Friday, April 27, 2012

Irenaeus the Impressive!

Thursday's Office of Readings included a passage from St. Irenaeus' treatise Against Heresies.
It's a rousing defense of the literal, physical  reality of Christ's presence in the eucharist:

 He declared that the chalice, which comes from his creation, was his blood, and he makes it the nourishment of our blood. He affirmed that the bread, which comes from his creation, was his body, and he makes it the nourishment of our body. When the chalice we mix and the bread we bake receive the word of God, the eucharistic elements become the body and blood of Christ, by which our bodies live and grow. How then can it be said that flesh belonging to the Lord’s own body and nourished by his body and blood is incapable of receiving God’s gift of eternal life? Saint Paul says in his letter to the Ephesians that we are members of his body, of his flesh and bones. He is not speaking of some spiritual and incorporeal kind of man, for spirits do not have flesh and bones. He is speaking of a real human body composed of flesh, sinews and bones, nourished by the chalice of Christ’s blood and receiving growth from the bread which is his body.

I'm not theologian, but it seems that you can't get any closer to the doctrine of transubstantiation--without actuallly saying the word "transubstantiation"--than this.

Now the amazing part: Irenaues wrote this in the year--approximately--180 A.D.

Show this one to your protestant friends. 

This is why I love the Office of Readings.

Breviary Poems

One of the nicest features of the (print) breviary is the selection of poems in an appendix at the end of the volume (both one and four volume breviaries). You may read a poem in place of the opening hymn any time you like. Here is one of my favorites--very appropriate for any Friday (remembrance of the passion), for lent, or for the Easter season. 

O God , I Love Thee
by Gerard Manley Hopkins
O God, I love thee, I love thee---
Not out of hope of heaven for me
Nor fearing not to love and be
In the everlasting burning.

Thou, thou, my Jesus, after me
Didst reach thine arms out dying,
For my sake sufferedst nails and lance,
Mocked and marred countenance,
Sorrows passing number,
Sweat, and care and cumber,
Yea, and death, and this for me.
And thou couldst see me sinning:

Then I, why should I not love thee,
Jesu, so much in love with me ?
Not for heaven's sake; not to be
Out of hell by loving thee;
Not for any gains I see;
But just the way that thou didst me
I do love and will love thee:

What must I love thee, Lord, for then ?
 For being my King and God.  Amen.
by Gerard Manley Hopkins

Beautiful, yes?  At the suggestion of very literate blog-follower James McAuley, I think I'll start posting breviary poems more regularly. 

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Wondering Wednesday

 I hope everyone remembered to use the office for the feast of St. Mark today. I blew it with Office of Readings this morning because I didn't check the calendar before  I started. Then at mass later in the morning, I saw Father walk out in red vestments and thought, Oops!

That is the advantage of digital breviaries. All the thinking is done for you. Had I instead found my kindle and gone to or ibreviary, St. Mark would have been right in front of me.

There are, however, some decided advantages to the print breviray, and I'll be talking about those in an upcoming post.

In the meantime, any questions?

Monday, April 23, 2012

If You Love Shakespeare and Cardinal Dolan

There is nothing you will enjoy more today than this most excellent drama by the redoubtable Fr. Z., who here shows himself to be even more talented than we already thought  he was.

Rejoicing in Drowned Egyptians

In today's Office of Readings, Venerable Bede is helpful to all of us peacemaker types who get squeamish when the psalter rejoices in the discomfort and death of enemies.

We don't have to worry what the psalmist or other biblical author felt when he gleefully describes the defeat of enemies. We who pray the psalter are to view these enemies as symbols of all that is evil, both outside us and within us. Bede uses the example of the canticle from Exodus ("horse and rider he has cast into the sea") where Moses, Miriam, and the people rejoice after the crossing of the red sea an the drowning of Pharoah's armies:

The Egyptians who oppressed the people of God, and who can also stand for darkness or trials, are an apt symbol of the sins that once oppressed us but have now been destroyed by baptism.

Saturday, April 21, 2012


Not to mention, alphabet soup.

In one of my rare forays into controversial punditry over at Catholic Exchange I suggest that our bishops fan the embers a bit by offering to fund NFP training and supplies as a conscience friendly way to fulfill the HHS mandate. That would certainly keep this story in the news, wouldn't it?

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Arcane breviary Secrets Revealed!

Want to know how I can dish out answers to the weekly Q&A post with such cool confidence? Just click on the new "General Instruction" tab above. It will take you to directly to the EWTN library copy of the General Instruction of the Liturgy of the Hours. The handy table of contents makes it pretty easy to navigate.

You can also find this in front of volume 1 of the 4-volume breviary. The one-volume breviary only has a few selections, and seems to leave out all the most helpful stuff, so this tab is just what you one-volume folks need.

So, from now on, if one of my Q&A answers does not seem right to you, we can pull out up General Instruction and argue over its interpretation. What fun! I can see it now: me tapping away in Pennsylvania, another of you in Australia, and others in Japan or Wyoming, quibbling away over options for intercessions, or the burning question of whether hymns are optional or essential. Perhaps against a backdrop of nuclear war or a comet fast approaching the earth or an invasion of dinosaurs.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Good Conversion Story

Russell Stutler, who honors me by following this little blog, has published his conversion story on the Why I Became Catholic blog.  We Cradle types are always inspired and humbled by a good conversion story. Russell's is additionally interesting since it takes place in an exotic location.

Check it out. 

Weekly Q&A

Ask away!

Any questions?

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Intercession Trivia& Ban Intercession Awkwardness

 Did you ever notice that the prayers of intercession in Morning Prayer are of a different character than those of Evening Prayer? If not, take a look.

In the morning, we are still aiming at starting the day off right, that is, sanctifying it, and renewing our dedication to God. So these intercessions will focus on praising divine attributes and begging for divine assistance to help us grow in holiness. It's the Evening Prayer intercessions where we will pray for the needs of others: the pope and bishops, priests, for vocations, for the poor, the sick, and (this one every single day) the dead.
This distinction between morning and evening intercessions is not hard and fast. You'll see an occasional intercession for others in morning prayer, and occasional intercessions in evening prayer related to personal holiness. Also, on some Fridays, personal repentance and conversion predominates even during Evening prayer intercessions.

More trivia. Many people who own four-volume breviaries aren't aware of an appendix of alternative, shorter intercessions that may be used in place of what is in the four week psalter.

Rubrics trivia: there are several options for how to pray the intercessions. Some are only meant for group recitation of the liturgy when one person functions as a leader. But whether in a group or private, most people try to use several options at once, as a result doing the intercessions incorrectly. To wit:

*The introductory, opening sentence of the intercessions is only meant when there is a group with a leader. If you are praying alone, you should just start with the first intercession.
*Each intercession has two parts, and a repeating, "Lord hear our prayer"-type response. You may do one of the following with these elements:
 a. in a group, the leader reads both parts of the intercessions and the group responds with the "Lord hear our prayer"-type response. OR the group leader reads the first part of the intercession and the group responds with the second part, in which case the "Lord, hear our prayer"-thing is not said by anyone!!! OR the group without a leader takes turns with the two parts of the intercessions, but  in this case, once again, no one says the "Lord hear our prayer"-response!
b. When praying alone, you just say the two parts of the intercession, and omit the "Lord hear our prayer" -thing. If you are praying with one other person, one of you may read both parts of the intercession and the other do the "Lord hear our prayer."
What is NOT correct--although it is done everywhere--is for the same person/s to say the second half of the intercession, and then aso say the Lord hear our prayer-response. It should be intuitive that it is awkward to do so (your responding to your own response--doesn't that feel odd?), but since the instructions in the ordinary don't explain how to do the intercessions, and almost no one bothers to read the General Instruction on the Liturgy of the Hours, we end up with an epidemic of Intercession Awkwardness.

I feel like a liturgical geek army of one in the Ban Intercession Awkwardness movement. But boy, it felt good to rant about this today.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Tired...tired... tired of daily prayer...zzz...

Unlike last Easter, when I was feeling quite resurrection-y every day of the octave, this year is decidedly not like that. The more earthly joys of my visiting grown children--cooking elaborate meals for them,and staying up late talking--took its toll on my capacity for spiritual delight. For the last 8  days, the Liturgy of the Hours was mostly a chore to be gotten through. The most I could muster at each lovely antiphon was something along the lines of, "He is risen... that's nice." The psalms were even worse, bringing on thoughts like, "I've read this a million times before. What can I possibly say about it on my blog that I haven't said before?"

I felt  totally bored with the psalms.

In my younger days I might have put away the breviary when this happened, letting it go altogether for weeks or even months. Then, after a time, picking it up again and struggling to re-establish the habit of daily liturgical prayer. Or, in my much younger days, I might have worried that there was something wrong with my spiritual life, when these wonderful, life-giving psalms and prayers of the liturgy no longer filled me with joy and spiritual insight.

But now, I know it's just that I'm tired, and then when I've had a few days of rest, I'll probably enjoy daily prayer again. So instead of putting the breviary away, I just keep at it anyway, and don't worry about how I feel about it. We've all heard at one time or another that feelings are an unreliable gauge of how well we are praying. This is doubly true of liturgy.

The liturgy (the mass OR the hours) is already perfect in virtue of what it is. With the mass, it's the perfect sacrifice of Christ, as He offers Himself for our sins. With the Liturgy of the Hours it's the perfect prayer of the body of Christ--praising, thanking, repenting, adoring. It's more important to pray it than to pray it well.  As for my tiredness and boredom: I'm just a single tiny cell in the Mystical Body, fighting off a cold or something. Plenty of other cells are taking up the slack,  praying it with love and attention.  Meanwhile, this blah, blah, blah going through the motions every day will keep me in the habit of praying the hours until it all makes sense once more. Sometimes it's good to keep moving in the same rut when you know that rut is keeping you from running off the road.

All dressed up for feast of St. Bernadette...

...and nowhere to go liturgically since she does not appear on the universal calendar, and hence, not in the missal or breviary!

I've never quite understood Bernadette's absence from the general Roman caledar, given the universal appeal of Lourdes. But no doubt Bernadette arranged for it to be so from her place of influence in heaven. During her life she did her best to retire from the notoriety and fame brought on by the beautiful Lady with the incomprehensible title of Immaculate Conception. She did her best to avoid the visitors who sought to see her at the convent where she lived until her death at age 35, although she spoke with them cheerfully when ordered by her superiors. She compared  herself as an old broom that is put back in the corner when it is no longer needed, and that is how she wanted to remain: out of the limelight, pursing holiness and humility. She was dismayed on learning of family  members who sold souvenirs at Lourdes.

Near the end of her life she wrote, "Nothing is anything more to me; everything is nothing to me, but Jesus: neither things nor persons, neither ideas not emotions, neither honor nor sufferings. Jesus is for me honor delight heart and soul."

How enviable to be able to say such a thing and mean it. And live it.

I can think of a number of modern purported visionaries who might want to discuss their current career paths with Bernadette. One can't help but admire her way, rather than the rock star model.

Since Monday of the second week of Easter has no particular precedence over a saint's feast, those of us who love St. Bernadette may pray the entire Common of Holy Women, inserting her name in the appropriate blanks.

PS. I see that some sources list Feb. 12th as Bernadette's feast. The majority list April 16th. Does anyone know which one it really is? Perhaps at Lourdes they use the February day since this would put it next to that of Our Lady of Lourdes.

For more commentary on St. Bernadette, I recommend this post at The Anchoress.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

It's Still Easter

  There are only six weeks of lent, and it is great that most practicing Catholics make some kind of effort to observe these. Too bad so few go out of their way to observe the seven weeks of rejoicing after the six weeks of penance.  This is the time of year to let the kids stay up a tad later some nights,  to take them out to dairy queen, visit the zoo, or whatever strikes the family as fun and out of the ordinary, saying, "since it's Easter time, let's do X."

In the same vein, it's a great season for husbands and wives to go out on a few dates, buy and share a bottle of really fine wine, or go by themselves to a gorgeous state park or other Beautiful place and enjoy the scenery and have a picnic lunch.  It's Easter after all. He is risen. So act that way.

Keeping  up with the Divine Office will help preserve your Easter mood. Every day there are readings and antiphons reminding you that there is reason to rejoice. For example,Monday's Office of Readings has a nice second reading comparing Easter to Passover, by Pseudo-Chrysostom. First pause to wonder about this name. You get the initial impression of some impostor posing as St. John C., passing off his sermons as those of the golden-tongued orator of Constantinople. Would be very interesting if such a rascal had made it into the Church's liturgical books. Unfortunately, the truth is more prosaic. Pseudo-Chrysostom is really Anonymous, whose work has been mistakenly attributed to the real Chrysostom before the scholars figured things out. I wonder what Pseudo-Chrysostom and real-Chrysostom remark  to one another in heaven  about this little mix up.

So here's what Pseudo-C. says  about Old Testament types and figures of salvation: the presence of the reality makes the symbol obsolete: when the king appears in person no one pays any attention to his statue.  As a Catholic with a collection of graven images, I really enjoy this analogy. We certainly aren't staring at the Sacred Heart statue or the crucifix in church during the consecration, right?

And although this analogy seems at first glance pretty dismissive of our Jewish brothers and sisters, there's another way to look at it. If an entire people doesn't realize that the King has appeared in person, but continued through the centuries to honor the symbols of him, the rest of us who know better  would (should) respect and honor those people for their attachment to the symbols, even while feeling sorry that they missed the main event.  Correct?

The real King has come, defeated the enemy, and invited us to His banquet. Rejoice.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

US Bishops Love Bloggers!

As well as other creative lay Catholics.  Thus says  the latest statement from the US Bishops on religious freedom, which is really long but worth reading.  Among its most salient features are
  • a 7-item  list of recent federal and state government assaults on religious freedom, for example, an Alabama statute that would make it illegal for priests administer the sacraments to illegal aliens (!) and a failed 2009 attempt by the state of Connecticut to interfere with the Church's hiring policies. Placing these violations alongside the HHS mandate might help   fence sitters to see a pattern, rather than a tempest in a teapot about contraception.
  • A great explanation of "freedom of religion" vs. "freedom of worship", bolstered by an excellent statement from the Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations in America.: "Most troubling, is the Administration's underlying rationale for its decision, which appears to be a view that if a religious entity is not insular, but engaged with broader society, it loses its "religious" character and liberties. Many faiths firmly believe in being open to and engaged with broader society and fellow citizens of other faiths. The Administration's ruling makes the price of such an outward approach the violation of an organization's religious principles. This is deeply disappointing."
  • Some excellent historical background on the history of the Church in the United States.
  • Dots connected between our situation in the United States and the severe, horrific persecution of religious believers in other countries.
  • A plea from the bishops (who know they'll fail without our help) to the laity to use their talents and positions in life to fight for the cause of religious freedom. Which leads back to the topic in my subject line:
"Catechesis on religious liberty is not the work of priests alone. The Catholic Church in America is blessed with an immense number of writers, producers, artists, publishers, filmmakers, and bloggers employing all the means of communications—both old and new media—to expound and teach the faith. They too have a critical role in this great struggle for religious liberty. We call upon them to use their skills and talents in defense of our first freedom."
The statement concludes with a plan for a "fortnight for freedom" from June 21st to July 4th. Read all about it and start thinking about what you can do on your blog, in a comment box on a secular blog, in your parish, and with your family.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

You and the Ancient Author, plus weekly Q&A

Today's second reading from the Office of Readings is a sermon from "an ancient author". I always find these anonymous selections a bit frustrating, because there is no way to find out how ancient. When it's Chrysostom, Melito of Sardis, or Fulgentius, it only takes a few clicks to find out what century the author in question came from.  But Ancient Author?  The breviary gives a very unhelpful string of numbers from some sort of arcane reference book, and even lets us know that it's the 1879 edition of "PL 17".  Undoubtedly the more scholarly types among the clergy know exactly what all this means. One of my fantasies for that new edition/translation of the breviary that is supposed to happen someday is that it will include the approximate dates of the author by each reading in the OOR.

But little as we know about Ancient Author, it's easy to see we psalm-sayers have something in common with him: the liturgy of the Easter season. For all the change in the Mass and the Hours over the years, the liturgy has retained its essential nature, and, shall we say, it's "flavor". Ancient Author mentions in his sermon that at Easter, the Christian community, together with the prophet sings the psalm which belongs to this yearly festival: "This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad." (from Ps.118)

This very line is an antiphon we use every day this week both at Morning and Evening Prayer, as the responsory to the reading, plus the entire psalm 118  appears in the psalter several times during the octave.
It's such a favorite verse for me, that n our home  we say  it along with "The Lord is risen/He is truly risen" as a preface to grace before meals every day this week.  It's  a way to keep the family Easter-aware.

So, it's kind of a thrill to have this little bond, over so many centuries, to the anonymous holy man who wrote today's second reading.  It's a bit ridiculous to plan an agenda for what I'll do in heaven, but I like to imagine that I'll ask around and locate Ancient Author. We'll clasp hands (however this is done by disembodied souls), and greet each other with: This IS the day that the Lord has made....alleluia! 

Weekly Q&A time:  Anything that puzzles/confuses/alarms/mystifies  you about the Liturgy of the Hours or the breviary can be brought up in the comments section. Veteran readers and/or I will give you the answers.

Monday, April 9, 2012

A week of Easters

Every day in the octave of Easter is, liturgically speaking, Easter all over again. At each day's mass you'll say the Gloria and the Creed.

Each day's Liturgy of the Hours is that of Easter Sunday. If you say Morning Prayer every day this week you'll find yourself well on the way to having memorized the psalmody of Sunday week I, which comes in handy, let me tell you.

If you are among the happy minority of Catholics who observes Friday as a day of penance throughout the year, either by abstaining from meat or making some other sacrifice,there's no need to do it this Friday, because this Friday is Easter again.

I hope you are all having a blessed Easter, hearts leaping with each lovely antiphon that speaks of our dear Lord's resurrection, as you pray the Hours.  I'm going to be somewhat absent this week due to a "Catholic fiction for Summer Reading" article that is due this week.

This is the day the Lord has made.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

The Lord is Risen, Alleluia!

He is truly risen, alleluia!
This is the day the Lord has made
let us rejoice and be glad alleluia!

May this holy day be beautiful for all of you--filled with hope, joy, and family. 

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

St. Augustine and King Solomon's Etiquette

St. Augustine is a genius at drawing out from scripture its many meanings. He takes verses that to most of us seem to have nothing more than the bare literal meaning. In today's Office of Readings, he quotes from Proverbs: If you sit down with a ruler, observe carefully what is set before you; then stretch out your hand, knowing that you must provide the same kind of meal yourself. 

Without help from Augustine, I could read this verse a hundred times, and see nothing more than advice from King Solomon's Rules of Etiquette for the Polite Israelite. But Augustine pulls out the allegorical meaning (finding  "types" or metaphors of Christ in the Old Testament) and the moral meaning (what this scripture means to us personally). Check it out:

What is this ruler’s table if not the one at which we receive the body and blood of him who laid down his life for us? What does it mean to sit at this table if not to approach it with humility? What does it mean to observe carefully what is set before you if not to meditate devoutly on so great a gift? What does it mean to stretch out one’s hand, knowing that one must provide the same kind of meal oneself, if not what I have just said: as Christ laid down his life for us, so we in our turn ought to lay down our lives for our brothers? 

Seeking the various meanings of the psalms and scriptures of the Liturgy of the Hours takes practice, but it will enrich our daily prayer immensely. The red letter subtitles and the quotations beneath each psalm number will help you with some of this. After a while you will be able to find other meanings as well, especially those little messages from God to you, calling you to respond in faith, hope, and love. 

Q&A Holy Week Edition

A reminder to everyone--during the Triduum, Evening Prayer is replaced by the Mass of the Lord's supper on Holy Thursday and the  the Liturgy of Good Friday.Holy Saturday is unique. You'll notice that Evening Prayer of Holy Saturday is NOT called Evening Prayer I of Easter. This one day of the year, Evening Prayer on a Saturday commemorates Saturday rather begins Sunday.  The Easter Vigil mass replaces the Office of Readings and Vigils for Easter Sunday.

Welcome new followers aguileon and Ann Seeton! This is our weekly Q&A. If anything about the Liturgy of the Hours confuses you, or you're just curious about some bit of liturgical trivia, ask in the comments section, and I (and sometimes savvy followers) will do our best to supply the answers. 

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

St. Augustine: Praying the Psalms Rocks!

Whenever the Office of Readings gives us a passage from St. Augustine's Commentary on the Psalms, it's really a good idea to sit up and take notice. Because this commentary, besides illuminating the truths of our faith as do all the other readings, will usually give us valuable insights into, and additional motivation for, praying the Liturgy of the Hours.
This past Wednesday, Augustine again hit it right out of the ball park as he explained succinctly what the Church has been telling us about Christ in the psalms. He is there as the God to whom we pray, the Savior praying for us, and our divine Head praying with us. Here's a few salient excerpts, but it's worth looking up in your breviary to read the entire thing:
:... it is the one Savior of his body, our Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who prays for us and in us and is himself the object of our prayers...He prays for us as our priest, he prays in us as our head, he is the object of our prayers as our God....Let us then recognize both our voice in his, and his voice in ours.
We pray to him as God, he prays for us as a servant. In the first case he is the Creator, in the second a creature. Himself unchanged, he took to himself our created nature in order to change it, and made us one man with himself, head and body. We pray then to him, through him, in him, and we speak along with him and he along with us.
Isn't that mind-bogglingly marvellous, that we are privileged to pray to/with/in Christ in this way? That is why liturgical prayer (Mass and Divine Office) leaves any other prayer in the dust. Private devotions are great, but they are only a faint echo of liturgy. They must not be allowed to crowd out the greatest prayer of all. 

Monday, April 2, 2012

What's Sex,Style, and Substance Go to Do With the LOTH

If you spend anytime at all in the Catholic blogsophere (and you're here, so you do) you've heard about this new collection of essays. In case you wanted my opinion, it's a good book. Even men have been known to like it, despite it's  cover,the color of which, I understand, is the equivalent of kryptonite for most guys. 

 I really didn't plan to review it on this blog. This is not a woman's blog, and the book in question didn't seem at first glance to be especially  relevant to our perennial liturgical topic. But then my eye fell on this passage in a chapter about "holding onto faith", where contributor Karen Edmisten lists various practices for her readers' consideration:

Pray in  Rhythm With the Church
Don't worry--this rhythm doesn't involved a tambourine or any embarrassing public dancing. I'm referring to the Liturgy of the Hours, also known as the breviary or Divine Office.
These "prayers of the Church" are intoned daily by all ordained and vowed religious. If you've heard of Morning Prayer, Evening Prayer, and so on, you're halfway there...
Karen then recommends a couple of online breviaries, and urges readers to give it a try, concluding that,adding  just a couple of Psalms to your day or some of the readings from the Church Fathers is an effortless way to stay in touch with God's word and his Church.

Kudos to Karen for doing her part to spread the good news of liturgical prayer to thousands of women. I'm proud that she  is a Coffee&Canticles follower.

Sex, Style and Substance is doing well on Amazon.  Check it out.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

The Divine Office Won!

The Readers' Choice Awards 2012
Remember when I asked last month that everyone vote for in the Reader's Choice Awards?  Well, the results were announced yesterday. Divine Office was the winner of best website, podcast, and iOS app (whatever iOS means, althouth I do know what an app is, despite my advanced age.)

I believe won the same awards in 2011. It's good evidence that the John Paul II generation has  taken to heart the Church's wish that we rediscover that treasure of the liturgical hours, and make it's blessings a part of our lives.

Another thought: although Dane Falkner and the gang at have done a bang-up job with the layout, design, and mechanics of the whole thing, the CONTENT that won these awards is all God's.