Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Welcomes, Winners& Weekly Questions.

Welcome to the Coffee&Canticles member's list, MG, Elise, Russell, Amy, Michael S., Zita, and Rdifonzo. Whether you are a true newcomer, or a long time reader who finally clicked "Join this Site" just to boost my confidence that this blog really does get read, Welcome and thank you very much. 

Wednesday is Q&A Day. If anything about the Liturgy of the Hours has you scratching your head and wondering what to do next, please put it in a comment and I will do my best to answer. Russell almost had me stumped last week some mysterious shifting psalms in Daytime Prayer, but a little sleuthing through the breviary gave us the solution.

Remember the third book giveaway I announced a couple weeks ago. I announced the winners in the comments section of the giveaway post, and learned that readers don't tend to subscribe to comments! 
So, here's the list of winners again. I also will try to personally email each winner who actually has contact info available. 
The winners: Caroline, DeJanet, MadMaxi, Anon/Theresa, Christina,Anon/JJ, and Peony Moss. Peony,I love your name. You sound like a Beatrix Potter character. A cute little hedgehog or mouse, perhaps. 
Update:I'll make it easy on you email thesockeys"at" gmail "dot"com.
One more thing. After giving a pitch for yesterday, I forgot to tell you how to vote for them. So please follow this link to do that.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Vote for Divine!

While you wait for you state primary to roll around, there is another kind of voting you should do.

Once again, it's website, pocasts, and various breviary apps, has made finalist in the Reader's Choice contest  for Catholic new media.

You may vote for any or all of these items once a day, every day, from now until March 21st.

I urge you to do so, especially if you have benefited from any of these wonderful products.

I also urge you to do so if you don't use  because by winning this award, more Catholics will take notice (when they go to look up the winners) of the Liturgy of the Hours. Maybe some of them will say something like, "Hmmmm. I've heard about the Liturgy of the Hours before. I know I should try it, but have been putting that off. But if an online breviary is so popular that it wins a contest, that means lots of people are praying it these days. And if lots of people are managing to do this, then so should I."

So, by voting for, you aren't just promoting a website/podcast/app. You are helping spread the good news of the public prayer of the Church.

Does that make sense? Then please go and vote.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Kindle the Fire with a Kindle Fire!

Just had to share this very cute pun made by made by a priest in Cincinnati. What we learn from Father Joseph is that:
1. Even priests can find it a cumbersome burden to find one's place in the breviary each day, and
2. Even priests can find themselves only able to get to their breviary once a day.(which for them means reading the entire day's Office at once rather than at the appropriate times of day. Not wrong, but not optimal either.) and
3. Even priests can have their prayer life enhanced by the ease and convenience and the portability of an online breviary such as, in this case,

Here is Father Joseph's article

Seven Quick Takes- Good news/Bad news edition

--- 1 ---
Sort of good news! Six months after submitting a book proposal, getting an itsy bit of hopeful feedback in October, and then pretty much nothing until I emailed a desperate, "please, say something to me" email, I actually had a nice long conference call with the acquisitions editor and a product development editor. Result: I think they like my Divine Office book, but I have to rework the outline a bit and write another sample chapter. Then there's more discussion. I'm not sure how many times this cycle will repeat itself, but it seems like progress is being made.
--- 2 ---
The bad news is that stomach flu is coursing through our household. I'm not yet among the fallen, except in the sense of being about to fall over after being awake most of the night  alternately urging the victim to GET IN THE BATHROOM QUICK! and cleaning floors/carpets multiple times. I am grateful that I've been stuffing outgrown tee shirts, underwear, and holey socks in the bathroom cabinet for several months. Disposable cleaning rags! So see, there is something to be cheerful about today. That, and the victim managaged to leave his bedding unspotted, a minor miracle. So far, very little laundry to do.
--- 3 ---
The first two days of  our Monday thru Friday meatless lent went well. We enjoyed a dish from Celeste Behe's "40 for 12" lenten recipe blog  on Wednesday night, and my favorite beans and rice dish last night. Tonight it will be fish of some sort. Not that I want to think about food right now, given #2.
--- 4 ---
Finished the FAFSA!  To the uninitiated, this is the horrible federal student aid form. It requires lots of information from the student's and the parents' tax returns, so this meant my poor husband had to do the taxes, with me as the ever-required-on-hand resource for various tidbits of information about my itty-bitty freelance writing earnings.
--- 5 ---
But to balance out the bad virus and the bad taxes, the good news is that eldest son (US Navy) has been granted a hefty chunk of leave, which have him here from mid March until well after Easter!!!!  We're all hugely thrilled. And whenever William gets leave to come home, he is the magnet that draws the other two up-and-gone children here, so we are hoping for an all out glorious Easter family  reunion. A foretaste of heaven.
--- 6 ---
Speaking of heaven, I was watching the final episode of Fr. Barron's fabulous Catholicism dvd series the other day,where he talked about heaven. He dwelt at length on the scriptural image of heaven as the "New Jerusalem and heavenly City". It gave me pause, since I adore my rural home, and have as little to do with cities as possible. Crowds and traffic stress me so much that it's hard for me to visualize City as a positive thing.During the years that we lived within an hour or two of New York City or Los Angeles, I almost had to force myself to take occasional  advantage of  the cultural and entertainment treasures of those places, knowing I'd be glad once I'd gone, but anticipating the traffic and crowds with dread.  Give me "Desire of the Everlasting Hills" over "New Jerusalem" every time. But Fr. Barron's commentary reminded me that we all have an ideal in our minds of  community or communion that we fail to live out, because even happy city dwellers do their best to isolate themselves from their neighbors whenever possible. So I'm trying to remind myself how good it feels when all of my (large) family is at home,(see #5)  and extrapolate from there that this is how I will feel in heaven, surrounded by Everyone, recognizing them all as brothers, sisters, children, cousins, etc.
--- 7 ---
I wish you all a good weekend, a blessed first week of lent, and avoidance of the stomach plague. For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!

The Cry from the Cross

OnFriday, during the hour of Daytime Prayer, we pray Psalm 22, which begins, My God, My God, why have you forsaken me? No psalm is more appropriate for the middle of  Friday, since we commemorate the crucifixion from the hours of noon to three
Psalm 22 is of profound significance to anyone who loves the Liturgy of the Hours.  Here we learn from the example of Jesus to use the psalms as our most  personal prayers, to express to the Father our sorrows, our petitions, our thanks and our praise. Sacred Scripture is not just a thing to be studied, but to be prayed. That is what Jesus did; that's what we should do.
Yet, in praying this psalm as part of the Church's liturgy, we are doing something even greater. Acting as members of Christ's body, we are praying this psalm through Him, with Him, and in Him. Sound familiar? Of course. Like the mass, the Liturgy of the Hours is something we join ourselves to with the Church universal. In this case we don't offer the sacrifice of Christ's body and blood, but we do offer the sacrifice of His--and our--praise to the Father. Our offering is imperfect, but joined to, and subsumed by, His perfect praise, it becomes a great and holy thing.

Most of us realize  how mind-boggling it is for us unworthy shlubs to be able to participate in the Holy Mass. It makes no sense that Jesus wants to come to us in this way, but we're glad that He does. It wouldn't be a bad idea to cultivate that attitude towards the Liturgy of the Hours as well.

  Pope Benedict gave a meditation on the prayer of Jesus on the cross, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me.?"  which also deals with Psalm 22 as a whole. If you like the quotes from the preceding news agency link, you might want to read the entire talk on the Vatican website.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Are You too Busy to notice that You're Slothful?

cute animal, but not a cute vice

I  wanted to share a post from a UK blog titled The Hermenuetic of Continuity. It's about my favorite vice, sloth, and why we may not alwyas recognize it in ourselves.

 we might indeed dismiss the idea of sloth, thinking that because we are very busy and have lots of work to do, it does not apply to us. Paradoxically sloth can be associated with the stress and overwork that many people experience: we can become averse to all other effort, reluctant to spend our spare time on anything of genuine value, and particularly indifferent to prayer. ....For example, the Rosary takes about fifteen minutes to say, but it is seen as a great chore compared with three hours watching television or aimlessly surfing the internet.
So true. 
Read the rest here.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Know Anyone Looking for Lenten ideas?Share this Post!

If  anyone you know is still looking for a way to deepen their prayer life during lent, nicely urge them to try the Liturgy of the Hours. It's prayer and scripture reading, all appropriately chosen and arranged just for lent, wrapped up in one neat package. And if this prayer seeker is mourning the fact that either a work schedule or the need to be a caregiver at home makes daily mass impossible, then the Liturgy of the Hours is clearly the next best thing. It's psalms, readings, and antiphons express many of the same ideas as in the day's mass. What's more, praying the Liturgy of the Hours is, well, Liturgy. You're not just doing your own personal rosary, novena, meditation, or spiritual reading. Instead you are exercising the priesthood of the laity, praying publicly on behalf of the entire church, and with the entire church. At mass, the priest offers the sacrifice of Christ's body and blood. With the liturgy of the hours, each person who prays it, whether in the solitude of their home or with a group, offers a sacrifice as well. A sacrifice of praise.

It is an incredible, amazing privilege that God allows such ridiculous creatures as ourselves to do this.

Yes, there's a learning curve to the Liturgy of the Hours. It takes time to first, figure out the mechanics of it, and second, to actually appreciate the psalms as prayer. But hey! If this takes some effort, then consider it a little extra lenten penance. Once the learning phase is past, you will love it. And with online breviaries such as,, and ibreviary, the learning curve should be fairly short.

And then there's this blog. A one stop shop of instruction, motivation, and inspiration!

Share this post with anyone you know who wants to ramp up their prayer life during lent. 

Ash Wednesday Welcome and Q&A

After Monday's shameless plea for more blogger "followers" my silly wish of breaking 100 has been achieved. But I understand that most of these new "followers"  have already been following for a while without having bothered to click follow and jump through whatever little hoops blogger presents. So thank you very much, Michele,JJ,KM, and Mahree.  Also to Chris, who signed up last week independent of the Shameless Plea. And now I will shut up about this followers thing.

Today is Q&A day. The breviary options are a bit tricky this week,because we leave off our normal place in the psalter, using either Wednesday IV for Office of Readings, Friday III for Morning Prayer,and then, I think, back to Wednesday IV for the other hours. So there's one question anticipated. Next question: what happens between Thursday and Saturday, psalter-wise?

Answer: week IV in the psalter up to the end of the last psalm, then flip to the Common of  Seasons in the front of your book for the everything else. We start over with Week I in the psalter on Sunday, and the four weeks cycle through as usual, although always using the Common of Season for the second half of each hour.

Anything else you want to know?

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Time to Be Peculiar - Lauds and Vespers of Ash Wednesday

Morning and Evening prayer (lauds and vespers) for Ash Wednesday form a kind of synopsis of What Lent is about and what to remember as we progress through these 40 days of penance before Easter.

To begin with, there are two options for the psalter of Ash Wednesday: Wednesday week IV or Friday Week III. I always go with Friday III: it is so obviously appropriate for this day,with the penitential  Psalm 51--A pure heart create for me O God, put a steadfast spirit within me--and its lamentation from Jeremiah's canticle. On the other hand, if you or your groups decides to go with Wednesday IV, you get that very stout antiphon: My heart is ready, O God, my heart is ready. A great battle cry for lent, isn't it?

Moving ahead to the reading of morning prayer:
You are a people sacred to the Lord,your God; he has chosen you from all the nations on the face of the earth to be a people  peculiarly his own.  
 Focus on the word "peculiar". It has two meanings, illustrated by the following sentences:
1.Those Catholic are a little...peculiar,don't you think?
2. It's a species of fish  peculiar to the Great  Lakes.
In the reading, God is telling us we are peculiar in the second sense: uniquely belonging to him. Set apart. But in responding to God's invitation to be his children, we will sooner or later find ourselves appearing "peculiar"  to other people. If non-catholic  co-workers spot ashes on your forehead, and notice those meatless lunches on Friday, they might think you peculiar for caring about such things. Our Church's recent stand  on issues of conscience and freedom in the context of contraception and the HHS manate has brought what is considered a very "peculiar" teaching to the attention of others in recent years.
Lent is the time to embrace our "peculiarity". In both senses of the word.

Next, notice the responsory: God Himself will set me free from the hunter's snare, from those who would entrap me with lying words, and from the hunter's snare.  This is one of the many places in the Liturgy of the Hours where we can apply a prayer not just to ourselves --in this case the hunter is Satan, temptation, and my own sinful inclinations--but also, we should listen to the voice of Jesus. He knows his enemies are after him. Here he expresses confidence in his Father.

From here, I want to call attention to both the morning and the evening antiphons for the Gospel canticles:
Morning: When you fast, do not put on a gloomy face, like the hypocrites.
Evening: When you give alms, do not let you left hand know what your right is doing.
These two lines of scripture summarize what our attitude should be about our lenten practices. Don't let your family and friends know how it's just killing you to not check your email more than twice daily. Smile a lot. And don't show off by  dropping little  references to your good deeds when you are with people who would be impressed.  If someone suggests that your should do more A or be more B, don't counter by dazzling them with the C,D,E,F and G that you are already doing.

Now, jumping to the reading for Evening Prayer:
Work our your salvation with fear and trembling,for it is God who of his good pleasure works in you both the will and the performance. 
This one verse says it all about the faith and works issue that protestants like to bring up. Yes, Jesus saves us. No, our response to saving grace is far more than just the "sinners prayer". Yes, God helps up with the "far more" part too.

Finally, the Closing Prayer (same as the Collect at the day's mass)
This is one of those cases where you really want to glue a copy of the new translation into your breviary, since there is so much more here than in the old version. This is a man's prayer, and when it comes to penance, we all want, as Teresa of Avila advised her nuns, to "Be Men!"
Grant, O Lord, that we may begin with holy fasting this campaign of Christian sevice, so that, as we take up battle against spiritual evils, we may be armed with the weapons of self-restraint. Through our Lord Jesus Christ your son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God forever and ever. Amen.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Just thinkin'

How nice it would be if that "97 followers" creeped up to 100. Nice round number. A milestone, and all that. 

Sunday, February 19, 2012

I was once a Jersey Girl...

.... during the 70s, in a neighborhood   with lots of Catholics, mostly second generation  Irish and Italian. And this was the week when Whatcha' givinup for lent? opened  many a conversation in the cafeteria or at the bus stop. Devout, lapsed, or somewhere in between, everyone gave up--or said they gave up--something. Top choices were  chocolate, soda (we don't have pop in New Jersey), or candy; perhaps skipping a favorite TV show such as Happy Days, The Waltons, or Mary Tyler Moore.  Or maybe spending less time tuned into our favorite New York City top-40 station, 77 WABC.

Giving up stuff. Another name for fasting. The emptiness it leaves (whether in our stomachs,our schedules, or our psyches) is supposed to be filled with prayer and good works.  And the money it can save should make it easier to give alms.

Today, almost forty years later, chocolate, and  food in general  is still on the table, so to speak, as good givinup material. Last year our family succeeded in going meatless Monday thru Friday all through lent.  That imposes a triple penance on the cook: going without meat herself, coming up with creative menus, and watching the family's reactions when they're not quite creative enough.

 TV and radio are such a small part of my pleasures these days  that giving them up  wouldn't be significant penance. (Although if  Downton Abbey hadn't  ended this weekend,  it might have been.)
 But the computer...that's another story. I'm trying to figure out how to limit the time wasted here. Maybe limiting myself to checking Google Reader only once per day, checking blog stats only once a day, and no computing at all between the time my youngest gets home from school and the time he goes to bed. I'm ashamed to say this will be really hard!

My other big fast each year is something only women will understand. I try to fast on shopping. I toss sale flyers without looking at them and don't go to the mall "just to look around". Not even thrift stores. Also very hard, but not so hard for me as the computer thing.

If you're still figuring out your own lenten routine, here's a few suggestions related to the Liturgy of the Hours:

-Add one liturgical hour that you don't already habitually pray. I'd recommend the Office of Readings, because then you will automatically be both praying more AND doing spiritual reading. Spiritual reading that is designed especially for the lenten season.

-If adding an extra hour is too much, then resolve to be more faithful to your current routine: not skipping it, allowing more time to pray it, well, prayerfully rather than rushing through; pausing longer after each psalm to mediate on what you've read; praying the hours at a more consistent time each day; not leaving  morning prayer until its almost noon, evening prayer until its night time,etc.

So...whacha givinup for lent?

Friday, February 17, 2012

7QT--run up to Lent edition

--- 1 ---
We've been gluttonizing ourselves on half-price Valentine chocolate these past days as a preparation (?) for the season of Lent. I know that doesn't sound very spiritual, but for me, at least, it kind of works. I'm already sick of the stuff after two days of easy access to truffles and Dove strawberry/chocolate swirl hearts.   Our plans for going meatless Monday thru Friday and ditching the goodies sounds mighty attractive at the moment. I'm even toying with a new idea that a friend mentioned. She said that last year her only penance was to drink her coffee without any creamer or sugar, and she ended up losing 3 pounds. Of course, you have to have witnessed the small mountain of creamer and the heaping teaspoon of sugar that Susie puts in her coffee the rest of the year. Anyway, I'm thinking of doing away with the sugar, but keeping a splash of milk.
--- 2 ---
My son just reminded me of our former pastor's advice that we should NOT be planning and carrying out our lenten penances with the goal  of  worldly self-improvement (e.g.. weight loss, being more organized, physical health.) The point of this is penance for our sins, and creating empty places in our hearts/souls/schedules that are to be filled by God. Period. ...Yes, Father.
--- 3 ---
Today's Office of Readings brings us yet another piece of excellent commentary by St. Augustine. Check this out: The entire life of a good Christian is in fact an exercise of holy desire. You do not yet see what you long for, but the very act of desiring prepares you, so that when he comes you may see and be utterly satisfied. Augustine then goes on to compare us to wineskins which need to be stretched when there is more good wine available than the skin can hold in its current state. (Ouch!)  Sanctification can hurt. He then switches container metaphors and says that if you need a place to store honey, and all you have is a jar of sour wine, the wine should be dumped and the container scoured til clean. (Hey! My stuff! You're throwing it out! And ouch again!)  So, just to be clear on what lent is supposed to feel like: Stretched. Scoured. Old stuff dumped out.
--- 4 ---
Good news here at home: my kid  who has  autism was able to sit through Sunday  mass without any behaviors for the first time in several years. We might be able to start taking him again on a regular basis again instead of splitting up the family to attend separate masses while some stayed home with him. Praise God!
--- 5 ---
Bad news on home front: same kid also had some scary  "issues" last night, so please, anyone who reads this, say one Hail Mary that God will send us healing and a solution to this particular problem. Thanks.
--- 6 ---
I read a book this week that I wish were around when I was single. Emily Stimpson's Catholic Girl's Survival Guide  manages to be brutally honest, faithfully Catholic, and tons of fun at the same time. There's an e-book edition as well.  If you know any single girls who are feeling down and desperate, this is just the thing.
--- 7 ---

Thursday, February 16, 2012

What Are the Hinges of Your Day?

"By the venerable tradition of the universal Church, lauds as morning prayer and vespers as evening prayer are the two hinges on which the daily office turns; hence they are to be considered as the chief hours and celebrated as such."(General Instruction on the Liturgy of the Hours,#37.)

That's the reason that versions of the Liturgy of the Hours focus on Morning and Evening Prayer. If someone wants to pray the liturgical hours, these are the ones to start with. And for many laymen, these are the only ones that are ever used. (Although to take one more step and add Compline before bedtime would not be a bad idea. But I digress.)

Let's explore this idea of “hinges”. The Latin for “hinge” is cardo. The Church's government “hinges” upon the college of Cardinals, those bishops of elevated rank who advise the Pope and elect new popes from their ranks. Then there's the four cardinal virtues: prudence, justice, temperance, and fortitude. These four are the virtues of natural morality. They are the natural “hinges” upon which hang the higher, theological virtues.

But hinges just aren't for hanging things. Hinges hold a door to a building, enabling it to open and shut.
I think that's how we can appreciate morning and evening prayer—lauds and vespers—in our lives. The psalms of morning prayer open the door on our day, welcoming the rising sun as God's daily gift, recalling the opening tomb of Easter morning, and opening our hearts to a daily new beginning.

Vespers, or evening prayer, gently shuts the door as the working day draws to an end. We shut the door on the day's busy-ness, and enclose ourselves in our home, the domestic church, where we offer an “evening oblation” of the day's accomplishments. With evening prayer we also close the door on the day's troubles, on our failures, and rest in the peace that only Christ can give.

Whether or not you pray the liturgy of the hours, regular morning and evening prayer of some kind can, and should form the “hinges” of your day. Praising God each morning as the day begins, and begging his help for all the adventures that day will bring. Ending each day by placing it into his hands,and resting for a moment in his all-knowing, almighty, all-loving  heart. He stands at the door and ever knocks. Those  good, sturdy   hinges of daily prayer will keep the door in working order.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Q&A Plus welcome!-1/2 price candy edition

I'm a little late with this weekly Wednesday Q& A post due to the urgent and essential yearly quest for 1/2 price Valentine candy required for our family's  week long Mardi Gras (Semaine Gras?)celebration. We celebrate mainly by eating lots of candy, pausing to nod  solemnly whenever Mom says, "Ash Wednesday is almost here, guys. Start thinking about what you are going to do for Lent."  Freshly arrived home with a bag of Ghiradelli squares, Turtles, Truffles, and M&M Peanuts in red, pink, and white, I can now turn my attention  back to the Divine Office.

Realize that I hardly eat any of this stuff. It's for my husband and kids. Mostly.

Welcome to new followers Jaqueline, Nan, Jean and KM! I hope you like it here. Your comments and input are welcome always.

Anyone wondering why there is no Office prayers for St. Valentine?
Unlike St. Cyril and Methodius, Valentine is not on the universal calendar, nor is he in the list of saints added to the calendar for celebration in the United States. If you had a particular devotion to Valentine (other than enjoying the romantic customs that have become attached to this feast) you would have been free to commemorate him using the prayers from the Common of Martyrs.

Any more questions about any aspect of the Liturgy of the Hours? Just create a comment below.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Giveaway Month, week three!

Now that prizes from the first week's Blogiversary Giveaway have been claimed and mailed, it's time for the next round.

To win, make a comment below. Include in your comment which item you want should your name be chosen as a winner. You may include a second or third choice if you want to.

My plan is to pick a bunch of winners, since I'd like to clear these items off my desk:

The Rosary -keeping company with Jesus and Mary by Karen Edmisten. Short motivational guide to praying the rosary. Good for beginners who want to know what it's all about as well as veterans who need fresh inspiration to maintain their rosary habit.

Shorter Christian Prayer - (slightly used but good condition) a breviary consisting of only  the four week psalter for lauds and vespers plus limited selections from the  propers for Advent, Lent, and Easter, the Holy Triduum, and a couple of feastdays. A good introduction for people who is 1. not sure they really want to  do this and/or 2. intimidated by the size of the regular book.

Daytime Prayer -(slightly used but good condition) a slim volume containing the complete hour of Daytime Prayer for every day of the year. About the same size as Shorter Christian Prayer.  The regular one-volume breviary only contains selections from Daytime Prayer, so if you are interested in having the Real Deal this is the book for you. I kept it in my desk at work for the last year at my day job, since I didn't want to lug the book from my 4-volume set around.

Holy Traders- Apostles and Evangelists edition. Saints trading cards for kids.

Patron Saints - a list of patrons for every possible profession, situation, person, place, things, illness, and crisis. by Thomas J. Craughwell.

The Mass-the Glory, the Mystery, the Tradition by Cardinal Donald Wuerl and Mike Aquilina. Step by step through the liturgy, with insights on history, theology, and spirituality.

Strengthening Your Family - by Marge Fenelon. Subtitled "A Catholic Approach to Holiness at Home", this is a collection of winsome essays plus prayers and questions for reflection on various topics.

Inner Peace -Wisdom from Jean-Pierre de Caussade - a small book of excerpts from a spiritual master, on the topic of trust in God and learning to rest in His will. 

Monday, February 13, 2012

Joining the Symphony of the Liturgy of the Hours

This thoughtful essay on the grandeur of the Liturgy of the Hours appeared the other day at The Catholic Thing. It is reprinted here with permission of the author.

The Divine OfficePrintE-mail
By Bevil Bramwell, OMI   
The Second Vatican Council’s teaching on the Divine Office says:  “Christ Jesus, high priest of the new and eternal covenant, taking human nature, introduced into this earthly exile that hymn which is sung throughout all ages in the halls of heaven. He joins the entire community of mankind to Himself, associating it with His own singing of this canticle of divine praise.” The sheer grandeur of this vision of the prayer that we know as the Divine Office is overwhelming.
It shows that the real nature of prayer is far above a chat with the boss. This boss is so vastly different from us that we should appreciate his establishing a way that we can communicate with him in Jesus Christ and his Church. Yes, the Church is key here:  “For [Jesus Christ] continues His priestly work through the agency of His Church, which is ceaselessly engaged in praising the Lord and interceding for the salvation of the whole world. She does this, not only by celebrating the Eucharist, but also in other ways, especially by praying the divine office.” 
This engagement is not simply incidental to the Church; it is in the nature of the Church to be the extension of Jesus Christ in space and time – a concept that goes beyond basing our ideas about God purely on human experience. We need divine revelation to show us things beyond our grasp. 
Divine revelation had already been working in human history, particularly in the history of the Jewish People. Benedict XVI has made a point of emphasizing that truth: “the entire Old Testament already appears to us as a history in which God communicates his word.” 
God inspired writers of psalms – so that the Divine Word begins to sing – for about two thousand years before the time of Christ. The psalms were used for all of that time as the Prayer of the People of God.
Then, the pope says of Christ: “In a perfect way, he hears, embodies and communicates to us the word of God (cf. Lk 5:1).” So that “Jesus thus shows that he is the divine Logos which is given to us, but at the same time the new Adam, the true man, who unfailingly does not his own will but that of the Father.”
So something special has happened to human nature in Jesus Christ, something that is masked by our hyper individualism. Benedict has characterized this as, first, the revelation in Creation, which can be called a kind of symphony: 
In this symphony one finds, at a certain point [the coming of Christ], what would be called in musical terms a “solo,” a theme entrusted to a single instrument or voice which is so important that the meaning of the entire work depends on it. This “solo” is Jesus. . . . The Son of Man recapitulates in himself earth and heaven, creation and the Creator, flesh and Spirit. He is the centre of the cosmos and of history, for in him converge without confusion the author and his work. 
In that perspective, Jesus is presented as much more than a neighbor from down the street or a famous figure in history. Human nature is joined to God in Jesus Christ. He is the way of our prayer. His prayer is our prayer.
Look at how Vatican II expressed this point: “when this wonderful song of praise is rightly performed by priests and others who are deputed for this purpose by the Churchs ordinance, or by the faithful praying together with the priest in the approved form, then it is truly the voice of the bride addressed to her bridegroom:  It is the very prayer which Christ Himself, together with His body, addresses to the Father.”
In such prayer, we are getting on board something, not generating something new. When we consider the Son’s prayer to the Father what could we add? The fullness is already there. The insecurity that is promoted in our culture gets in the way of our being secure enough to acknowledge just who Jesus is. 
We should want to join in his prayer. Returning to the Psalms: “The word of God draws each of us into a conversation with the Lord: the God who teaches us how to speak to him. Here we naturally think of the Book of Psalms, where God gives us words to speak to him, to place our lives before him, and thus to make life itself a path to God.”
So unless our prayer is about wanting an iPhone then all of the real-life situations are covered in the Divine Office, either in the Psalms or the extracts from the rest of the Scriptures. Or the readings from the tradition in the Office of Readings. This really is a Divine Office, a “service” of the Divine! 
A service every Catholic should try to practice.

This column first appeared on the site The Catholic Thing (, copyirght 2012. All rights reserved. Reprinted with permission.

We Lose More than We Grasp

Had enough of winter?
When praying the psalms each day there is so much--theoretically--that we can do with them. First,  it's natural to invest each day's psalter with our own situations and intentions: our joys, sorrows, and the things for which we're personally thankful.  Next, since we pray the liturgy as the public prayer of the Church, we should think of  the intentions of the whole body of Christ. Last, and most important, we should listen to the voice of our Savior as He  prays the psalms: praising, thanking, and beseeching His heavenly Father.

Oh, and I almost forgot.  While we're at it, we might also  reflect on the history and faith of the chosen people of Israel, and ask ourselves what each psalm may teach us about our moral lives.

Notice that I said theoretically.  In practice, many of us  psalmsayers might have five quiet minutes in a row each morning in which we hope we can zip through morning prayer before it's time to leave for work, or time to deal with the next wet diaper or sibling quarrel. And even those who are retired haven't the mental energy to pray every line of each day's office with complete attention, mining all the meanings and gaining all the insights that are waiting to be found.

Of course we can't do it all at once. That's why there's a repeating  four week  psalter. You get a second chance. And a third. And a twelfth and a thirty-ninth and several hundred more if you keep at the Liturgy of the Hours long enough. If each time your pray a liturgical hour you manage to frame a single intention, or form one edifying mental image, or remember once that you are praying in union with millions of Christians throughout the world, then you are doing just fine. And if you pray a psalm with complete distraction? Don't worry, you are  praying with a large body of believers, and some of them will have prayed it well for you today. That same psalm will be waiting for you again in four weeks, so you'll get another crack at a more mindful sort of prayer then.

Yesterday the Office of  Readings had a passage from St. Ephrem which seems to address this very issue.Here's a bit of it.

Lord, who can comprehend even one of your words? We lose more than we grasp, like those who drink from a living spring. For God's word offers different facets according to the capacity of the listener, and the Lord has portrayed his message in many colors, so that whoever gazes upon it can see in it what suits him. Within it he has buried manifold treasures, so that each of us might grow rich in seeking them out...Be thankful then for what you have received, and do not be saddened at all that such abundance still remains.What you have received and attained is your present share, while what is left will be your do not foolishly try to drain in one draught what cannot be consumed all at once, and do not cease out of faintheartedness from what you will be able to absorb as time goes on.

So relax. My list of things to "do" when praying the liturgy is not a checklist to be done all at once, but more like the menu of your favorite restaurant. You know you'll get to try every item eventually.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

The Rising of Rohan and the American Bishops

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" That is grievous," she said. "And yet it is good beyond all that I dared hope in these dark days, when it seemed that the House of Eorl was sunk in honour less than any shepherd's cot." 
-The Return of the King

(Non-Tolkien geeks may go on to the next  feed in their readers. To those of you who were hoping for my usual type of post, I'm sorry. I just can't help myself.)  

I'm feeling a lot like Eowyn this week, and so are lots of other Catholics. What's "grievous" in our case  is the attack of the president on religious freedom, conscience rights , and in particular, the Catholic church. 
What's  good beyond hope? Obviously, the resurrection of our Bishops, both as individuals and in their collective body, the USCCB, as men  of courage and strength. 
As Catholic warriors. As good shepherds, whacking at the wolves with mighty staves. 
Yes, good beyond hope. 

 Eowyn had watched helplessly for years as her beloved King Theoden was oppressed by the  evil counsels of   Wormtongue.  A spirit of hesitation, timidity, and weariness had overtaken Theoden. He wasn't able to comprehend who his true friends and his true enemies were.  
During the dark years of the 70s and 80s, the bishops conference seemed to be in similar straits. While the flock was wandering, lost and confused by societal  revolution, that ponderous political leviathan of a bishops conference fiddled with  policy statements  having a little to do with application of faith to society and lots to do with gaining the applause of D.C. liberals.  Liberals who then  used the bishop's statements to convince much of the Catholic voting bloc that, really, except for this itty-bitty matter of abortion, the democratic party  was very much in line with Church teaching. Seamless garment, and all that. 

Then came the sex abuse scandals starting in the late 90s and lasting more than a decade.  "Sunk in honor", indeed. 

Yet at the same time, the good work of Pope John Paul II, and then Benedict XVI, was starting to bear  fruit.  Fewer new bishops were of the administrator/managerial mold. Instead some genuine shepherds--and prophets--began appearing in the American episcopate. Now there are quite a few of them. Some are already big names on the national stage, others are  more quietly working in smaller dioceses.  These shepherd/prophets are enagaged in the Herculean labor of undoing years of neglect. 

That's  why it wouldn't be entirely fair of me to cast Cardinal-elect Timothy Dolan in the role of a more jovial  Gandalf, striding into the presidency of the USCCB, raising his staff, and vanquishing in an instant the dithering, milque-toasty fog and cobwebs of its former enchantment.  He needed, and received, all the support of other strong bishops and, no doubt, many  USCCB staffers who have long  been waiting for a clarion call as well. 

But my, oh my, its a very, very tempting analogy. 

Anyway, Theoden/USCCB has awakened, recovered, and has gone to war. In that army are many other stern warriors, including Catholic University, Belmont Abbey College, Thomas Aquinas College, Franciscan University,EWTN, and...I'm getting tired. Just go to to see the honor roll, which is being updated daily. 

I'll stop with the Tolkien motif before readers come down with  Analogy Stretching-induced stress, but here's just one more thing . Friday's events--Obama's "compromise" announcement--made me think of Theoden's last visit to Saruman. There was a fear that Theoden would be charmed by the persuasive voice of Saruman, and lulled into accepting a dubious peace agreement. Indeed, some of the crowd thought Saruman's  appeal to be the height of reason (can you say Sister Keehan?) But no fear. Theoden saw through the deception:

"Yes, we will have peace when you and all your works have perished--and the works of your dark master to whom you would deliver us...I fear your voice has lost its charm." (The Two Towers)

"The only complete solution to this religious liberty problem is for HHS to rescind the mandate of these objectionable services."(USCCB, February 10. 2012)

Friday, February 10, 2012

Winner of Sheen DVD!

As promised, the winner of the Fulton Sheen documentary has been chosen this evening. This time, from a crystal salad bowl with gold trim. And the winner is very new follower Jessica, who, by the way, has a very nice blog called Living the Liturgy.  Jessica, please get back to me on my home email to send me your address.

Those of you who did not win: you really are missing out on a great documentary. But, if you order it from Ignatius Press for their current special sale price, you get, in addition to the documentary, an additional disc with five of the best espisodes of Sheen's award-winning Life is Worth Living television series. And even if you aren't planning on buying, check out the Ignatius link and scroll down to see some lovely photos of the Servant of God, Fulton Sheen. 

Snarky St. Paul

Today's first reading in the Office of Readings was from Galatians, chapter 5. Now, I've known for years about St. Paul's ongoing battle with the Judaizers who felt that gentile converts had to undergo circumcision, and observe Jewish dietary law. But until today, I'd never noticed or heard verse 12, where Paul, dripping with sarcasm, says of his opponents, I wish they would go all the way and castrate themselves! 
I checked a few other translations on this apparent lapse in charity. They pretty much say the same thing, and/or commentators footnotes say that this is what is meant by the alternative verb, "mutiliate."

Now, it's true that we don't have all the context, cultural standards of the time, nor the tone or expression Paul had in mind when he wrote this little bon mot. Perhaps if we had all that, we'd know it was just a gentle, poking of fun at the Judaizers. Or maybe there's commentary from St. Augustine out there explaining how Paul was really justified in what he said, and I'm just too ignorant to see it.  But assuming that this is what it appears to be --Paul not being very nice- what can we learn here?
1.Until we're dead, holiness is a work in progress. Even in really, really holy people like St. Paul
2. We should not get discouraged by our lapses, by always having to  say the exact same thing in confession, etc. If it happened to Paul --who had actually come a long way, since before his conversion, he would kill his enemies, rather than make sarcastic remarks about them--it can and will happen to all of us.
3. Oops! Its 11 in the morning and I didn't say Morning prayer yet. If you have any reflections to add on Paul's snarkiness, feel free. I gotta go.

Holy Sibling Rivalry. Scholastica:1 Benedict:0

Don't miss the second reading from the Office of Readings today. It's the sweet, funny, and very satisfying story of holy twins Benedict and Scholastica. Benedict, the great founder of western monasticism, was meeting his sister in a guest house at the bottom of the hilltop crowned by his monastery. Scholastica, abbess of a female Benedictine monastery a few miles down the road (although they weren't calling themselves Benedictines back then), would meet her brother there once year. The two would enjoy a day of holy conversation, then at nightfall depart for their respective monasteries. 

This time, Scholastica was enjoying her brother's company so much, that she proposed the two pull an all-nighter and not leave until morning. Benedict demurred: his holy rule stipulated that monks return to their cells every night. Scholastica felt that Benedict, as abbot, could certainly dispense himself just this once. 

At this point, you can almost sense  of a friendly--but real--sibling spat heating up. 
"Can not!"
"Can too!"
"Can not!"
"Can too!"
At which point, Scholastica went and told her Father about Benedict's intransigence. 
God saw to it that Scholastica got her way.
St. Gregory the Great, who tells the story, explained ,It is not surprising that she was more effective than he; since, as John says, God is love, it was absolutely right that she could do more, as she loved more. 
Several days later, Benedict was very glad that Scholastica kept him up all night. And his next action shows he had forgiven her for making him break his rule. 
Read the whole thing on the ibreviary widget on the right,just click on Office of Readings and scroll down,  or read it here.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

How to Complain to God in 3 Easy Steps

I used to think it was wrong to complain to God. I had overdosed on those stories where saints are portrayed as  positively craving new  opportunities to suffer for the love of God-- bursting into rhapsodies of delight at each new illness, inconvenience, and disappointment.  And so, when the thought would cross my mind in times of trouble—God, what on earth were you thinking to let this happen to me?—I thought I was being at least slightly sinful.

But King David and the other psalmists complained plenty. They go on in great detail about how bad life is at the moment, and ask God why he hasn't fixed things yet. They tell God they don't understand why he worked so many miracles in the past but doesn't seem to do so anymore.  They point out that non-believers are suggesting that maybe God is not so great if He allows  such  disasters to happen to His friends.  Amazing how very much like us these tribal folk of 3000 years ago are. 

We can't dismiss this by saying, "That was the Old Testament. Christians have sanctifying grace and know that our suffering has redemptive value."   Let's not forget that   the psalms were the  of prayers that Jesus  prayed. As he was dying, he cried to his Father with the ultimate complaint from Psalm 22, “My God, my God, why have your forsaken me?” We can assume he was giving us an example to follow. 

  Morning Prayer on Monday, Week II,  starts with a wonderful example of the biblical way to complain--Psalm 42. It opens with sheer poetry, expressing our deepest longing:
Like a deer that years for running streams, so my soul is thirsting for you, my God...
but soon the psalmist makes it clear that he is  pretty miserable:
My tears have become my bread by night and by day, as I hear it said all the day long,"where is your God?"
Then he recalls past times when things were going much better:
I remember...howI would lead the rejoicing crowd into the house of God...the throng wild with joy.
Now, check this out:
Why are you cast down, my soul why groan within me? Hope in God I will praise Him still, my savior and my God.
 A complete acceptance of suffering? Not quite. After this expression of trust, he is immediately back to complaining.
Why have you forgotten me? Why do I go mourning, oppressed by the foe? enemies revile me, saying to me all the day long, "Where is your God?"
Despite that, the psalm ends with the refrain,
Hope in God, I will praise him still, my saviour and my God.

The pattern is easy to see. Complain while trusting. Trust while complaining.

This makes perfect sense. In fact, it is what good (albeit fallen) children will do. Think of that fussy toddler screaming his head off while clinging to Mom's leg.  The whiny six year old whose favorite phrase is “That's not fair.” Or the  teenager pouting in her room. Despite each age-appropriate version of “why have you rejected me?”  they know, deep down,  that you love them and have their best interests at heart. Not that they are likely to say,“That's okay mom. I trust you  even if you don't buy me an Ipad.” These are fallen children we're talking about. But their continued trust is, I think, implicit. Maybe this is part of what Our Lord meant when he said we should become like little children.

Of course, it is better to follow up our complaints to God with explicitly stated trust in Him. And the psalms are excellent models of how to do this. Complain. Trust. Repeat.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Hail, New folks. Now what?

Jessica  and Teresa, welcome aboard!  Thanks for joining Coffee&Canticles.
This is Wondering Wednesday-- everyone's weekly chance to ask any questions related to the Liturgy of the Hours. Maybe you're not sure about when and why to do the Invitatory Psalm. Maybe you want to know what parts of Morning and Evening prayer are optional, so you can streamline your prayers on busy days. Maybe you're not sure what the point of the antiphon is. Maybe you want some advice on a breviary purchase. Whatever  it is, I'll do my best, consulting all the relevant Church documents if your question calls for it. 

Psalm 119 verse 14 reminds me...

...that I'm not there yet.

I rejoiced to do your will as though all riches were mine. (Daytime Prayer, Wednesday week I)

Imagine having the feeling of having won the lottery, every single day, just because you have the life you have, and the job you have, and the family situation you have, and the house you have, the car you have, etc. and know  that in this situation you are doing what God wants you to do.

Not the feeling of satisfaction you get when you've successfully done a  work of mercy, or made a really good confession, or made some grand, noble sacrifice because it was the right things to do. Of course you feel pretty darn rich (momentarily) when you're doing that kind of God's will.

But how do we feel about the boring, everyday kind of God's will. The kind that involves cleaning, cooking, bills, whining children,  the stupid car you have to drive to a job that is...not great. Bosses who are not, to put it mildly, at all interested in making your job pleasant or fulfilling.  That kind of God's will.

As though all riches. All riches.

Not there yet.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

I'm a Blabber Mouth...

...when it comes to the Liturgy of the Hours. So if your Catholic Women's, Men's, Homeschooling, or  Spirituality conference, gathering, conventions, confabulation, day of recollection, or jamoboree would like to hear me talk about it, or better yet, teach people how to do it, then please go to my new page above where it says Need a Speaker?

Giveaway Two! Archbishop Sheen DVD

I still have lots of books to give away.

I'm just not sure which ones. I notified two winners of last week's book giveaway that their names had been chosen. Well, I notified two of them. One of them has no email contact on his profile. (Are you there, Bob? You won! Write to me!) Although one of them replied with a "wow! that's great" message, she didn't tell me what book she wanted.

So I don't know which books are going to vanish from the prize list.  But I want to keep running the Giveaway for the rest of you. So...

Until the pokey winners respond, I'll run a giveaway with a new prize. This time its a DVD--a wonderful documentary on the life of the Servant of God, Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen. This media legend has been in the news lately due to an incredible miracle that took place through Sheen's intercession, the record of which has been sent to Rome to the office investigating his case for beatification.

This DVD case is open, because it was viewed once, by me, so that I could review it for a magazine. Other than that it's in excellent  condition.  This is not the same edition of the DVD sold by Ignatius Press. Ignatius include a bonus DVD along with this one in their package. Just wanted to make sure you knew this.

Okay. Just leave a short comment at the end of this post and I'll pull a name on Friday night. And please, if you don't have email contact info on your profile, then keep watching this blog so you know if you're a winner. 

Monday, February 6, 2012

Year of Faith, Liturgy of the Hours, &Taiwan

Participate in Mass and Eucharistic adoration, study the Catechsim, and pray the Liturgy of the Hours. That's the advice of the Bishops of Taiwan to the laity regarding the way to best prepare for the Year of Faith. Read more here.

"Inclusive Language" excludes God

A box  of second hand breviaries had been donated to our parish. One of them had been marked up by a previous owner. Every masculine pronoun was crossed out and replaced by other words. For example, Psalm 147: 
Praise the Lord for he is good; sing to our God for he is loving: to him our praise is due. 
had been changed to:
Praise the Lord for God is good; sing to our God for God is loving: to God our praise is due.
Luckily for us, the markings in the breviary were all in pencil.

I've also heard that a few "progressive" religious communities have made themselves "breviaries" for in-house use that do pretty much the same thing  as Phantom Pencil Person did to the breviary that came to our church.

 What do I think about "inclusive language"? 
I  think about it as little as possible. But when I have to (sigh) my thoughts are not cheerful. 
There's a distinction to be made, of course, between 1. avoiding masculine pronouns  that refer to people, and 2.  avoiding masculine pronouns or other words that refer to God. #1 can be an acceptable thing to do in modern non-fiction writing, and very ,very sparingly in liturgical texts, e.g. substituting "people of good will" for the biblical  "men of good will" in the Gloria.
 #2  is pretty much always a really bad idea. 

 Once a liturgical text is paraphrased or tinkered with too much, its validity as a liturgical text is questionable. The great thing about the Liturgy of the Hours is that it is, well, liturgy: the public prayer of the church.  It is not just a private devotion like the rosary or a novena, but a liturgical act, even when you pray it in private.  Liturgy has approved texts.   So a paraphrased  text that is too different from the official liturgical  text runs the hazard of not being true liturgy anymore.  I am not saying here that I am certain that changing male pronouns to gender-neutral ones as one prays the psalms  invalidates your daily office as liturgy. I am  saying that I would not like to risk using an invalid text.  But that's not a risk I'd even be tempted to take, because:

I grew up in the 70s and 80s, and recall how the movement for "inclusive language" began.  It was   the initiative of the most radical wing of the feminist movement. The move to substitute other words for masculine pronouns in liturgical texts is based on a political agenda. The same people who agitated for this kind of change in our liturgical and biblical language also agitated for ordination of women, and relaxation of the Church's sexual ethics. Much of their agenda was based on resentment and even hatred of men, and a view of the Church's hierarchy  as primarily a " patriarchal power structure" designed to oppress them. Since I don't buy into that  philosophy, I avoid like the plague the smallest  hint  of it.  A political movement  should not be allowed  to manipulate the way we pray and think about God.

The feminists were not the first ones to try this, although judging from all  the "inclusive" bibles that have been published, they've been the most successful.   During the Prohibition era in the 1920s and 30s, some protestant "translator" issued a Bible that removed any favorable   references to wine, substituting other words that better fit their notions of  what we –and I guess, God—ought to think about fermented beverages.  

 As you know, most of the Liturgy of the Hours   is from the Bible. Isn't  it astounding   that people think they have the authority to change the Word of God to fit a political agenda. If someone tried to re-issue  the works of, say, William Shakespeare in  "inclusive" language they would be rightly laughed off the stage of literary opinion.  Although God is not male in a physical or biological sense,  he wasn't  being arbitrary  by choosing to reveal Himself as  Father and as the  only begotten Son of the Father. So if revisionists try to wipe out these concepts from our prayer,  we are being a little  "exclusive" toward God, aren't we?  "Lord, we don't like some things about you, that make us uncomfortable,  so we are going to avoid those things when we talk about you and to you." 

 Least important, but still for me a good reason, is that so much inclusive re-wording  I have seen, for example, in hymnals, makes for very awkward, unlovely language.   Poetry out; twisted syntax in.  Once upon a time we all knew there was a generic use of the words "man", "mankind", and "he", and were not offended by it.    Yes, this is an instance where I'd love to turn back the clock. As Peter Kreeft famously said, turning back the clock is exactly  what you want to do when the clock is wrong. 

 Sadly,  women who have  been treated badly by men might develop a resentment--or be readily encouraged to develop a resentment-- that grows to include wanting to obliterate from the Bible  language that seems to them to  prefer men at the expense of women. In such cases, their hurt needs healing.  Healing has not occurred when the victim's environment must be completely controlled and censored to remove all items that might remind the victim of her trauma, including items that would not alarm someone who was healthy. That seems to be what is being done by the Inclusive Language Crowd, whether it's done with a pencil or a printer.

thank you to this website for the cute picture