Saturday, September 29, 2012

What puts the "Arch" in Archangel?

Pope St. Gregory the Great explains this and lots of other neat stuff about the archangels in the Office of Readings for today's feast:

"You should be aware that the word “angel” denotes a function rather than a nature. Those holy spirits of heaven have indeed always been spirits. They can only be called angels when they deliver some message. Moreover, those who deliver messages of lesser importance are called angels; and those who proclaim messages of supreme importance are called archangels.

And so it was that not merely an angel but the archangel Gabriel was sent to the Virgin Mary. It was only fitting that the highest angel should come to announce the greatest of all messages.

Some angels are given proper names to denote the service they are empowered to perform. In that holy city, where perfect knowledge flows from the vision of almighty God, those who have no names may easily be known. But personal names are assigned to some, not because they could not be known without them, but rather to denote their ministry when they came among us. Thus, Michael means “Who is like God”; Gabriel is “The Strength of God”; and Raphael is “God’s Remedy.”

Whenever some act of wondrous power must be performed, Michael is sent, so that his action and his name may make it clear that no one can do what God does by his superior power. So also our ancient foe desired in his pride to be like God, saying: I will ascend into heaven; I will exalt my throne above the stars of heaven; I will be like the Most High.He will be allowed to remain in power until the end of the world when he will be destroyed in the final punishment. Then, he will fight with the archangel Michael, as we are told by John: A battle was fought with Michael the archangel.

So too Gabriel, who is called God’s strength, was sent to Mary. He came to announce the One who appeared as a humble man to quell the cosmic powers. Thus God’s strength announced the coming of the Lord of the heavenly powers, mighty in battle.

Raphael means, as I have said, God’s remedy, for when he touched Tobit’s eyes in order to cure him, he banished the darkness of his blindness. Thus, since he is to heal, he is rightly called God’s remedy."

Thursday, September 27, 2012

St. Vincent on Interruptions to Prayer

Do you Mommies out there get discouraged and frustrated with the Liturgy of the Hours (or any prayer or spiritual reading for that matter) because of constant interruptions from little ones? 

Today, in the Office of Readings, St. Vincent de Paul offers all the reassurance we can possibly need. He is referring to the poor that his disciples cared for in the slums of France. But our our little ones are surely the poor in spirit. They keep us feeding the hungry, giving drink to the thirsty, instructing the ignorant, wiping noses of the runny, and cleaning bottoms of the dirty all day long. 

 If a needy person requires medicine or other help during prayer time, do whatever has to be done with peace of mind. Offer the deed to God as your prayer. Do not become upset or feel guilty because you interrupted your prayer to serve the poor. God is not neglected if you leave him for such service. One of God’s works is merely interrupted so that another can be carried out. So when you leave prayer to serve some poor person, remember that this very service is performed for God. Charity is certainly greater than any rule.

Back in the day when the chances of  completing morning and evening prayer straight through was a fifty-fifty proposition or less, I liked to imagine the angels would complete it for me. In fact, the church universal completes it for you. Let not your hearts be troubled. 

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

The Liturgy of the Hours is Hard!

Hey, remember the talking Barbie that got recalled back in the 80's  because one of her phrases was "Math is hard!"  This was thought to be poor role-modelling. Thanks to the recall, there are now millions of  twenty and  thirty-something women working as engineers and physicists today, saved as they were from the horrible power of Barbie- suggestion.

Suppose Mattel toys developed "Talking Catholic Barbie".  She would be dressed in a tasteful knee length skirt and a top with sleeves, and accessorized with a rosary, a miraculous medal, and a tiny breviary. My candidates for what she'd say when her string is pulled?

"The Liturgy of the Hours is hard!"
"I'm trying to get Ken to go to RCIA"
"Choose Life! Unborn Babies are People too!"
"Viva el Cristo Rey!"
"I wonder if God might be calling me to the religious life."
"Would you like to come to adoration with me this week?"
"I'm going to clean out my closet--there's a clothing drive for the missions."
"Wouldn't it be fun to go to World Youth Day?"
"I'd just love to meet the Pope!"

Anyway, I sympathize with Catholic Barbie's first statement. It's hard to find time to say morning and evening prayer. It's hard to figure out which page in the breviary to use on a saint's memorial. It's hard to know which elements are optional and which are not.

Although I am NOT good at math, I am good at these Liturgy of the Hours questions. So if you have any, ask away.

Also, a warm welcome to new follower Elizabeth Tichvon, who has a nifty photography/devotional blog.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Wheee! Already on Amazon.

The Everyday Catholic's Guide to the Liturgy of the Hours

Without savvy readers like Nancy from Illinois, I don't know what I'd do. She just pointed out that The Everyday Catholic's Guide to the Liturgy of the Hours is now available for pre-order on Amazon!!!!

Who'd have thunk, when I only finished the manuscript four days ago. But I guess the Servant  marketing elves have already been hard at work.

Friday, September 21, 2012

St. Matthew, Venerable Bede, and Uncommon Commons

Another re-run. But I like it.
Call of St. Matthew  (Caravaggio)

We use the Common of Apostles 12, no, 13 times a year. (Don't forget Paul).Well, now that I'm thinking about it,maybe 14, because Peter&Paul share a feast, but then there's Chair of Peter and Conversion of Paul. Whatever. 

 It's nice to use Commons because we don't have them half-memorized the way we do the weekdays of the 4-week psalter. Unfamiliar elements will jump out at you.  For instance, the intercessions in Morning Prayer are not really intercessions, if intercessions = petitions. They are Praises.  The intercessions do return to their normal petionary tone at Evening Prayer.

Then, antiphon I of Evening Prayer , You are the men who have stood by me in my time of trial, strikes one on first reading as the height of irony. I mean, the apostles most certainly did not stand by Our Lord in His time of trial, right?   So then, you have to think this over.....oh, right. If we think of "me" as the Church, the body of Christ, then the apostles really did have a chance to make up for what they did in Gethsemane, not only standing by, but giving their lives.

Although the apostles share a common, they get proper gospel canticle antiphons, concluding prayers,and, their own second readings in the Office of Readings. Matthew's reading comes from St. Bede the Venerable--aka  the Venerable Bede.  It opens with this verse from today's Gospel: Jesus saw a man called Matthew, sitting at the tax office, and he said to him: Follow me.  Bede then rivets our attention on the verb saw. Jesus saw Matthew. Really saw him. "Jesus saw Matthew not merely in the usual sense, but more significantly with his merciful understanding of men. He saw the tax collector and, because he saw him through the eyes of mercy and chose him, he said to him: Follow me.

There's plenty more to the reading, but this is enough to take away for the day. Because, just as Jesus saw Matthew, he saw me. And sees me. With the eyes of mercy. It's not in spite of, but because of my being a poor, pathetic slob, attached to slingback pumps and snickers bars and many, many dumb things, that he calls me to follow him. In my better moments I want nothing more than to be lost in that merciful gaze.  Then I put away the breviary and with typical spiritual ADHD begin obsessing about whether I'm using the right facial moisturizer, or whether the living room needs new window treatments.
But he still sees me.
With mercy.
Thank God.

Seven Quick Takes on Friday

7 quick takes sm1 7 Quick Takes Friday (vol. 188)

1. Back at Last! This is my first 7-takes post in months. The reason being that I don't have the wit and energy to write multiple weekly blog posts while working on a book. As of late last night, said book is finished and submitted to my editor. The Everyday Catholic's Guide to the Liturgy of the Hours is on its way!  No doubt there will be things to fix once my editor goes over it, but the big worry--can I really write 30,000 words about one subject--is happily resolved. I'll be back to blogging more steadily starting next week. Here is my celebratory haiku:

Ahead of the deadline
I finished the book last night.
Now to clean my house.

2. One of the psalms in the Divine Office this week said that God will "renew  your like an eagle's" which sounds lovely at first glance, but then gets you wondering--what is so special about an eagle's youth in particular? Why not a screech owl's? Is there some legend about eagles that the psalmist was referencing? I did a little research and the results are over at Catholic Exchange.

3. Fall is here right on time! I love it. The beauty of autumn is our reward for the cold of winter. I still think it's worth it.

4. Forgot to share a favorite image of Our Lady back on the of her Nativity. This painting hangs on the back wall of the cathedral of San Juan Baptista, in San Juan. I believe the title is Our Lady of Puerto Rico. Note the cute  multi-racial angels, representing the population of the island.

5. My daughter's boyfriend just signed up for RCIA!  My investment in the Father Barron's Catholicism dvds seems to have paid off. Maybe he will eventually even give them back, but I won't start nagging until after Easter.

6. Have you heard yet about One Body, Many Blogs? It's a nifty new e-book consisting of some of the big-name bloggers' top ten lists of advice for small-name bloggers. It's free until October 1st, so get your's now.

7.  It's been a scary week for world news. I'm really clinging to the responsory for Night Prayer ("into your hands,Lord, I commend my spirit) and to Psalm 91.  What is your favorite scriptural security blanket during these darkening days?

For more quick takes, visit Conversion Diary.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Weekly Q&A , Tardy Edition

Eeek! Here it is the end of Wednesday and I forgot to do the weekly Q&A.

Welcome, new follower Ron. Good to have one more psalmsayer sharing a love for the Liturgy of the Hours. If any of you like  nature photography and Colorado scenery, you might want to check out Ron's blog.

Right now I'm in the thick of getting permissions from ICEL, Liberatrice Vaticane, the USCCB, and GIA for all the bits of the breviary and of church documents that I'm quoting in The Everyday Catholic's Guide to the Liturgy of the Hours. This is the un-fun part of writing a book. So, not too much mental energy left to write clever blog posts. However, I was struck by the odd conjunction of two words in the (new translation) concluding prayer for St. John Chrysostom last week.

The prayer referred to the saint's:  Invincible......patience.

One tends to think of "invincible" as a word associated with the strength and action of a warrior. It means, more or less, "unconquerable".   Whereas patience is a virtue that strikes us as somehow passive. The old translation calls it "patient endurance", which reinforces the passive aspect, compared to that wonderfully aggressive word, "invincible." Anyway, this has given me one more insight about spiritual warfare.

If you have any questions related to the Divine Office, the comboxes are waiting for you.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Good-Night, Moon for Grownups (Catholic ones)

A golden oldie rerun while I pound away on chapters 8 and 9.

The Church teaches that the primary hours of the Divine Offices, the "hinges" of the day, are Morning and Evening prayer (Lauds and Vespers).  These two hours are the ones we should try to fit into our day.  But my own feeling is that for the purpose of learning to pray the Office, and for becoming comfortable and personally attached to it, there's nothing like Night Prayer (Compline).

Night Prayer is on a 7-day repeating cycle. No matter what the liturgical season, there is no need to flip from psalter to propers--everything is there for each day, about 3 pages' worth per night. Night prayer is short and sweet--just one psalm or--on Saturday and Wednesday--two very short psalms. Say Night prayer every night for a week or two, and you will have acquired the rythmn and feel for liturgical prayer.

What makes Night Prayer special is the the "bed time" character of the psalms and prayers. It's as if God were tucking you in for the night, reassuring you that everything is going to be all right, little one, now go to sleep and don't be afraid--I'll be here if you need Me.   For example:

I will lie down in peace and sleep comes at once, for you alone,Lord, make me dwell in safety.(psalm.4)

Into your hands I commend my spirit (psalm. 31)

Protect us, Lord, as we stay awake; watch over us as we sleep,that awake we may keep watch with Christ, and asleep, rest in his peace. (antiphon for canticle of Simeon)

Night holds no terror for me sleeping under God's wings. (amtiphon for psalm. 91)

I will bless the Lord who gives me counsel, who even at night directs my heart. (psalm 16)

Lord, we beg you to visit this house and banish from it all the deadly power of the enemy. May your holy angels dwell here and keep us in peace, and may your blessing be upon us always.

Then there is the fuller sense we should always look for in the liturgy. We aren't just praying about going to sleep, but about dying, and receiving His loving reassurance about that as well.  Indeed, the psalms of Tuesday' and Friday's night prayer are of a more sorrowful type, meant to put us in mind of Gethsemane and give voice to our own sorrows or those of others. But that refrain of ultimate trust and abandonment to  Mercy: "into your hands" ties the whole day together into a package that we can give to him and forget about.  Christ  is here. Tomorrow is another day.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Catholic Calisthenics


"Could you address whether there are suggestions for when to stand, sit, or kneel during prayer?  I know this might be heaping too much on for some, but I recall having directions about it many years ago and I don't have that anymore.  I might use it sometimes when I am having trouble concentrating or getting too routine and thoughtless in my prayer."

Years ago, I heard a protestant lady complaining about her single experience of going to a Catholic mass: "Stand up, sit down, stand up, sit down,stand up,  kneel, stand up! It was like calisthenics or Simon Says!"
I guess no one told her why Catholic worship includes all this moving around. It's so our bodies can help our souls to pray, by becoming a physical sign of whatever prayerful attitude we are trying to cultivate.  

There are accepted postures to go along with the Liturgy of the Hours. We are not expected to use them when praying privately. But, as the reader above suggests, they can help us focus on what we are doing. I think I've already posted on this, but it's easier to just write it all up again than to weed through 450-some old posts to do a reprint. 

In community, you stand up for the opening, "O God, Come to My Assistance", remain standing for the hymn, sit down for the psalmody, the reading, and the responsory. You stand for the gospel canticle--because it's the gospel after all, and deserves that extra respect, just as it does at mass. Remain standing through the intercessions, Our Father, and conclusion. 

That is how morning and evening prayer goes. And night prayer. Daytime prayer: stand at the opening and hymn, sit for everything until the final prayer, at which point you stand thru the finish. Same with Office of Readings. 

In reading old Catholic literature, you often see a parish priest depicted as reading his breviary while strolling up and down the garden walk, in the churchyard, or something else along those lines. This is not a rubric, but just an excellent way to keep oneself more awake and attentive if sitting for a long stretch makes one too relaxed and sleepy to pay attention. 

Monday, September 10, 2012

ibreviary news!

iBreviary, one of my favorite apps for the Liturgy of the Hours, has exciting news about its new Kindle Fire app and other improvements, which you can read about here.

I've already been enjoying its new ability to download a week's worth of the Hours at a time, making my ipod a truly mobile breviary,  with or without a wi-fi connection when I'm out and about.

It also looks like Ibreviary is adding the ordos for religious orders. Ordo means the variations to the proper of saints to accomodate celebrations that are either not listed on the general roman calendar, or to elevate them from memorial to feast, or from feast to solemnity. For example, Franciscans keep the feast of St. Francis not as a memorial, but as a solemnity. Salesians would similarly elevate the celebration of their founder, St. John Bosco. Also, religious orders celebrate every saint and blessed their orders have ever produced with a special office and particular readings in the OOR. Currently, iBreviary includes quite a few of these. They appear after the end of the regular office for each day from the universal calendar. But the new plan will create a toggle-switch for each ordo, so that the offices specific to the order will be the "default" each day rather than the tail end of a lengthy scroll-down.
The Salesian switch is already in place. It looks like the Franciscans are next in line. This will eventually make iBreviary the go-to app for any of you who belong to a third order.
Here is the link for the Kindle fire download

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Q&A - Incipient Autumn Edition

Welcome, new  blog follower Nicole, to Coffee&Canticles. May this blog fulfill your every dream of what a log about the Liturgy of the Hours ought to be. Feel free to ask questions or comment on your own experience of the divine office, favorite psalms, readings, etc. This is the place where breviary geeks are free to go on about their holy obsession any time they like.

Thanks again to everyone who commented on their love for the office of readings two posts ago.  There were so many worthwhile remarks that I'm going to add a little sidebar to my manuscript titled something "Ordinary Catholics Rave about the Office of Readings", and quote three or four of your gems of wisdom and enthusiasm.  If any of you who commented object to that, let me know. Keep in mind that I might edit slightly for clarity, changing a word here or there but keeping the meaning. I'll attribute each quote to whatever first name is on the post. This should protect your general anonymity but enable you to proudly show the book to your friends, point to your name, and say, "look, that's me!"

It's that time of year here in Northwest Pennsylvania when a single patch of red leaves appears on an otherwise green maple tree, three weeks ahead of all the other leaves.  It think of it as the coming attractions trailer for fall. Always exciting to me, as this time of year, with its color and cooler temperatures and deep blue skies fills me with energy.  Just in time, since my book deadline is October 10th.

I've been trying in vain to find a quote from,I think, C.S. Lewis about why we love the change of the seasons. How they give us both variety and continuity. The burst of color in the maple or the first snow fall is wonderful because it is both a change of scenery, yet it is also the same, good old change in scenery that we welcome back like a friend we haven't seen for a whole year. This lead me to think about how brilliantly the changing liturgical year mirrors seasonal change and has a similar effect on our souls as the natural seasons do on our psyches. It's exciting, just when the brilliance of fall has turned into dreary winter, to lift up our hearts with advent and Christmastide. It's appropriate during the dreary end of winter, to immerse ourselves in penance for lent. Spring/Easter--too obvious to need comment. And finally, after all the drama of these holy seasons, it's a relief to enter the green valley of summer--ordinary time--and just pray, worship, and learn the normal lessons of the gospel, without any seasonal add-ons. (Ordinary time is the best time to start using the Liturgy of the Hours for just this reason. )

Then it all begins again.

The Liturgy of the Hours enhances our awareness of the liturgical year, seasons and feasts, especially for those who are not able to attend daily mass. There was a commercial years ago (for what product I forget--maybe long distance service), that said "It's the next best thing to being there." The Divine Office serves this function for those who crave daily liturgy but can't manage mass due to work schedules, having small children to care for, or budget constraints in this time of high gas prices.

Okay, time for any and all breviary related questions.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Book Update and OOR Thought

"Perhaps we should stop seeing the office of readings as “that really long liturgical hour with those two long readings” and start thinking of it as “that really compact, efficient daily prayer & study time that makes it possible for me to pray, read scripture, and read the best of the writings of the saints, all in less than half and hour”. Because that it what it is. Perhaps, looking at it this way, more people would be eager to try it. "
-from The Everyday Catholic's Guide to the Liturgy of the Hours 

Time for one of my (mercifully) infrequent posts on the progress of The Book. Chapter 5 had discussed every individual element of the LOTH, from antiphon to psalm to reading  to canticle, etc. Now I'm finishing up chapter 6, which discusses the unique character or personality of each of the hours. E.g. I pointed out how all the psalms that talk about morning and sunrise appear in morning prayer,and  how  daytime prayer is about taking a short rest from our daily duties and gathering the grace to see them to completion. 
I got a little stuck on the office of readings, since it doesn't have that specific "time of day" character. It's middle of the night in monasteries but can be any time for the rest of us. Could be a vigil on the previous evening. Could be the prelude to morning prayer. Could be any time at all. 
So I'm describing it as the "wisdom" hour. The only hour where praise (psalmody) is not the main event, but the warm up act. The main event is to drink deeply from the well of the Word,and then to sit at the feet of our elder brothers and sisters in the faith as their  disciples. 

If you are a fan of the office of readings, please share your enthusiasm in the comment box below.Tell me why you really like it.  You might remind me of some angle on the OOR that I should mention in the book. This is the chapter where I hope readers will be persuaded to go beyond that one-volume Christian Prayer. Any and all insights would be appreciated!