Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Divine Office Factoid #7 - the Sounds of Silence

One element of the Liturgy of the Hours is not a particular prayer or action, but a lack thereof. Sacred Silence--a brief pause now and then during liturgical prayer prevents us from simply galloping through the Office, and helps us to reflect on what we have prayed, or just rest for a moment, without particular thoughts, to allow what we have heard in the psalms of the reading to "soak in".

Sections 201 thru 203 of the General Instruction on the Liturgy of the Hours talk about this. Here is some of it:

[Silence] may come either after the repetition of the antiphon at the end of the psalm, in the traditional way, especially if the psalm-prayer is to be said after the pause (see no. 112), or after the short or longer readings, either before or after the responsory.
Care must be taken to avoid the kind of silence that would disturb the structure of the office or annoy and weary those taking part.
203. In individual recitation there is even greater freedom to pause in meditation on some text that moves the spirit; the office does not on this account lose its public character.

Here's my own comment on this from The Everyday Catholic's Guide, etc.:

"Naturally, if you are praying by yourself, you may pause to reflect for as long or as short a time as you wish. The point of sacred silence is not to make a lengthy meditation that you may not have time for, but rather enough of a pause to turn you back from inevitable distractions and keep you mindful of what your are doing. It might take no more than one deep breath to accomplish this. or, you might wish to devote half a minutes or more to reviewing a psalm: finding again the verse that surprised you, moved you or taught you something new."

A Jim-Dandy, Cat's Meow, Bee's Knees, Super Duper Review

...of The Everyday Catholic's Guide to the Liturgy of the Hours appeared recently at The Wine Dark Sea, by Melanie Bettinelli.  Melanie has this Catholic Mommie blog with a rather classical flare: posts about the small doings of her cute kids alternate with commentary on T.S. Eliot, great works of art, and various events in the archdiocese of Boston, where she lives. Melanie has been a Coffee&Canticles  cheerleader almost from its very beginnings, and her review of my book just demonstrates more of her kindness to me and her enthusiasm for the Liturgy of the Hours.

I'm very grateful, knowing from experience (as Melanie mentions in her post) what  a pain book reviews are for a writer. Book reviews are so deceptive: it seems they would be a cinch to write. Your topic is well defined, and you don't have to come up with lots of original ideas, since the book itself supplied them. But then you sit down to write it, and you're transported back to the fifth grade, with a big fat book report assignment looming over you. An assignment which deflates all the enjoyment you actually had in reading the book!

A reviewer has to write that boring book report but make it sound like a clever little essay, revealing enough information to arouse reader interest but not too much. It's not easy. I write four reviews per month for Catholic Digest, and it's a huge  chore! New writers are often encouraged to break into writing for magazines or websites by writing book reviews, not because they are easy, but because they make huge demands on one's ability to write clear, concise and readable prose.  So I very much appreciate it anytime someone bothers to review my book, even if it's only a one-liner on Amazon.

Thanks, Melanie.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

I Hate When that Happens! + Weekly Q&A

Woke up a littler earlier this morning and thought, "I know! I'll do the Office of Readings right now, then get my son off to school, go to morning mass, and stay after mass for Morning Prayer. Then I"ll get home and be able to plunge right into my chores without having to stop for the OOR."

And so I did. Then, arriving at mass, noticed Father come out  in red vestments. The feast of St. Mark.
And here I'd just done Office of Readings for the weekday.  I hate when that happens. Yes, our parish calendar is hanging on the refrigerator. And I have a Catholic calendar app. Do I look at them first thing in the morning? Never.

I need a solution for this. Hi tech: start entering all feasts on my google calendar. Low tech: put a card in my breviary marking my place in the psalter which says, "Check the proper of saints, stupid!"

If you have a better idea, please let me know in comments.

Here's something else I was wondering about today as one of the ladies at Morning Prayer today reflexively began sayng "Glory to the Father--" and stopped with embarrassment at the end of the Benedicite (Canticle of the three children in Daniel).  How ancient is the unique  doxology (Let us bless the Father, etc.) that is used only at the end of this canticle? If any of you historian types know (are you there James McAuley?) please share with the rest of us. I mean to research this eventually, but today there's a hallway to paint before the curious, hyperactive, can't- resist- touching- anything child arrives home from school.

And of course, your weekly quandaries and quibbles about the Liturgy of the Hours are welcome too.

And welcome to recent new followers Serene, Jack, Esma, Elizabeth, Ahavotich, and "shesallthatdana".
Very, very glad to have you here. Make yourselves at home.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Book Winner is FraterMater

The randomly selected winner of my book is "fratermater" I don't have any way to email this person, so if he or she does not get back to me in twenty-four hours I'll pick someone else.
FraterMater, email me. thesockeys"at"gmail"dot com

The Harp of the Holy Spirit

The second reading in this mornings Office of Readings is from a sermon on Our Lord by Ephrem of Syria. After being--what?--moved, delighted, enchanted, thrilled by this reading, I looked Ephrem up in Witness of the Saints by Milton Walsh  (fantastic reference on Church Fathers/Doctors represented in the Office of Readings).  It wasn't a surprise to learn that he was considered the "greatest poet of the patristic era and has been called 'The Harp of the Holy Spirit'."  He actually composed most of his theological writings and sermons in verse.  The sermon from which today's reading is taken is one of the few prose examples we have from Ephrem, but it' pretty poetic prose, if you ask me. The imagery is glorious. Here's a little bit, but the best thing to do is go to the ibreviary widget on the right and read the whole thing:

Death trampled our Lord underfoot, but he in his turn treated death as a highroad for his own feet. He submitted to it, enduring it willingly, because by this means he would be able to destroy death in spite of itself. Death had its own way when our Lord went out from Jerusalem carrying his cross; but when by a loud cry from that cross he summoned the dead from the underworld, death was powerless to prevent it.

Death slew him by means of the body which he had assumed, but that same body proved to be the weapon with which he conquered death. Concealed beneath the cloak of his manhood, his godhead engaged death in combat; but in slaying our Lord, death itself was slain. It was able to kill natural human life, but was itself killed by the life that is above the nature of man.

Isn't that gorgeous?  I know some people don't like combat imagery in spiritual writing, but I find it glorious. Energizing.

Next post: book winner announced. Check back this afternoon.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Weekly Q&A Time plus Welcome...

...to new blog followers Karen Louise and David, not to mention other, more anonymous types who have recently added Coffee and Canticles to their reader feeds.
Wednesday is Q&A day.
Unless I forget to write this post on time, in which case it may be Thursday or Friday. But I'm on my game this week.

Those of you who do the Office of Readings: are all those readings from the Book of Revelation leaving you shaking your head and wondering what it's all about? Has you understanding of this book been further confused by reading one or more of the Left Behind novels back in the day when these books were the latest Christian fad?

A sure cure for the Apocalytpic heebie-jeebies it the Ignatius Catholic  Study Bible. Introductory notes, footnotes, and word studies  by Scott Hahn and Curtis Mitch really help the reader to make some sense of the final book of the Bible.

I hope everyone is enjoying all the extra alleluias and antiphons reminding us the the Lord has risen. There's nothing like the Divine Office to keep us mindful of the Easter season for its entire 50 days.

Okay. Any questions about breviaries, psalms, feasts, seasons, rubrics, whatever--the comment box is the place to ask.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Divine Office Factoid #6 - the Perenniel Psalm Prayer Question

This morning on EWTN's Catholic Connections radio program, on which I had the good fortune to be a guest, a caller asked about the psalm prayers. Someone had told him that the psalm prayers "weren't supposed to even be in there."

I get asked about the psalm prayers a lot. You old-timers here at Coffee&Canticles can just skip this post, since what follows is information that has appeared here before.

Psalm prayers are those short prayers that follow each of the psalms in your breviary. They are meant to be aids to understanding the preceding psalm. Many of the psalm prayers are based on traditional, even ancient prayers that have been used liturgically or devotionally over the course of the Church's history. Other psalm prayers bear the stamp of more modern composition.

 Beginners often find them very helpful in explaining how the Church interprets or uses a particular theme or image from the psalm. Psalm prayers often point out the christological meaning of a psalm, and that's important.  More experienced people, who have gotten pretty good at seeing these allegorical meanings, find the psalm prayers at times to be a bit  redundant.

It gets more disconcerting when one has the opportunity to pray the hours in community while visiting, say, a monastery or a seminary, and see that this group might not even  use the psalm prayers. A layman, praying the hours privately, has no obligation to do everything Exactly Right. But aren't these religious and clergy, who are bound to pray the hours, committing some sort of liturgical abuse by skipping the psalm prayers. Isn't this kind of like a priest deciding to skip some part of the mass?

Or, on the other hand, you get a look at a the breviary that is used in England.  No Psalm Prayers in sight.  Or you meet a priest from a foreign country where English is spoken (India? Africa?)  and ask to take a look at his  breviary. Chances are, you won't find  any psalm prayers in his breviary.

What's going on here?

 Here's the deal:
--a careful reading of the General Instruction of the Liturgy of the Hours (GILH)  indicates that psalm prayers were  apparently were not  to appear in the main body of the psalter. Here's what it says:

112. Psalm-prayers for each psalm are given in the supplement to the Liturgy of the Hours, to help in understanding them in a predominantly Christian way. They may  be used in the ancient traditional way: after the psalm a period of silence is observed, then the prayer gathers up and rounds off the thoughts and inspirations of those taking part. 

This indicates to me that psalm prayers are not an obligatory part of the breviary. They are approved for use, but not essential.   My feeling is further bolstered by this from another section on how to sing/recite the psalms:

123. The antiphon for each psalm should always be recited at the beginning...At the end of the psalm the custom in maintained of concluding with the Glory to the Father and As it was in the beginning...the antiphon may be repeated at the end of the psalm. 

Since nothing is mentioned here about the psalm-prayers, one can only conclude that these are not essential elements of the psalter.

The question then remains, why do the psalm prayers in American breviaries  appear in the body of the psalter, and right after the psalm, with the antiphon (apparently) not being repeated until after the psalm prayer.Was this a decision of the American bishops, or of some English translation committee, or of American publishers?  Also--do the breviaries of other language groups have some sort of "supplement" with psalm prayers in a separate volume, or an appendix to the breviary?  I have no idea. If anyone out there has some light to throw on these subjects, let me know.

What I do know is that the United States Bishops recognized this problem at their last big meeting in November, when they approved the creation of a new American translation of the Liturgy of the Hours. The purpose of the new translation is the same purpose which drove the new translation of the mass: to make the English versions more faithful to the original Latin. But one other proposal of the Bishops on the Worship Committee was to eliminate the psalm prayers, in recognition of the original intention of the General Instruction that these are not essential elements of the Liturgy of the Hours.  Will they instead appear in some sort of supplement or appendix? It's too early to tell.

But I think we can safely conclude that the  psalm-prayers are clearly optional. Use them if you like them, skip them if they do nothing for you. Or if you are pressed for time. And when you participate in a community recitation of the liturgical hours, be aware that there are several valid options on this, and assent to the custom of that community, even if it is not your personal custom.

Win my book! (Second chance!)

I'd like to give away another copy of my book. This time, I want it to go, for certain, to one of the regular readers of this blog.

I'm not going to put a notice on Facebook or Google+ or Twitter. I'm only mentioning it here. That will narrow down the field of entries a  bit an increase the chances that one of you guys (I can't help saying you guys, having been brought up in New Jersey), who have been loyal fans of the Liturgy of the Hours, will win it. In addition, since many of you have already purchased the book, you'll probably give it away to a friend or relative, thus spreading the good news of liturgical prayer even further.

It will also be a heck of a lot easier to contact the winner this way. These visitors often enter the giveaway and then promptly disappear!

Okay, bretheren. And sistren. Put you "Want it!" in the combox and I'll get back to you on Friday. 

Monday, April 15, 2013

Book News: Radio "appearances" this Week

Say a quick prayer that the following radio interviews to well. (As in: Daria does not talk too fast and manages to sound coherent.)  And tune in if you receive these programs on your local Catholic radio station:

Monday: Sonrise Morning Show 7:45 am Eastern Time

Tuesday: Catholic Connection (with David Palmer subbing for Teresa Tome) Tuesday 9:39 am Eastern Time

Wednesday: Morning Air with Sean Herriott. 7:40 am Eastern Time.


Sunday, April 14, 2013

Rescheduling Prayer when Life is Topsy Turvy

A recent trip to help my daughter as she recovered from childbirth reminded me that one's neat, consistent routine for praying 5 liturgical hours each day can be blown to bits by the demands of  small children. While Bernadette rested and cared for newborn Edward Francis, my job was to fix meals, buy groceries, and most of all, care for 18 month old big brother Harald. All of which was simple enough to do, but definitely at the expense of prayer. Not a single day of my visit saw me getting to all five hours. One  day I didn't get around to any of them, and fell into bed too exhausted to even think to do Night Prayer.

It wasn't that caring for Harald was that much more time-consuming than the things I do at home. Problem is, his needs had to met when he wanted them met, not when I would have preferred to meet them. 9:00 am, my preferred time for Office of Readings, was Harald's preferred time for breakfast. My 5pm Evening Prayer time was precisely when he would get cranky if he wasn't being played with. So I was really thrown off kilter.

If I had stayed with my daughter another week, I probably would have taken the time to figure out a new schedule for my prayer times: perhaps getting out of bed a little sooner to do Morning Prayer and Office of Readings; remembering to take advantage of Harald's naptimes to fit in Daytime Prayer; accepting that Evening Prayer would simply not happen unless I waited until the little guy was tucked into bed at 8pm.  But as it was, by the time I realized that I'd have to adjust my way of looking at the "proper" times to pray each hour, it was time to return to my home and to my old routine.

Moral of the story: drastic changes in our lives--new jobs, travelling, new babies, new responsibilities--can wreak havoc on even your firmest habits. In these cases, it's time to discern what's realistic and workable in the new lifestyle you're living. This could mean a decision to pray fewer hours while getting accustomed to the new situation, and/or figuring out new times to pray. It also means figuring out new activities to associate with prayer time. (e.g. just before dinner becomes just after dinner or just after a TV program. Just after washing breakfast dishes  might become during a coffee break at work.) Nearly every kind of daily schedule allows for some natural breaks. We just have to find them.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Book Winner Announced!

Congratulations to late entry Leila, who is herself a blogger of some renown. If she will send a mailing address to me, either by message on Facebook, or to thesockeys"at" gmail "dot" com, I'll get her copy of the Everyday Catholic's Guide to the Liturgy of the Hours out in the mail right away  as soon as I can bring myself to truck on out to the post office, which is not on the route to any place that I generally go to.

While I'm on the subject of the book, this lovely article about it appeared at Catholic Exchange today. It  seems to have had some impact on sales today at Amazon.

For those who did not win, fear not. I'll be doing this again next week. Stay tuned.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

St. Therese's poetry &weekly Q&A

My husband just bought this Kindle book, The poems of St. Therese of Lisieux. and shared with me this one that she wrote about praying the Divine Office.
"Remember that the summits of the hills
Thou often didst ascend at set of sun.
Ah! how Thy prayer the long, long night-hours fills,
Thy chants of praise when weary day is done.
Thy prayer I offer now, with ever new delight,
joined to my own poor prayers, my office,
day and night.
That I, too, near Thy heart,
Take, in Thy prayer, my part,
Remember Thou!"

Isn't that lovely?

It's Wednesday--weekly Q&A day. Ask anything you like about the Liturgy of the Hours. Puzzled about Propers? Confused about Commons? Uncertain about the Psalter? I'm here to help.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Book News: Climbing the lists!

Shameless brag time!

The Everyday Catholic's Guide to the Liturgy of the Hours has now made it into the top 100 books in the Catholicism category on Amazon.

Event:: I'll be on the Sonrise Morning Show within the next week or so.

Publicity: a reporter for the National Catholic Register is talking to me about a feature she's writing on the Liturgy of the Hours!

Thank you to the 11 wonderful review writers who have really helped make the book attractive to Amazon customers. Not all of them are blog followers, but quite a few are. I do appreciate this very much. If every any of you write a book and want it reviewed, let me know!

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Pope Francis on the psalms, breviary

You knew I'd have my ears pricked and eyes peeled for some sort of statement from our Pope about the Divine Office, right?

So just don't forget--you heard it here first.  Unless, of course, you have already read the excellent new
 biography of our pope from Ignatius Press (Francis: Pope of a New World), from which the following quotes come. During an interview some years ago, Cardinal Bergoglio was asked to explain prayer. He described prayer as:

"Looking at God, but above all sensing that we

are being watched by Him. This happens, in my case,
when I recite the Rosary or the psalms or when I
celebrate the Eucharist. However, I would say that I
have this religious experience whenever I start to pray
for an extended time in front of the tabernacle. Sometimes
I doze while remaining seated and just let Him
look at me. I have the sense of being in someone else’s hands, as though God were taking me by the

Later, during the same interview, he said, “I am very attached to
the Breviary...It is the first thing I open in the
morning and the last thing I close before going sleep.”

So there you have it!

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Happy Easter and Book Giveaway!

He is risen!

I hope everyone's Octave has truly been a week of Easters, and that by immersing yourselves in the liturgy of each day--whether Divine Office, holy Mass, or both--you can continue with six weeks of Easter.  These weeks of Eastertide should be as full of joy as lent was of penance. Daily liturgical prayer will help keep you in that blessed place of Easter joy.

A nice way to proclaim the Lord's resurrection during this season is to preface grace before meals with an antiphon. The traditional one is
The Lord is risen Alleluia!
He is truly risen Alleluia!

Another way to go, especially on Sundays of Easter is
This is the day the Lord has made, alleluia!
Let us be rejoice and be glad, alleluia!

Other good ones are the antiphons used for daytime prayer during the octave.

Prefacing grace before meals with a seasonal or feast day antiphon is a great way to share the Liturgy of the Hours--in very tiny doses--with your family.

Now for the giveaway.
I have a couple of extra copies of my book that I'd like to give away. If you've already bought a copy (thank you very much) you still might want to try for an extra copy to give to a friend.

You know the drill. Post a comment and make sure that, if you are an "Anonymous" that your name appears someplace in your comment.

I'll take entries until Thursday, then pick a winner. Good luck.