Friday, August 30, 2013

A New School Year Resolution

A really nice article about The Everyday Catholic's Guide to the LOTH over at Catholic News Agency.  Author Rebecca Teti suggests that the beginning of the new school year is a great time to start a Divine Office habit. 

Thursday, August 29, 2013

An egg facial for Passion of John the Baptist+Q&A

Getting through the intricacies of which office to use for any given saint's days is usually pretty straightforward, once you understand the distinctions of solemnity, feast, and memorial. But now and then even people who write books about the Liturgy of the Hours get caught out by some little variation in the normal rules.

Last night I get an email from Russ, a long time reader who lives in Tokyo. He notes that there have been several saint's days in a row, and it's getting to feel a bit like the movie "Groundhog Day" having to do the pslams of Sunday week I yet again for John's beheading. Now keep in mind that when Russ wrote me when it was already August 29 in Japan. I --getting ready for bed on the 28th in America--didn't bother to crack open my breviary when I breezily responded:

 Here's the Way if Should Be: Sunday week I is for Solemnities and Feasts, period!
For memorials, you use the current weekday psalter, and then you may continue either with the current weekday OR use whatever common is suitable for the rest of the office from the reading and on, substituting any elements that are in the proper of saints for that memorial. This is often just a concluding prayer, but for some of the more historically important saints, there might be a gospel canticle antiphon or even a reading for MP and EP. A couple of memorials, like St. Anne, St. Agnes and St. Lawrence, have their own antiphons for the psalms. 

Then I went to bed, confident of having done my work of mercy for the day (instructing the ignorant).
This morning, I see that the psalms for morning prayer at are those of Sunday Week I. What's the matter with those people? I thought. Don't they know that the Passion of the Baptist is only a memorial?  I switch to and see the same thing. Finally, I get my breviary. And there, in the proper of saint for today, I see that the Baptist has his own canticles and, much to my chagrin..."Psalms and canticles from Sunday, week I."

Now, I do have a little wiggle room here. I did say that whatever elements appear in the proper of saints are the ones that should be used. And I did say that certain saints' memorials have a much more custom made office due to their place in the tradition and history of the Church. But I forget from year to year that this particular saint rates Sunday of Week I for his psalms, memorial or no. So my vehement "PERIOD!" up above must be amended to "with very rare exceptions."

So, to avoid the Groundhog Day syndrome, Russ should have avoided using Sunday I psalms for St. Augustine and St. Monica earlier in the week, and thus able to welcome Sunday I on today's  feast.

And although I"m not going to look it up right now, I"m guessing that this situation of Sunday week I psalms for a memorial probalby applies to Sts. Lawrence, Mary Magdalene, St. Anne, and a couple of others as well. The rationale for this? Before Vatican II, these ancient saint's days were celebrated as feasts. When they were "downgraded" to memorials, the church decided to retain some fancier elements of their old offices as a way to honor them.

People argue endlessly about whether these types of changes to the calendar and to the celebration of saints days  should have been made, and there are logical arguments on both sides. Personally, I do "buy" the logic of the reforms, because these seem to give greater focus on the cycle of salvation (and hence, on Christ) that the liturgical year proposes to give us, and in the Divine Office, gives us each of the psalms with more regular frequency.  But more important still than my personal opinion of these changes is the fact of the Church's authority to make them. That trumps everything.

Now then. It's weekly Q&A time. Any more questions about feasts and memorials or anything else about the Divine Office/Liturgy of the Hours/breviary?

Oh, and welcome aboard to new blog followers "senf" and Tom Lucente. Just jump in when you have anything to say.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Evening Prayer I for a saint's feast? No!

Tomorrow is the feast of St. Bartholomew the apostle. Bartholomew of the synoptic gospels is identified with "Nathanael" of St. John's gospel, for several reasons, as explained in this article.
It seems that "bartolomew" is derived from "bar-tholmai", or "son of Tholmai".   So it is thought that  his full name was Nathanael bar Tholmai.   Just as St. Peter was originally Simon bar Jonah.

Bartholomew is the one who said "Can anything good come from Nazareth?"  and was won over to Jesus when the Lord mentioned the fig tree that Bart had been sitting under.

Since this feast is on a Saturday this year, it's office gets cut short after daytime prayer. Evening prayer tomorrow belongs to the 21st Sunday in ordinary time. Sundays always trump feasts with the exception of feasts of Our Lord, e.g. Transfiguration, Presentation, etc.

So, do we say Evening Prayer I for St. Bartholomew tonight? The answer is no.
But, but, Daria! ---there's an Evening Prayer I for the Common of Apostles! What's that for?

It's for those  places where a feast has been elevated by a diocese or religious order to a solemnity. So if a diocese were under the patronage of St. Bartholomew, and/or had a St. Bartholomew's cathedral, or if there exists a religious order of Nathanaelites, then tomorrow's feast might be celebrated as a solemnity, and those involved would do Evening Prayer one tonight, as well as  EP II tomorrow evening. But if it were only celebrated as a patronal feast, the evening prayer II would be dropped in favor of evening prayer I of Sunday,since  ordinary Sundays take precedence over everything except solemnities, and feasts of Our Lord.

It's complicated.

That being said, take a look at this passage from the General Instruction of the Liturgy of the Hours:
 252. Everyone should be concerned to respect the complete cycle of the four-week psalter. [7] Still, for spiritual or pastoral advantage, the psalms appointed for a particular day may be replaced with others from the same hour of a different day. There are also circumstances occasionally arising when it is permissible to choose suitable psalms and other texts in the way done for a votive office.

What this seems to me to be saying is that even though Bartholomew's feast is not a solemnity in your diocese, you could, on an ordinary time weekday,  appropriately choose Evening prayer I from the Common of Apostles if, say, you had a great devotion to St. Bartholomew, or your name is Bartholomew.

Or Nathanael.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Howdy Stranger + weekly Q&A

Welcome new blog follower Michael. This is the place to be for seekers, acolytes, and hardcore fans of the Liturgy of the Hours.

This post will be brief since I already wrote this morning about the fantastic reading by St. Pius X, which was all about our favorite subject.    But if you have questions about the hows, whys and wherefores of the breviary, then just fire away in the comment boxes.

St. Pius X on the Divine Office

One of the joys of aging is that things you've read before--even many times before, don't stay fixed in your mind with the same precision they used to. Thus, you can pick up an old book or essay and enjoy it again, welcoming some passages as old friends, but seeing some others almost as if for the first time!
That was the case with the Office of Readings today when I got to the second reading--Pope St. Pius X's teaching on the Divine Office from Divino Afflatu. The occasion of this apostolic constitution was to promulgate a revision of the Roman breviary. Today's reading is the first half of that document. The second half deals with the technicalities of the new revision, which among other things dealt with the problem of over-emphasis on offices of saints to the detriment of the offices for Sundays and weekdays, hence depriving those who prayed the office of many of the psalms. You can find the entire thing here.

This reading is a perfect reminders of all the reasons that praying the Liturgy of the Hours is a Really Good Idea. It wouldn't be  bad idea to put a paper clip or a tiny bit of tape on the corner of this page in your breviary (or bookmark an online file). Whenever you find your love of the psalter flagging, you can read this passage and realize all over again what a tremendous treasure God has given us in the Liturgy of the Hours. For those of you who don't usually do the Office of Readings, here it is:

The collection of psalms found in Scripture, composed In case you missed it, today's Office of Readings has this lovely excerpt from Divino Afflatu. It's everything you need to know about why the psalms are just about the best prayer in the world.

The collection of psalms found in scripture, composed as it was under divine inspiration, has, from the very beginnings of the Church, shown a wonderful power of fostering devotion among Christians as they offer to God a continuous sacrifice of praise, the harvest of lips blessing his name. Following a custom already  established in the Old Law, the psalms have played a conspicuous part in the sacred liturgy itself, and in the divine office. Thus was born what Basil calls the voice of the Church, that singing of psalms, which is the daughter of that hymn of praise (to use the words of our predecessor, Urban VIII) which goes up unceasingly before the throne of God and of the Lamb, and which teaches those especially charged with the duty of divine worship, as Athanasius says,the way to praise God, and the fitting words in which to bless him. Augustine expresses this well when he says: God praised himself so that man might give him  fitting praise; because God chose to praise himself man found the way in which to bless God.
The psalms have also a wonderful power to awaken in our hearts the desire for every virtue. Athanasius says: Though all Scripture, both old and new, is divinely inspired and has its use in teaching, as we read in Scripture itself, yet the Book of Psalms, like a garden enclosing the fruits of all the other books, produces its fruits in song, and in the process of singing brings forth its own special fruits to take their place beside them. In the same place Athanasius rightly adds: The psalms seem to me to be like a mirror, in which the person using them can see himself, and the stirrings of his own heart; he can recite them against the background of his own emotions.Augustine says in his Confessions: How I wept when I heard your hymns and canticles, being deeply moved by the sweet singing of your Church. Those voices flowed into my ears, truth filtered into my heart, and from my heart surged waves of devotion. Tears ran down, and I was happy in my tears.

Indeed, who could fail to be moved by those many passages in the psalms which set forth so profoundly the infinite majesty of God, his omnipotence, his justice and goodness and clemency, too deep for words, and all the other infinite qualities of his that deserve our praise? Who could fail to be roused to the same emotions by the prayers of thanksgiving to God for blessings received, by the petitions, so humble and confident, for blessings still awaited, by the cries of a soul in sorrow for sin committed? Who would not be fired with love as he looks on the likeness of Christ, the redeemer, here so lovingly foretold? His was the voice Augustine heard in every psalm, the voice of praise, of suffering, of joyful expectation, of present distress.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Q&A- Assumption Vespers edition

The antiphons for today's solemnity are some of the loveliest ones we get all year. At the end of the day I like to go back, starting at the Office of Readings, and just read through every single antiphon for the entire day. It's a bouquet of catechesis on not just the Assumption, but also Our Lady's place in the economy of salvation.

Welcome new blog followers Lexy and Janice! I hope you will enjoy being part of our community, and feel free to comment any time you like.

Weekly Q&A time. Any questions about the Liturgy of the Hours, breviaries, the psalms, etc., may be asked in the comments  below.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Back in the Saddle...

...after a fantastic time at the Catholic Marketing Network Tradeshow and Catholic Writers Guild conference.  I met lots of Catholic bookstore owners, whose work is not just a business, but a ministry. Salt of the earth types. And most of them sounded relieved to learn that there was a book to solve a frequent customer question: "How do I figure out how to use this breviary?"

I  learned that it is quite possible to do a decent interview with EWTN even if the gorgeous earrings one had picked out to wear  for the interview were left behind on the hotel night stand. I'll be sure to let you know when my Bookmark segment airs next month.

I also learned that marketing a book does not feel quite so crass if you think of it as "planting seeds", in the words of my marketing--I mean, seed-planting--advisors at Franciscan Media/Servant Books.

Confession: Sunday is the hardest day of the week for me to do all 5 liturgical hours that I"m normally committed to. There's Mass, family brunch, and often, some other activity that puts me off my groove. Now, I figure Mass makes a good substitute for  either Morning Prayer of Office of Readings, but sometimes I end up blowing both of these, and yesterday, due to company, I
lost day time prayer as well.  I say this so you'll all realize that I'm not any better than the rest of you.

Vespers tonight: bowled over by something I"d seen a bazillion times:
God chose us in Him 
before the world began.

What does it mean to be "in Him"?  There's material for a long meditation in just those two words.
And before the world began? The mind boggles to think that we were present to God before there were dinosaurs or even a solar system.

Okay, back to book reviews, which are on hard deadline.
At the moment I am enjoying and recommending:

Seven Secrets of Confession by Vinny Flynn
The Miraculous Medal by Donna Marie Cooper O'Boyle
If Aristotle's Kid had an Ipod by Conor Gallagher.
Dangers to the Faith by Al Kresta

If I had time I'd put in Amazon links and click thru's to make me some pennies, but, I don't.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Disneyland for Catholics... how I think of the Catholic Marketing Network Tradeshow. 
Just imagine a convention floor with booths displaying cool stuff from every purveyor of Catholic books, music, films, statues, rosaries, and the whole galaxy of Catholic sacramentals and other interesting stuff that makes our faith a feast not just for the mind and souls, but also for the senses!
And I am fortunate enough to be part of that this year. If any of you are going, look for me at the booth of Franciscan Media/Servant books, where I"ll be doing a book signing on Wednesday from 11am to 12 noon.

Even better, the Catholic Writers Guild holds its own conference concurrently with the CMN show, and I'll be enjoying that too, picking up tips on marketing and , who knows, even getting inspired to try my hand at writing a novel someday. (Not!) The Writer's Guild has been nice enough to ask me to address members on Friday morning on the topic of "Inspiration for Writers from Liturgical Prayer."  Pray that I don't talk too fast, say "um" too many times, remember to look up from my notes at my audience, and all those other things that prevent the audience from casting glances at their watches and/or the exit door!  

I know a couple of you will be there. Any others I haven't year heard from? If so don't be shy if you see me. I'd love to meet you.

I have my laptop with me, so feel free to write. If I don't get around to doing a Q&A post, and you have a question, just ask on this one.

Meantime, today is the feast of the Transfiguration. Lots of great stuff in today's liturgy, including a great reading from St. Anastasius of Sinai, and a unique New Testament canticle from First Timothy, which we only get today and on Epiphany. You'll finish each hour today longing to see the glory of God shining on the face of Christ.

Okay. Got a five hour trip ahead of me. Gotta go.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

One Size Fits All Poetry

A  post from two years back, which pretty much word for word ended up in The Everyday Catholic's Guide to the Liturgy of the Hours.

Most of us are not huge fans of poetry. Even if you enjoyed studying it during high school and college, chances are you don't keep  Keats or Byron or Frost  on your nightstand along with the latest spy thrillers and those well-worn Jane Austens. Chalk it up to the decline in the culture, or the impatient modern personality that doesn't have time to ponder meter and metaphor. But unless poetry is in the kids'  homeschooling queue this year,   iambs and trochees are probably not  a huge portion of your literary diet.

On the other hand, we all like songs. Hymns, pop tunes, Broadway stuff. We turn up the radio and sing along when a favorite comes on. We post lines of song lyrics that strike us as funny, nostalgic, or in any way meaningful on our Facebook status. Showing that we do have some patience yet for verbal furbelows after all.

Those lyrics are poetry. I'm not here to argue the merits of Bono over Gerard Manley Hopkins. My point is that we do like poetry that has been taught to us painlessly through aural repetition and the addition of music which helps us feel the rhythm that is inherent in the words.

You know what I'm going to say next.

The psalms are poetry. A particular type of poetry that remains poetry no matter what language it is translated into, and even remains poetry despite he worst  modern translations. Here's why:

1. The Psalms speak to every condition of the human heart: joy , anger, despair, mourning, exaltation, confusion, hope, love. And all these in relation to God and to ourselves.
2. The Psalms rely on a poetic device that works no matter what the translation. It's called parallelism. That means (in extremely non-scholarly terms) that the poem says something, and then says it again in a different way for emphasis. Here's a few random examples from today's liturgy, with letters a.&b. added to make the parallelism clear.

Psalm 144
Blessed by the Lord my rock,
a. who trains my arms for battle,
b. who prepares my hands for war.

a.He is my love, my fortress;
b. He is my shield, my place of refuge.

Psalm 88
a. For my soul is filled with evils;my life is on the brink of the grave.
b. I am reckoned as one in the tomb:I have reached the end of my strength

a. Lord why do you reject me?
b. why do you hide your face?

Psalm 101
a. I will walk with blameless heart within my house;
b. I will not set before my eyes whatever is base.
a. I look to the faithful in the land that they may dwell with me.
b. He who walks in the way of perfection shall be my friend.

Next time you read a psalm, look for the parallelism. I guarantee, it will heighten your enjoyment of the psalms. And help you to feel the poetry that is there.

Volume 4 !!!!

Don't you love when it's time to go to next volume?