Thursday, December 29, 2016

5th Day of Christmas Wishes&Prayer Request

Dear friends,

I hope that your Christmas season continues to be a merry one, that you are enjoying the liturgy of the Octave with it's very special saints: Stephen the martyr, John the Beloved, the Holy Innocents, Thomas Becket and Sylvester.

If anyone received a new breviary for Christmas, or a new book about liturgy or the psalms, let us know in the comments what it is and how you like it.

My posts have been a bit scanty this month and will probably continue to be. Both my mother and my brother are in the hospital right now, both seriously ill. Needless to say, this will keep me pretty busy for a while.   I ask your prayers for them: healing for my brother and a peaceful death for my mother.
And for wisdom, patience and courage for me and my sister.

In the meantime, I am always open to guest posts here. If any of you would like to write about the Liturgy of the Hours in your life, whether in general or else your reflections on a particular aspect, let me know.

Sunday, December 18, 2016

A Prayer for People who are Bad at Praying

Check out this  Patheos blog post on the Liturgy of the Hours by Marina . It's f rom September but I only just discovered it today. She explains why doing just one or two of the liturgical hours daily is a great (and very doable) way for the busy homemaker to act on the biblical injunction to "pray always".

Saturday, December 17, 2016

O Wisdom! The O Antiphons Begin.

A good friend of this blog and all around lover of liturgical prayer, Sid Cundiff, is sharing YouTube finds on his Facebook page--musical settings of the O Antiphons. So I credit him for this find and share it with you here.

In our family we recite the O Antipihons at grace before dinner. (In English, from the breviary). Families with more enthusiastic singers often sing the relelvant verse of O Come O Come Emmuanuel.

Make an Over the Top Nativity Scene!

Thought I 'd share this Nativity how-to again this year.

Now and then I have something to share that has no bearing on the Liturgy of the Hours. This is one of those times.

Most Christians put out some sort of nativity set this time of year. Perhaps several sets  of them.

When my kids were young we made a point of placing our  Nativity figures in a prominent location, and tried to make an attractive backdrop and surrounding decorations so that our creche  would stand out in their minds as a Big Deal ranking right up there with the Chrustmas tree.

We bought  extra figures each year (love those half-price sales on Dec. 26th)  and soon were able to set up the stable on the first Sunday of advent and add one animal, person, or other prop each day. Sort of an interactive advent calendar.  I'd let the kids play with the figures too, using their imaginations to act out and no doubt embellish the story of the first Christmas with considerable detail that was not to be found in scripture or tradition.

As the children grew older, the more creative among them would help me construct the hills and fields of  Bethlehem, which we'd create  with stones and evergreens from our yard or nearby woods. Last year's effort was one of the better ones, so, as I took it all apart last January, I took photos of the various steps and details that went into it. Maybe these will inspire some of you to try your hand at something similarly elaborate. Feel free to share this on your Facebook feed, Pinterest, etc. Here goes:

1. Select a small table, chair, china hutch, desk, or other piece of furniture for you display. For us it's usually the top of a low bookcase or a desk, but last year we went with this "gossip bench" plus a little stool sticking out beneath it:
2. Next, place strategic piles of rags or heaped towels to give some  hills and valleys to your Bethlehem countryside:
3. Drape the whole thing with a large sheet or table cloth. The  color should be green or an earth tone.
4. This next step is not strictly  necessary, but if you have access to a good source of moss (that is, woods where no one will look askance at you digging things up) then dig up lots of it (it pulls up easily in large strips) and lay it down over much of your "ground". Keep it fresh and green by misting it daily with a spray bottle. This picture was taken the day I took it down. I'd quit spraying it a few days before and it looks it:
5. If you want a creek in your scene, a strip of crumpled plastic wrap, with a sprinkling of pea gravel in the stream bed will work just fine.                                                                                                          
6. Add some stones and other greenery from your yard, plus a string of carefully placed twinkle lights, here is what we have:
Now for a few more pictures to show some close up details:
We have lots of shepherdesses. My two oldest kids are girls and they loved these. 

Notice the angel  hanging on the blinds. There's also a  star dangling further up but not pictured.
Naturally, the 3 kings started travelling from the opposite end of the house some days ago, but now they've almost reached the manger.

So there you have it. It is a somewhat messy project, and it does take up  a bit of space, as you see. But it certainly can be done on a somewhat smaller scale.  If any of you do something similar, please send me a picture and I'll publish it in a future post. 

Monday, December 12, 2016

Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe and news from Belarus

If you use a print breviary, you will have to look elsewhere today to properly celebrate the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe (which is a mere optional memorial on the Universal calendar, but a big deal here in the western hemsisphere).

iBreviary,, and apps all have the proper prayers and readings for this day. I notice that iBreivary actually has two choices for the second reading in today's Office of Readings. The first is the original account of Our Lady's appearance at Tepeyac Hill. The alternative is from a 1970 message to the Mexican people from Blessed Pope Paul VI about the spiritual and social application of Our Lady's message. Both are worth reading.

In the Good News department: I've just received inquires from a gentleman in Belarus about a new e-breviary Belarusian website, and his desire to translate and publish The Everyday Catholic's Guide to the Liturgy of the Hours in that nation.

As always, any questions about how to pray or understand the Liturgy of the Hours are welcome here.

Friday, December 2, 2016

When You Have Shut the Door

Did you do Office of Readings today?

Those first two paragraphs from St. Anselm just blew me away. In case you missed it--or the caffeine hadn't kicked in yet while you were reading them, here they are:

Insignificant man, escape from your everyday business for a short while, hide for a moment from your restless thoughts.  Break off from your cares and troubles, and be less concerned about your tasks and labors.  Make a little time for God and rest a while in Him.  Enter into your mind's inner chamber. shut out everything but God and whatever helps you to seek Him; and when you have shut the door, look for Him.

Speak now to God and say with your whole heart, "I seek you Face; your Face, Lord I desire." 

I know that there are traditional prayers to say before beginning the Divine Office. Although when I think to say this one--which is not often--I usually find the card I had it on is missing. But these lines from St. Anselm today seemed so utterly perfect as a help to getting me into the proper mindset for prayer, that I copied them onto an index card as neatly as I could so that I'd have it at hand inside the cover of my breviary each day.   Anselm's message was especially appropriate for me at this time of year. Between planning for Christmas and Healthcare enrollment Purgatory, my mind is everywhere except that peaceful inner chamber. Hopefully this little meditation will get me there, with the door shut, more often.

Q&A Time: any questions or confusion about praying the Liturgy of the Hours can be resolved here. Just ask a question below.

Also--there are still four of you who won an O Emmanuel CD but did not write to me with your address. Please look back at the comments on this post and see whether the entry comment you made is followed by my comment to the effect that you have won. Otherwise I will have to choose some runners up to get your CD.

If anyone is interested, the most popular O  Antiphon in our poll  by far was O Oriens (aka O Rising Sun, O Dayspring), followed not too distantly by O Sapientia (O Widsom). 

Monday, November 28, 2016

Winners Announced!

Ten fortunate people have won an O Emmanuel CD!

This post explains how to send me your address so that I may notify the publisher, who will send your CD

I've had several giveaways in the past where the winners do not go back to check to see whether they'd won. I'm making every effort to contact you, but you have to do your part as well.

If I do not receive your mailing address in one weeks' time I'll have to choose a name to replace yours. Please don't make me do that. Send it to me:  thesockeys@gmail "dot" com


Saturday, November 26, 2016

Happy New Year!

image from Catholic Memes-Like them on Facebook
Yes, it's anachronistic, but still funny. And Year A starts tonight. 
Don't you love getting out your volume I breviary and opening to Evening Prayer I for the first Sunday in Advent?

And having a true hymn for vespers that goes back maybe a thousand years?(I refer here to Creator of the Stars of Night, aka Conditor Alme Siderum)

And reading all those lovely antiphons that leave you thinking how wonderful it would be if Our Lord really would come back this year?

I just love Advent.

And it's a great time to do a little something to improve your practice of the Liturgy of the Hours. Here's a few ideas.

  • Read through either the Apostolic Constitution Promulgating the Revision of the Divine Office or the General Instruction of the Liturgy of the Hours. 
  • Or read both of them. They are found in front of volume I of the 4-volume breviary or else you can read them online. 
  • Read Liturgy and Personality
  • If you don't already do the complete cycle of liturgical hours each day, resolve to add one of them to your routine. 
  • If you can bang out a few notes on the piano, teach yourself a simple chant and use it for at least one psalm or Gospel canticle each day. 

Got any other good ideas?

Or do you have some questions about the Liturgy of the Hours?  

If so, leave a comment.

Friday, November 25, 2016

A Little More on O Antiphons

After reading my post earlier this week about the O Emmanuel music CD/mp3, one reader asked that I write another post explaining more about the O Antiphons.

I plead lack of time for a whole special post this week. Besides, there is not need to reinvent the wheel. This essay by Fr. Zulhsdorf explains them pretty well. Furthermore, if you look at the left column of Fr. Z.'s essay, you will see a  special link to each of the antiphons. Each one is given in Latin, English, again in Latin with a musical chant setting, scriptural references on which each antiphon is based, and finally, a lengthy and lovely meditation on the antiphon.

So far there are about 20 entries in my previous post for a giveaway of ten copies of the O Emmanuel CD.   If you haven't entered yet, then go there and post a comment. State which of the O Antiphons is your favorite. Winners will be picked at random. You chances of winning are pretty good.

Which O Antiphon is my favorite? I think it's O Oriens (O Rising Sun or O Dayspring in English). Although the darkness and shadow of death refer mostly to sin and its consequences, I think this antiphon also makes a great prayer for anyone suffering from seasonal depression.

O come, Thou Dayspring, come and cheer,
Our spirits by Thine advent here;
Disperse the gloomy clouds of night,
And death's dark shadows put to flight.

Monday, November 21, 2016

New Original Advent Music! And it's Actually Good! UPDATE!

Here are the winners for the O Emmanual Giveaway, by username: Alexis Maudlin, Encourager, Droll Mom, Sasha, Vivian Varela, Imperial reaction, Amie, John Burzynski, Matthew Tucker, and artepromusica.  

Congratulation! But you aren't done yet! You must send your real name, address, and zip code to my personal email, which is thesockeys"at"gmail "dot" com    Please do this within a week. If you do not, then I will pick a different name to replace yours.

I will send your names to the publisher, and they will send you the CDs.

As we all know, the Advent season is sorely neglected and pre-empted by a commercialized Christmas season.

I've mellowed somewhat over the years in my annoyance about this, recognizing that lit-up homes and Christmas trees and most of all, Christmas music really do cheer hearts during this rather dreary time of year. (Dreary for us who live in the cold, light-deprived north, that is.) And trying to be an optimist, I can see this as remote preparation for the fullness of seasonal beauty found in the liturgical calendar. If people love carrying out yearly, seasonal rituals, then they are in the frame of mind to eventually  see the sense of doing more and better rituals for the purpose of celebrating and honoring our God.

But I digress. One barrier to observing Advent in our homes is the lack of recorded advent music. In previous years I've promoted Advent at Ephesus, an album of traditional Gregorian chants and a few vernacular hymns for the season.   This year, there's something new.

Really new.

O Emmanuel  is a Cantata (for lack of a better word) of sorts, a collection of  instrumentally accompanied choral pieces with texts based on Sacred Scripture.  Each band on the album is a choral setting for one of the O Antiphons. Most readers of this blog know  exactly what that means. For any newcomers who do  not, the O Antiphons are prayed each night at vespers from December 17th thru 23rd, as an opening to the Magnificat of Our Lady. Each O Antiphon describes a scriptural title of the longed-for Messiah. (Every Catholic has some familiarity with them, since a paraphrase of these  antiphons also make up the verses of the hymn O Come, O Come Emmanuel.)

Anyhow, these setting combine old and new musical themes and styles. Each one is given its ancient Latin title (O Sapienta, O  Adonai, O Radix, O Clavis, etc.) and sometimes the Latin text is used. But so many styles of music are used (and even combined within a piece) that the listener will be continually surprised. There's Gregorian chant, classical, jazz, a dash of modern dissonance, African American spiritual, and more.  Although there are occasional adult solos, the album features the Notre Dame Children's choir, a national touring choir of 200 very talented kids. I don't know about you, but there's something about kids singing (even when they're not all that talented) that always moves me. When they're this good, the effect is amazing.   I wish I could give this CD to every parish music director who thinks the only music children can enjoy is schmaltz  from that old "Glory and Praise" hymnal. Children have the intelligence to appreciate and perform good music. They should not be insulted with junk. (Sorry for the rant.)

Right now, O Emmanuel is #1 on the Billboard Classical chart and it's high on the Christmas music chart as well. Go here to listen to some samples.And watch the video where the composer talks about Sacred Music.

If you like what you hear, then come back here and enter a giveaway!  The nice people at Dynamic Catholic would like ten lucky Coffee&Canticles readers to have a free copy of this CD. Just write the name of your favorite O Antiphon (in Latin or in English).  At the end of the week ten names will be selected at random.   Now, make sure you come back to the blog to see whether you won, OR make sure that the name on your comment is something I can click on and actually take me to you.

If contests are not your thing and you just want to get the mp3 version, click here.

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Liturgy and Personality by Dietrich von Hildebrand

I am delighted and honored  to be part of the virtual blog tour for a new edition of a  classic work on liturgical spirituality.

You might be aware of Dietrich von Hildebrand (1889-1977) as the Catholic scholar who was one of the first to challenge the philosophy of Nazism, necessitating his flight to the United Sates to escape the wrath of Adolf Hitler.  You might know that his contributions to the philosophy  and the theology of marriage influenced the thought of Pope Paul VI and Pope St. John Paul II. 

I must admit, that my earlier attempts to read von Hildebrand years ago didn't go well. As a busy mother, I only had the time and mental energy for short books written in a popular style, whether fiction or non-fiction. Philosophy defeated me, especially von Hildebrand's, which I found dense and even impenetrable.  The closest I came to appreciating the ideas of this man came when I heard them filtered through his beloved wife and widow, Alice, whose articles in Catholic publications and talks at conferences helped make his ideas a bit more accessible to us non-philosophers.

So when I received a review copy of Liturgy and Personality, I hesitated and considered adding it to the large pile of books in my office which may or may not get read--someday. Two things made me crack it open. First, the topic. Maybe, I thought, something in here will help me to further plumb the depths of the Liturgy of the Hours. Second, I saw that that book's foreword was written by Bishop Robert Barron. Now there is someone who has made  dense theological and philosophical concepts comprehensible to millions!

Sure enough, Bishop Barron's foreword was reassuring. He explained a couple of von Hildebrand's terms, such as "value" and "personality", which have very different meanings from the way they are used in everyday English.* As I read Barron's words, the lightbulbs starting popping in my mind, and I was encouraged to start reading the actual text. (read Bishop Barron's Foreword here.)

This modern foreword was followed by the author's original introduction (1933) and his preface to a second edition (1960). I was delighted to learn that von Hildebrand was a proponent of the Liturgical Movement of the 1930s thru 50s. This movement promoted greater lay understanding of, and participation in the liturgy. (As such, von Hildebrand favored the "dialogue mass" where the congregation--rather than just the altar servers--made the responses. I'll never understand why this is is virtually  unseen/unheard at Extraordinary form masses these days.)

The author made clear in the introduction that by "liturgy" he meant Holy Mass and the Divine Office (a.k.a. Liturgy of the Hours). And for the rest of the introduction, as he set forth his basic premises, he drew examples equally from these two types of liturgy. With that, I knew that reading Liturgy and Personality was going to be a huge help to my daily prayer life.

Now, here is the main point this book delivers, in great detail, with great beauty and profundity: Liturgy will transform you and the way you look at EVERYTHING.

(And this is a very important and startling BUT.)

If you attend mass and pray the Liturgy of the Hours with transformation (or consolation, or personal growth, or answers to your problems in life) as your primary aim you will not receive it! In other words, if you are earnestly reading those psalms mainly because you "want to get something out of it", then you are going about it all wrong. You are even a little short of the mark if your main purpose is to pray for the needs of the Church Universal.

The aim and purpose of liturgical prayer, the thing that makes it better than any other kind of prayer is this:

The Divine Office is recited primarily because all praise and glorification is due to God, the fullness of all holiness and majesty, and not because it will bring about a transformation of ourselves. The Liturgy is not primarily intended as a means of sanctification or an ascetic exercise. Its primary intention is to praise and glorify God, to respond fittingly to Him. (Liturgy and Personality, p.2)

The praise and glorifying of God is the greatest thing we can do. It is the "truly right and just" response of the human soul to its Creator and Redeemer. Now, once we divest ourselves of these motives, we open a door for the actual transformation to occur. The author makes a great analogy between this and the process of  falling in love. True love is a response to the goodness and beauty of the other, a response where the self is pretty much forgotten.  This kind of love will, in fact, transform the lover into a better person, helping him or her to be less selfish, more thoughtful, patients, self-sacrificing, etc.   But this won't happen were a man to say to himself, "I've heard that falling in love and marrying will make me a better person. I'm all for self-improvement, so I'll give it a shot and see if I get those results."

The book goes on to explain how and why liturgy, even though its prayers are objective (pre-composed, set forth in a specific way for specific days, allowing for little or no outward "spontanaeity" on the part of the pray-er, and communal in character) is yet the most intensely affective and heart-opening of all prayer. It's perfectly personal because it is the prayer of the Perfect Person, Jesus Christ.

But the summaries I give here are weak. Just get the book and read it. As I said earlier, it's not an easy read. What I'm doing is reading one chapter, or even half a chapter each Sunday afternoon (when I've made it a goal to cut down on internet and unnecessary housekeeping). Then I try to keep a point or two of what I've read in mind whenever I open my breviary that following week.

Okay. Enough from me. Buy the book. Think: spiritual reading for Advent.

 *The term "personality" here is philosophical. It has nothing to do with our use of the term  (as in a winning, or nice, or assertive personality.) In von Hildebrand's usage, personality  is a quality  acquired (in greater and lesser degrees) in accordance with how well you learn to respond to all that is good, true and beautiful. (Von Hildebrand's umbrella term for good, true and beautiful is "value" so watch out for that one, too.)


Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Liturgy and Personality - Teaser

I've been asked to host one day of a virtual book tour by the publishers of a new edition of the classic work Liturgy and Personality by Dietrich Von Hildebrand. My detailed post about it will appear on Saturday, so be sure to check back.  Here's my teaser:

In my own book, writings on this blog, and when I speak about the Liturgy of the  Hours, a favorite theme of mine is It's not about you!   In other words, it's all wrong to reject praying the Office because the mood of these prayers, fixed for each day of the year  and time of day, do not always reflect your particular mood, or address your particular needs the way your personal conversation with God undoubtedly will.

I mostly argue that  our purpose in liturgical prayer is to pray for, and on behalf of, the entire Church, and in the very voice of Christ Himself. All of that must "increase" while I and my personal concerns must "decrease."

 Now I'm delighted to find that a brilliant philosopher and theologian has expounded on this theme with far greater brilliance and beauty than I ever could. In addition, although Von Hildebrand clearly agrees with the first part of my argument (It's not about you), he gently teaches me that the second part of my argument (it's about praying for the whole Church) is actually NOT the main point of the Liturgy of the Hours.

Stay tuned! 

Order an Amazon

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

The Lateran Basilica and the House He's Building

Today we celebrate the feast of a building, and from there we think about other buildings of the more metaphorical sort.

To recap from previous years, we devote a feast to the Lateran Basilica because it is the cathedral church of the Pope. It is called the Mother Church of Christendom. The original structure was erected by the emperor Constantine. So yes,it's worth commemorating. If you haven't tried this Virtual Tour before then set aside some time and prepare yourself for a treat.

What I love about today's Liturgy of the Hours is the way it runs with the idea of God's house, God's temple, God's dwelling place. And how the antiphons and pslams don't just remain at the level of the Temple--look at the antiphon for the Benedictus: Zacchaeus...this day salvation has come to his house!

Every house can become His holy temple! And then...

Every heart. Check out the Office of Readings, where St. Caesarius of Arles tells us:

Do you with this basilica to be immaculately clean?Then do not soil your soul with the filth of sins. Do you wish this basilica to be full of light? God, too, wishes that your soul not be in darkness, but that the light of good works shine in us, so that he who dwells in the heavens will be glorified. Just as you enter this church building, so God wishes to enter into your soul, for he promised: I shall live in them, and I shall walk the corridors of their hearts. 

All this brought to mind a favorite passage from C.S. Lewis where he makes great use of the house analogy: "Imagine yourself as a living house. God comes in to rebuild that house. At first, perhaps, you can understand what He is doing. He is getting the drains right and stopping the leaks in the roof and so on; you knew that those jobs needed doing and so you are not surprised. But presently He starts knocking the house about in a way that hurts abominably and does not seem to make any sense. What on earth is He up to? The explanation is that He is building quite a different house from the one you thought of - throwing out a new wing here, putting on an extra floor there, running up towers, making courtyards. You thought you were being made into a decent little cottage: but He is building a palace. He intends to come and live in it Himself." C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity

There's also another metaphor in today's Liturgy, the one where St. Paul calls each of us a "Living Stone" in an edifice God is building. That brought to mind this lovely song by Audrey Assad, with which I'll leave you today. 

Friday, November 4, 2016

Mindful of What?

I'm sure you've all heard about "Mindfulness". Read about it in magazines and blogs.

In it's short form, it just means slowing down, taking a few deep breaths, paying attention to the breaths, and paying attention to your immediate surroundings, hopefully with some appreciation.

In it's long, obsessive, faddish form it's almost a religion, with a whole set of books and accessories and courses that supposedly help you to be Mindful. This form is a kind of secular substitute for prayer.

This article by Heather King at the Mind&Spirit blog examines and explodes the Mindfulness industry.  If you are not already familiar with Heather's writing, then prepare yourself for a treat. She does it really, really well.

And you will love her final sentence!

Sunday, October 30, 2016

Birthplace of St. Benedict Flattened by Earthquake

You probably have all heard about the devastating earthquake in Italy, including the terrible damage to the Basilica of St. Benedict and the town of his birth Norcia. As you may recall, there was already a bad earthquake there in August, destroying the Benedictine monastery there. The monks have since  been living in temporary quarters outside of town.

(Aftershocks of the latest earthquake were even felt in Rome, and there is some damage reported to St. Paul Outside the Walls.)

The last message from the superior of Norcia, Fr. Benedict Nivakoff, asks for prayers for the people and for the monks as they help survivors and administer the sacraments to the injured and dying. He also mentioned that connectivity would be limited in the near future, and indeed I find that when I go to the monks' website it is impossible to get beyond the portal. I'm hoping that this will soon change and it will be possible to make online donations.

Update: the donation page appears to be working now. Perhaps my earlier trouble with it was due to--hopefully--more traffic than their server could manage.

Since St. Benedict was largely responsible for the tradition of the liturgical hours as practiced in the western Church today, it seems that those of who pray the Office will be particularly moved by this disaster and motivated to help in some way. To that end, keep checking the monk's website or looking for other online  opportunities to reach them. And in the meantime, if you don't have it already, buy the CD or MP3 version of their collection of Marian chants. 

Friday, October 28, 2016

You and Me Both, Dorothy Day!

“My strength returns to me with my cup of coffee and the reading of the psalms. ” 

-the Servant of God, Dorothy Day

A friend alerted me to this quote on the Facebook page of the Dawson Society for  Philosophy and Culture. I could hardly believe it. Although Dorothy and I might have a few philosophical or political differences, we are kindred spirits in terms of our morning routine.   

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Liturgy of the Hours in an Unexpected Place

I absolutely love this article by a journalist explaining what the Liturgy of the Hours is, and what it means to him.  Even more delightful is where this essay appears--on a secular website devoted to current events and primarily--this month at least--to the American political scene. In fact, Paschal-Emmanuel's opening lines refer to that:

This election might have you praying for a swift death, or indeed the destruction of all life on Earth. I get that. I really, really get that. The campaign drives me insane, too. And when it does, I've found something to restore my sanity. I pray.

Then he goes on from there:

I pray the Liturgy of the Hours, perhaps the oldest liturgical practice of the Catholic Church after Mass and the sacraments. Indeed, the Acts of the Apostles record the Apostles observing the Jewish custom of praying at the third, sixth, and ninth hours of the day, the practice from which the Hours sprung. Although the Hours are associated with religious orders and priests, who all pray them, every Catholic can, and indeed is encouraged to, pray them. The Hours have been woven into the fabric of Catholic spirituality for centuries...

...There's no need to lead a monastic life to pray the Hours. I have them all on an app on my phone, and there is another app that pings me when I wake up, every three hours thereafter, and then when I go to bed. Praying each time takes but a few minutes...

Now here's my favorite part: 

Countless people are anxious to feel profound experiences through prayer, or worry that their prayer experience is "dry" or feels pointless. It is indeed possible to have spiritual experiences through prayer, the great masters tell us, but that is not what matters. Instead, prayer should be pursued simply for itself, as an offering to God. And the way to know whether your prayer "works" is if it makes you more like Jesus or not.
I don't think I've ever "felt anything" while praying the Hours. But I have noticed that, slowly but surely, they are changing me.

There is lots, lots more after that and I urge you all to read, and bookmark,the entire thing. For all my writing and speaking on this topic, I don't think I've ever given a better What it Is and Why You Should Do It  than this piece. Bravo!

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

My Patron Saint

I had an email from one of you today, wishing me a happy nameday. Good thing, because I'd forgotten all about St. Daria this year.

image from
Of course I shouldn't leave out her husband St. Chrystanthus, so here they are together.

And then there's the recent and exciting information that their bones were recovered and identified in 2008:

Photo via ChristianNewswire

So I will probably do vespers today using the common of several martyrs.  Here is a link to a pretty good article if you want to know more about Sts. Daria and Chrysanthum.

Now, whenever you see or hear my name you will have something else in your mind besides this girl:

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Memorial of St. John Paul II Today!

This is a good day to have a breviary app handy even if you normally use a real book.

You will find the necessary texts for St. John Paul II at,, and

The only texts needed are the concluding prayer for any of the hours AND the second reading of the Office of Readings.   However, if you want, you could also switch into the Common of Pastors with the "for a Pope" options after doing the regular psalms of the day in the four-week psalter.

Today being Saturday, you must do Evening Prayer I of Sunday rather than the memorial this evening.

Friday, October 14, 2016

Former slave, accused Embezzler, and Pope of Mercy

There are so many saints in the October calendar to get excited about because they are so well known both from their history and even from their own writings. St. Therese, St. Teresa of Avila, the North American Martyrs, St. Francis of Assisi, Pope St. John XXIII and Pope St. John Paul II are the ones I have in mind here. These last two are particularly well known to us, but all the others are beloved and familiar.

Funny, where else but in the Communion of Saints do we feel as if people who lived 500 to  800 years ago are contemporaries and even friends?

But I must admit that this feeling diminishes somewhat when the name on the calendar is someone who lived well over 1500 years ago and who did not leave us a  body of writings.   Today's saint, Pope Callistus, is one of these, but his story is well worth reading. The irony is that what we know of him was written by one of his worst enemies, who is also today known as a saint!

This article at Catholic online helps us read that account with a discerning eye. There's a video above which is okay, but the article is more thorough.

Friday, October 7, 2016

One-volume Pauline Africa Breviary on Ebay UK

If any of you like in the UK and want a deal on the one-volume Pauline breviary (It's called The Prayer of the Church) you can find one on Ebay.  Here's the link.

What Conscience Dreads...

You many have noticed some interesting language in the concluding prayer of the Office of Readings this week, which, as always, is identical to the collect of the daily mass:

Almighty ever-living God,
who in the abundance of your kindness
surpass the merits and the desires of those who entreat you,
pour out your mercy upon us
to pardon what conscience dreads
and to give what prayer does not dare to ask.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, forever and ever.
Although we didn't say this prayer every day due to several memorials (such as today's Our  Lady of the Rosary) we did do it on Sunday, Monday, and Wednesday. 

Saturday, September 24, 2016

In Search of...

Will the person who emailed  me asking whether anyone might have a Kenyan breviary to sell please write me again? I can't find your email.

Someone might be willing to sell you the one volume Pauline Kenya breviary. 

Friday, September 23, 2016

St. Pio of Pietrelcina;Your Prayer Intentions for Vespers

Today is the Memorial of St. Pio of Pietrelcina Chances are your breviary does not have his office since he was canonized only a few years ago. To do this memorial, use today's psalter for your psalms. You may simply continue with the rest of the psalter and simply substitute the concluding prayer (see below) OR you may turn to Common of Pastors from the reading onwards and use the concluding prayer:

Almighty ever-living God, who, by a singular grace,
gave the Priest Saint Pius a share in the Cross of your Son
and, by means of his ministry,
renewed the wonders of your mercy,
grant that through his intercession
we may be united constantly to the sufferings of Christ,
and so brought happily to the glory of the resurrection.
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. Amen

And yes, I agree with you all that it's odd of the Church to use the Latin "Pius" when the entire world knows and love this saint as "Padre Pio". How many other saints on the Calendar have their names put into Latin? (Besides Popes named Pius?)  If there's a reason for this I'd love to hear it.

If you pray the Office of Readings, switch out to a digital breviary today for St. Pio's second reading.

Two weeks ago I suggested we share our prayer intentions so that we could all add a petition for one another's needs at Vespers.  There was quite a response, so we'll continue this post on a bi-weekly basis.

If you have a specific prayer intention, add it in a comment below. The rest of you, if you think of it. add "For the intentions of our brothers and sisters at Coffee&Canticles" or something similar when you pray the  intercessions at Evening Prayer.

Another note: several weeks back we were able to arrange  the transfer of three unneeded , out of prine PaulineUSA  single volume breviaries to others who wanted them. This prompted another reader to ask whether anyone is willing to sell him a Pauline Kenyan breviary that was no longer in use, since he was finding the process of obtaining one from Africa too unwieldy.   I realize that this is not likely, but on the off chance  someone has one that they are not using and would like to sell it, let me know.

Friday, September 16, 2016

Sts. Cornelius and Cyprian and a slight Correction

If you use the Office of Readings, you'll notice that for today's memorial--Sts, Cornelius and Cyprian--there are two different selections offered for the second reading.

Try to read them both if you have time.

One is a letter from Cyprian to Cornelius, rejoicing in the courageous public stands that have lead to his exile. "Words cannot express how great was the exultation and delight here when we heard of our good fortune and brave deeds..."

Those of us who are concerned about incipient religious persecution (by means of regulations,court decisions, and increasingly overt verbal hostility against Christians by politicians and federal paper pushers) need to go over this reading carefully and ask what adjustments we might want to make to our own attitudes about all this. We need to maintain a healthy tension between pushing back against this stuff (defending our rights as citizens) and at the same time, being aware that God may be offering us a great gift, the chance to faintly reflect the deeds of the martyrs.

The other reading is an account of Cyprian's martyrdom. I love his attitude in the first paragraph: Yep. that me. I did the things you said I did and I won't do the things you want me to do, so let's get on with it. Put me to death. Thanks be to God!

Yesterday, while writing yesterday's post about how to find the correct pages for saint's memorials, I got distracted while writing and left something out. (Thoughtless, giddy creature that I am.) That post has now been amended with information about a more minimalist way to do a memorial.

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Navigating Memorials and the Blessed Page 37 of Christian Prayer

This is Part III in a series designed to make you independent on the yearly St. Joseph guide so that you can correctly choose the prayers for each day's Divine Office with nothing other than your the Catholic calendar your parish gives away each year.

Of if you don't have a calendar, just go to and hit today's date on the little calendar on the top right.

So, today is a memorial. These are the most confusing types of holy days because unlike feasts and solemnities, they have several varieties and several options.

 Our Lady of Sorrows. It is among a handful of memorials that is celebrated more or less like a feast.   (You will have to look at the mass to see the differences: feasts get three readings and the recitation of the Gloria, while memorials do not.) So actually, finding it's prayers is a very straighforward thing. It's all there under September 15th in the Proper of Saints, with complete instructions and page numbers for where you need to go in the psalter and the Common of the Blessed Virgin.

Tomorrow, however, is one of those more run-of-the-mill memorials, St. Cornelius.  This is an obligatory memorial, which you know because the word "Memorial" is there in red letters under the saint's name. The next day, St. Robert Bellarmine, has nothing beneath his name, (at least in the CBC edition of Christian Prayer--other editions might say "commememoration") so his day is an optional memorial.

Okay, back to St. Cornelius. Here is where your breviary is confusing. Under the little bio-sketch of Cornelius, it says in red, "From the Common of several martyrs, page 1402,or of pastors, page 1426.
This leads the typical earnest layman who wants to Do Everything Right to turn to p. 1402 and do the entire common from start to finish, remembering, of course, to turn back to Sept. 16 in the Proper of Saints for the gospel canticle antiphon and the concluding prayer.

No. No. No. No!!!!!!!

This is why I really hope future breviaries will put instructions in a place where it's easier to find, and/or make clearer notations on each day in the Proper of Saints. In the meantime, take a look at page 37 in your Christian Prayer breviary. Under "Memorials" it clearly states that:
"a. Psalms and their antiphons [are taken] FROM THE CURRENT WEEKDAY. (emphasis mine)

Then, and only then, may you proceed (if you want to) with whatever they give you in the "Common of X", and always using any elements given in the Proper of Saints for the "generic" items in the common. Often this is only the concluding prayer, but it can include the short reading, the gospel canticle antiphon and, as we see for Our Lady of Sorrow, quite a bit more on rare occasions.

The other option, also mentioned on page 37,(section 1.b. under Memrorials) is to use in its entirety the weekday psalter (no common of martyrs, holy men, etc.) with the sole exception of those elements that are in the Proper of Saints for that day.

That page 37 in Christian Prayer is a valuable page. You might want to make a photo copy of is and paste is inside the front cover of your breviary for easy reference. If you commit it's principles to memory, you will not need the yearly St. Joseph guide. (Which, by the way, has occasional typos or errors and thus can mislead you anyway.)

Oh. I forgot about optional memorials. For optional memorials, you follow the exact same procedures listed for memorials with this single exception: YOU DON'T HAVE TO.  If you have no particular interest in St.Bratislava of the Holy Angels (I just made that up) you can just do the regular weekday with whatever week you are in with your psalter.

Okay. I think that is everything. I didn't mention the Office of Readings, and did not mention the extra tweaks to this system that come during the holy seasons, especially during Lent. Remind me and we will take these up when the time comes.

Please feel free to ask questions below if there is something I did not cover or did not explain clearly enough.


Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Feasts--how do I figure out which page to use on my own?

Part II of a series on how to find your place in the breviary without having to buy that little St. Joseph guide each year. This is especially important if you breviary is not one of those published by Catholic Book Publishing Company, for example, that out of print Pauline single volume that everyone likes so much. (for good reasons but that's another story)

The last post talked about how to figure out which week in the psalter you should be using. This is really all you need to know if its a weekday in ordinary time, because on these days the psalter is all you use for Morning and Evening Prayer. (For our purposes here I'm talking about people who use the single volume Christian Prayer breviary, not you 4-volume folks who do the Office of Readings. People who use the four volume set usually know what they're doing.)

Also, for our purposes here, we will not talk about advent, lent, etc. because we are no in Ordinary time. We can discuss the holy seasons later. Remind me in November.

So, each morning, look at your indispensable (but free!) parish Catholic Calendar. If is says "St. so and so" or like today, "The Exaltation of the Holy Cross" that tips you off right away that you will be needing more than just the four week psalter. It means you must turn to the back section known as the Proper of Saints.   It's pages are in calendar order, so turn to that day and see what it tell you to do. That's right. Much of what you need to know is right there--no St. Joseph guide required.

Feasts are the easiest, especially feasts of Our Lord, such as today's. Everything you need is right there in the Proper of Saints for Sept. 14th. EXCEPT for the psalms for Morning Prayer. But there's an instruction that tells you, "Psalms and Canticles from Sunday Week I" *

*Handy hint: every single feast and solmnity uses Sunday Week I for its Morning Prayer psalter. Always.

Feasts of Saints, of Our Lady, and of Church dedications have one extra wrinkle. Besides what is in the Proper of  Saints, and besides using  Sunday Week I for Morning Prayer psalms/canticles, you will also be directed to one of the "Commons" which are in the last major section of your breviary. So next Wednesday, when you see Feast of St. Matthew on your calendar, you turn to the Proper of Saints, which in turn directs you to the Common of Apostles. Think of Commons as generic offices that cover various subgroups of saints: Apostles, Martyrs, Bishops, holy men, holy women, etc. So you turn to the page they give you for Common of Apostles, and use the prayers that are there. (bouncing back, of course, to which psalms for Morning Prayer, class? Raise your hand! Yes, you in the back. Right! The psalter of Sunday Week I is used for every saint's feast. Very good.) HOWEVER, don't forget to keep a finger or a ribbon marker on St. Matthew's page back in the Proper of Saints, because you will substitute his special gospel canticle antiphons for the generic antiphons in the common, and also will use Matthew's concluding prayer.

In summary--feasts are straightforward. Go to the Proper of Saints and follow instruction.

But, but, Daria, what about Memorials? And Optional Memorials?

I really have to get to work right now. If I get some comments below that tell me people have read and benefited from these last two posts, then I will continue the series with a separate post on Memorials, which I admit, can be confusing since there are various options for them.


I Found My Place in the Psalter Using this One Weird Trick

This post has been re-run several times, so old timers, there's nothing to see here. But lately several readers have mentioned their dependence on the St. Joseph's guide. Another one, who just obtained a used  Pauline one-volume breviary, asks me if there is a guide available for that. (Answer: there is a pamphlet which tells you what week you need for the four week psalter. It does not give page numbers,not does it tell you what page you need for the various feasts, holy days, and memorials, so is less comprehensive than the St. Joseph guide.)

Now, you could always hop on the computer or smart phone to see what or is doing each day, and then arrange your ribbons accordingly. (I assume you use the book because you find it a nicer aesthetic and/or spiritual experience to do so, otherwise you'd just  use a breviary app all the time.)

But the best way is to learn the system yourself. Since we are in ordinary time, the main thing to do is find your place in the psalter. Here is my old post about that:

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.

Well, that's fine, you may say, but what about memorials and solemnities and feasts? What about today, the Exaltation of the Cross? How do I figure that out without my dear little St. Joseph guide?
I'll tell you that in the next post.

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Let Us Pray!

previous post soliciting prayer intentions from our little community of Psalm-sayers has received responses that are a good cross-section of human need.

A dying mother-in-law.
A young mother who will soon give birth.
Success in a new business.
A needed raise at work.
Facing surgery.
Mental illness.
Struggles against temptation.
Children and grandchildren who have strayed from the faith.
For the spiritual needs of our Pope and his helpers in the curia.

So, what you do is this: when you read the intercessions at vespers, add this one:  "We commit to your love and providence all  the special needs of the Coffee&Canticles community."

 Or words to that effect!

And feel free to add yours here or in the earlier post "Sharing Our Burdens at Vespers

Thanks, everyone.

Looking for a Pauline Breviary?

Every now and then someone writes me about the out of print single-volume breviary done by the Daughters of St. Paul (USA).    I have praised this breviary because, unlike the single volume "Christian Prayer" breviary from Catholic Book Publishing, this one has the complete four-week cycle for Daytime Prayer, while the one from CBP has only two weeks' worth. (That makes NO sense.)  

The Daughters of St. Paul have plans to issue new breviaries once the revised translation is done. But that is some years away, as we all know.

Anyway, a nice reader from the UK wrote me yesterday to say that she has a one-volume Daughters of St. Paul breviary looking for a good home. It has no ribbons but is in good shape otherwise.
She is willing to send it to anyone who is willing to pay postage from the UK,

If anyone is interested in this, please email me:  thesockeys"at"gmail "dot" com and I will put you in touch with her.

Speaking of missing ribbons--I hope you all know that there is an easy fix for this. Go to your nearest fabric store and buy a few different colored lengths of skinny ribbon--these are on spools at the sto re and are sold by the yard, but if you ask for 1/3 of a yard (one foot) I believe they will sell it to you in that small amount. Perhaps some places will even sell it by the inch, but I don't know.

Bring you little lengths of ribbon home, find a bit of cardboard, and cut a piece that will fit snugly down the spine of your breviary--maybe 1.5 by 4 inches or thereabouts. Fasten the ribbons to that with packing tape and shove it down the spine. Voila!

You can also buy these ready made at lots of online retailers, but when you think of the price plus postage, my method is a cheapskate's delight. 

Monday, September 5, 2016

Sharing Our Burdens at Vespers

In the General Instruction on the Liturgy of the Hours, the section discussing the Intercessions says that it is appropriate to add personal  petitions, especially during evening prayer. It is suggested that we add these just before the final intercession which is usually about praying for the souls of the dead.  

Don't worry about composing a fancy, two part intercession that matches the language of the ones in the breviary. I'm sure that something simple such as "For Mary to recover from her surgery" or "for the conversion of John", or "for relief from depression for George" or "For all the people on Facebook who have requested prayers--I forgot the specifics but You know them all, Lord" are all perfectly good extra intercessions to add to the more formal ones.

Also, when you pray any part of any of the hours, sometimes a particular line of a psalm will remind you of someone you know and their needs. "My soul is filled with evils" or "Rescue me, Lord,from my foes"  might remind you of a friend who is having a rough time.  That mental association is in itself a prayer for that person, since you are joining him or her to a psalm that the church prays on behalf of its suffering members.

This gave me an idea. The column on the right indicates that 293 people have signed up to follow this blog through the google/blogger  platform. There are others who subscribe through email or feedly or some other method.  Most of us are not personally acquainted, but our love for the Liturgy of the Hours is a bit of a bond among us. So I was thinking of trying a post where any of you could post prayer intentions,and the rest of us could try to remember to include those either in our personal intercessions at evening prayer, or by making a general intention to remember these needs at one of the other hours that we pray.

So...if you have any prayer intentions that you wish to share with our little community, put them in the comments below. I'll run this a couple of times, and if it appears to catch on, I'll make it a regular thing.

Friday, September 2, 2016

It's Not About You! Or, is it?

credit: Liturgy Memes (like us on Facebook)

I couldn't resist sharing this punny meme today. Not just because the Carly Simon pop tune, "You're So Vain" brings back memories of my childhood, but because this meme actually does bring up an issue about the Liturgy of the Hours.  

Some people might not "get" the LOTH because on any given day, the psalter does not express their feelings, e.g. psalms of sorrow when all is well with their worlds, or joyful psalms when they are in the midst of suffering.    But it's precisely a virtue of liturgical prayer that it breaks us out of the narrow confines of our own feelings and makes us think and pray as members of the Body of Christ. No matter what we happen to feel on any given day, we are supposed to pray the psalms in the voice of the Church on behalf of its members. There are always suffering souls to pray for, and there are always happy souls with whom we can rejoice. So we have to get over ourselves and pray with the heart of the Church; with the heart of Christ.

But once we submit to this discipline, a funny thing happens. We start finding a verse here and an antiphon there that jumps out at us so forcefully that it seems to have appeared in the day's Office as a "sign" or a message addressed to us by the Lord.   And why not? Even as we pray on behalf of the Church for the world,  we are also among the little sheep for whom the Church is praying.

So although it might be vain to expect each day's psalms to reflect our moods and needs, it's not vain at all to find elements in them that are deeply applicable to our personal situation.

God's Word will do that to you. 

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Works of Mercy--Moments of Grace

Morning Prayer's reading today reminded us of all the things that cannot separate us from the love of Christ: anguish, distress, persecution, famine, peril, persecution, or the sword. A consoling thought. But the terrible things in that list are still pretty terrible.

Friends, we know from the news a lot of people are suffering from disasters these days. They are experiencing the things in that list of St. Paul's.   And one reason those things will not separate them from Christ's love is that He will come to them through the members of His body on earth, right?

You probably already know what to do, but in case you hadn't yet gotten online to send aid, I thought I'd post a few links to make it easy. (And thank you to Norman Hartley for suggesting that I bring all this up on the blog. As he pushed me now I'll push all of you.)

The Knights of Columbus  are your one-stop shop for donating either to help victims of the massive flooding in Louisiana  or to do whatever can be done to help victims of Christian Genocide in the Middle East.

You also know about the recent earthquake in central Italy. Catholic Relief Services is always an option, but  as fans of the Liturgy of the Hours, you might be particularly interested in helping the Benedictines of Norcia, whose monastery was severely damaged. Norcia, as you may know, is the birthplace of St. Benedict, who more or less invented the Divine Office. This particular monastery includes a number of Englishmen and Americans, and they are devoted to maintaining the traditional rule of St. Benedict. Their chant CD is a bestseller on Amazon. Buying that would be one way to support them, but you could do a lot more to help their rebuilding effort by making a direct donation to them.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

St. Louis IX and Disappointing Children

It's a bit late in the day to be writing about today's saint and office, but I've been travelling most of the day, and then setting up a new laptop after the old one died on me.

Today's second reading from the Office of Readings stayed with me all day. It's a letter of advice from St. Louis IX, King of France, to the son who would succeed him. It's beautiful! It's wise!  Here's some samples:

My dearest son, my first instruction is that you should love the Lord your God with all your heart and all your strength. Without this there is no salvation... You should permit yourself to be tormented by every kind of martyrdom before you would allow yourself to commit a mortal sin.

If the Lord has permitted you to have some trial, bear it willingly and with gratitude, considering that it has happened for your good and that perhaps you well deserved it. If the Lord bestows upon you any kind of prosperity, thank him humbly and see that you become no worse for it, either through vain pride or anything else, because you ought not to oppose God or offend him in the matter of his gifts.

Listen to the divine office with pleasure and devotion. As long as you are in church, be careful not to let your eyes wander and not to speak empty words, but pray to the Lord devoutly, either aloud or with the interior prayer of the heart.

Be kindhearted to the poor, the unfortunate and the afflicted. Give them as much help and consolation as you can... Be just to your subjects, swaying neither to right nor left, but holding the line of justice. Always side with the poor rather that with the rich, until you are certain of the truth. See that all your subjects live in justice and peace...

Be devout and obedient to our mother the Church of Rome and the Supreme Pontiff as your spiritual father. Work to remove all sin from your land, particularly blasphemies and heresies...

One year, after finishing this reading, I wondered whether St. Louis' son took this advice to heart and became a king worthy of such a father. Unfortunately, Louis, son of Louis, died before he could succeed to the throne. The next son, Phillip, is described in Wikipedia as "soft, timid and indecisive." The description of his reign, although not horrible, doesn't come across as that of a great king. He was mediocre at best. 

If your children don't seem to be turning out quite the way you'd hoped, you might find a sympathetic saintly friend in Louis IX.  

As always, if you have any questions related to the Liturgy of the Hours, please comment below and I' (or one of my smarter readers) will do our best to respond.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

St. Pius X has no Memorial this year, but...

Due to today being a Sunday, we don't do the memorial of St. Pius X.

But if you have the time, check out the Office of Readings, second reading for his memorial. It's all about the psalter and the value of praying the Psalms. There are a handful of readings throughout the year with this topic. They are priceless reminders of what it is we are doing when we observe the liturgical hours.  Since we layfolk have no canonical obligation to do this, it is easy to let this practice fall by the wayside when life gets busy, or when we get bored with it. (That happens to everyone now and then.) We need the occasional shot in the arm to get us over that hump of boredom or distraction. So look St. Pius X up in your breviary and get inspired.

Or if you have no breviary, just read it here:

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.