Friday, July 17, 2015

Dismayed, Downhearted? There's a Psalm for That.

Are you worrrying about the decline of civilization, about increasing violence and never ending wars, about the moral implosion of our nation, and about the nonstop sneering at Christians and Christianity that we seem to hear on a daily basis in the media? Are you wondering at how a (superficially at least) Christian society could seem to crumble overnight? 

There's a psalm for that. Several, in fact. Especially on Fridays. This is the day that we who have the privilege of  praying the Liturgy of the Hours get to unite ourselves in a profound way to the suffering Christ. In praying these psalms we give voice to Jesus in His agony, both as it took place 2000 years ago and as it still happens today in the members of His Body, the Church. 

To refresh your memory,since now it is evening and you did Office of Readings hours ago, here are some excerpts from Psalm 68

I have sunk into the mud of the deep *
and there is no foothold.
I have entered the waters of the deep *
and the waves overwhelm me...

...More numerous than the hairs on my head *
are those who hate me without cause.
Those who attack me with lies *
are too much for my strength...

...Let those who hope in you not be put to shame *
through me, Lord of hosts:
let not those who seek you be dismayed *
through me, God of Israel...

When I afflict my soul with fasting *
they make it a taunt against me.
When I put on sackcloth in mourning *
then they make me a byword,
the gossip of men at the gates, *
the subject of drunkards’ songs....I have reached the end of my strength.
I looked in vain for compassion, *
for consolers; not one could I find.

For food they gave me poison; *
in my thirst they gave me vinegar to drink.

But then, look how Psalm 69 ends:
I will praise God’s name with a song; *
I will glorify him with thanksgiving,
a gift pleasing God more than oxen, *
more than beasts prepared for sacrifice.

The poor when they see it will be glad *
and God-seeking hearts will revive;
for the Lord listens to the needy *
and does not spurn his servants in their chains.
Let the heavens and the earth give him praise, *
the sea and all its living creatures.

For God will bring help to Zion *
and rebuild the cities of Judah
and men shall dwell there in possession. 
The sons of his servants shall inherit it; *
those who love his name shall dwell there.

Notice how that ends--in hope, trust, confidence, and praise. That's our model for prayer no matter what happens to us or the world around us. 

Morning Prayer, opening as always with the Miserere  (psalm 51) forces us to acknowledge our own part in the sorrows of the world. But that admission, humiliating as it is, is freeing. Again there is confidence that my tongue shall ring our His goodness and my mouth shall declare His praise, despite everything I have done. 

Daytime Prayer is  Psalm 22, Jesus' cry from the cross. The pain and desolation is real there, too. But look how that one ends--with ultimate triumph.

 There's not much more I can say. These psalms speak for themselves. They are a prophecy of the Passion, the sufferings of the Church, and the meaning of suffering for every believer.  Yes, it gets pretty bad. But we are promised that all will come right, and more than right, in the end. 

Monday, July 6, 2015

Urgent Need! Visit the Imprisoned with the Liturgy of the Hours!

Back in April I wrote here about the wonderful work of Dismas Ministry, which does all kinds of things to help prisoners, including providing breviaries to interested inmates who complete their course on prayer and and request one.

We decided to make the Coffee&Canticles readership a partner with Dismas Ministry and try to provide the breviaries whenever there is a need. Several of you sent either unused breviaries that you had at home, and others ordered new ones off Barnes and Noble, since they have the lowest price. So we were able to give the gift of the Liturgy of the Hours to a number of prisoners during the Easter season.

Yesterday after returning from holiday travvel,  I saw an email message from Dismas Ministry director Ron Zellinger with this request:

We have a couple requests from inmates, one for a full set of the Liturgy of the Hours, and a coupe who wish the single volume. Do you have any on hand or should I order the full set from Barnes and Noble?

These men are Oblates of St. Benedict as part of a prison outreach of the monks at St. Benedict’s Abbey, Atchison, Kansas. We are collaborating with the monks by providing these single and full volume sets. So wonderful is God’s grace at work in the lives of these inmates.

I look forward to hearing from you. If you do not have sufficient funds our ministry can go ahead and order them. I just thought I would ask you first.

So here is a fantastic opportunity for us to do a beautiful thing once more. Although Ron suggested that he had the funds to buy these himself if need be, it would be a great grace for one or more of us to be able to supply this need, don't you think?  That way the money already in the Dismas account can go for the many other things they do. If you go to their website you'll see what I mean.

So, if any of you want to do this, please let me know at once either here in the comments section, or by my private email which is: thesockeys"At" gmail "dot" com. Then take one of  the following steps: 

1. Go to the "Donate" page at Dismas Ministry. Hit the donate button and donate whatever amount you wish. If you use Pay Pal there is an option to include a message, so write "Coffee&Canticles Breviary Fund" or words to that effect.

2. If you can afford it, and want to do something more direct and personal, go to    this page at Barnes and Noble, and order the four volume breviary for $118, not forgetting to have it shipped to Dismas  Ministry rather than your own address! That address is: Ron Zeilinger, Dismas Ministry, 3195 S. Superior St. ,  Suite 101L, Milwaukee, WI 53207 Shipping will be free since the order is over $25 for standard  UPS delivery.     I chose Barnes and Noble over other online retailers because so far, this is the best price by far I could find. However, if you have other reasons for using a different  retailer (such as rewards points) then feel free to use them.

3. If $118 is more than you can spare, but $26.81 is not, then buy Dismas Ministry a single-volume, Christian Prayer breviary, also a best buy with free shipping at Barnes and Noble.

4. If you have a spare breviary that you are not using--and it's in nearly new shape--you may send it directly to Dismas Ministry. If using the US Post Office, use the address below:
Dismas Ministry, PO Box 070363, 
Milwaukee, WI 53207.
If instead you use UPS, use the address in #2 above.

If by happy chance we send more breviaries to Dismas Ministry than are needed, fear not. Sooner or later more prisoners will request them.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

A Famous Catholic and the Breviary

I was reading the published letters of a notable 20th century Catholic this morning, and came across this quote from a letter that she wrote to a friend who had recently converted to the Catholic faith:

Oh. I am sending you a rather garish looking book called A Short Breviary which I meant to get to you when you came into the Church but which has just come. I have a 1949 edition of it but this is a later one, supposed to be improved but I don't think it is. Anyway, don't think I am suggesting that you read the office every day. It's just a good thing to know about, I say Prime in the morning and sometimes I say Compline at night but usually I don't, But anyway I like parts of my prayers to stay the same and part to change. So many prayer books are so awful, but if you stick with the liturgy, you are safe.

Can you guess who it was? You can tell she is a woman who does not  shy away  from expressing a negative opinion. I'll make this a multiple choice question. Was it:

a. Flannery O'Connor
b. Clare Boothe Luce
c. Dorothy Day

I happen to own a copy of the 1954 edition of A Short Breviary,(Liturgical Press) the gift of James I. McAuley, who reads this blog sometimes. It's a nice, little, almost pocket sized book. Here are a few pictures so you can decide whether you agree with the above author that is it garish.

this one came out sideways. Dust jacket is an early example of modern Catholic art. 

Not so garish without the dust jacket.

This of course, is the Divine Office from before Vatican II, translated into English for use by laity and active religious who were not canonically bound to use the complete Latin office that Priests and monastic orders used. I go to this book at times to compare today's breviary with the old system,  and also for the lovely short footnotes that explain the scriptural context and messianic meanings of the psalms. These were written by Fr. Pius Parsch.

Okay, now for the identity of the author I quoted above. Let me know if you guessed correctly. It is...drumroll...

Flannery O'Connor 
The quote can be found in The Habit of Being, a collection of her letters.