Monday, September 30, 2013

Guest Post: Single-volume Pauline African Breviary

 From time to time I refer to the Pauline Editions breviary from Kenya that I often use. I have reviewed the four-volume version here, and also described the process for purchasing it.  Another blog follower recently bought the Kenyan single-volume breviary--the equivalent of Christian Prayer. Jonny wrote a lengthy review, which appears below. If you have any follow up questions for Jonny about this book, post them in comments, and I'm sure he'll be happy to reply.

The Prayer of the Church”: A Review of the African One-Volume Liturgy of the Hours Book
Greetings to those who love praying the Liturgy of the Hours; my name is Jonny. I am a recent follower and fan of this blog. This blog is actually the place I discovered the African version of what we know in the United States as “Christian Prayer.” The African edition is not quite the same as “Christian Prayer.” It is lacking the abridged Office of Readings and the hymnal at the back, but it has many strong points that have made it my favorite prayer book by far! What follows are my observations from praying with “The Prayer of the Church” for almost a week now.
I actually had to order this book from Africa. It is published by Pauline Publications Africa, which is a division of the Daughters of St. Paul. I placed my order on August 26th online, and it shipped out September 3rd. It made it to a sorting facility in New York by Sept. 5th, where it stayed for about 2 weeks. I finally received my book in Indiana on September 16th, so the whole process took exactly 3 weeks. I actually ordered 2 copies, one for me and one for my wife. They were 25 dollars apiece and with shipping I paid a total of $69.50. Probably the best $69.50 I ever spent!
The books arrived wrapped in several layers of brown paper taped tightly shut, with one side covered in colorful Kenyan stamps.Jonnys Camera 190.JPG I was pleased by the appearance of the books as soon as I opened the package. For those familiar with the Christian Prayer book, you know that the cover is basically cardstock covered with a faux-leather kind of contact paper. The Prayer of the Church also has a paperback cover but it is glued to a thick, soft piece of blue vinyl. Although the two books are exactly the same size, in my opinion the African edition is much more attractive and comfortable to hold.Jonnys Camera 192.JPG I also noticed that the ribbons are softer and attached in the binding, rather than attached to a plastic tab as in Christian Prayer. The African edition does not have ribbons that can be seared, but I put a knot in the end of each to stay from fraying.Jonnys Camera 193.JPG The binding is composed of sewn signatures, and looks as sturdy as the American edition, if not more so… only time will tell.
All aesthetic qualities aside, the actual contents of the African edition exceed my old edition by a mile. First of all, it uses the Revised Grail Psalms. They are the new translation approved by the Vatican for all liturgical books, and will eventually replace the Psalms sung in mass, in the NABRE, and in the LOTH. The gears of change are moving slowly, as the entire NAB Bible and LOTH are being revamped, but suffice it to say, Africa is a step ahead. What is so great about the Revised Grail Psalms? They are a more accurate translation from the Hebrew, in conformity with the guidelines set forth in the document Liturgiam Authenticam to make them faithful to traditional Catholic renderings. I would have switched to the African version for this reason alone, but lo, there are many other great features!
Daytime Prayer is more accessible in the African version, and more complete. Instead of having just Week I isolated in a separate section, it has the four week cycle built into the Psalter! There are also options for Daytime Prayer in the Proper of Seasons, and of course there is the complementary Psalmody for those who pray more than one hour of Daytime Prayer. Jonnys Camera 196.JPG The antiphons for all the psalms are at the beginning and end of each Psalm, so one does not have to flip pages back and forth. Also, when the Intercessions are split onto the next page, the response is reprinted on the next page as well. The Sunday Canticles have 3 antiphons, for liturgical years A, B, and C, and these correspond to the Gospel reading. This is one of the major differences, as the Psalm prayers, intercessions, and closing prayers are the same. The Morning, Evening, and Night Gospel Canticles are way different. They are new editions included with the Revised Grail Psalms. I can’t say I like them better yet, being so used to the old ones, but I will say I am overjoyed to be praying the traditional “Glory Be!” The Scripture readings are taken from the more accurate 1991 NAB instead of the 1970 NAB. I did find it interesting that the canticles included within the four-week Psalter are still taken from the 1970 NAB, but I predict that will change in future editions. So far the African edition is the only one that is translated from the current Latin Typical Edition, Liturgia Horarum, Editio Typica Altera. The major difference is the Sunday Antiphons mentioned above and an expanded liturgical calendar. For instance, the African edition contains Jan 3rd: The Most Holy Name of Jesus, May 13th: Our Lady of Fatima, May 21st--St. Christohpher Magallanes, 22--St. Rita,24th-Our Lady Help of Christians, July, 24th: St. Sharbel Makhuf, August 9th: St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross, 14th:  St. Maximilian Kolbe, Sept. 12th: The Most Holy Name of Mary, Sept. 20: Korean Martyrs, 23rd (Padre Pio). There are, of course, a handful of USA saints you will not get in the African version, and vice versa.
The absence of a hymnal with music might be disappointing to some. On the bright side, it is one less time to have to flip pages! I have recognized and sung about half the hymns I have encountered so far, and the other half recited as a wonderful piece of holy poetry. As in the American edition, I am not always pleased with the translation of the hymns. I have no problem with the absence of the “Thee” and “Thou” language, but not when it alters a well known hymn or defeats the rhyme. I will soon remedy the whole situation by creating a song list for the hours using the Adoremus and St. Michael Hymnals. For those who do not sing the hymn, this may not be an issue in the first place.

I hope my review has been helpful! I know it sounds manic but I wanted to compress a lot of details for your benefit! I would highly recommend praying with this book until the updated American 4-volume edition is released. Until then, our “Christian Prayer” books sit ready for an occasional Office of Readings selection.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Sharing the Liturgy of the Hours with Children

I've been meaning to share this supercalifragilisticexpyallidocious post from Melanie Bettinelli for a long time.  Back in the day when my kids were little, I was, I think, pretty good at catechizing them. We spent hours reading saint's lives, bible stories, and discussing the lessons in the Baltimore and Ignatius Press catechisms. We celebrated the liturgical year with a million customs, crafts, and recipes. But it didn't occur to me to introduce them to the Divine Office.  I guess I assumed that it was too complex for them. And I guess that the family rosary was about as much family prayer as I could survive each day!

But Melanie, a young homeschooling mom with numerous little ones, not only manages to pray some of the liturgical hours each day, but also includes her children in a lovely, informal, and highly creative manner. If II could go back in time to the years between 1985 and 2000, I would do what Melanie does: just read morning prayer out loud, and explain the meaning of the psalms, hymn, and antiphon to any child who happens to be listening and in the mood to ask questions. And this, not only for the sake of the kids. Melanie states that when she does this, it is the best experience of lectio divina she ever has.  So do read her long but worthwhile post and, if there are little ones in your house, consider giving her methods a try.

Weekly Welcome +Q&A+martyrdom speculation

Welcome new blog followers Dan and "-" . (Now that's about the smallest user name I've every seen.)

In the Office of Readings,the second reading for Sts. Cosmas and Damian, written by St. Augustine, had us thinking about martyrdom. There are martyrs in many parts of the world today who "give back what had been paid for them" and "took careful note of what they ate and drank" (i.e.. the body and blood of Christ)  so that they might return the same."

Do you think we pampered and privileged Americans/Brits/Aussies/Canadians will ever be called on to shed our blood for Christ? And if so, will we succeed in accepting it,or will we fail? Augustine tells us to fear not, but to do what the psalm tells us: I will call on the name of the Lord. 
I hope Augustine is right. But even if we are overconfident, and then fail--and this applies to any endeavor short of martyrdom as well--the nice thing is that God in his mercy can use that too. Look at Psalm 30 this evening: I said to myself in my good fortune: I shall never be shaken...Then You hid your face and I was put to confusion. 
Yet, by the end of the psalm, everything comes right once again.

Okay. It's weekly Q&A time. Anyone confused about canticles, uncertain about antiphons, lost in lauds, or muddled with matins, just let me know in the comments below. Then I, or one of my many astute followers will help you out.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Pope Francis&St. Matthew&Q&A

Forgot to do a Q&A post this week.

I'm travelling right now, but this is it. Will answer questions tomorrow or Monday.

This morning when reading this in the OOR, second reading, from Saint Bede:

"He saw the tax collector, and because he saw him through the eyes of mercy and chose him, he said to him, 'follow me'.

I sat up and said "Hey! That's the reading that Pope Francis' motto came from!

Very cool.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

What is Electrum, anyway?

A quickie today while I work on an article about Pope Francis and youth.

Today's reading from Ezeckiel got me wondering what "Electrum"--the bright stuff that the top half of the man in the vision resembled--was. Little things like this will distract me from the main point of a reading until I satisfy my curiosity. So, in case you were wondering, electrum is an alloy of gold and up to 20% silver, which makes it stronger and brighter. Modern metallurgists prefer to acheive this effect through concocting so-called white gold, which uses nickel rather than silver. Even  pricier alternatives for this appearance are palladium and platinum.

Now you may do the first reading without having to worry about the definition of electrum.

Welcome, new blog follower, Carrie. Carrie is actually a friend and neighbor, and manager of the St. Thomas More House of Prayer, a gorgeous place where the hours are prayed in community every day. You can go there for day visits or overnight for a personal retreat and learn to use a breviary from the helpful volunteers who gather there multiple times a day in its lovely rustic chapel.

There is nothing Carrie needs to learn from me about the Liturgy of the Hours! But I am glad she's here.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Welcome + Q&A Time

Welcome new blog followers Jonny and Edgar! Glad to have you here.

While  pondering St. John Chrysostom's "invincible patience" today I'd be happy to take any and all questions about the Liturgy of the Hours.

Also, a question from me. If you know anyone who attended World Youth Day this year who would't mind being briefly interviewed by phone or email for a magazine article in Catholic Digest, please let me know.


Invincible What?

There's  game show on TV--Family Feud, maybe?--where contestants had to come up with answers that matched  the answers of other contestants on their team. Being right was more a matter of consensus that absolute correctness.
If a question on this show was "Name three things that could be described as 'invincible' ", I could guess what some popular answers might be.  Things like "strength"  "armies" "power" or "fortress" would be high on the list.

Do you think anyone would pair "invincible" with words like "kindness", "gentleness" or "patience"? Not likely. But this morning's prayer at mass and at the conclusion of the Office of Readings refers to St. John Chrysostom's "invincible patience". The juxtapostion of these two words strikes me every year when I read it.

One tends to think of "invincible" as a word associated with the strength and action of a warrior. It means, more or less, "unconquerable".   Whereas patience is a virtue that strikes us as somehow passive. (The old translation calls it "patient endurance", which reinforces the passive aspect, compared to that wonderfully aggressive word, "invincible." One more reason in favor of the new translsation--it's vocabulary is just heftier.)  Anyway, this has given me one more insight about spiritual warfare. Like Jesus on the cross (and I should say, through and with Jesus on the cross, we frustrate the designs of Satan through virtues that might look like weakness to the world, but are really sources of great power.

O God, strength of those who hope in you,
who willed that the Bishop John Chrysostom
should be illustrious by his wonderful eloquence
and his experience of suffering,
grant us, we pray,
that, instructed by his teachings,
we may be strengthened through the example
of his invincible patience.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

The Winner!

About ten people tried their hand at the September saints quiz. A couple of those had some of the answers wrong, but from the remaining pool of saint-folks, I drew  winner at random.

Congratulations to Stuart Dunn, who will receive a copy of The Everyday Catholic's Guide to the LOTH shortly.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Welcome New People + Q&A+ Contest!

To Oscar, Maria, and Kyle: Welcome. Feel free to comment any time you like.

But this post has the specific purpose of inviting questions from confused psalm-sayers about any part of the Liturgy of the Hours that they don't quite understand. You may query about the different types of breviaries available if you are trying to decide on a purchase. Or you might want to answer someone else's question if you think you know the answer.

While we're at it, here's a short quiz on September saints. See if you can answer completely from memory, or, at the most, after consulting the calendar for names but not doing any further research. Each answer requires both a "who" and a "what"

1. This saint is patron of an unpopular profession.
2. This saint had one part of his body referred to as "golden"
3. This feast commemorates a saint's archaelogical discovery.
4. This saint did not like St. Augustine very much.
5. This saint performs a yearly miracle.

Tell you what. Don't put the answers here below. Email them to me at   thesockeys"at"gmail"dot"com
(using the correct symbols for at and dot, I just wrote it that way to avoid being spammed.)  I will do a drawing from the names of those who get them all correct, and the winner will get a free copy of either The Everyday Catholic's Guide to the Liturgy of the Hours OR A Garden of Visible Prayer by Margaret Rose Realy. Please specify which one you'd prefer. And give me your mailing address.

Have fun.

Literal or Allegorical Psalm 80? It's Up to You.

We are supposed to interpret the psalms as we pray them. That is, we are supposed to take note of what the psalm is about and what God is showing or telling us here. And there are several ways to do this.

The first psalm of morning prayer today kind of mixes its metaphors, speaking of God as a shepherd but also as a  vinedresser. Or maybe as a shepherd who tends a  vineyard on the side? But rather than obsessing how this sort of agriculture would work out literally, we should instead just go with the flow and see what these metaphors mean.

We can use the "literal" sense by seeing what the psalmist is telling us about: the people of Israel. This psalm was written at some low point for the kingdom of Israel, after the destruction of the temple, and perhaps when the people were already in exile. The vine, once huge but now unprotected and ravaged by beasts, represents God's people, once a mighty kingdom but now sadly fallen   as a result of their sins. It's a realistic assessment of the situation, but not without hope. The refrain God of hosts, bring us back, let your face shine on us and we shall be saved expresses confidence in the Lord's ability to save his people in the fullness of time.

We can move quickly on to the allegorical sense. That is, we can say "Where do I see Jesus in this psalm?"
Well, we have the Good Shepherd  there in the opening verse. We can think of the parable of the vineyard, where the tenant farmers (who represent Israel) reject the owner's son (Jesus) and suffer for it: Israel recapitulating its past errors and experiencing destruction as a result. OR we might recall I am the vine and your are the branches, and see the vine as a metaphor for the Church, which in many places is undergoing decline and/or persecution.  Which brings us to...

The moral sense: how does this psalm apply to me?  Easy! Reflect that what you are doing with your breviary is praying liturgically: praying united to the universal body of believers and on its behalf! You are beseeching God to visit this vine, and to protect it.  And when you get to this verse: may your hand be on the man  you have chosen, you might see that as a quick petition for the health and strength of Pope Francis, or your bishop, or your pastor.

Oh yes, there's also the eschatological sense, that is, how does  this psalm  aim me towards my proper end, which is eternal life? Let your face shine on us and we shall be saved doesn't just apply to a peaceful, persecution-free life on earth. It means that peaceful or not, the only thing that really matters in this life, is acheiving that final union with God that we call Salvation.

Is it  possible to think of all these things as you read through this psalm one Thursday each month? No, probably not. But if just one such idea pops into your mind as you pray this psalm, then you're doing well. You are offering the psalm as the prayer of the Church AND you are profiting from it personally.