Thursday, April 23, 2015

How I Pray: Three Catholics talk about the Liturgy of the Hours

Blogger Thomas McDonald of the Patheos website has an irregular series called "How I Pray" in which he interviews various bloggers or other people about their prayer life.   I think I"ve called attention in the past to this one by Will Duquette and this one by Elizabeth Scalia, because both of them discuss at length what the Litugy of the Hours has meant in their lives.

Looking back over the last few months I've uncovered several more like this, and want to share them with you, especially this first one. Melanie Bettinelli has been following Coffee&Canticles from the very beginning, and, especially in its early months, made lots of encouraging comments. Her How I Pray interview is one that will resonate with mothers of small children, homeschoolers in particular.:
If I have the time I like to start off the day sitting quietly in bed reading Morning Prayer, either silently to myself, or out loud accompanied by one or more of my children. I love praying the Liturgy of the Hours with my kids and they often love to sit and pray with me. But if that doesn’t happen, and recently it hasn’t been, then I try to listen to the podcast while I’m making breakfast and doing my morning clean up after breakfast. It’s not ideal as I’m often distracted and interrupted. Some days I’m lucky if I paid attention to part of a psalm and one antiphon or I just prayed the Invitatory Psalm which starts off the first hour of the day.
If I listen to the podcast then sometimes the kids do too and join in. Most times they just ignore it and chatter and shout and argue over it. Still, even if we all seem to ignore it somedays, I like to have it as the background noise of our mornings. Better than many other background noises, you know? I know they are absorbing it, though, even if they don’t seem to notice, because I hear them repeat phrases, they have favorite bits, they ask questions. My favorite is hearing my toddler pray. My  two year old recites along with me: “Lord, open my lips…” and “God, come to my assistance…” She knows the beginning of Psalm 95 and of the Benedictus. She likes to repeat antiphons.
Next, there's this interview with Sister Mary Catherine Perry, O.P.,a cloistered Dominican who chants the entire office with her community every single day. This is very different from the experience of most of us who read this blog, but her perspective will certainly inform and expand the way we look at our own attempts to join in the prayer of the Church Universal: 
Our life is centered on prayer. Formal prayer is about 4-5 hours a day. It might sound like a lot but it isn’t. We sing the entire Divine Office (Liturgy of the Hours), Holy Mass and have about 1.5-2 hours of “private prayer” each day.
The Divine Office is the “structure” of my day. Not just my prayer but my day. The whole day is one of praise and adoration like the angels who stand before the Throne of God in love and adoration. We just do lots of ordinary things besides because we’re human, not angels.
Last, you will want to read what Brother Humbert Kilanowski, O.P., one of the wonderful Washington, DC Doinicans, has to say about praying the psalms:
Through this collection of inspired poetry, the Holy Spirit teaches us the words to pray, and the People of God have used these words in divine worship for some three thousand years.  In praying the Psalms, I find myself united to the Chosen People as they gave thanks and praise to God and anxiously awaited their Savior, and to the Church throughout the ages and around the world who found these words fulfilled in Christ.  Moreover, as St. Athanasius once wrote, through the Psalms, you learn about yourself, as these prayers express a wide spectrum of human emotions, in which I often find myself (or someone for whom I’m praying).  I started praying the Psalms through the Liturgy of the Hours while in graduate school, and this greatly helped me make the transition into the rhythm of religious life.
Reading the thoughts of others about their love for the Liturgy of the Hours will help us see things that we hadn't seen before (or had forgotten), and inspire us to pray it with renewed enthusiasm. At least, that's what it does for me.


  1. I wanted to share this Hymn with you which I read this morning during Lauds at which I found incredibly touching.
    (PS. forgive the lateness of this post, but for some reason, probably the devil, my comment would not post)

    What a friend we have in Jesus,
    All our sins and griefs to bear!
    What a privilege to carry
    Everything to God in prayer!
    Oh, what peace we often forfeit,
    Oh, what needless pain we bear,
    All because we do not carry
    Everything to God in prayer!
    Have we trials and temptations?
    Is there trouble anywhere?
    We should never be discouraged –
    Take it to the Lord in prayer.
    Can we find a friend so faithful,
    Who will all our sorrows share?
    Jesus knows our every weakness;
    Take it to the Lord in prayer.
    “What a friend we have in Jesus” performed by Metropolitan Boys Choir; Text: Joseph M. Scriven, 1855

  2. I read a book called Edith Stein and Companions: On the Way To Auschwitz. It is a collection of biographies, including conversion stories, of the Catholic Jews who were arrested by the Nazis in Holland and eventually transported to Auschwitz. Many were priests and nuns including, of course, St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross and her sister. It mentions even after their arrest they would rise early to pray the breviary and rosary. They had the opportunity to send notes and in one of St. Theresa's notes she asks if the next volume of the breviary can be sent to her.

    I think of that often when I pray the LOTH.

  3. I wasn't sure if you had ever seen this link to each hymn n the Christian Prayer book: It has a nice .list of the links to tunes to each of the hymns in Christian Prayer, combined with the Breviary Hymns site I can usually find the tune to each of the hymns (I am less than musically inclined / talented and do not read music, so I need all of the help that I can get!). In a future post can you please elaborate on the choice of hymn for the day, as I see different hymns featured in the online breviaries on the same day, and different than the listed hymns in Christian Prayer.

    1. This is a good topic, John, and I will take your advice and write about it soon. I was not aware of the website you listed, and will be mentioning that as well.