Thursday, February 28, 2013

Papa Bene Scrapbook

Blog follower Mrs. PInkerton who blogs at Dumb Old Housewives,  found out that the Vatican website has put up a beautiful, 62 page scrapbook of photos and quotations from our beloved Pope emeritus.   Something to while away the hours of the conclave whenever you get tired of talking heads belaboring the obvious in order to fill in air time.

Vatican II Liturgical Successes is not an Oxymoron

This interesting interview at Catholic World Report in which French monk Dom Alcuin Reid talks about the upcoming Sacra Liturgia conference in Rome. The entire thing is worth reading if all things liturgical interests you. Here is an excerpt, where Dom Alcuin answers the question, what are the most positive acheivements of the Second Vatican Council regarding the Liturgy? I'm happy that he mentions the Liturgy of the Hours at the end.

Dom Alcuin Reid: Personally, I think that the greatest achievement, which is a direct fruit of the Constitution on the Liturgy, has been to place actuosa participatio in the liturgy at the center the spiritual life. This was the great desire of the 20th-century liturgical movement for 50 years before the Council, and of others, including St. Pius X, before that.
In the quote you mentioned, which is from Pope Benedict XVI’s closing message to the Eucharistic Congress in Dublin last year, “misunderstandings” are spoken of. “Actuosa participatio” has often been translated as “active” participation and has sometimes been applied in an activist way: the “everyone has to do something at Mass in order to participate” approach, so often seen in Masses with children, etc.
Sometimes, the busier people are “doing” things at Mass the less they actuallyparticipate. The liturgy is an action, Christ’s saving action, in which we are called to participate first and foremost with mind and heart, and with bodily expression second. The two are reciprocal, of course, but internal participation has to have priority. Perhaps it may be clearer, today, to speak about being “connected” to the liturgical action. Liturgical connectivity is what the Council called for, because it is by means of this connection Christ touches us and empowers us to respond to his grace with lives of faithful service.This is the motivation for the liturgical reforms called for by Vatican II. 
Since Sacrosanctum Concilium there have also been more widespread efforts in liturgical formation. The Constitution regarded this as the pre-condition for fruitful participation in the liturgy, something I plan to explore in my own conference presentation.
Other achievements undoubtedly include the acceptance of the vernacular for liturgical readings from Sacred Scripture and in the rites of the sacraments. The promotion of the Liturgy of the Hours as the prayer of the whole Church and not just that of clergy and religious is most certainly an advance.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Your personal monastic bells plus weekly Q&A

Easy Reminders -  Push Notifications with Snooze

My Divine Office routine usually includes five daily liturgical hours. Given my lifestyle--older children, part time work from home, good health--this is has not been that hard to do. Morning prayer,preceded by the Office of Readings, is a cinch to do once the remaining minor offspring gets on the school bus. It's hard to forget Night Prayer since a separate volume of just Compline sits on my nightstand, and its association with bedtime makes it impossible to forget except on the occasional day that I just fall into bed in utter exhaustion--the kind of night when I also might neglect to brush my teeth or wash my face.

But funny things can happen with Daytime and Evening Prayer. My theoretical goal with daytime prayer is to hit it around the middle of my day, roughly between 11:30am and 1pm.  But I'm a procrastinator, so what tended to happen was that at 4pm I'd realize that it was almost time for evening prayer, therefore I'd better drop what I was doing and do the midafternoon version. Similarly, I'd tend to put off Evening Prayer until well into the night. 

But now things are much better. Thanks to Catholic techie  Sarah Reinhard of, I learned about the free Easy Reminders App for ipod/iphone/ipad.  I assume that similar things exist for android phones, tablets, and maybe even Kindle fire. Anyway, I entered an ongoing reminder to do Daytime Prayer at 12 noon and Evening Prayer at 5pm.  As each of these two times roll around I get a lovely  little Westminster chimes sound effect. I've found that although I can't necessarily drop everything and pray at these precise times, just having heard that single reminder chime usually keeps the thought of praying in the back of my mind such that I do get around to it sometime within the next hour. In the three weeks that I've had Easy Reminders I"ve improved about 90% at getting these two hours done at the times of day I intend to do them, rather than procrastinating til its almost time for the next hour.

REMINDER! Will the winners of the blogiversary book giveaway kindly let me know where you live? Other than the prompt Mrs. Pinkerton I have not heard from any of you. Email me at thesockeys"at"gmail"dot"com.  Thanks.

Don't forget to add an intercession for Pope Benedict these next few days when you do the intercessions for morning or evening prayer. Thank God for his papacy and ask God to bless him in his new ministry of prayer.

Okay. Q&A time. Comments, Queries, and Quibbles welcome.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Adopt a Cardinal and Funny Lutherans

With a deadline on a writing project about Bl Jerzy Popieluszko coming up fast, blogging is getting the short shrift this week. But with conclave fever running rampant, I had to share two items with you, just in case you hadnt caught them on the larger Catholic news sites.

First, there's a very, very funny video done by Lutheran Satire, making fun of self-styled "devout Catholic women" who believe in basically nothing that the Church teaches, but feel the right to impose their non-belief on the rest of us:

Second, and of a more serious (but still kinda fun) nature, the Adopt a Cardinal Program: you sign in, say a prayer to the Holy Spirit, click a button, and receive the randomly selected name of Cardinal for whom you should pray and maybe fast from now thru the culmination of the conclave. Now there's a way we can all influence the conclave! My cardinal is Juan Cardinal Thorne of Lima, Peru.
Hey! What a great homeschooling project. Have each pupil adopt a Cardinal, and then get busy researching his country of origin, biography, etc.

Have fun everyone! See you on Q&A Day.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Divine Office Factoid, plus weekly Q&A,and Welcome!

Welcome to new blog followers Laura, Gary, and Catholic Marine (Semper Fi!), who added their pictures to the rogues' gallery on the lower right. Happy to have you here, and although I lured you here with the chance of winning free books, I hope you'll benefit in other ways.

Also welcome to a number of other, more anonymous people, who added Coffee&Canticles to their reader feed.

This week's Divine Office Factoid deals with: the Mood of the Psalms vs. My Own Personal Mood. Most Divine Office veterans get this distinction, but it might be helpful to newbies. Here' the issue: What is the point of praying a happy psalm when you're sad, or a sad psalm when you're happy?  If I'm up to my ears in debt and my best friend is dying of cancer, it's hard to put much conviction into lines like Come let us sing to the Lord and shout with joy to the rock who saves us.   On the other hand, when life, both physical and spiritual, is going well in every possible way, what is the point in praying stuff like My soul is filled with evils, my life is on the brink of the grave?   Wouldn't it be more honest to select a psalm from one of those Bible society cards that says "When you are afraid, read Psalm A"   "When God seems far away, read Psalm B" "To thank God for his blessings, read Psalm C"

Nope. Because the whole point of the Liturgy of the Hours is that it's (altogether now, class) Liturgical Prayer. We are not just praying about our own little needs, feelings, and situations in life. We are praying on behalf of the entire Church. We are praying through, with and in Jesus Christ, Our Lord. We are standing before God (which I mean figuratively, since most of the time I'm sitting in  rocking chair) and expressing the joys, sorrows, thanks, praise,  repentance and petitions of the entire body of Christ. There are always Christians who are happy, sad, sick, dying, poor, bereaved, persecuted, etc. We are praying on their behalf. Also, and even more important, we are often praying the words in the voice of Jesus as He prays to His Father.  And that realization will bring you the most profound and beautiful thoughts during the liturgical hours.

So, when all is right with your world on a Friday night, and you're reading Psalm 88 (my soul is  filled with evils, your anger weighs down upon me, etc.) You have three ways to think about the suffering of Christ: 1. meditate on the agony in the garden. 2. Cry out on behalf of the Church which is  derided and  insulted by secular types who are longing for and plotting its downfall. 3. Plead in union with your brothers and sisters the world over who are suffering from illness, persecution, addiction, hunger, etc.

Yes, we all love it when a particular psalm or verse of a psalm seems custom made for our situation on the day we pray it.  Rejoice in those moments. But never forget that it's not about you. It's Liturgical Prayer, not private devotion. You've taken on the responsibility of praying in a larger way.

Okay, weekly Q&A time. How's lent going? Are your chosen penances and/or spiritual activities going well?
Any question about the Liturgy of the Hours? Ask away!

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Winners Announced!

Congratulations to Marcie, Mrs. Pinkerton, Mary S, and AJ. Your comments were chosen at random to win my blogiversary giveaway.

I replied to your entry comments to this effect, but in case you did not receive notice that way, then I'm tellin' ya' here. Send your  mailing address to me:   thesockeys"at"gmail"dot" com

By the way, this is the use I make of the annoying ads and the click-thrus to Amazon on this blog: to accumulate a tiny postage fund to send you these books. My total income last year was under $40, so in case any of you were thinking of getting rich quick through Catholic blogging--don't bother. 

Saturday, February 16, 2013

"I admire the Muslim custom of praying 5 times a day..."

Every time I see or hear something like this, I want to raise my eyebrows and say in my best Dowager Countess voice:

"Really, my dear, I'm astonished that you didn't know--the Catholics have had the same custom from the very beginning. It's called the Divine Office. For all we know, the Muslims may have gotten the idea from them."


Friday, February 15, 2013

Weekly Q&A - early lent edition

Here's wishing you had  a blessed Ash Wednesday. Mine was good, and hopefully a sign of a fruitful lent to come.

I'm delighted that so many of you are signed up for a chance at the book giveaway announced in my previous post. Winners will be drawn on Monday, and we'll have another giveaway of other titles before the month is over.

Several new followers have recently joined Coffee&Canticles. Welcome Kayla, Marco, Chris, Crispin, and Susan. And to others who follow through reader feeds, glad to have you here.

Other news, I'm a guest columnist this month at the Knights of Columbus' Fathers for Good website.  When you're through with the article I linked, please spend some time exploring this excellent site for men. (And mostly by men.)

One more thing. Lent is a great time to ramp up your practice of the Liturgy  of the Hours: to add one extra hour, and/or to be more consistent with the ones you already pray. Or, to set aside extra time so that you can linger a bit more  over the psalms and readings.

Okay, you know the drill. It's your official weekly chance to ask questions on all things Divine Office. To head off one common inquiry this time of year: use week IV of the psalter for Thursday, Friday, and Saturday of this week. Use it up to the conclusion of the psalms, and then turn to the Proper of Seasons to find what you need for the reading onward. Sts. Cyril and Methodius is an optional memorial tomorrow. It is your choice to skip them and stick with the lenten weekday proper, OR to add in  the elements given for them  in the proper of saints.

Fire away!

Monday, February 11, 2013

Blog Anniversary Giveaway! Free Books!

Coffee and Canticles went live on February 1 of 2011, and today February 11th, is the anniversary of the day I quit my unloved day job, making it possible to spend hours every week thinking and writing about the Liturgy of the Hours. Two lovely, lovely years.

All this business about the Pope almost put that anniversary out of my mind. But not quite.

To celebrate my Blogiversary, and to spread around some good spiritual reading at the start of lent, I'm hosting a giveaway of many fine Catholic books.

This week's prizes are:
  Knowing God by Frank Sheed (Ignatius Press)
40 Day Spiritual Workout for Catholics by Bob Rice (Servant)
Lent and Easter Wisdom from St.Vincent dePaul (Ligouri)
Night Prayerbook - Compline (Sacros Press) This is a gorgeously designed book for Night Prayer only. A great way to introduce someone to the Liturgy of the Hours, or to get family members to pray with you.

Please look up these titles on Amazon if you want to learn about them.

How to win?  Just enter a comment below (e.g. "I want to win!" ) Please include what title you would prefer should your name be chosen (although I can't guarantee you'll get that one if a previous winner picked it first). Entrants named "Anonymous" must include some sort of name in the comment so I know which Anonymous is the winner. ALSO, if you are not a regular follower of this blog, please include a method by which I may contact you should you win. Every time I do a giveaway, there is always at least one winner who does not check back to see the post announcing the winner's names, and thus misses out on the prize.

Winners will be picked at random a week from today.

We'll Miss You, Holy Father

I'm perfectly, perfectly sure he knows what he's doing, and made the right decision.

But oh, how we'll miss him.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Breviary Factoid #2 -Trinitarian Bowing


In a recent Q&A post, a reader and I talked in the comments  about the proper rubrics or gestures to be used while praying the hours: when to stand, when to sit, signs of the cross, etc.

Although the sitting vs. standing is of more importance during a group recitation of the Divine Office, especially when done in a church or other public setting (as opposed to in private and/or at home), there are some gestures which are easy to do in any situation, and they are helpful to our sense of reverence and devotion.

Traditionally, anytime the Blessed Trinity is named,we should bow. (Either at the waist or at the head.)
This happens every time we say the doxology (Glory Be), both after each psalm and at the opening verse, following, O God, come to my assistance.
In addition, many  hymns have a final verse that references the Trinity. For example, at the end of "On This Day, the First of Days" we  have,
God the blessed Three in One,
May thy Holy will be done,
In thy word our souls are free
And we rest this day with thee.
Another example is "Creator of the Stars of Night":
To God the Father, God the Son,
And God the Spirit, Three in One,
Praise, honor, might, and glory be
From age to age eternally.

A bow at the beginning of such a  trinitarian hymn verse would be appropriate.
It makes sense. The Trinity is the central mystery of our faith. To state the Name and the nature of God calls for a gesture of reverence. The greatness of the Trinity is reinforced in our minds when we pray not just with our lips, but by engaging another part of the body.
That is the point, in fact, of all liturgical gestures and postures--to engage not just the mind in prayer, but our senses, muscles, bones. All of me. Every bodily member, straining eagerly to offer praise and adoration.

Friday, February 8, 2013

Worthwhile Link

Over at Catholic Answers forums is a discussion of how those with full time employment manage to schedule in some or all of the Liturgy of the Hours.  One responder is a Benedictine oblate, "Ora et Labora" who uses both the monastic and the regular breviary. I thought his (her) comments were particularly good.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Cure for Breviary Boredom+weekly Q&A

photo credit:

For those of us living in cold weather regions, winter is really starting to drag. It's been pretty cold, and even those of us who think falling snow is a pretty sight are beginning to fantasize about the first crocus, the first robin, etc. Although our hearts are lifted a bit by the gradual lengthening of days since the solstice, these long cold days bring on a feeling ranging from dullness and boredom to full blown seasonal affective disorder (depression).

This can carry over into one's prayer life. Even the Divine Office, which has plenty of variety, can seem a little boring. Same old, same old. Why bother?  The temptation is to skip it.  And true, it's not big deal to skip it now and then. But if this happens too often, the skipping, rather than the praying, threatens to become your new habit.

We've talked here before about forcing oneself through these dry periods by just going ahead with the prayer, however boring it might seem, until things get better. So there's no need to repeat. But here's another idea: remind yourself of what it is you are doing when you faithfully pray the Liturgy of the Hours. Do this by clicking on the "General Instruction" tab above and reading just the first chapter of the General Instruction. It has 4 sections. These tell you what the Liturgy of the Hours is. If you read them with attention, you can't help but respond "Wow! Is that what the Divine Office is? Is that what the Church is allowing a shlub like me to participate in?"  This should go far in shaking off your mid-winter breviary boredom.

Now, weekly Q&A time. Any questions, concerns, or confusion over the Liturgy of the Hours may be submitted in the comments below.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

An Unused Antiphon for the Presentation

Unused this year, and most years, because it comes from Evening Prayer I of this feast, which is only used when the Presentation falls on  a Sunday. This would be the antiphon for the Magnificat on Evening Prayer I of the feast of the Presentation.

The old man carried the child, but the child was the old man's Lord. The Virgin gave birth to the child yet remained a virgin for ever. She knelt in worship before her child.

Have you ever wondered why this feast is also called Candlemas, and why we receive blessed candles on this day? It's thank's to Simeon's statement about Jesus being "a light of revelation to the gentiles".

If you receive blessed candles today,consider  lighting  them at dinner time, and praying Simeon's canticle with your family  as a grace after meals.

Friday, February 1, 2013

Why St. John Bosco doesn't rate the entire Common of Pastors

I got this question from someone on Google+:

Today is 31 Jan, which is the memorial of St. John Bosco. The St. Joseph Guide for the Liturgy of the Hours says that I should take the Psalmody from the Psalter (the usual Week III for this week) for Vespers. I just checked the Divine Office Web site ( and they have also taken the Psalmody from Week III of the Psalter.

Why would I not take the Psalmody from the Common of Pastors?

Few things about the breviary  are more confusing than figuring out what to do on a saint's day. If you use a digital breviary exclusively, you don't worry about this--everything is laid out for you. But if you use a breviary, questions arise. Especially if its a day for a saint that you really like, and want to honor with an office that is tailor made for him/her.

Saint's days come in several varieties, and these have an order of precedence: solemnities, feasts, and memorials (this last having a subdivision of obligatory and optional memorials). The more important the day, the more likely it is to have either it's own unique office from start to finish, or else many prayers unique to the  day plus generous  use of the  common. (Commons are "generic" offices for particular categories of saints: pastors, religious, apostles, martyrs, holy women, etc.) 

The General Instruction on the Liturgy of the Hours explains which days use which parts of the psalter, propers and commons. It's pretty confusing. The one-volume Christian Prayer breviary has a very handy little list on page 37, titled  "Format of the Offices" which distills all this for greater clarity. 

So yesterday, the feast of st. John Bosco, was a memorial.  Memorials use the regular psalter for the psalmody, then have the option of either sticking with the psalter for everything else except the closing prayer(which comes from the saint's day proper), OR switching to the proper for the remainder of the office, concluding with John Bosco's closing prayer. In his case, the common chosen could have been pastors or holy men / teachers. 

Why doesn't the Church let us use the entire common, or even an evening prayer I for every saint that we like?  According the the General Instruction (I'm very roughly paraphrasing) the Church has a preference for the four-week psalter and for the yearly cycle of scripture in the Office of Readings. The Church does not want us to lose our familiarity with the psalter and the flow of the scriptural cycle by constantly switching over to commons of saints. This is doubly true during the liturgical seasons of advent, Christmas, lent, and Easter. 
This was also the rationale, by the way, for the Church dropping so many saints days off of its Universal Calendar after the Second Vatican Council.  Contrary to popular belief, the Church did not declare that Saint Christopher, Philomena, and others did not exist, or were no longer saints. It just removed them from the General calendar in order to encourage us to pay attention to the normal liturgical cycle, which was designed to draw our attention to specific truths about Christ over the course of the year. These saints are still on the local calendars of many countries. St. Christopher, for example, is still on the liturgical  calendar of Spain. I attended his feastday mass as a student there in 1979.  (And for the rest of the day endured the constant honking of car horns. One of the Spanish folk customs for the patron of drivers is for the young people to go cruising around town all day, honking frequently.)

One more piece of trivia: all the above ceases to apply if the saint in question is the founder of the religious order or a patron of an organization or institution you are affiliated with. In these cases the saints day is celebrated either as a feast or a solemnity. This would have been the case with the Salesians yesterday.