Friday, March 30, 2012

Divine Mercy Novena for the absent-minded

Divine Mercy Novena

It is so hit-or-miss whether I remember to start the Divine Mercy novena on time each year. I mean, day one is Good Friday. The typical busy Catholic mother has spent the day in a combination of hard-core prayer and frantic domestic preparations for Easter: spring cleaning, food shopping, putting together decent Easter outfits for the children.
At my house, when we get back from Good Friday liturgy, we build a sort of Calvary/tomb tableau with rocks, moss, and flowers from the garden. This takes time. Then, having served that one full meal of the day to the ravenous fasting hordes around there, I start baking the required Easter pastries, and making a list of needed items (wine, egg dyes, dress shoes that fit the boy who just outgrew the  pair I bought him last month) for a last minute Holy Saturday shopping trip.
So is it any wonder that on Good Friday night I'm likely as not to fall into bed, exhausted and having totally forgotten to start the Divine Mercy novena? I ask you!

But not this year. To my rescue comes John-Paul Deddens, my novena knight in shining armor. I've signed up with his wonderful Pray More Novenas website, and if I manage to check my email even once on Good Friday, I'll receive a reminder to start the novena, AND the prayers will be there right on the email. (No more hunting around for those old-fashioned novena pamphlets! Sometimes  I  just  love this modern digital era!)

So just sign up here to get the Divine Mercy novena sent to your computer or tablet each day. (The image above says "click here" but doesn't actually work.)

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

What's Wrong? Weekly Q&A- Glory Be edition

"Did I do something wrong?" asked my friend Judy after we prayed Morning Prayer at church today. "There was something I was saying that you weren't saying, but I forget what it was."

I knew. It was another case of the Mismatched Glory Be.
People who are used to praying the Glory Be after each decade of the rosary (and in other places) use the traditional translation of the last half of this prayer: as it was in the beginning, is now and ever shall be, world without end.  

When the Liturgy of the Hours was revised by Rome in 1970, the English translation made of the Glory Be was different: as it was in the beginning, is now and will be forever.  It's basically the same as the traditional form, but the "world without end" bit was hacked off.   It's not wrong to use the older form--it's the same prayer. The problem comes when you are praying the Liturgy of the Hours with a group, and different people have a preferred Glory Be. Out of sheer habit (rosary, etc.) and a touch of modified traditionalism (defined as not changing traditional Catholic customs until there's a darned good reason) I use the old Glory Be when I'm praying the office by myself or with my husband. When praying with a group I use the newer one to avoid confusing the people around me. But sometimes I forget. Hence poor Judy's confusion when I lapsed into traditional mode this morning.

There are some slow-moving plans afoot to re-translate the English Liturgy of the Hours, as was recently done with the mass. It is possible the Glory Be will be put back to the older form, OR it might be re-translated in yet another new version. And there might be a good reason for this.  If you look at the Latin ending, et in principio et nunc et semper, et in  omnia saecula saeculorum, it literally says something like,as it was in the beginning, and now and always, and in all, a century of centuries. I know that in the French and Spanish versions of the Glory Be, that saecula saeculorum  is indeed translated "for centuries of centuries".  But in English, we don't use this phrase. Instead we might say "forever and ever". In the collect at mass we translate the ending saecula saeculorum this way. (who lives and reigns with  you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever.)   So, when the English breviary eventually gets it facelift, we might end up with the traditional "world without end.Amen" for the sake of preserving long standing custom (not a bad reason.) OR we might get new Glory Be translation of "forever and ever.Amen" in the interest of greater fidelity to the Latin. I doubt we'd get a hyper-literal "century of centuries", since the art of translation encompasses more that sheer literalness.

If any of you found the above a fascinating discussion rather than a nitpicking exercise in tedium, you may want to read more about it on Wikipedia., which discusses the Latin and Greek roots of this phrase as found in the Bible.

Which Glory Be do you use? And if you have any Divine Office Difficulties this week, bring them on, cuz' its weekly Q&A time.

P.S. Welcome new follower, Theresa.


Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Liturgy vs. Devotion vs. Magnificat psalms

Over the last year and a bit that Coffee&Canticles has been around, there's been periodic questions about the value of the Liturgy of the Hours as compared to popular devotions from people who want to pray but have intense work schedules. And many readers mention that they pray their daily morning and evening prayer from the Magnificat monthly devotional.   I've tried to explain to the first group that the difference between liturgy and devotions places the Divine Office in a category way above any other  devotion. I've also told the second group that although Magnificat does a wonderful thing in introducing people to using the psalms in their daily prayer, these daily selections are NOT the equivalent of the Liturgy of the Hours.

Today I read this detailed and insightful post on these same subjects by a blogger who is a more dedicated student of liturgy that I.  Here's an excerpt:

 Lest I be misunderstood, I am a huge fan of this publication.  I think it is a great resource as a daily Missal, for spiritual edification (the articles, artwork, and chant music are second to none in these sorts of publications), and even for a form of morning prayer and evening prayer.  However, and through no fault of the publishers, the magazine is being touted by many as “Liturgy of the Hours without all the page flipping” or “a scaled down version of Liturgy of the Hours” or even “an introduction to the Liturgy of the Hours.”
The problem is this: It is not the Liturgy of the Hours, and as such, it is not liturgy.  Take “Morning Prayer” for example. Magnificat has not only altered the form (taking the Psalmody down to a single Psalm), but it has actually chosen a different Psalm than any from the selection of the actual Liturgy of the Hours.  I know numerous people, who, upon finding this out, felt “duped.”  They felt duped because they thought they were praying the Liturgy of the Hours, only to find out that they were praying a private devotion.  At the risk of sounding like a broken record, let me emphasize that there is nothing wrong with private devotion.  But for people who are looking to participate in the “foretaste of that heavenly liturgy,” the morning and evening prayers in Magnificat do not fit the bill.  Liturgy, qua liturgy, has no substitute.  Praying the structure of Magnificat can certainly be edifying and spiritually beneficial, but it is emphaticallynot the Liturgy of the Hours.

Real Persecution or First World Catholic Problems?

Today's Liturgy of the Hours, like much of the liturgy throughout lent, seems tailor-made for applying the rising attack on Christianity by  the forces of atheism, secularism, and recently, the United States government. With these psalms, we can complain and state our problem to God:

Lord, why do you stand far off and hide yourself  in time of distress?...for the wicked man boasts of his heart's his pride the wicked says: "he will not punish. There is no God." such are his thoughts...mischief and deceit under his tongue, he lies in wait among the reeds; the innocent he murders in secret. (Office of Readings)
How long shall my enemy prevail? Look at me, answer me, Lord God! (Daytime Prayer)
Yet at the same time the psalms help us keep things in perspective, remember that God is always with us, and that we must trust and rejoice in all circumstances:
But you have seen the trouble and sorrow, you note it, you take it in is you, O Lord, who will take us in your care and protect us for ever from this generation. (Office of Readings)
In the land of my exile I will praise him and show his power and majesty to a sinful generation.
Our soul is waiting for the Lord. The Lord is our help and our shield.(Morning Prayer)
Finally, Evening Prayer points us in the direction of hope and ultimate victory:
God singled out the weak of this world to shame the strong. He chose the world's lowborn and despised, those who count for nothing to reduce to nothing those who were something, so that mankind can do no boasting before God.

That being said, are we American Catholics just being a bunch of drama queens, posing as persecuted victims where no persecution exists?

Well, yes and no. It's true that  Christians in northern Sudan, China, Egypt, parts of  India, and much of the Muslim-controlled world would just love to have our little  problems. It's  true that, at the moment, no one is being arrested or imprisoned. We're only at the stage of being threatened and insulted. And yes, we should be fighting back with all the spiritual and legal weapons we can, so that threats and insults don't turn into arrests and imprisonment anytime soon. Otherwise, in a year or so, we'll be reading the psalms of complaint quoted above with a whole lot more feeling than we can possibly muster up now.

Right now, Canadian pastors who read out loud what the Bible and the catechism state about homosexuality get into a lot of trouble. And the British governent wants to allow employers to fire people who wear a cross necklace at work. In our country, military chaplains are now, um, permitted to officiate at same sex "weddings", and one wonders how soon the permission will turn into an order.  Now, with the healthcare mandate and our president's pointed talk of 'freedom of worship" rather than religion, we're not exactly imagining those dark clouds over there  on the horizon.

Please pray that the Supreme Court gets it right this week, striking down the healthcare mandate that will be a vehicle of persecution.  Pray that our enemies become tongue-tied and confused in their arguments. That our friends before the court are effortlessly given all the words they need to say.

 At the same time, remember how the apostles rejoiced at being worthy to suffer for the name of Jesus, and get ready for the possibility such rejoicing ourselves.

I was talking to a priest this morning, who says he can easily imagine the day coming when the government tries to force him to perform a same sex "wedding": "Hey, I'll just go to jail, 'cause it's not happening. I figure jails have food, beds, television, and fitness rooms. That's everything I need....and Christ will be there, too."

Father has the right idea, don't you think?

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Traddy Counter-Protester taken down by a Knight!


Early last week, the redoubtable Simcha Fisher of the National Catholic Register made some predictions about what we could all expect at the national wide rallies for religious freedom on Friday, March 23rd. I agreed totally when she said there would be tons of young, attractively dressed women with clever slogans on their signs, who would be totally ignored by the press in favor of the

 "... as many as four counter-protesters, who’ve been using state-funded contraceptives for so long that they’re suffering from estrogen dementia—hence their conviction that “rosaries” rhymes with 'ovaries,'..."

But I thought to myself , "Oh, surely not!" when she went on to predict, "There will also be one fat guy with greasy, grey hair and a scaly neck and his shirt buttoned wrong, kneeling on the sidewalk and wearing a sign that says “PRASERVE THE PATRIARCKY” on one side and “COMMUNION ON THE TONGUE” on the other side.  The Huffington Post will take so many pictures of him, their camera batteries will fall out."

Well, I should have trusted Simcha. Although the guy I saw was the thinner, better-groomed, and better-spelling  cousin of the fellow she describes.And his sign stated that the US Bishops, through their unwillingness to speak out frequently against contraception these last 45 years, and because they instituted the Novus Ordo, are the ones that have brought the whole HHS mandate down upon our heads.   And unfortunately, he didn't just kneel. Instead he paraded back and forth at the edge of the crowd, shouting his ideas into a personal amplifier, such that it was difficult to hear all the legitimate event speakers, including the president of Franciscan University, the founder of the 40 Days for Life movement, and others.  

After a few minutes of this stuff, there were lots of dirty looks and murmurs being sent his way. It almost seemed like he was an actor planted there by the government to precipitate violence.  The presence of Homeland Security cops nearby made this seem a fearsome possibility. (As it turned out, he was genuine.) Probably lots of us agreed with his main sentiment: the bishops had been wimpy on contraception and other issues over the years. But here we all were, at a rally that was largely inspired by the (at long last) courageous stand that our bishops have in fact taken. The man's actions made about as much sense as the actions of the elder brother of the prodigal son. He was apparently sorry that the bishops were acting in a way that no longer fit the extreme traditionalist narrative, because this might mean that there is still some legitimacy to the Catholic Church most of us live in, as opposed to the fringe societies of the various Pope Pius's, or Pope Me's that these folks inhabit. 

But there was a happy ending to this unfortunate sideshow. A man walked over to the counter-protester, and engaged him in conversation. Quietly, off to one side. He simply asked him questions about why he felt the way he did. He gently expressed some objections, but not in a way to belittle or sneer. He kept him talking (quietly) for about 30 minutes, after which the counter-protester packed up and left, probably to go back to work. Apparently he just needed a listener. Charity and patience won out over anger, thanks to one man who was willing to give up his time at the rally so that others could enjoy it.   Most of us couldn't see this, and just silently thanked God that there the loud man had gone silent, and now we  could listen to the speakers. 

But I found out about the hero of the day, because he happens to be my husband. I couldn't help emailing the rally organizers to let them know. And just letting a few more people know by means of this blog. Three cheers for Bill Sockey, always a knight to me, but on Friday, a knight to about 500 people.

For more information about the Pittsburgh rally,and others,  scroll about halfway down   the page to see my contribution to the larger article about all the rallies nationwide in the National Catholic Register

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Will I See You in Pittsburgh Tomorrow?

I hate leaving my middle-of-nowhere farmhouse and schlepping down to Pittsburgh. I have to  when a family member needs to see a medical specialist, or for airport runs,  and then maybe once more per year to the zoo or museum. Interstates--yuck! Parking garages--ouch! My city aversion even trumps my love of fashion, so the J.C.Penney at our tiny local mall is about as high end as my  shopping sprees get.

But tomorrow I'll be doing a four-hour round trip on the horrible highways to join the (hopefully) thousands at the Stand Up for Religious Freedom Rally. Besides getting mad, sad, and scared at what is happening in this country, there is not much else we can do besides signing every petition in sight, contacting our congressmen, and praying like crazy. So, big pain in the neck as it is, it seems necessary to at least help to swell the crowds that are gathering everywhere tomorrow.
Here's the details:
Concerned citizens in Pittsburgh are joining others all over the Country in staging a STAND UP FOR RELIGIOUS FREEDOM RALLY at Noon on Friday, March 23.
The Pittsburgh rally will be held at:
The Federal Building, 1000 Liberty Ave., Pittsburgh, PA
(setup at corner of Liberty Ave., 10th St and Wm Penn Pl.)
on Friday, March 23 from Noon to 1PM
Parking available in garage at 55 11th St. (Liberty & Penn Aves & 12th St)
One block from the Federal Building
 This peaceful rally will include guest speakers, print signs and handouts. More info on the HHS Mandate is at
I hope any western Pennsylanians who read this will be there, and that the rest of you will attend the nearest rally in your state.   I'm hoping the crowd will be so huge that this will  be hopeless, but--I'll be wearing khaki pants, a red shirt, and a black&white floral jacket, in case you notice and want to come say hello. We could say daytime prayer together.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Wednesday Wondering--nearly forgot edition

 Eeek! Here the day is more than half gone and I never posted the weekly Q&A post. I was way too busy walking around the neighborhood photographing the glories of a very early -arriving spring, and then, lying in  a reclining lawn chair watching the clouds above me.
So...if you are, unlike me, pondering the psalms more than you are watching the red, red robin, bob, bob, bobbin' along, and have any questions--you know the drill.

Another spring beauty--the visiting grandbaby!

The Priest Who Married Us is a Saint.. my opinion, and maybe  that of the diocese of Allentown, PA, which  just sent 1000 pages of preliminary testimony on the life of Father Walter Ciszek to Rome. 

Father Ciszek was an American Jesuit who spent 20 years in the Soviet gulag--accused as a "Vatican Spy". He continued to pursue his priestly ministry both in the labor camp, and after he was freed and living in Siberia. After his return to the United States in 1963 he wrote two best selling books, With God in Russia and He Leadeth Me . Until the end of his life in 1984 he lived a hidden life in the Bronx, counselling and directing all who came to him, from priests to the Bronx homeless to an engaged couple named Daria and Bill. We were incredibly honored when Fr. Ciszek agreed to officiate at our wedding in 1980.

One of these days I'll scan those old wedding photos and put them up here.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Urgent! Spread the good Liturgy of the Hours news!

Please vote again (it's allowed and encouraged) for for best podcast, website, or app (or all three) in the Catholic new media awards.   As I've mentioned earlier, this isn't just to make Catholics stand up and notice a particular  online ministry, but to make them say, "Gee!Golly! Jeepers! Wow!  If won over EWTN and other famous Catholic brands, there must be something really wonderful about the Divine Office. Maybe I should give it a try."

Truth in advertising notice: doesn't pay me to say this, but they do list Coffee&Canticles on their blog roll, which brings me a good bit of traffic. For which I'm grateful!

Thursday, March 15, 2012

What Is (Are?) Vigils?

Belive it or not, there's a part of the Liturgy of the Hours that I've never written about. Becuase I don't really use it. And until I started using on my Kindle a year ago, I was hardly even aware of it.
It's called the Office of Vigils. This is not a daily liturgical hour, but rather a once-a-week Sunday office  that is prayed in combination with the Office of Readings on Saturday night. As a key to understanding what Vigils is all about, think about Easter Vigil mass. There's lots of extra readings, right?  The office of Vigils is a set of extra biblical antiphons, canticles, and a gospel reading, which, combined with the Office of Readings, prepares us for the "little Easter" that we experiecne every Sunday of the year.

If you have a four-volume breviary, Vigils appears near the end of the breviary in Appendix One.
The idea is to first do the Office of Readings up to the end of the second reading. Then do Vigils-several canticles with antiphons and a gospel reading--and then conclude with the Te Deum and concluding prayer.

If you use on your mobile device or computer, then Vigils will automatically follow the Office of Readings on Saturday night. I believe this solves my puzzlement over why switches to the next day's prayers after 6pm each day. This is necessary if they want to give us the Office of readings, and Vigils, as, well, the vigil of the following calendar day.

Since it's been my custom to say the Office of Readings before Morning Prayer each day, this Vigils business hasn't worked out for me. But maybe I'll try to work it in for the next few Sundays of lent and see how that goes.

One more bit of trivia: primitive observance orders, such as the Carthusians, pray vigils late at night. If you have the dvd of Into the Great Silence, you can enjoy watching and listening to the monks praying Vigils on the extra features disk. (In Latin chant, with English subtitles.)

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Check out Catholic Digest!


For an article by me about spiritual dryness.  Thanks to several of you who gave their time and  insights. You will recognize yourselves in the text.

I hope to be writing for the new, improved, Catholic Digest as often as I can in the future. If you don't already get Catholic Digest, consider subscribing.

Q&A for Head-Scratchers

I forgot to add in the previous post that it's weekly Q&A time.

Anything that has you scratching your head, frowing, or slamming your breviary on the table and saying, "I just don't get it" should be shared here. I'll do my best.

This week I've done some head-scratching myself over what it means in the book of Exodus (which is playing all through lent in the Office of Readings) when it refers to "seeing God". On Monday, Moses plus the seventy elders "beheld the God of Israel" and "He did not smite them. after gazing on God they could still eat and drink."

Then yesterday, it says "the Lord used to speak to Moses face to face, as one man speaks to antoher." Yet in the same reading, Moses asks to see God's glory, and God gives a very conditional Yes: "but my face you cannot see, for no man sees me and lives."

So I guess speaking to God face to face is NOT the same as seeing his glory face to face. But I really wish I could read Hebrew.

Got any questions about the Divine Office?

Blissful Justice, New Songs, Arrows

Trying to get back with the blog after a week of first world problems, mainly involving the death of my cute little netbook.I mean, having to wait my turn at the family computer--what a drag! And then, once I'm on, finding it so uncomfortable to use, compared to sitting on the couch with my little machine. And then, after working several hours on the book manuscript, waking the next day to find my neck and shoulders in genuine, geriatric pain from holding my head at an unaccustomed angle towards the desktop.
Great lenten penance for a spoiled American. 

It all gets better tomorrow when the new netbook arrives:

Ready to go

In the meantime, I'm here for the Wednesday post, welcoming new follower"Encourage One Another",who apparently runs a cute churchy humor blog by the same title.

In the Office of Readings psalter today is Psalm 89 which includes this line:
Happy the people who acclaim such a king, who walk, O Lord, in the light of your face, who find their joy every day in your name, who make your justice the source of their bliss.
I konw this "source of their bliss" is just one of many ways that the Hebrew is translated, and that the Grail psalms are not known to be a super-accurate translation. But the juxtaposition of God's justice with "bliss" is striking. We're more likely seee God's love and compassion as blissful for us, rather than his justice. Being sinners. So this verse brought to mind the words of St. Therese of Lisieux: 
“I hope as much from God’s justice as from His mercy. It is because He is just that He ‘is compassionate and filled with meekness, slow to punish and abounding in mercy.’

Skipping ahead to Morning Prayer, Psalm 98 begins, as do several of the psalms, "Sing a new song to the Lord." I wondered what was meant by this phrase, "new song". Does it just mean the latest lyric that the  psalmists have come up with, the newest tune to be heard in the courts of the temple? Or is it something more, something truly original that breaks the mold of previous songs? According to Blessed John Paul II, who commented on this psalm during one of his Wednesday audiences, a "new song" in biblical language means, a perfect, full , solemn song accompanied by festive music. He suggests that another "new" factor to this psalm is the "cosmic applause" of a "colossal choir" of earth, sea, rivers and mountains named in this psalm.   

In addition, says John Paul, Christians can read into this psalm its messianic meaning--the newness of the crucified Redeemer. He then quotes Origen: A new song is the Son of God who was crucified- something that had never before been heard of. A new reality must have a new song...Christ healed the sick, raised up the dead, cleansed lepers, but other prophets did this...what new thing did he do to merit a new song? God died as a man so that men might have life; the Son of Man was crucified to raise us up to heaven.

Tonight's Evening Prayer includes paslm 127. It begins, If the Lord does not build the house, in vain do its builders labor...  The last two strophes, about sons being a gift from the Lord, and the full quiver, are a favorite of those of us with large families. Given the childless option that is increasingly preferred in Europe, these lines are really an affirmation, these days, for those who have any chidren at all. Pope Benedict sadly remarked on these lines that, Begetting is thus a gift that brings life and well-being to society. We re aware of this in our days in the face of nations that are depreived, by declining populatons, of the freshness and energy of a future embodied by children.

And my own little comment: we, the Church in America,  indeed have some "cause for shame" when we "dispute with our foes in the gateways".  The 90+ percent of Catholic using contraception have considerably weakened us in our dispute with the federal government over the healthcare mandate. And, having contributed to the vocation shortage, they've weakened us in our spiritual warfare as well.

Jumping ahead to Night Prayer to end on a note of hope, My soul is waiting for the Lord, I count on his word...because with the Lord there is mercy and fullness of redemption. Israel indeed he will redeem from all its iniquity.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Go to Joseph!

Just a reminder that you can begin a novena to St. Joseph today and end up on his feastday. Just go to the Pray More Novenas website and sign up to get free daily reminders. This site actually started the novena on Saturday, but you could start up a little late and sure St. Joseph will not mind.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Breviary on the Doctor's Desk

Medical Matins is a lovely blog by a Catholic medical student, who writes about her vocation and studies in the light of faith. By necessity she keeps it anonymous, given the privacy protections for all the people she comes in contact with in her field training. This blogger prays the Divine Office. Here is a recent post where she shares an essay that she was assigned for one of her classes. It's just one of the million stories that are out there. Stories of ordinary people, living with the ups and downs or the lives we have chosen (or maybe the lives we have not chosen but are required to live just the same), and pausing a few times each day to put the world on hold while we sing at the doors of heaven.

 We were each asked to choose an object we would keep in our future office which would stand as a symbol of our spiritual life.

I chose the Divine Office, which all priests, all consecrated people, and some laypeople (like me) pray each day.

My breviary (on top of an old medical text) with our Lady.
The Office reflects the spiritual life very well. It is both regular (prayed according to rules) and personalized (because the psalms the Church chooses often seem hand-picked for my circumstances). Its times and seasons reflect the winding road of human life: it is partly sung and partly recited; it has seasons of fasting and seasons of feasting; it has times for standing and times for sitting. Also like the spiritual life, it is both communal and private—the Office is said by the Church as a whole and in each soul who prays it.

But this particular copy has separate significance and symbolism. In many ways, it symbolizes my Faith. It used to belong to my mother, and she gave
it to me, just as my parents gave me the Faith. It has weight, reminding me that my Faith is a charge laid on me, but a light burden and even pleasant and comforting. It is red, a color of complete love; this reflects the love of a beloved wife, or the love of a martyr. This is the love which I have for Christ and which draws me to prayer.

Wouldn't you love to have a doctor who kept a breviary on her desk? Check out Medical Matins and leave a note to encourage this lovely young woman in her vocation.

If any of you have a story to tell about the Divine Office in your life, send it to thesockeys"at" gmail"dot" com. The words in quotes are to protect me from spam. You know the correct way to write it.

Friday, March 9, 2012

To lift up or not to lift up-that is the question. (Psalm 121)

Tonight's Vespers includes Psalm 121, which begins, I lift up my eyes to the mountains: from where shall come my help?
I'm afraid that this line often brings to my mind a scene from the Sound of Muic,where the Reverend Mother quotes this line from Psalm 121 to urge the Von Trapp family to flee over the mountains to safety, then bursts into her grand aria, "Climb Every Mountain."  So today, to clear my mind of this silliness befor its time for Evening Prayer, I turned to the commentary that our good Pope Benedict has done on this psalm.
He tells us that there are two  completely different ways that scholars have interpreted this line. Psalm 121 is one of several psalms known as "songs of ascent", sung by pilgrims as they approach Jerusalem and look forward to worshipping in the Temple. So one might lift one's eyes to the holy mountain that is crowned by the holy city, and recall with gratitude that God helps his faithful chidren.
On the other hand,in another interpretation, mountains "conjure up images of idolatrous shrines in the so-clled 'high places', which are frequently condened in the Old Testament. (cf. 1 Kings 3:2, 2 Kings 18:4)"
In this case,Pope Benedict says,  the pilgrim heading to Jerusalem glances at the mountains, recalls the presence  of these pagan shrines, and   feels tempted to visit them, given the historical proclivity of the Israelites to fall into idol worship. But then, after asking himself "from where shall come my help?" He resists temptation and sides with the Lord, "who made heaven and earth."

Two very different ways of looking at the identical verse.

The Pope goes on to explain the remainder of the psalm. Highlights of this teaching  for me included bringing up the image of God as "your guard and your shade". We are mostly accustomed to  images of ight and of the sun to help us think about  God's glory and power to enlighten our  minds. I enjoyed this contrast, recalling how in dry climates, such as Southern California where I once lived, stepping into the shade on a hot day made a startling difference. It was almost as refreshing as walking into an air-conditioned building, unlike my current northeast home where the humidity does not respect these sun/shade boundaries. Light speaks of God's glory and wisdom, but shade speaks of his protection and care for us.

By day the sun shall not smite you nor the moon by night. It's easy to realize that in the deserts of Israel the sun could kill you if you stay out in it at midday. Pope Benedict reminds us that people also used to believe that the rays of the moon could cause fever, blindness, or madness. (There is still a common folk belief to this day that suicides and mental health crises shoot up when the moon is full.) I'm glad that today we can enjoy the moon and its light as a thing of beauty.

You can read the whole commentary here.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Are you one of those Pod(cast) People?

Offering it Up....grrr....grumble....grumble...

Without a smile on my face, but offering it up just the same.

Computer just lost my whole first chapter. Controlling the urge to wallow in frustration.

In know, I know. Others should have such problems.

Welcome Newcomers, Inquirers, and How's Lent going?

Welcome to new Coffee&Canticles followers Julia and Benedicta.
In the interest of full disclosure, Julia is a long time friend, fellow homeschooler and former neighbor from my days in the diocese of Allentown, PA. I learned much from her and her husband's knowledge and example about liturgical music. I doubt she has much to learn much from my blog--she ought to have her own-- and suspect she joined mainly  to get a few laughs when I write about bad hymns and inclusive language.

Questions anyone?
Here's mine: has anyone resolved to go deeper into the Liturgy of the Hours for lent, either starting to pray it for the first time,  adding an additional hour to what you already do, making plans for a more consistent routine, or inviting someone else to pray it with you? If so , how's that working out for you? At my end, I've been sort of doing better with doing Night Prayer just a few minutes earlier  so that I'm actually paying attention to what I'm doing, and not just rushing through it in my eagerness to go to sleep. Also, I had the kids do Sunday evening vespers with me this past week, and hope to do this every Sunday from now on. Knowing how some of you have your offspring praying with you daily, I realize what a tiny baby step this is.

So, either report on your lenten progress, or as usual, ask me a question!

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

When Children Complicate Your Life

Sts. Perpetua and Felicity- March 7th

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, March 5, 2012

Monday Week II Rocks!

Wait. Isn't that an immature way for a sedate woman of my age to talk about the Psalter? What might have been better?
Monday Week II Surpasses all Expectations!
Monday Week II is the Cat's Meow!
I "Heart"  Monday Week II!
No, I better just leave it an move on.

Office of Readings
Don't want to spend too much time on this since many of you only use the one-volume Breviary. But every lent we are taken through the book of Exodus, since the story of Moses is the scriptural pre-figurement of our salvation. I need to re-read Exodus regularly to repair the Prince of Egypt version that is sadly lodged in my brain. Today I am noticing not only  how quick the Israelites were to lose faith in God at the first setback, but how  sarcastically   they complain to Moses: Were there no graveyards in Egypt that you had to bring us out here to die in the dessert? 
I will never understand why, this soon after their liberation, they didn't confidently sit back and watch the next   God would just  send one more plague on the pursuing Egyptians. 
Morning Prayer
This is  my favorite morning prayer of the entire  psalter (after Sunday Week I) , since it contains two very beautiful psalms. First Psalm 42: Like the deer that years for running streams, so my soul is thirsting for you, my God...when can I enter and see that face of God? It's that perfect pattern of sorrow, complaint, and trust in God that truly teaches us how to pray. Look at this frightening yet beautiful description of being overwhelmed with sorrow: deep is calling on deep in the roar of the waters: your torrents and all your waves swept over me. (I believe C.S. Lewis quoted this verse to describe how he felt in the days following his wife's death.) Through it all, the soul returns and clings  to the refrain of  Hope in God,I will praise him still, my savior and my God.

Next, there's the first half of Psalm 19, which C.S. Lewis calls the greatest poem of all the psalms, and perhaps one of the greatest poems, period. The heavens proclaim the glory of God, and the firmament shows for the the work of his unto day takes up the story and night unto night makes known the message. Say this one while you watch a sunrise. The New Covenant application is to Christ, the Sun of Justice, the Dayspring who shines on us who dwell in death's shadow.
Now for Daytime Prayer.
Psalm 119: You commands have been my delight; these I have loved. It always gives me pause to read the daytime prayer psalms (actually, the daytime prayer Psalm, singular, since we get sections of  the marathon Ps. 119 for 20 our of the 28 days in the psalter.) which so often express a passionate love for God's law. Too often we see God's laws as mere duties. Things we have to do. Sure, we love God. We love Him for coming to earth to save us. We love His Church. And because we love Him we willingly follow (more or less, in varying degreees of faithfulness) His law. But these psalms express wild enthusiasm about the law itself. There's another line in one of the daytime psalms that says Your commands have been my song in the land of my exile.  I hope that verses like this will come to haunt us when  we are fret about how honest we have to be when filling out government forms, or fuss about NFP abstinence, or trying to justify doing unnecessary  physical labor on a Sunday.
Evening Prayer
The highlight here for me is Psalm 45, which is split in two parts: one about the bridegroom and one about the bride. Since the part about the bride is always the responsorial psalm on the feast of the Assumption and possibly other marian feasts, I have always thought of it being applied solely to Our Lady. But there is another interpretation which I read  in The School of Prayer, and excellent commentary on  morning and evening prayer from Liturgical Press. Thanks to Scott Hahn and other commentators, most of us are familiar with the exalted position of the Queen Mother in Israel. The "bridegroom" half of Psalm 45 ends with The Queen stands at your right hand arrayed in gold. This is the Queen Mother, since the bride doesn't even enter until later in the "bride" half of the psalm, led to the king with her maiden companions. So, we see the Queen in gold as Mary, the mother of the King, Jesus. The bride of Christ is the Church, bringing along her maiden companions--people of all races and nations. Is that cool or what?

Anyone else want to comment on their Monday week II highlights?

(the above is another remix of a post from last year. I'm working on that Divine Office book proposal and don't have leisure for original work today.)

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Just one more reminder...

To vote for Since a great many of you visit this site directly after your daily visit to DivineOffice, I'm sure you don't really need this reminder.
But what can I say? I'm a Mom, and thus prone to nag a little.
Also, since I forgot to include a link last time I made this same announcement, this is where you go to vote, and you can do so once a day until March 23rd.

Presently, is way in the lead. Let's keep it that way.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Transfiguration: Why Twice?

The Church commemorates the Transfiguration of Jesus twice a year: the second Sunday of Lent  and August 6th. One might ask why.

The lenten memorial makes sense in terms of  timeline. This feast was another "ephiphany", a showing forth or revealing of Christ's identity as God and savior to others (which is also why it's numbered among the luminous mysteries of the rosary, which you should use this weekend.) Since Jesus references his resurrection from the dead as he warns the three disciples to tell no one what they have seen, it has bearing on the upcoming events of Holy week and Easter. The tradition of the Church is that Jesus permitted Peter, James and John to see his glory in order to strengthen their faith against the dark days ahead. St. Leo talks about this in the Office of Readings:
The great reason for this transfiguration was to remove the scandal of the cross from the hearts of his disciples, and to prevent the humiliation of his voluntary sufferings from disturbing the faith of those who had witnessed the surpassing glory that lay concealed.
Clearly it did strengthen the faith of St. John, who after his initial flight of fear in Gethsemane came back to follow the way of the cross, and Peter, who profoundly repented his cowardice almost immediately and later would "strengthen the faith of his brothers".  James would become  the first apostle to be martyred.

So why do we also celebrate the Transfiguration on August 6th? Several reasons. The Church of the Transfiguration, built on Mt. Tabor where the gospel event took place, was originally dedicated on August 6th.  This became the solemn feast of the Transfiguration in the eastern Church between the fourth and fifth centuries. The Latin Church adopted it somewhat later. To this day, the Transfiguration is a more solemn feast in the orthodox and eastern rite Catholic churches, preceded with a fast and celebrated with an octave.
One good reason for having a separate feast outside of lent is to give this event a liturgy that can celebrate Jesus' transfigure glory with more joy and festivity than would be appropriate during lent. You may wish to get out your breviary and compare tomorrow liturgy with that of August 6th. You'll see the difference, even apart from the Alleluias.  For one thing, there is a special New Testament Canticle on August 6th that is only used one other time in the whole year, and that is the Epiphany.
So for now, we celebrate this event in a subdued way, then return to our somber lent on Monday. It is fitting that the last antiphon of Evening Prayer on Sunday is Jesus' warning, Tell no one about the vision you have seen until the Son of Man has risen from the dead.  There are other things to be done before your joy may be full, my children. A bitter chalice must first be drained. Joy must wait. The glory is to be revealed, in you and in Me, at a later time.

O God, who have commanded us to listen to your beloved Son, be pleased, we pray, to nourish us inwardly by your word, that, with spiritual sight made pure, we may rejoice to behold your glory. 
-concluding prayer, 2nd Sunday of Lent (new translation)

Friday, March 2, 2012

The Daily Slog

this post originally appeared on March 15, 2011

See if you can fill in the blank on this lenten  Daytime prayer (for Midafternoon) antiphon:

"Armed with God's justice and power, let us prove ourselves through ____________________."

a. mighty deeds.
b. preaching the gospel.
c. patient endurance.
d. works of charity.
e. prayer and penance.

The answer is c.
Not that the other choices aren't good things.   We are  obliged to do these things too (well, not necessarily a.).
But it is striking, isn't it? That we poor pathetic creatures have to be armed with "God's justice and power" just to get through the ordinary routine of the day. Just to get the kids off to school (or get through homeschool lessons), to prepare 3 meals a day, to do the laundry, get through the day at work, and buy the groceries. For this I need God's justice and power? It's a humbling thought. I have to endure these things. They are going to happen whether I want them or not. The patience can be the tough part.

My husband's work is to travel around the country with the Pilgrim Virgin (Our Lady of Fatima) statue, teaching  people how to live the Fatima message. The key teaching is to "accept and bear with submission whatever suffering God may send me each day", and to offer just that--one's patient endurance of everything: from a traffic jam to a whining child to a diagnosis of cancer--in reparation for the sins of the world and for the conversion of sinners. Yes, it's also great to say the rosary, make holy hours, do the Divine Office, give extra alms, pray at abortion mills. But this very first thing--patiently enduring whatever happens for the love of God--is something we often overlook.  A mere act of mindfulness about what is happening to us, then quickly joining that to the perfect offering of Jesus--this can make us conduits of grace to save souls.

Looking at it that way, it's easier to see why patient endurance mght  indeed be a Mighty Work after all. To turn Hamlet's soliquy on it's head, the antiphon is telling us we can "take arms against a sea of troubles, and by enduring, save souls."

Consecrate Your Day Timer. Blackberry.iPhone. Whatever.To God

It was only as I wrote the first part of this title that I realized the once ubiquitous ring-binder day planner is a vanishing species, at least, in it's paper-and-imitation-leather version. Because now there's an app for that. Or, if one still lives outside of appdom, there's a calendar attached to your email program. But whatever iteration of the planner we use, the point is that lots of us depend on them, from the business executive to the busy mother. When the planner is misplaced, or crashes, panic sets in. "My whole life is in that planner," one wails. "What will I do without it?"

I think this hyper awareness of  schedules and productivity  combined with our frequent cries of "I don't have time," or, "I'm wasting too much time," make 21st century Catholics especially able to appreciate the purpose of the Liturgy of the Hours, which is Consecration of Time. Here's how the Church explains it:
The purpose of the liturgy of the hours is to sanctify the day and the whole range of human activity...
-General Instruction on the Liturgy of the Hours #11)
The mystery of Christ...permeates and transfigures the time of each day, through the celebration of the Liturgy of the Hours, the 'divine office'...[It is] so devised that the whole course of the day and night is made holy by the praise of God." (Catechism of the Catholic Church, #1175) 

The word "consecrate" means "to make or declare something to be sacred and set apart." With the liturgy of the hours, we take  each piece of our day, with all its corresponding  activities,  declare it sacred and give it to God.  With morning prayer, we sanctify our waking and preparations for the day ahead. Daytime Prayer sanctifies our work as we hand this to God, take a short rest from its rigors, and obtain the strength to see the working day through to its end. Evening Prayer gives thanks and welcomes rest at the conclusion of our "day jobs". (Even mothers at home with small children will recognize a point of their day, either when the husband gets home, or right after dinner, when the character of the day changes and a measure of relaxation is the goal, whether or not it is always achieved.) Finally, with Night Prayer, we repent of the sins we committed that day,beseech God's protection during the night,  and then entrust our bodies, our souls, our life and death to our Lord's loving care.

What it means is that through the liturgical hours, I mark, bless, set apart, and consecrate all of my daily stuff. Fixing breakfast, wiping the counters, changing diapers, driving to work, filling out reports,dealing with clients,  filling the gas tank, getting home, savoring a glass of wine, reading a book, playing with the kids, throwing in a load of laundry. These minutes, these hours, are little pieces of our lives offered on the altar.
Once consecrated to Him, all becomes praise.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Know Any Divine Office Beginners?

Sort of how it feels when you are learning the breviary.

As some of you might know, another version of this blog appears on the Catholic Exchange website, which has recently been re-vamped, improved, updated, etc. It is worth visiting for reasons other than my blog being there!

The Catholic Exchange version of Coffee&Canticles will contain some of the same posts that appear here, and occasionally, other pieces that do not appear here. For the next week or two, I'll be doing some "Divine Office 101" types of posts for CE readers who are less familiar with the Liturgy of the Hours than most of you. Some of this is material from my "How To" tab here, but reworked, remixed, and tidied up a bit. Here is one example.

If you have friends who are teetering on the edge of trying out the Liturgy of the Hours, you might want to direct them to Catholic Exchange and find me either by clicking on "bloggers" on the menu bar, or finding my picture in the blogger slideshow a little further down the page.