Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Find Joy Every Day; weekly Q&A

 You know those days when some verse in the day's Divine Office jumps out at you, as if your guardian angel had gone over it with a highlighter? You notice a verse that you'd read many times before, and suddenly, bam!  It's brand new.

I've been moping about the sorry state of world and national affairs, the economy, the decline in civilization, the decline of American society. (I'd been trying not to listen to much TV, radio or internet news, but it just keeps seeping in.) But this morning I read psalm 89 in the psalter for the Office of Readings:

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.

And so, applying the moral sense of interpreting scripture (what is God telling me about how I ought to live?), I made a decision to quit moping. That does not mean ignoring the ills of society. It does mean to be a happy warrior when fighting them.  It means remembering Who is King and finding joy in His name bliss in His justice.

Every day.

These thoughts then drove me to look up a relevant quote from Dorothy Day:

How necessary it is to cultivate a spirit of joy. It is a psychological truth that the physical acts of reverence and devotion make one feel devout. The courteous gesture increases one's respect for others. To act lovingly is to begin to feel loving, and certainly to act joyfully brings joy to others which in turn makes one feel joyful. I believe we are called to the duty of delight. 

 She's right. 

Welcome, new blog followers James G. and Anthony C. And all the anonymous folks who add the blog to their readers. 

Any questions about the Liturgy of the Hours, folks? Ask them here. 

Start thinking about Lent, and how you might want to expand your devotion to the hours: by adding one of them, or just being more faithful to the ones you usually do. To learn to chant some of it. To encourage someone else to join you in liturgical prayer. There are lots of possibilities. 

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Moving Furniture Around& Invitatory Factoids

photo credit:

Every January, after the Christmas things get put away, I get the urge to rearrange the living room. It's a combination of that new year's urge to make a fresh start and the extra spare time that is the inevitable result of winter weather. (Nothing else to do when I can't drive anyplace.Yes, I know I should pray more, but there it is.) This year the redecorating bug has extended to the layout of Coffee&Canticles. I hope you like the new look. (the link to Amazon on the book cover has also been fixed. I think.)

Starting today I'll be toying with a new feature: a weekly or bi-weekly Divine Office factoid. Short, good- to- know items about the various elements of the Liturgy of the Hours, rubrics, variations among breviaries, etc. Maybe a little history thrown in here and there.

Today's factoid: The Invitatory Psalm

The Invitatory Psalm is an optional element (although heavily favored by tradition)  with which one might begin the day's liturgical hours. It is said before either the Office of Readings or Morning Prayer, whichever of these is your first hour of the morning, i.e.,you don't say the Invitatory psalm before the Office of Readings if you custom is to do the OOR the previous night, or later in the day after morning prayer.

Although it is not spelled out in the General Instruction on the Liturgy of the Hours, the sense one gets from reading it is that you would NOT use the Invitatory psalm if the first and/or only hour you do each day is daytime prayer, evening prayer, or night prayer.

The Invitatory Psalm (generally Psalm 95, although 100, 67, or 24 may be substituted) has it's own opening verse: O Lord, open my lips/and my mouth shall proclaim your praise, which is said while tracing the sign of the cross over one's lips with one's thumb. This is followed by an antiphon, recitation of the psalm, the Glory Be, and a repeat of the antiphon. If praying in a group, the antiphon may be repeated after each strophe as in the responsorial psalm at mass. This is not required for individual recitation.

If you say the Invitatory Psalm, you will then move right into the first liturgical hour WITHOUT the usual opening verse (O God, Come to my assistance, etc.)

And let this suffice for the Invitatory.
Unless, of course, you have questions or comments.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Chill Out and Cheer Up with St. Thomas

"Blessed be the Lord; for love of him St. Thomas Aquinas spent long hours in prayer, study and writing." (Lauds, Jan. 28th)

the following is a re-run of a popular post from last year.

St. Thomas Aquinas is a favorite in our family, so we will certainly be praying the full office in his honor, using the common for doctors of the Church.   My husband's degree is in Thomistic  philosophy, and we've sent three of our brood to the wonderful Thomas Aquinas College in Santa Paula, California. (Would have sent more of them, but their admissions standards includes high mathematics SAT scores, and some of our kids, unfortunately, take after me in that department.)
 I'm not  a  scholar, but whenever I dip into the Summa, I am  impressed and delighted at  St. Thomas' method of setting out a question, stating objections, and then giving  his reasoned conclusion. I love GK Chesterton's biography of St.Thomas, which you can get for only $2 on Kindle. What stands out in St. Thomas' life, even more than his intellect, is his purity, and I don't mean just in the chastity sense, but pure as in single-hearted. He had no interest in his academic reputation or importance or  career. All he cared about was Truth.

St. Thomas reasoned and wrote about thousands of topics. These ranged from  sublime to  practical. Book II of the Summa deals with the moral and spiritual life.  One section, "Of the remedies for sorrow or pain"(Part I Q.38), contains much of the same advice that we still see today when we open those magazines whose covers promise " Simple Ways to Lift Your Mood". St. Thomas recommends that we:
1. Vent a bit:"tears and groans assuage sorrow... a hurtful thing hurts yet more if we keep it shut up."
2. Indulge yourself in some way:"sorrow is driven out by pleasure"
3. Take a hot bath and get a good night's sleep: "sorrow,by its nature, is contrary to the vital movement of the body; and consequently whatever restores the bodily nature to its due state of vital movement, is opposed to sorrow and assuages it."
5. Talk to a friend:"when a man's friends condole with him, he sees that he is loved by them and this affords him pleasure."
Last and not usually mentioned in today's articles:
6. Contemplate the Truth: "And therefore, in the midst of tribulations, men men rejoiced in the contemplation of divine things and of future the powers of the soul there is an overflow from the higher to the lower powers; and accordingly,the pleasure of contemplation overflows so as to mitigate even that pain which is in the senses."
All in all, great advice to help you forget your troubles and get us through the dreary days of winter. Now I think I'll take a bath, have some hot chocolate, and go get a good night's sleep. I'll save contemplating the truth for the next hour of the liturgy.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Which Hour is Hardest to Do?


Last week's Q&A received more comments than usual. Maybe that's because I started out by listing the types of questions one might ask.  Perhaps this is what prompted to many of you to ask your own questions. Or maybe it was just a coincidence.

Questions answered last week included:
How do the psalms in Magnificat fit in with the Liturgy of the Hours?
Why the shift from calling the hours Lauds and Vespers to calling them Morning and Evening Prayer
How do we handle people who murmur when the length of the readings in their breviaries doesn't match that of the readings in other people's breviaries?
A question about the application of the word "breviary".
A question about praying two or more hours back to back.

So if any of these questions interest you, check it out.

One tangent that a few of us got off on was mentioning which hours were hard to do at the proper time of day, or to remember to do at all. Christopher, Melanie, and I agreed that Evening Prayer was particularly tough. That 4 to 7pm period is busy for any layman, I think. We're either planning/fixing/eating/cleaning up after dinner, and/or trying to get home from work. If one is home with children, those pre-dinner hours tend to see lots of juvenile crankiness, too. All in all, a tough time to pray. Christopher also mentioned difficulty with Night Prayer. It can be tempting to skip it when one is tired. A good reason for doing Night Prayer an hour before bed time instead of the last possible minute before collapsing into bed.

What about the rest of you? Is there an hour that you want to do, but tend to forget/put off/have difficulty praying with attention?

And of course, this is, once again,  weekly Q&A time. Like your teacher used to say, there are no dumb questions. Ask them in the comment box.

Welcome new blog followers Cathy and Shane. I hope Coffee&Canticle encourages you in joining into the great worldwide  symphony of praise known as the Divine Office.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Everyday Catholic's Guide Gets Celebrity Endorsement

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

Sorry to inflict an obnoxious author brag on you, but 1. sometimes I can't help myself and 2. My contract actually requires me to do a reasonable  amount of self-promotion and this is certainly that.

Mike Aquilina, theologian, journalist, EWTN personality, and author of many, many wonderful  books, has just read the manuscript of The Everyday Catholic's Guide to the Liturgy of the Hours, and had this to say:

"This is the first clear and simple introduction to the Church's hours I've seen, and I can't imagine a better one. Daria Sockey has given 'the rest of us' another path to prayer -- a path proven by tradition and by the experience of the saints -- a path that had, till now, seemed obscure and impassible. I'm very grateful."
Mike Aquilina

Pretty cool, huh?

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Breviary Questions, Anyone?

There's plenty for Divine Office Newbies (and Oldbies) to find confusing. For example:

Why doesn't the one-volume breviary put the antiphon on both ends of the Psalm?
Why doesn't my Aunt Mary's British breviary (or my Tia Maria's Spanish breviary) have any psalm prayers?
Why is there a don't the Glory Be in the breviary and the Glory Be for the rosary match?
On a saints memorial do I just use the weekday psalter with the concluding prayer for the saint, or do I use the whole  Common of (pastors, martyrs, holy women, etc.)?

These are just a few.

So if something about the Liturgy of the Hours is bothering you, just leave your question in the comment boxes and I'll get back to you with an answer that is guaranteed correct 99.9 percent of the time.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Venus and Mars at Prayer, again

Today at the National Catholic Register blog, Simcha Fisher (a really fun and wise writer) linked this blog in an article on "Praying as a Couple."  One of her suggestion for couples was to do part of the Divine Office together, hence the link to Coffee&Canticles.

Which prompts me to re-issue part of an old post on this exact same topic. It originally appeared in October of 2011:

We women, who buy and read nearly all  of the popular Catholic Marriage  books sold in this country, frequently read about the importance of Husbands and Wives Praying Together. And we're told  that family rosary with all the kids kneeling or slumping around the living room does not count. We're talking about  a special, quiet, set-aside time with you, your spouse, and God, where the two of you join hands and offer your spontaneous and  heart-felt praise, thanks, and petitions. Out loud. Together. Well, together but taking turns.

Are there more than 100 Catholic  male, non-Steubenville graduates * in this country  who enthusiastically  go along with such a program?  (not just  tolerate it  out of love for their wives, but really enjoy it?) I'd be surprised. 

 This type of intimate, spousal prayer might sound beautiful  to women.  But to most guys--good, devout guys--not so much. It requires seat-of-the-pants verbal skills that many of them do not have. Not to mention a willingness to, at times, express  emotions that are hard for a guy to discuss with his wife in an ordinary conversation, let alone talk to God  about  with his wife listening in. It's one more example of a  woman finding it therapeutic to talk about her problems, and the man finding the same activity to be close to torture.

So wives who want to persuade their husbands to pray with them, but find them recalcitrant, would be well-advised to drop the hand-holding, spill- your- guts- to -God- together idea, and go for something that is more realistic. That is,  utilizing the type of prayer that the Catholic tradition excels at. Namely, reciting formal  prayers that were written by someone else! Or I should say, reciting formal prayers while investing them with your own will, intentions, feelings, etc.

I could write a whole 'nother essay on why reciting or reading pre-written prayers is such a wonderful thing. Not at all the rote, meaningless ritual that the Church's critics make it out to be. Converts from Pentecostalism have expressed the overwhelming relief that comes from being able to pray, say, the rosary, in a group of friends, and not having to anticipate one's turn to pray "spontaneously", mentally composing a suitable script ahead of time, and then delivering it to one's audience.  For myself, I know what an incoherent, stammering mess my private conversations with God would sound like to a companion  if uttered aloud. Blessed be the Lord for Psalms, mass texts, Our Fathers and Hail Marys!

But I digress. Getting a husband to pray with his wife will be much easier if it takes the form of the rosary, a novena prayer, or maybe the acts of faith, hope and charity. If a husband is willing to do this, be content. Be very content. You can state some prayer intentions before beginning, encourage the man to add to these, but don't force it.  Or here's another  idea: do a short scripture reading together each night, maybe with the husband being the one to do the reading. Perhaps  the daily gospel from the mass of the day. Begin with the Holy Spirit prayer and conclude with a Glory Be. 

My husband and I have both prayed the Divine Office for many years, but for most part, due to different schedules, do it separately.  There was a time when we both prayed Night Prayer together fairly regularly, right before bedtime. Because it is short and easy to do, I'd recommend this to couples who might be inclined to do the Divine Office together.

For those who cannot get their husbands interested in any kind of prayer as a couple, here is one more thought. Do the two of you attend Mass together?  Then you have already been praying together in the best way possible! Be grateful for this.  If you want to make it a little more intentional, wife, then tell your husband how glad you are to have him praying at your side at Mass. Tell him what intentions you are praying about at mass, and ask him if he would please bring those needs to the altar as well, and share them with Jesus after communion. Ask him whether there is anything in particular that he would like you to pray for.And  if he just shrugs his shoulders, you are to smile, say "I love you", and let it go.

Now, maybe all of the above is just me speaking from my personal experience and prejudice. So.... Comments are welcome, especially from men.

*This is not to knock Steubenville. I love the place, and sent my oldest daughter there. 

Monday, January 14, 2013

Ordinary but not Dull

First Monday in Ordinary Time. One of two Mondays in Ordinary Time with no ordinary Sunday to precede it. Trivia question: when it the other?

I've said it a couple of times, but it bears repeating."Ordinary" in this context does not mean routine, let alone dull or uninteresting. It means that the weeks are ordered, or numbered. With ordinal numbers, get it?

But there's nothing ordinary (in the sense of dull or unimportant) about the breathtaking  poetry in the book of Sirach this week (Office of Readings).  Nor the reading from Pope St.  Clement I, which is a lovely, long petitionary prayer which certainly covers every base. Nor does todays daytime reading (midafternoon) from 1 Peter ever fail to inspire awe: realize that you were delivered not by any diminishable sum of silver or gold, but by Christ's blood beyond all price!

And so it goes. The liturgy fills us with a thousand gifts, all year long. Never "ordinary".


At the same time, I feel a good kind of ordinary (in the "ordinary" sense of the word) whenever I put away the Christmas paraphernalia, put the furniture back where it belongs, and get back down to the business.  The relative quiet and the relatively  slender to-do list clears my mind.  And leaving behind for a while the page flipping and calendar checking of Christmastide does much to fuel the notion that ordinary time in the liturgy, is a little less cluttered, and breathes upon us a goodly simplicity. A needed break until Lent.


Friday, January 11, 2013

It's the Church Breathing.

Here's a lovely YouTube video on the Liturgy of the Hours by the Dominicans of th e Western Province. The comments of the young friars explaining what the Divine Office is, and what they are learning from it are just beautiful.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Redpolls,Book blahs, Apocalyptic Inklings

photo credit:

It's weekly Q&A day. For recent newcomers, that means there is no question or comment about the Liturgy of the Hours, breviaries, psalms, or the liturgical year that is too dumb to put in the comment boxes below. I will endeavor to reply either with Magisterial Truth, or lacking that, an educated guess.

The Good News:This is just a birdwatcher thing. For the first time in five or six years, there are cute little Common Redpolls frolicking at my bird feeders. This arctic finch takes irregular winter vacations to the northern USA, and this year my little corner of Northwest Pennsylvania has been graced with their cuteness. I am in awe of these tiny but tough little creatures who look upon my frigid homeland as the sunny south.

The Bad News  Something to Offer Up: I've just learned that, contrary to what it said on Amazon, my book about the Liturgy of the Hours will not be available on February 2, but instead sometime in April. Oh well, I guess that would have made me way too giddy during Lent. Better to welcome those hot off the press copies after Easter.  

The Serious News: Lots of our Protestant siblings in Christ used the word "convicted" to describe how they feel when they read a scripture passage and get hit with how it applies (in a decidedly unflattering manner) to themselves. Did any of you feel this today when reading the Office of Readings passage from Isaiah? I sure felt it with these lines in particular:
Why do you let us wander, O Lord, from our ways,
and harden our hearts so that we fear you not?
...Too long have we been like those you do not rule,
who do not bear your name. 
Oh that you would rend the heavens and come down, 
with the mountains quaking before you!
I sure felt convicted today when reading this, both on my own, personal behalf, as well as on behalf of the Church in whose name I pray the Divine Office. Not to mention on behalf of the nation in which I live. 
 I usually shy away from anyone telling me that these are THE End Times (except in the sense that it's been the End Times ever since the Incarnation). The only End Time that any of us really ought to--and should--worry about, is the time of our individual deaths, since the result (judgment) will be the same whether we die in a nursing home or get hit by stars falling from  the sky.  

On the other hand, it seems right to take to heart  these kinds of  scripture verses whenever society is going through some major upheaval, for these things certainly portend AN end of time. A shift from an old normal to a very different new normal, with drastic implications for those who believe in the Kingdom of God.  So anyone who read apocalyptic scriptures during the French Revolution, or under Soviet or Asian Communism, or during World War II and felt convicted/encouraged/enlightened/comforted/motivated to pray harder was making very good use of them. A use God intended,  I think.
 And given the growing threats to Catholic belief and practice by the federal (USA) government,(not to mention Christian martyrdom that is going on constantly in other nations) maybe we do well to dwell on  them too. 
We are supposed to spend Advent and Christmastide to arousing in ourselves a positive longing for Christ's return. This despite the fact that witnessing the Second Coming, with all its antecedent  catastrophe, will not be fun, even for believers. We won't be there snapping pictures and adding cute cut-outs of the 4 Horsemen to an End Times scrap book. Yet, paradoxically, we should be begging the Lord to rend the heavens and quake the mountains. 

Anyway, I'm starting to see, this year especially, how it is quite  possible to long for such a thing. How one can long for Divine intervention, at whatever cost to ourselves.
Know what I mean?

Friday, January 4, 2013

Pre-Epiphany breviary train wreck, plus Thanks and Welcome!

Just back from a two day visit to my daughter in Canada, and was overwhelmed by all your  lovely comments on what the Liturgy of the Hours means to you and your tips for newbies. These will be a great addition to a future Catholic Digest article. For one thing, it will prevent the article from being all about me and what I think about the Divine Office. It will show that a variety of Catholics from various  walks of life are attracted to daily liturgical prayer and have discovered in the psalms a pattern of prayer that covers every longing of the human  heart.
 To anyone who missed this post, please go read the comments, because they well encourage you in your Divine Office habit, and--if you've been lagging due to the upheavals in routine that come with the Christmas season-- will inspire you to get back on track with vim and vigor. ( Feel free to add more comments to these if you didn't get around to it the other day.)

Today, the iBreviary app takes on the annual confusion we Americans find ourselves in during the week before our Sunday celebration of the Epiphany.  Not only do our books not follow the format of the Roman ediio typica, but there is something clearly wrong about the instructions in our books for this past Sunday and Monday. Here is iBreviary's succinct description of the problem:

Due to an error in the liturgical books that follow the translation of the International Commission on English in the Liturgy, the weekdays from January 2nd to the Epiphany are incorrectly labeled according to theweekday instead of the calendar date (i.e.'Monday from January 2 to the Epiphany' instead of 'January 2') in the printed books.  

This is clear from the rubrics found  for the Office of Readings in the printed books for the 'Second Sunday of Christmas' and the 'Monday from January 2 to Epiphany'. It is also evident from comparison with the Latin editio typical altera, as well as the liturgical books printed for the use of the UK/Australia/NZ, etc. and Africa. 

Despite this error, we have opted to provide the texts for this week according to the weekday rather than the calendar day. This is because the Roman Missal follows the weekday (i.e.  'Monday/Tuesday,etc. from January 2 to the Saturday before the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord') instead of the calendar date ('January 2', 'January 3', etc.) when assigning Mass texts. By using the texts for the weekday rather than the calendar day, the Closing Prayer at the Hours are aligned with the Collect (Opening Prayer) at Mass. 
Thus, for example, the texts for January 2 are not taken from the incorrectly labeled ‘Monday from January 2 to the Epiphany’ (actually ‘January 2’ in the Latin LOTH),  but from ‘Wednesday from January 2 to the Epiphany’.
Did you follow all that? Sort of?
I think this is a good week to set aside our (USA) breviaries and just stick with digital. That's what I'm doing. I'll get back to my book next week.

Welcome to our  newest blog follower Lisa!

One more thing.  Breviary collector James I. McAuley has sent me many pictures of items from his collection, which includes breviaries designed for lay use (in English) before the Second Vatican Council.  Here is a front piece illustration from the 1942 edition of the Shorter Breviary by Liturgical Press.

I'll be sharing these pictures and/or Jim's comments on them from time to time. 

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

New Year's News! Help Wanted!

O marvellous exchange! Man's creator has become man, born of a virgin. We have been made sharers in the divinity of Christ who humbled himself to share in our humanity. (evening prayer I, Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God)

We Catholics are so fortunate to begin our New Year with thoughts of the great Mother of God, and the mystery  of  Christ's two natures, which this title of Mary imply. 

So much better than using this day to fixate merely on dieting, exercise, home organization,financial goals and whatnot. 

Welcome, new blog follower Karee, and all new anonymous followers who have recently added Coffee&Canticles to their readers. Feel free to ask any questions about the Liturgy of the Hours at the end of any post. 

I've been asked to write a feature about the Liturgy of the Hours for a 2013 issue of Catholic Digest.  (For which I'm super grateful to editor Danielle Bean.)  Danielle suggested that the article include short quotes from ordinary Cathoilcs who pray the LOTH.  

That's where you come in. If you want to help and feel inspired, please add a comment below, answering one of the following "inerview" questions:
-Why do you like the Liturgy of the Hours? How has it improved your spiritual life?
-What is your favorite litrgical  hour and why? OR
-what is your favorite element (psalms, antiphons, readings, etc.) and why?
-how do you manage to fit the liturgical hours into your busy schedule? 
-any special advice or tips to those who are just starting out with the Liturgy of the Hours?

I need these quotes as soon as possible, so if you plan on commenting please do so in the next 36 hours. 

Unless you tell me otherwise, I will quote you using whatever first name you give me. If your username does not look like a normal first name, I will make something up.

Thank you in advance to everyone who participates. 

Watch for an upcoming blog giveaway.