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.