. Paul said somewhere but like a typical Catholic, I don't have the chapter and verse memorized!)

I'm looking forward to sharing the upcoming season of Advent with all of you.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Our Pope with Cute Kids

How I could I not share this?


In God Alone

In God alone is my soul at rest,
my help comes from him.
He alone is my rock, my stronghold,
my fortress: I stand firm.

This quatrain appears at the beginning and in the middle of Psalm 62, part of tonight's Evening Prayer. Since we are supposed to observe a brief pause at the end of each psalm to reflect a bit, this a a great verse to "take away" with us from the psalm. You could  focus on the rock-stronghold-fortress image, visualizing a high cliff or an impregnable castle.  Draw out the implications: God is that Place of protection and safety, but besides resting safely in the fortress, we also must fight from that place of strength against the enemy.

The other way to think on this verse is to focus on the word "Alone". In God ALONE....He ALONE...
I've got to stop trying to rely on secondary sources for peace  and protection.  Nothing else will cure the restless heart. Nothing else will take away my sins. He Alone.

The New testament canticle from Colossians is a nice followup, explaining precisely why God alone is our safety and our strength. He rescued us from the power of darkness...all were created through him everything continues in being...He is before all else that pleased God to reconcile everything in his person, making peace through the blood of his cross.  It's a catalog of all that is truly important, of all the only things that matter. The things we must focus on, with hope, whatever else may be crashing down around us.

It's impossible to meditate on every word of each day's Office. One only has so much time.  But here's a few things that are jumping out at me today.

Morning Prayer -Psalm 77 - "This is what causes my grief; that the way of the Most High has changed."  The psalmist is just like us--wondering why God doesn't make everything better at once with a spectacular miracle, like he used to back in "biblical times."  It's not wrong to make this honest and childlike complaint to God. He responds--by changing the heart of the psalmist, who is able to draw strength in recalling  those ancient miracles without resentment or demands for repeat  performances on God's part.

Canticle - 1 Samuel- This is the "Song of Hannah", the childless mother whose prayers were answered with the birth of Samuel. It is called the proto-magnificat.  It is easy to see that Mary, whose mind and heart were imbued with God's word,  was inspired by this passage as she composed her own song of praise.

Psalm 97 - "Cloud and darkness are his raiment"   We have lots of dramatic cloudscapes this time of year which help one visualize this majestic image. The subscript in the breviary from St. Athanasius says "This psalm foretells a world wide salvation and that peoples of all nations will believe in Christ."  I had to read it again to see why Athanasius said this. Okay, there is it, "The skies proclaim his justice; all peoples see his glory."  A hopeful thought as we approach Advent..

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

For the Psalmsayer's Christmas List

Product Details
American edition

British edition

Blessed John Paul gave a long series of Wednesday audiences that consisted of teachings on the psalms and canticles of morning and evening prayer. He didn't finish the entire  psalter's worth before his death, but Pope Benedict finished the series. These are available in book form--one for Morning  Prayer and one for Evening Prayer. There are two different editions, one produced in the USA by Liturgy Training Publications and one from the Catholic Truth Society of England. The English edition is half the price of the American, although it might take more of a search to find it. It seems that even ordering from AmazonUK and paying the postage will still save you money over the American edition.

These papal meditations are easy to follow. Clearly these two wonderful popes were/are doing what they can to fulfill the desire of the Second Vatican Council to make the liturgy of the hours known and appreciated by the whole people of God.

Each meditation is preceded by the  psalm or canticle being discussed, so you don't need your breviary with you to read this book.

Put them on your Christmas list.


Tonight Evening Prayer had the rather grim Psalm 48. It has that rather grim theme and refrain which seem to come out of the same existential weariness that infuses Ecclesiastes: In his riches man lacks wisdom, he is like the beasts that are destroyed. And there's that other bit, where death shall be their shepherd, inverting the  comforting shepherd images we get in Psalm 23 and in the gospels.

So you don't get  the usual  peaceful, day-is-done mood that   Evening Prayer is known for.

But dig a little deeper and we find a key to hope. That key is the word "ransom".
The psalm is divided into two sections in the liturgy. In part one the psalmist tells himself not to mind that his wealthy foes boast of their wealth, since "no man can buy his own ransom, or pay a price to God for his life. The ransom of his soul is beyond him..."  

Then look at part II of Psalm 48. The psalmist again goes on about foolish rich who trust in themselves and what their fate will be. Then, linking back to the part about our being powerless to ransom our souls, he says, But God will ransom me from death and take my soul to himself. 

A clear prophecy of our redemption, and/or a prophetic "type" of Jesus, who here speaks of His resurrection.

To complete this theme of hope amidst all the inevitability of death, we go to this evening's canticle from Revelation:  For you were slain; with your blood you ransomed* (purchased) for God men of every race and tongue, of every people and nation. 

The reading from Romans also picks up on this theme, mentioning that we are "now undeservedly justified by the gift of God."

So, despite that beasts that are destroyed business, tonight's Vespers really is a feel-good experience.

*Our American breviaries use the New American Bible, which says "purchased", but I'm going here with the Revised Standard Version used by other English speaking nations. "Ransom" is a more precise word than "purchase" to describe what Our Lord did for us. 

Sunday, November 20, 2011

He Stoops to Conquer

From the Morning Prayer hymn in, feast of Christ the King

Before all time you ruled alone,
Then Hope of ages you became,
To your sweet yoke we gladly bow
And your supremacy proclaim.

The Second Adam of our race,
You are the Flower of Virgin-birth,
The Stone that crushed the Kingdom’s might
And grew until it filled the earth.

Our Teacher, Priest, Law-giver too,
New life to all your Triumph brings;
Your blood-stained robe reveals your name:
The Lord of Lords and King of kings.
 The Divine Office  and Mass on Sunday  were  all full of thrones, glory, power, might, exaltation, judgment.   Holy communion seemed more a non sequitur on Our Lord's part than usual.The King of Kings and Lord of Lord takes time from ruling the universe to come to spend time with a scatter-brained fifty-something woman out in the sticks of Pennsylvania. Beats me why He'd want to do such a thing.  But that's just how He is.

I thought of   stories from literature and history where a king goes in disguise among his people, humbling himself in simple attire in order learn what they're thinking about him. My first thought was of Henry V in Shakespeare's play, hooded and cloaked, hearing himself abused by a cynical foot soldier. Then I remembered a more appropriate  "disguised king" story.  Aragorn, in The Return of the King, enters Gondor quietly, by night,, hiding his identity.  It is not yet time for him to reveal himself as the rightful king. But moved by compassion for the sick and the wounded of the city, he enters, without fanfare, for the sole purpose of healing them.

The last enemy has not yet been destroyed. Until then, our King and Healer humbles himself, cloaked in the appearance of bread and wine, and comes to us quietly.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Scissors+ Paste+ New Missal Collects=

An improved  breviary!

A while back I posted  on my joy over the upcoming new Roman Missal, and tempered my joy with some longing for a more accurately translated breviary as well. All my inquiries to Those Who Know About Such Things indicate that yes! a new  English translation of the breviary is going to be done, but no, sorry! we have no idea when that will happen and it probably won't  for quite a while.

God, give me patience.

Then, I was looking at the December issue of The Word Among Us, a monthly devotional/daily missal.

Looking ahead to the mass of the First Sunday of Advent, my eye fell on the opening prayer, now titled the "Collect":  Grant your faithful, we pray, almighty God,
the resolve to run to meet your Christ with righteous deeds at his coming,
so that, gathered at his right hand, 
they may be worthy to possess your heavenly Kingdom,
Through our Lord Jesus Christ,etc...Amen.

Nice, huh? Compare it to what we still have in our breviary (the concluding prayer of each hour is the same as the opening prayer at the day's mass.):
  All powerful God, increase our strength of will for doing good that Christ may find an eager welcome at his coming and call us to his side in the kingdom of heaven, where he lives and reigns with you, etc....Amen.

So there's an object lesson in the difference between literal and "dynamic"(paraphrased) translation.
I know which one I prefer.

As I pondered, I got an  

I grabbed a pair of scissors and started snipping.

Then grabbed my breviary and a glue stick and started pasting.

 Now I've got the newly translated prayers in my breviary!
So I'm doing the liturgy geek happy dance,
Which is NOT to be confused with liturgical dancing!

Friday, November 18, 2011

Guest Psalmsayers Wanted!

Would any of you like to write something for Coffee and Canticles?

Some of you are experienced Psalmsayers.

Some of you have your own blogs.

That means  some of you can probably share your insights about the Divine Office in coherent paragraphs just as well as I can. Or better. A variety of voices would help this blog do a better job in accomplishing its purpose, which is to get laity interested in praying the Liturgy of the Hours.

So think about it. Does a particular psalm or canticle really move you? Do you have some great tips for integrating the Liturgy of the Hours into your day? Is there a saint's day coming up that you would like to tell us about?  Do you have a story from your daily life at home or at work that you can relate to what we pray and learn from the psalms and readings of the Office?  Could  you  tell us how you discovered the Breviary, and why you like it?   If you can do any of these in an orderly and engaging manner, I'd love to hear from you.

Keep your posts short (100 to 300 words). Send them to me:
If your post is a comment on a particular day's office, send it in far enough ahead of time so that I have time to review and post it on the proper day, e.g. don't sent a reflection on Sunday Morning prayer on a Sunday Night.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Divine Office "vs." the Rosary -which is "better"?

The other day a reader asked for my thoughts on the Divine Office compared to other devotions, especially the Rosary.   This reader, a convert from Protestantism, noted the heavy promotion of the Rosary by  Catholic publications  and blogs, not to mention devout fellow parishioners. He feels a bit uncertain about what to do, since he loves the Liturgy of the Hours and has no time for additional devotions. Should he give up, say, Morning Prayer and substitute the rosary?   He's been weighing all the statements recent Popes have made about the Divine Office for the Laity, with what has been urged about the Rosary (John Paul II's Apostolic letter on the rosary, requests of Our Lady in approved apparitions, and that huge rosary tradition among faithful Catholics): "... one of the major changes in thinking I've had to overcome from Protestantism is learning to see  things as both/and instead of either/or. However, I have a limited amount of time, and sometime struggle to squeeze in just one of these forms of prayer."

Here's some thoughts. And I'm guessing the reader already knows these things, but just wants a little  clarity.  He really already  has the answer with the "both/and" principle. 

1. Catholics who want to grow close to God have to pray daily.
2. The Church requires no particular prayer or devotion beyond (obviously) participation at mass and the sacraments as per the precepts of the Church.
3. The Church the offers us  a huge array of prayers, devotions, and meditation methods to choose from. And it's our choice. 
4. Objectively considered in and of themselves, some forms of prayer are superior to others. 
5. Liturgical prayer (the Holy Mass and the Divine Office), which constitute the public prayer of the Church, are head and shoulders  above any other prayer, because they are in a class by themselves.  All other prayers, including the Rosary, belong to this lesser class of Private Devotions. 
6. Among Private Devotions, the Rosary probably holds first place. The proof is the above mentioned, long standing acclaim of the faithful, papal exhortations, apparitions, etc. 
7. In deciding what our daily prayer should look like, we should keep #5 and #6 in mind, but pay equal attention to, 
8. Our own tastes, inclinations, and preferences! This is our freedom as children of God. If someone considers #5 and #6 but finds that what really satisfies  his heart and mind are the Divine Mercy chaplet and a daily chapter of the Bible, and he doesn't have time for more, then by all means, he should stick with those. 
So, in conclusion, it looks like Uncertain Reader should stick with Morning Prayer. 
But I have a few more thoughts to share with him. Although he probably knows all this as well.

1.Our Lady's place in the plan of salvation is such that --I think it's right to say this--it's almost a necessity to have some sort of relationship with her beyond intellectual assent to marian doctines. In other words, a good son will want to call his mother fairly often.
2. Although you've heard about the Rosary to the point of overkill, I can't help saying that when properly said, the rosary is, as JPII famously stated, "to gaze with Mary upon the face of Jesus," and personally, the rosary enhances my appreciation of the psalter. For example, it's automatic for me to start visualizing Gethsemane or Calvary every time I start reading a psalm of suffering. That must have come from years of meditating on those mysteries several times a week for so many years.  So try a decade or two while commuting to work. It might surprise you. Or just ask Our Lady to help you find some time to talk to her.
3. The push by the Church for the laity to pray the Divine Office is of very recent origin(circa 1970). It has been perceived for centuries as the almost exclusive occupation of priests and religious. (It is true that in ancient and medieval times the common people would, if convenient, leave their work and head into the local monastery chapel for lauds or vespers, but that fell by the wayside for a variety of reasons, among them the newer customs of public daily mass AND the rosary, whose 150 Hail Marys were seen as a kind of substitute for the psalms. )  So don't be surprised if the faithful you meet praying their rosary after daily mass don't know what you're talking about when you show them your  breviary.  It will be a long time before the word on the Divine Office gets around. But don't worry. Pope Benedict and I are working on it. 
4. Yes, that was kind of a joke. I'm not really that arrogant. The folks who run the online breviaries are the real Divine Office Apostles of our time.
5. Expect to exert charity and patience with all the wonderful, earnest, sweet people  who are sure that Their Favorite Devotion is the One Thing that everyone must do if they hope to [choose one: save their souls, make reparation for sin,end abortion, really please God],or  really do what (choose one: the Pope, Our Lady, Our Lord) wants us to do. 

How Dry I Am. Or Was. And What I Did About It

This is off topic, friends, but I am looking for a little assistance with an article I'm writing for a Catholic magazine. The topic is spiritual dryness--those periods in our lives when prayer suddenly seems dull and meaningless. When it feels like God is not there or is not listening-- we know He is, but it just doesn't feel this way.   The temptation is to slack off on prayer because, after all, it doesn't seem to do anything for us.

The article will include all the classical spiritual advice on this topic, and examples from the lives or writings of the saints. What I need is testimony from contemporary Catholics--like you--who have dealt with this problem. Maybe brief descriptions of how the dry spell came about, how long it lasted, how you reacted to it initially, what actions you took, and what you learned from it or how it impacted your spiritual progress overall. I'd also like a little info about your state in life so that the article could read, "Jack is a financial advisor and father of two. A recent convert, he prayed daily and says he was "on fire" for his faith. But one day that changed...

This is kind of personal stuff so I don't expect to hear from you in the comboxes. Also, I'd like the option of being able to followup with an email in case I have a clarifying question or two. So if you are interested in helping me out, email me at      The actual article would change your name to protect your privacy, and would leave out any details that might identify you to others.

In advance, I thank anyone who wants to help with a project that has the potential to help other people with this particular stage in their spiritual lives.

Lost in Lauds? Confused about Compline?

Vague on Vespers?

It's your weekly change to ask any questions about praying the Divine Office. If I don't know the answer, I'll run to the General Instruction and find out. If it's not clear in the General Instruction, I'll hazard an opinion but clearly mark it as such.

Welcome readers who are visiting here from Fr. Z's blog. I do not use a pre-Vatican II breviary, thus I would not be able to answer questions related to it. Perhaps someone should start a blog like mine for those who do pray from the older breviary.   I will soon post some a couple links for online older breviaries. 

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Pope Benedict: I'd like Everyone to use the Liturgy of the Hours

Today on Father Z's blog, "What Does the Prayer Really Say?"  there's a post from the Holy Father's Wednesday (today) audience.  It is commentary on Psalm 110--the Pope has been making the psalms the subject of many of his recent audiences, as did his predecessor--and ends with a renewed plea for more of the faithful to pray the Divine Office.  Let's answer the Holy Father's call, renewing our own commitment to whatever amount of the Office we are able to fit into our lives, and perhaps introducing it to family and friends. 
Pope Benedict during his Wednesday Audience said:
“I would like to renew my call to everyone to pray the Psalms, to become accustomed to using the Liturgy of the Hours, Lauds, Vespers, and Compline.”
From VIS:
Wednesday, November 16, 2011
VATICAN CITY, 16 NOV 2011 (VIS) – During today’s general audience in St Peter’s Square, attended by over 11,000 pilgrims, the Holy Father imparted the final catechesis of his cycle dedicated to the Psalms. He focused on Psalm 110, which “Jesus Himself cited, and which the authors of the New Testament referred to widely and interpreted in reference to the Messiah. … It is a Psalm beloved by the ancient Church and by believers of all times”, which celebrates “the victorious and glorified Messiah seated at the right hand of God”.
The Psalm begins with a solemn declaration: “The Lord says to my lord: ‘Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies your footstool”. Benedict XVI explained that “Christ is the Lord enthroned, the Son of man seated at the right hand of God. … He is the true king who by resurrection entered into glory, … higher than the angels, seated in the heavens over all other powers, … and with all His adversaries at His feet until the last enemy, death, is definitively defeated by Him”.
God and the king celebrated in the Psalm are inseparably linked. “The two govern together, to the point that the Psalmist confirms that God Himself grants the regal sceptre, giving the king the task of defeating his adversaries. … The exercise of power is a task the king receives directly from the Lord, a responsibility which involves dependence and obedience, thus becoming a sign to the people of God’s powerful and provident presence. Dominion over enemies, glory and victory are gifts the king has received, that make him a mediator of divine triumph over evil“.
The priestly dimension, linked to that of regality, appears in verse four. “The Lord has sworn and will not change his mind ‘You are a priest forever, according to the order of Melchizedek’”. This priest, the king of Salem, had blessed Abraham and offered bread and wine following the victorious military campaign conducted by the patriarch to save Lot from the hands of his enemies. The king of the Psalm “will be a priest forever, mediator of the divine presence among His people, a catalyst for the blessing of God”. Jesus Christ “is the true and definitive priest, Who will complete and perfect the features of Melchizedek’s priesthood”. In the bread and wine of the Eucharist, Christ “offers Himself and, defeating death, brings life to all believers”.
The final verses portray “the triumphant sovereign who, with the support of the Lord, having received power and glory from Him, opposes his enemies, defeating adversaries and judging nations”.
The Church traditionally considers this Psalm as one of the most significant messianic texts. “The king as sung by the Psalmist is Christ, the Messiah Who establishes the Kingdom of God and overcomes the powers of the world. He is the Word generated by God before any creature, the Son incarnate, Who died and rose to heaven, the eternal Priest Who, in the mystery of the bread and wine, grants forgiveness for sins and reconciliation with God; the King Who raised his head in triumph over death by His resurrection”.
The Psalm invites us to “look to Christ to understand the meaning of true regality which is to be lived as service and the giving of self, following a path of obedience and love ‘to the end’. Praying this Psalm, we therefore ask the Lord to enable us to proceed along this same journey, following Christ, the Messiah, willing to ascend with Him on the hill of the cross to accompany Him in glory, and to look to Him seated at the right hand of the Father, the victorious king and merciful priest Who gives forgiveness and salvation to all mankind”.
Finally, the Pope explained that, in the course of his catechesis dedicated to the Psalms, he had sought to focus on those “that reflect the different situations in life and the various attitudes we may have towards God. I would like to renew my call to everyone to pray the Psalms, to become accustomed to using the Liturgy of the Hours, Lauds, Vespers, and Compline. Our relationship with God can only be enriched by our journeying towards Him day after day”.
Thank you,Father Z. for posting this.