Saturday, June 29, 2013

Find Your Place in the Psalter using this one Weird Trick! - Divine Office Factoid #8

Okay, so your three year old was playing with the ribbons in your breviary again, and now they're all pulled out and you don't remember what week in the Psalter you should be using.

Or you got out of the habit of praying the hours for a couple weeks, and want to start up again, but don't know what week it is.

So here's what you do.  Look at your parish calendar. The one that hangs on the fridge or on the cellar door. See what Sunday in ordinary time it was this week. Concentrate on that number.
Is it a multiple of 4?  (4,8,12,etc.) Then you will use week IV of the psalter.
Is it a multiple of 4, plus 1? (5,9,13,etc) Then you will use week I of the psalter.
Is it a multiple of 4, plus 2? (6,10,14,etc) Then you will use week II of the psalter.
4, plus 3? (Or alternately, 4 minus 1: 3,7,11,etc) Then you will use week III of the psalter.

The weeks of the holy seasons of Advent, Christmas, Lent, and Easter Always begin with week I, proceed through week IV, and then start over as needed.

Now, print this off and paste in your breviary, and you will always be able to find your place in the psalter.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Weekly Q&A plus welcome, new people!

Coffee and Canticles is happy to have a few new followers: Jean, Jo, and Reuben. Glad to have you here!

Also, welcome to anonymous readers who have begun following this blog through email or with a reader.
Speaking of readers--you all know that Google Reader will become the Late Google Reader in just a few more days. There are a number of good alternatives. I just switched to Feedly--with only three clicks it was up and running, with all my favorite blogs automatically imported. So there's a place to start if you are undecided and EASY is a big selling factor to you.

This is the weekly Q&A post. Although you may ask questions on any topic following any post, this one is here for that specific purpose.

Since this week is my "staycation", I"m not going to use valuable R&R time today writing a clever post.

Don't forget, Americans, to offer your Divine Office for the religious freedom intentions of the Fortnight for Freedom.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Happy Baptist Nativity!

A reposting of last year's homage to  today's solemnity.
The liturgical hours for the Nativity of John the Baptist contain a string of antiphons which, read straight through, provide in themselves an excellent devotional on the conception, birth, and mission of the "greatest man born of woman".  The antiphons for tomorrow's vespers reminded me of why there is a traditional custom of lighting bonfires on this night: John was like a brilliantly shining light, says the third antiphon. Not to mention the daily repeated Benedictus where Zechariah, the prophet of the prophet, calls his little baby a light to reveal You to the nations.

 Of course, the bonfires predate the Baptist. It's one of those pagan customs co-opted by the Church when she co-opted Midsummer Night, exorcising its demons and baptizing whatever was harmless merriment. Now that the mighty prophet John owns June 24th, we can safely laugh at demons, fairies, leprechauns, and the other assorted lower classes of fallen angels thought to inhabit forests, rivers, meadows, and underground caves.  Hence the fitness of Shakespeare's comedy, A Midsummer Night's Dream.  In this story, fairies take advantage of the power they have on this night to inflict magical love spells on hapless mortals who fall into the crossfire of a dispute between the King and Queen of the fairy kingdom. The redeemed can safely laugh at such things, since they have no reason to fear them.

Bottom and the Fairy Queen

Weather and zoning law permitting, light a bonfire tonight   in honor of St. John the Baptist. Otherwise, grill your dinner and tell your children the meaning of those lesser flames.
And don't miss Augustine's sermon in the Office of Readings.(check it on the ibreviary gadget on the left; click office of readings and scroll down to second reading.) I love his humble disclaimers that his thoughts may be unworthy of the dignity of this feast, but that the Holy Spirit within each listener will help him make the most of it. Better still is his illustration of how John belonged to both old and new testaments: As a representative of the past he is born of aged parents; as a herald of the new era, he is declared a prophet while still in his mother's womb.  

I wonder if this tiny pre-born prophet has been designated a patron of the pro-life movement?

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Reluctant Martyr is a Saint for Our Times

A week or so ago we read the inspirational letter of St. Ignatius of Antioch, written as he approached--with longing--the day of his martyrdom. As you recall, he was the one looking forward to being ground like wheat by the teeth of the lions.

Today, the Office of Readings  has another letter of a saint facing death. A much more reluctant saint, who did his best to avoid martyrdom. There's a line in "A Man for All Seasons", which was probably made up by the screenplay's author, Robert Bolt, but which fits well with what we know of St. Thomas More. Early on in the film, as he was discussing the increasing controversy over Henry VIII's marriage to Anne Boleyn, and its implications for men of conscience, he tapped his chest and said something like, "Don't worry. This is not the stuff of which martyrs are made."  Thomas More's intent was to use silence, and the support of English legal tradition, to keep himself out of trouble if at all possible.

But that is not what happened. Thomas was drawn, inexorably, reluctantly, down the path that ended in martyrdom.
Do you ever wonder whether you could face martyrdom? Do you ever think--in these days of rapidly expanding threats to Christian faith by our government--that the "what if" discussion might become more than theoretical in the next decade or so? I do.

As a child, inspired by stories of St. Agnes and the other virgin martyrs, I used to ask God for the grace of martyrdom. A decade later, immersed in the joys of marriage and motherhood, I recalled that childish prayer with horror, realizing clearly that I was not the stuff of which martyrs are made.  I  let God know about this: "By the way, Lord, you know that silly request I made as an ignorant child with no conception of the goodness of this life nor of what pain and death really were? Um... you knew not to take that prayer seriously, right? Ha-ha!  No sense in paying any attentions to that clueless little kid! Right, Lord?

So I think that, however much we admired the courage and zeal of Ignatius of Antioch earlier this month, we might find a more realistic patron in the relatively modern St. Thomas More. His letter to his daughter Margaret, written while he had been imprisoned for quite a while, reveals a mind that has wrestled with the possibilities of long term imprisonment, torture, possible martyrdom, or possibly falling prey to fear and submitting to taking the oath of supremacy in order to save his life. In his humility, in his grasp of human nature, he admits that fear might overcome him, just as it did St. Peter on several occasions. But this letter was written after the agonizing was finished. Even though Thomas is still not sure whether he can hold out and bear witness to Christ right until the end, he has reached a place of complete trust and abandonment to God's will. It's a remarkable letter:

I will not mistrust him, Meg, though I shall feel myself weakening and on the verge of being overcome with fear. I shall remember how Saint Peter at a blast of wind began to sink because of his lack of faith, and I shall do as he did: call upon Christ and pray to him for help. And then I trust he shall place his holy hand on me and in the stormy seas hold me up from drowning.

And if he permits me to play Saint Peter further and to fall to the ground and to swear and forswear, may God our Lord in his tender mercy keep me from this, and let me lose if it so happen, and never win thereby! Still, if this should happen, afterward I trust that in his goodness he will look on me with pity as he did upon Saint Peter, and make me stand up again and confess the truth of my conscience afresh and endure here the shame and harm of my own fault. 

And finally, Margaret, I know this well: that without my fault he will not let me be lost. I shall, therefore, with good hope commit myself wholly to him. And if he permits me to perish for my faults, then I shall serve as praise for his justice. But in good faith, Meg, I trust that his tender pity shall keep my poor soul safe and make me commend his mercy.

And, therefore, my own good daughter, do not let your mind be troubled over anything that shall happen to me in this world. Nothing can come but what God wills. And I am very sure that whatever that be, however bad it may seem, it shall indeed be the best.
(Read the rest of it in today's Office of Readings)

St. Thomas More is such a fitting patron for the Fortnight for Freedom being observed in the United States these next two weeks, starting today. Please ask St. Thomas to intercede for us as we face whatever challenges lie ahead. And go to the US Bishops Website to find ideas for observing the Fortnight for Freedom. It's not too late to get your pastor to do a bulletin insert (offer to be the one who stuff the bulletins if that is an obstacle), or to get  permission to gather a few friends for a couple of holy hours/rosary recitations/whatever.

Our parish did tons of stuff last year: speakers, literature tables, bulletin inserts, special sermons. This year we're going to be more low key, but on July 3rd we will have public recitation of all 5 liturgical hours, and our pastor is giving a short reflection related to religious freedom  at each one.

Anything going on at your church?

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

The Sacraments in Psalm 23 + weekly Q&A

Welcome, new blog followers Karinann and Brian Eugene Lim, OP.

Just had to share with you this amazing post about the allegorical meaning of Psalm 23. It's by the astute and interesting Stacy Trasancos. Here's a sample:

 Liturgical historians say that the psalm was sung by the newly-baptized as they processed in the Paschal night, what we now call the Easter Vigil, into the church where they were about to receive their first communion. It is a summary of Christian initiation, the process they used then, the process we use now. This psalm of the Old Testament is a typological interpretation of the progression of the Sacraments of Initiation.
Baptism, Confirmation, and Holy Communion are all represented in it. It is a catechesis...
The shepherd is of course a reference to Christ. The pasture is the fresh and green words of scripture that nourishes the hearts of believers and gives them spiritual strength, a place of repose. The cool, still water is the water of Baptism where sin is destroyed and a new creature is born. The sacraments, being protective, lead on a sure path safe from fear or harm from demons.

And now, it's weekly Q&A time. Although you may ask breviary-related questions after any post, this one is particularly dedicated to that purpose. Just help yourself to a comment box.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Book News! #1 on Amazon Catholic List!

Just have to share. For a few happy hours The Everyday Catholic's Guide to the Liturgy of the Hours was the #1 Catholicism title.

I attribute this to Dan Burke of the Roman Catholic Spiritual Direction website, who was kind enough to review the book today. Dan's blog is influential, and for good reasons.

And if the rest of you would be so kind as to like the book's page on Facebook, I would appreciate it. I have no idea why such a thing is considered an important marketing tool, and can scarcely believe that it is, but on the chance that it might actually matter, I'd be grateful if you do this little thing. And then let me know if you have a product that needs to be liked on FB and I'll return the favor. 

Saturday, June 15, 2013

St. Ambrose says: Pray the Psalms!

In the book of psalms there is profit for all, with healing power for our salvation. There is instruction from history, teaching from the law, prediction from prophecy, chastisement from denunciation, persuasion from oral preaching. All who read it may find the cure for their own individual failings.  All with eyes to see can discover in it a complete gymnasium for the soul, a stadium for all the virtues, equipped for every kind of exercise; it is for each to choose the kind he judges best to help him gain the prize...

A psalm is a blessing on the lips of the people a hymn in praise of God...It is a source of security at night, a lesson in wisdom by day. It is a shield wen we are afraid, a celebration o holiness, a vision of serenity, a promise of peace and harmony. a confession of faith in song. It soothes the temper, distracts from care, lightens the burden of sorrow. 

In a psalm instruction vies with beauty...what experience is not covered by a reading of the psalms? 
-from St. Ambrose's Explanation of the Psalms,
Office of Readings, Friday and Saturday of 10th week in ordinary time

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Lawn Chair Catechism, Session 3

I missed session 2. Read the book but didn't post about it. So shoot me.   On with number 3. Here's the spot at Catholic Mom where this project is being hosted. Go there to join the fun. It's not just for bloggers.
From the Study Guide:
In her extensive research, Sherry Weddell learned that most Catholics consider their relationship with God a forbidden topic – too private to discuss with others.  What we don’t hear about, we don’t know is possible:
One of our most surprising discoveries has been how many Catholics don’t even know that this personal, interior journey exists.  A high-level, cradle-Catholic leader on the West Coast acknowledged to me recently that the very idea of a personal relationship with God was still new to him.  The possibility had only dawned upon him for the first time a few years ago, when his parish started offering evangelizing retreats.
Our idea of “normal” Christian life is skewed.  We consider an interest in the spiritual life to be an exception, and not the norm.   To combat this mistake, the first Catholic discipleship group Sherry belonged to wrote a series of resolutions as part of their mission statement (here are a few excerpts from their longer list):
. . . It is NORMAL for lay Catholics to be excited Christian activists.
. . . It is NORMAL for lay Catholics to be knowledgeable of their faith, the Scriptures, the doctrinal and moral teachings of the Church, and the history of the Church.
. . . It is NORMAL for lay Catholics to have fellowship of other committed lay Catholics available to them, to encourage, nurture, and discern as they attempt to follow Jesus.
. . . It is NORMAL for the local parish to function consciously as a house for formation for lay Catholics . . ..

For discussion:

In your own faith:
  • Are you comfortable talking with others about your relationship with God?My answer: yes and no. It's a cinch to write about it. It's a joy to talk about it with other committed Catholics. And with my husband. But with other people--fellow parishioners, neighbors, and relative strangers--no so much. Unless they bring it up first. But how often does that happen? How exactly does one bring up Jesus, or faith, or the Church with other people who are likely to find it a strange or unwelcome topic? 
  • Would you say that you’re a “normal” Catholic using the criteria outlined above? Yes, I would say so, except for that basic shyness with face-to-face evangelism. Part of my difficulty is that I live in the country and spend most of my day working at home, except for trips to daily mass or to go shopping. And yes, I'm an introvert. It's  bit of a strain for me to start a conversation with a stranger about the weather, let alone about faith. How does one do that?...Hi! Nice weather the Lord is sending us these days, isn't it?" But I'm knowledgeable, excited about the faith, and enjoy fellowship with similar believers. I can't say that our parish functions as a house of formation except that our pastor certainly makes that effort in his sermons. 
  • Do you personally have, within your parish, a group of Catholics you meet with regularly, to discuss the faith, study the faith, and encourage each other to greater virtue? My answer: my homeschooling friends serve that function for me. That is not a parish group, but a group that draws from several local parishes. In our parish we daily mass folks have some informal fellowship in the parking lot!
  • At this time, does your parish have in place a working system for actively mentoring those who want to grow in their relationship with God? Not really. I'm sure our pastor would offer spiritual direction to anyone who asked, but there's no formal program. We have occasional bible studies but the same 8 to 10 people (who probably don't need it) are the ones who always come.

Peace in the Midst of Trouble +Q&A

Pay attention to Psalm 62 at Evening Prayer tonight. The contrast between the strophes is startling. We take this kind of thing for granted in the psalms, so it's good to remind ourselves now and then how amazing--and instructive--it is.

The psalm opens with this lovely bit of inspiration:

In God alone is my soul at rest; *
my help comes from him.
He alone is my rock, my stronghold, *
my fortress: I stand firm.

Doesn't that sound nice? Peaceful? If you only read this far you'd think the psalmist had it made in the shade. (huh! I don't think I've said or written "made in the shade" for several decades. Wonder what dusty cranny of my brain that popped out of.) But look what he says next:

How long will you all attack one man *
to break him down,
as though he were a tottering wall, *
or a tumbling fence?

Their plan is only to destroy; *
they take pleasure in lies.
With their mouth they utter blessing *
but in their heart they curse.

Clearly David did not find life to be all sweetness and light when he wrote this. It sounds like he is the victim of a particularly effective campaign of slander, gossip, and disinformtion by a crowd of two-faced individuals. Yet, after complaining about this problem, he goes back to that confident refrain:

In God alone be at rest, my soul; *
for my hope comes from him.
He alone is my rock, my stronghold, *
my fortress: I stand firm.

and develops it further:
In God is my safety and glory, *
the rock of my strength.
Take refuge in God, all you people. *
Trust him at all times.
Pour out your hearts before him *
for God is our refuge.

next, he consoles himself by looking at his enemies from an eternal perspective:
Common folk are only a breath, *
great men an illusion.
Placed in the scales, they rise; *
they weigh less than a breath.

and then he reminds himself to avoid seeking solace from his troubles by relying on his own power and position:
Do not put your trust in oppression *
nor vain hopes on plunder.
Do not set your heart on riches *
even when they increase.

Finally this:
For God has said only one thing: *
only two do I know:
that to God alone belongs power *
and to you, Lord, love;
and that you repay each man *
according to his deeds.

For years I would get distracted by this last bit, wondering which item was the thing that God said, and which were the two the David knew. But since that distracted me from the main point of the psalm, I now dismiss that particular puzzle.

Anyway, Psalm 62 is a fantastic example of how we should pray. Trust.complain. Repeat.

Weekly Q&A time. Anything you don't understand about the Liturgy of the Hours/Divine Office is very likely to be answered right here. Just help yourself to a comment box. 

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Kenyan Breviary Addendum

Since I mentioned the Pauline Media  African breviary in my last post, I thought I'd give a little more info to anyone who is interested. Here is the web link to Pauline/Africa describing their breviaries. You will also notice that they have a one-volume breviary which also has the Revised Grail Psalms. This one-volume breviary is superior to our American Christian Prayer, since it includes the complete text for daytime prayer (all 4 weeks of the psalter) instead of the two-week sampler that our one-volume has. So the African one-volume has everything you need except for the Office of Readings.

There have been questions about whether these texts are approved for use in our country. My opinion is yes because the antiphons and gospel canticles are the ICEL translations, which are what we have in the US; the biblical readings are New American Bible, which is at present our official liturgical bible; and the Revised Grail Psalms, which, although they do not appear in our breviary yet,have already been approved for liturgical use in the USA and may be substituted by anyone who want to juggle two different books. Buying an African breviary simply eliminates the juggling.

So if you are a fan of printed breviaries, and need a new one, and don't want to wait five+ years for the revised American breviary, and have bucks to blow, then here's what you do. Send an email to: explaining what you want to buy and where you live. They will tell you how to proceed. Last year, I was directed to send a check to the Pauline sisters' USA motherhouse in Boston, and the transaction was arranged through them.  The cost last year, with shipping, was $145 for the 4-volume set.(this was my combined birthday/Mother's Day present.) I don't know whether than has changed. It took a month or so from my initial inquiry until I received my breviaries, so be patient.

If any of you go through with the above, let me know how it turns out and how you like the African breviary.

Comparing Psalm Translations- Grail vs. Revised Grail

There will be a new translation of the Liturgy of the Hours some time in the future, which will include a revision of the Grail Psalms that we currently have in place. (You can read about the proposed changes to the breviary here if you missed my post last November.) I already use the Revised Grail psalms when I pray, thanks to a breviary from  Kenya  purchased last year. I've written before about some of the positive features to this  new version of the psalms.

Often, I'll come upon a verse in the Revised Grail, and be taken aback, because it seems like something I'd never read before. I stop and compare the two translations. Occasionally this new version strikes me as odd, since, after all, I've been using the other one for decades. But most of the time the change seems so much better. It tells me much more about God than the current  version of the psalter.

Take, for example, Psalm 42, which we had at Lauds this morning. Verse 9 of the current version says,
by night I will sing to him, praise the God of my life.
in contrast, the Revised Grail version is:
by night his song is with me, prayer to the God of my life.

His song. A tiny change that says a lot. It jumped out at me because those two little words reminded me of what the Liturgy of the Hours is: the eternal praise of Jesus Christ to His Father. As the Church puts it:
 "Christ Jesus, High Priest of the new and eternal covenant, taking human nature, introduced into this earthly exile the hymn of praise that is sung throughout all ages in the halls of heaven." [quoting  Vatican II Decree on the Liturgy] From then on in Christ's heart the praise of God assumes a human sound in words of adoration, expiation, and intercession, presented to the Father by the Head of the new humanity, the Mediator between God and his people, in the name of all and for the good of all. (from the General Instruction of the Liturgy of the Hours)

So three cheer for the Revised Grail Psalms, and here's hoping that the Holy Spirit will guide the US Bishops' worship committee to complete their work quickly and well!

If you are curious about the Revised Grail Psalms, you can view them on this website for free. Or you can purchase them in book form.

Monday, June 10, 2013

3 Day Miniseries: St. Ignatius-the final Days

No, not on EWTN.
In the Office of Readings. 

Yesterday, today and tomorrow the Office of Readings gives us one of the most remarkable personal accounts of impending martyrdom that you will ever read. St. Ignatius of Antioch, writing while he is escorted under guard to Rome, tells us what he is scared of. And it's not what you or I would be scared of. He tells his friends, I fear your love may harm me. He's worried that they will use their influence in Rome to have Ignatius set free. 

In today's passage, St. Ignatius uses language that is at once lyrical and gruesome. Let me be the food of beasts that I may come to God. I am his wheat, and I shall be ground by the teeth of the beasts, that I may become Christ's pure bread...I shall even coax them to devour me quickly and not be afraid of touching me, as sometimes happens. 

Read the rest yourselves. You don't want to miss this.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Weekly Q&A -Post grandchildren visit edition

Daughter, Son-in-Law, and the two babies (Harald and Edward Francis) and their huge dog just left aftera four day visit. Fun, but I am drained of energy. I haven't even had the will to satisfy my curiosity about St. Norbert, whose memorial was today. The blurb in my breviary said he tried to reform a diocese without much success, his attempts being met with protests in the street. I wonder what sorts of reforms they were protesting, but don't care to heave my carcass over to the hall book case to get Butler's Lives of Saints off the shelf to see what it says.

Anyway, I have no clever remarks for today's post, but invite Divine Office-related questions from anyone who has them. After a good night's sleep I should have the will and the wit to answer them.

Welcome, new blog followers, Dave and David G. Glad to have you. Make yourselves at home.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Breviary Hymns--fantastic Resource

Periodically I receive questions and comments about the hymns that go with the Liturgy of the Hours.

 "Are the hymns optional? Why do the hymn selections vary from one breviary to another? What hymns appear in the official Roman breviary and where can  find them? How do I find a tune for a hymn when only the words are given? What do the number sequences such as 78.78 or 87.87 mean?"

The excellent and informative Breviary Hymns blog is  a goldmine of information.  I am just tickled that this blog exists. I mean, I thought I'd chosen a rather elite niche topic for my blog! Well, Breviary Hymns takes a niche within that niche. Posts include lyrics, history of particular hymns, the hymn in context of the liturgical season or feast, and often video clips of the hymn being performed. There's even this video of England's Mr. Bean trying to sing "All Creatures of Our God and King".  (scroll way down to find it.) When I saw that, I knew that blogger Kevin Shaw was a kindred spirit.

Although we all have our own tastes in liturgical music, and I've made no secret that mine run to traditional, I appreciate that Mr. Shaw tries to see the value in just about every hymn in the breviary, helping us to appreciate or at least find interest in each of them.

I also love his resources tab! Lot's of stuff related not only to hymns but to the Liturgy of the Hours in general. Thanks, Kevin, for a great blog.

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Monastic vs Secular Divine Office

Whoa! The office of Corpus Christi was amazing, wasn't it? The reading from St. Thomas, the antiphons all day, the particular psalms selected for the feast. Just love it.

I've been re-reading a favorite novel, In This House of Brede by Rumer Godden. It's about life in a cloistered monastery of Benedictine nuns.  I can't recommend it enough. The author lived in a Benedictine guest house for many months while doing her background research, and by the time she'd finished the book had decided to become a Catholic.

Anyway, I just noticed a passage where one of the nuns is talking about the Divine Office. For the nuns, the Divine Office is the opus Dei, the work of God. They consider the chanting of the liturgical hours to be their primary work. Everything else they do is subordnate:

"Everything we do, outside of choir [my note: "choir" here means the part of the chapel where the liturgical hours are chanted], our work, our reading, our private prayer, even our meals in the refectory are simply pauses, meant to prepare ourselves for our real work, the Opus Dei--and that needs discipline."

This struck me since in my articles and talks I often describe the Liturgy of  the Hours as "a series of short prayer-breaks we can take throughout the day".   In particular, I describe the daytime hour (s) as a period of rest from our daily work that gives us the strength to carry on with our day afterwards.  The monastic vocation turns this view upside down. To them, liturgical prayer is the great work of their lives, and everything else is for the sake of keeping them fit and ready to continue with it.  Although we lay folk can appreciate the idea of the Office as public prayer, a voluntary duty that we are privileged and delighted to carry out, and even as a great spiritual framework for our day, we don't see it as our job or vocation.  Because it isn't.  In fact, it would be wrong for us to let our desire to pray the hours caused us to neglect our own vocations: to ignore the needs, for example, or a spouse or a child because we were absorbed in the psalter.

Anyway, this pauses/breaks vs. our work  idea really gave me insight to the monastic vocation that I hadn't had before.  And makes me feel privileged to unite my own amateur efforts each day with those of these anonymous prayer-warriors in cloisters around the world.