Friday, December 30, 2011

Finding your Place in the Book-a Guide for the Confused

I just finished talking to a former Episcopal priest who converted to Catholicism in 1993. When the topic of the Divine Office came up, he joked that "I learned that I didn't have enough fingers to be a Catholic", referring to the frustration of learning to find one's place(s) in the breviary compared to the relative simplicity of the Anglican Book of Common Prayer.

A few days ago, another reader mentioned that his St. Joseph guide listed week IV in the psalter for the week after Christmas week: clearly an error. A very rare error, by the way. I think the St. Joseph's guide is an excellent resource. Since lots of people get new breviaries for Christmas, I thought it a good idea to re-print this old post  of hints for finding one's place when there is no St.Joseph's guide at hand, and no computer access to check an online breviary. Here it is:

A reader pointed out that there is a yearly booklet to go with your Christian Prayer book, that tells you what page(s) you should be on every day of the year.  I used to use one of these. Then the new year came and I'd forget to order the new booklet. Or I'd be lax in praying the office for a few weeks and then lose track of what week it was in the psalter. And even when I still had the current booklet, I had the habit of misplacing/losing it. Homeschooling mothers do a lot of that.

But my husband taught me  that if you keep your parish calendar at home, you can figure everything out yourself. All you need to know is your 4x  table. Look at the most recent Sunday on your calendar. It will say what Sunday in ordinary time it is. If by chance it's a multiple of four (4,8,12,16, etc.) then your should use week IV of the Psalter. If it's a multiple of 4, minus 1, (3,7,11,15...) then you want week III of the psalter. If it's a multiple of 4 minus 2, use week II. 4 minus 3?  Week I.

The four weeks of advent correspond with weeks I thru IV of the psalter. The six weeks of lent correspond to weeks I thru IV, then I and II again.  Same deal with the weeks of the Easter season.

Of course,  you can also find this on the computer, thanks to,, and probably others. But I like being able to manage without a computer.

Now, for those of you with shiny new breviaries, one or four-volume, that you received for Christmas--I have bad news for you. This is about the worst week of the year to figure out where you should be, and 2011 makes it especially bad due to having had Christmas on Sunday: we've lost our Holy Family Sunday and Baptism of the Lord Sunday this time around. Just know that every day this week, you will be using Sunday week I for the psalter of Morning prayer, whether you celebrate a Saint's feastday, or whether it's a weekday in the Octave of Christmas. Then, for evening prayer, do whatever it says for for Evening prayer for that day (Dec. 26-30)  Since today is the feast of the Holy Family, everything should be in one place for you, except for turning to Sunday week I for the psalms.

Tomorrow you may just do everything in the proper of seasons for 12/31, but you have the option of substituting the final prayer for the commemoration of St. Sylvester in the proper of Saints.There are old traditions associated with St. Sylvester and New Year's Eve--including recipes for "Sylvester Punch". If you are into fun Catholic customs, then you'll want to try this. There are recipes online, both alcoholic and Non.