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.

12 comments:

  1. Thank you for posting this, and for linking to the article (which I will go and read in its entirety). I, too, thought that the Magnificat (which I love to have at Holy Mass!) had a "shorter" version of morning and evening prayer in it. I did, that is, until I began praying the Liturgy of the Hours. I am still a newby, but I feel that I am getting so much out of the universal prayer of the Church. I love the continuity and I love when I do catch those bits of the readings of the day that bring it all together. Thank you so much for your blog! God bless, Michele F.

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  2. Sadly, the post to which you linked no longer exists or, at least, not by that link. :) Thanks for your post and the excerpt you included.

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  3. One has to ask...WHY does Magnifcat Magazine do this? Why don't they just use the morning and evening prayers from the LOTH??? Or at the very least use the Pslams? Why use totally different prayers and Psalms? Of what benefit is this? Is it a copyright issue?

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    1. I really don't know what their reasoning is, but now that you mention it, copyright may be an issue. But I'm not going to question Magnificat, since they have introduced people to praying the psalms daily, and many readers do "graduate" from it to the real LOTH.

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  4. Ms. Sockey,
    Do you think there is any long-term benefit to a person if they simply stick with Magnificat their entire lives and not 'graudate' to LOTH?

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    1. or long-term negative effects of sticking with Magnificat one's entire life?

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    2. It's never a negative to pray, whatever form that takes, and especially praying with the psalms, the prayers that God has given us in his Word. But I would say there's an advantage to moving up from Magnificat to the LOTH. The LOTH is the official liturgical prayer for each day. Participating in the LOTH joins you in prayer with the universal church. The LOTH is the same category of prayer as the Mass. Using The random psalms chosen by Magnificat each day is in the category of private devotion (like saying the rosary). So yes, using the LOTH is, objectively a greater thing. But if someone finds the LOTH too complicated, or too big a committment, then sticking with Magnificat is still a really good thing.

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  5. Personally, I still believe that the official LOH should br prayed communally and for those who want to experience the LOH fully try praying them with a parish or monastic community. I have just about every edition of the LOH, including the four volume set and I just can't fit even morning and evening prayer into my daily schedule. Nevertheless I love praying with the Psalms and other Scripture and that's where publications such as Give Us This Day and Magnificat are wonderful. Neither publication was intended to be a mini LOH but a resource that would encourage the development of the habit of daily prayer rooted in the liturgical year. With the added bonus of the daily Mass readings and thoughtful reflections by many fine spiritual writers these publications are welcome prayer resources that are far more manageable than the longer LOH.

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  6. Daria, please post for us the material to which the above links no longer work.

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    1. Emil, you can comment under your own name if you first click where it says "Join this Site" and follow the instructions. I am afraid that the original article I quoted has been taken down by the author, and since I did not copy the entire thing when I wrote this post, I no longer have it either.

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  7. Daria,

    How do I post under my name rather than as "Unknown?"

    Emil F. Gies

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  8. I just want to point out that this is, indeed, because of copyright (at least here in the US). On one hand, this helps the USCCB ensure that the Liturgy is respected and not modified by other publishers, and also because, due to the complexity of the liturgical calendar, it makes sense that it is a subscription model and it would require a GREAT deal of work by Church leaders to ensure that a monthly publication is reflective of orthodox Catholic teaching if there are any meditations, artwork, commentaries, etc. placed next to the words of the liturgy. A monthly “imprimatur” would require a massive commitment.

    On the other hand… this has kept Liturgy of the Hours out of reach for most laypeople for MANY years. There is a reason that the Magnificat is so popular. That is because it is accessible. Each day is laid out pretty clearly, and it leads you through the same type of rhythm of prayer throughout the day that LOTH does. The official LOTH books are prohibitively expensive for many laypeople and also wildly difficult to use if you are not privileged enough to have a community or someone in your life (a priest, a religious brother or sister, or a highly educated layperson) to guide you in its use. And the few apps out there with the LOTH text are clunky, outdated, and equally difficult to use. Many popular Catholic apps can’t even get permission to use the text of LOTH.

    There have been numerous attempts by laypeople to make the beauty of LOTH more accessible. Whether in book form, app, website, or even podcast—almost every attempt has been shut down due to copyright, and you can find numerous accounts online of well-meaning people reaching out to the USCCB trying to figure out how to get approvals to work with them on the copyright. This goes for LOTH, the Catechism, etc. They pretty much don’t ever give approvals, no matter the reason, unless the project is being run by a popular priest. For example, Bishop Baron’s Word on Fire ministries are just now releasing a very beautiful subscription version of LOTH. That is WONDERFUL, but it’s wildly frustrating that it gets tied up in all the marketing and sales associated with Word on Fire. It’s the same, in a way, with Fr. Mike Schmidt’s upcoming podcast walking through the Catechism daily. He certainly isn’t the first person to have the idea. He’s just the first priest to make it happen.

    The Magnificat is a wonderful resource. It’s not Liturgy of the Hours. Since this blog post was the first one that I read when researching why this is, I wanted to share some of the fruits of my research. Please, I encourage anyone who, like me, is frustrated that such a beautiful prayer is so unknown and inaccessible to many Catholics in the US, to reach out to your bishop’s office to express concern that the copyrights are far too strict—or that, if the copyrights are retained, the Church needs to put more resources towards supporting BOTH clerics and laypeople to make resources available!

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