Saturday, April 23, 2016

The Meaning of Vespers will Blow Your Mind

I don't know about you, but I sometimes tend to rush thru Vespers. I'm a housewife, after all, and from 4pm thru 630 pm I'm going thru this cycle:
worrying that I don't have a recipe in mind yet for dinner
figuring out what I'm going to fix for dinner--searching my recipe file, cookbooks, online sites
running meat thru the defrost cycle in the microwave
fixing dinner
serving/eating dinner
cleaning up after dinner.

If I squeeze vespers in anywhere during this period, the upcoing phase in my dinner cycle will be a mental distraction. If I wait til after dinner, I am still usually "sandwiching" it in just before the next activity of the evening.   If I put it off until 9pm, I feel like I've missed the proper window and ought to just skip ahead to Compline.

Yeah, I know. First world Catholic problems.

But today a friend alerted me to a wonderful article by a young theology student all about Vespers. Now that I've read it, I can't wait until its time to do Vespers, and I know I am going to make time for it, use my print breviary to slow me down, find a quiet spot in the house to pray. And I'll light a candle in my prayer spot.

Briefly, the article traces the history of vespers: it's links to Old Testament sacrificial offerings, to the early Christian agape feast, and as a non-sacramental commemoration of the sacrificial death of Jesus. But my short summary does no justice at all to the actual article so please go and read it.  Make sure to listen to the video/audio clip of the Phos Hilaron, the traditional vespers hymn in the Byzantine rite.

Do this, and I promise your next recitation of vespers will be transformed, as you pray with the awareness that you are not just reciting psalms, but offering a sacrifice. 

Friday, April 22, 2016 Gone from Appstores

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Contrary to what I'd written yeserday, the DivineOffice mobile app will not be available for purchase these next two or three days.

As of several hours ago, is not longer available from any app store.

If you want a good explanation of the probable cause of this sad state of affairs, scroll down in the comments on my previous post.and read what Matt Warner had to say. He also links to a longer article on this topic.

Is there anything we can do to help save  Yes. First of all, be aware the the free website is also under the same threat. The copyright holders for the New American Bible and other breviary texts are allowing the website to serve existing members only. This means if you want to maintain access to the website you must make sure that your are a registered member. So go there and register! It just means giving your email and making up a password for the site.  If you don't do this, you will be shut out when becomes a closed community.  I was told that this would happen in two weeks, but then, since the "three days" left to buy the app turned out to be only 10 hours, I think people had better not wait very long at all. Register, and you can still be part of this particular community of believers who want to pray the Liturgy of the Hours, a prayer that belongs to the whole Body of Christ, and should not be confined to print media.   It might help the people to make their case to the USCCB that there is a large, stable group that benefit from this ministry.

The website works pretty well on a mobile device, by the way.

Even if you don't normally use DivineOffice to say your prayers, it can come in  handy when you are mixed up about which pages to use for any given day in your breviary: they always list them for you right at the begining of the prayers, both for the single volume and the four volume breviary.

How else can you help?
Go to and make a small (or large) donation. This licensing process will cost money, you can be sure of that.  If by chance you have some legal expertise in negotiating such things, you might offer your services to CEO Dane Falkner. Contact me privately about this if you are interested. thesockeys"at" gmail "dot" com.

Please don't just say "Well, too bad.  I'll just have to  switch to iBreviary or Universalis. Because you know what? Maybe iBreviary or Universalis will be the next apps to be threatened and shut down by archaic rules that have nothing to do with the mission of the Church to evangelize and draw us into a prayerful relationship with the Triune God.

How else can you help?
You might want to write a calm and respectful letter to your bishop, and to Bishop Serratelli, chairman of the USCCB Divine Worship Committee. I'll look for and post the addresses later. (It's well past my bedtime as I write this.) Let them know how you benefit from having the Liturgy of the Hours app or website. Let them know whether you "graduated" from using to buying and using a print breviary, something you might never have done if you did not have this simple gateway to liturgical prayer.  Let them know that has truly "gone to the peripheries" and brought the beautiful prayer of the Psalter to thousands who would not otherwise have tried it.   Beg them to, in this year of Mercy, to do what they can  to lay aside the legal structures that keep God's saving word from going out to the highways and biways of the digital world.

You get the idea. I'll get back to you with those addresses tomorrow. Good night.

Update: Good morning. The easy way to do this is to use the's "Contact Us" form. Where is says Help Us Direct Your Question, go first to Select Office and choose "Divine Worship".  You might also begin your comments with "To the Most Reverend  Arthus J. Serratelli  and members of the Committee on Divine Worship", but realize that Bishop Serratelli is not likely to receive this email: he is bishop of Paterson, New Jersey and does not work at the USCCB offices. It will be  read by a staff person who may or may not forward the emails. The bishops won't even be in Washington DC until there next meeting in the fall. Therefore, if you want to take another step,  you may email Bishop Serratelli at this address:  shepherd "at" patersondiocese"dot" org.

Another good Bishop to write might by Archbishop Aymond who is also on the Worship Committee. I could not find a specific email for him but here is the general contact page for the diocese.

Another good idea: contact your own bishop in the same way. A bishops conference is an artificial construct in the Church. The normal channel from us to the episcopacy  is our own bishop. Find your "Diocese of X" website and hunt around. Hopefully there will be a personal email for your bishop, and if not there should be some kind of contact form.

If you want to go the extra mile and write a Real Letter made of actual paper, just go to the various websites I've already linked and you will find the addresses. Right now I have to get someone up for school so I'm done here. Remember, these bishops probably have no idea what is going on at this point. Be respectful. They are also extrememly busy. Be concise.

One more thing. Spread the word. This blog is small.  Post this link on Facebook with your own note of explanation. If you think hashtags are a big deal (I don't get this myself) then use #freetheword or maybe #savethedivineoffice or #prayershouldbefree.

Another one more thing. I don't do Twitter, but if you are Twitter savvy (Twitter-pated as the Owl in Bambi would say) then there are things you could do there too. My fellow writer and DivineOffice fan Barb Syskiewiecz talks about that at the end of her post on this subject, which just came out this morning.

Oh! And how about a novena to Our Lady, Undoer of Knots?

One more thing. This is the last, I promise. Send messages of support to I'm sure the folks there will be glad to hear from you. If you have any special legal expertise, write directly to Dane at

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Divine Office App and Site to Close!

Each  of the  3 major apps for Liturgy of the Hours have had some significant things happening lately--some good and some not.

First and foremost, our friends at are having some issues with the permissions for the many texts they quote in the app. This recent post by's founder and CEO Dane Falkner pretty much explains it. In short, Dane thought he already had all the permissions he needed, but apparently not. So in three days' time he will suspend sale of the mobile app until the permission process is completed, and there is no telling how long that might be.

The texts in the Liturgy of the Hours have material that is copyrighted by the U.S. Bishops' conference, by ICEL (International Commission on English  in the Liturgy) and, for all I know, maybe by the Vatican as well. And, although the Prayer of the Church and the Word of God belong to all of us--guess what? The particular translations of these texts are copyrighted! And furthermore, getting permission to reproduce them is not easy. And furthermore, if you are going to make any money at all from reproducing them (and even in some cases, if you are not), the holders of the copyright are usually going to expect some compensation.

I learned this the hard way when I wanted to quote a handful of antiphons and a few other items from the breviary in The Everyday Catholic's Guide to the Liturgy of the Hours. I had to pay for that privilege. The psalms I quoted were from the Revised Grail Psalter rather than the current Grail version in our breviary, and although I had to obtain permission, the publisher of the RGP was gracious enough to not charge me anything for the psalms that I quoted.  And I also had to contact someone in Rome just to quote a few paragraphs from the General Instruction on the Liturgy of the Hours. (again, no payment required--just the bother of writing and waiting for the Okay.)  

I can readily sympathize with Dane in this situation--there could be layers upon layers of permissions needed for the various parts of these texts. It's difficult to be aware of all the t's that need crossing and i's that need dotting when it comes to getting permissions. Besides, a zealous Christian tends to feel that we are all in the same boat of wanting to make liturgical prayer more widely available and loved--we don't expect these kinds of roadblocks.    Someone else I know recently rushed to put a papal encyclical text up on his website--simply in his zeal to make the pope's message accessible to more people-- and got slapped down by someone in the Vatican and threatened with legal action until he took it down.

Anyway, this is important: if you have been  thinking about buying the app but were putting it off, DO IT NOW. Otherwise you may have to wait for a long  time. I know this app isn't free, but it's a good one and really worth it if you need the audio versions when travelling. 

Update: For these last few days it's available, the price of the app will only be $3.99  Definitely worth it. 

Update: This will also impact the free website.  Here's what Dane told me:
The second bit of breaking news is that we have been asked to close off the site to new members. This was very gracious of them to let us support our existing community and not shut us down completely. To this end, in the coming days, we will funnel everyone who comes to our site through a login process to login or create new logins. In a week or two we will close off access to new users.

On the more pleasant side of breviary apps news:

I mentioned several weeks ago that the newest version of iBreviary had significant bugs and pretty useless audio files (in "robo" language) added.  The good news there is that the app (at least my android version) doesn't seem to be crashing very often anymore.

Next, the Universalis app  (not the website version, only the mobile app) has a new option in the Office of Readings. As you may know, there is an optional two year cycle of scripture readings (a year I and year II cycle). You can already access the book/chapter/verse citations for these in an appendix of the one-volume Christian Prayer breviary, and then look them up in your bible. But now, with the touch of an app buttton, these alternate readings pop up for you, no fuss, no muss.

Please add a prayer that the difficulties that has encountered will be resolved quickly, so that this excellent ministry may continue to fulfill the hope of the Second Vatican Council, and more recently, Pope Benedict, that the Liturgy of the Hours be familiar to all the laity.

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Intercessions in Lauds and Vespers--a Primer

A reprint of an older, but popular post. This is a good one to share with friends who are new to the Liturgy of the Hours.

 Did you ever notice that the prayers of intercession in Morning Prayer are of a different character than those of Evening Prayer? If not, take a look.

In the morning, we are still aiming at starting the day off right, that is, sanctifying it, and renewing our dedication to God. So these intercessions will focus on praising divine attributes and begging for divine assistance to help us grow in holiness. It's the Evening Prayer intercessions where we will pray for the needs of others: the pope and bishops, priests, for vocations, for the poor, the sick, and (this one every single day) the dead.
This distinction between morning and evening intercessions is not hard and fast. You'll see an occasional intercession for others in morning prayer, and occasional intercessions in evening prayer related to personal holiness. Also, on some Fridays, personal repentance and conversion predominates even during Evening prayer intercessions.

The General Instruction also states that you may add additional intercessions of your own composition at Evening Prayer, just prior to the final intercession listed in the breviary (which is always for the dead and/or the dying.)

More trivia. Many people who own four-volume breviaries aren't aware of an appendix of alternative, shorter intercessions that may be used in place of what is in the four week psalter. Appendix II.

Rubrics trivia: there are several options for how to pray the intercessions. Some are only meant for group recitation of the liturgy when one person functions as a leader. But whether in a group or private, most people try to use all options at once, as a result doing the intercessions awkwardly. To wit:

*The introductory, opening sentence of the intercessions is only meant when there is a group with a leader. If you are praying alone, you may simply begin with the first intercession.

*Each intercession has two parts, and a repeating, response along the lines of "Lord, hear our prayer" You may do one of the following with these elements:

 a. in a group, the leader reads both parts of the intercessions and the group responds with the "Lord hear our prayer"-type response. OR the group leader reads the first part of the intercession and the group responds with the second part, in which case the "Lord, hear our prayer"-thing is NOT said by anyone!!! OR the group without a leader takes turns with the two parts of the intercessions, but  in this case, once again, no one says the "Lord hear our prayer"-response!
b. When praying alone, you just say the two parts of the intercession, and omit the "Lord hear our prayer" -thing. If you are praying with one other person, one of you may read both parts of the intercession and the other do the "Lord hear our prayer." 
What is NOT correct--although it is done everywhere--is for the same person/s to say the second half of the intercession, and then aso say the Lord hear our prayer-response. It should be intuitive that this is awkward (you're responding to your own response--doesn't that feel odd?), but since the instructions in the ordinary don't explain how to do the intercessions, and almost no one bothers to read the General Instruction on the Liturgy of the Hours, we end up with an epidemic of Intercession Awkwardness.

I feel like a liturgical geek army of one in the Ban Intercession Awkwardness movement. But boy, it felt good to rant about this today.

However, I'll add this: if your group has been using the Awkward Method for years, and is not likely to accept you as an authority on this matter, don't be afraid that this is some Huge Liturgical Abuse that you must fight with all your might until you get kicked out of your prayer group. The Awkward Method still insures that all the intercessions are prayed, so really, no harm is done. It's not as if the group had decided to eliminate intercessions altogether, or use nothing but spontaneously composed intercessions.

Monday, April 11, 2016

Sunday Week I Psalmody- Old Friends or Over-Used?

Over the years several readers of this blog, plus a few people in a group whom I sometimes meet for morning prayer, have commented that the Morning Prayer psalmody of Sunday week I gets kind of old after a while, especially if you find yourself having to use it several days in a row. For example, we use it daily for an entire week during the octaves of Christmas and Easter. Or you might have a few times every year when you've had it on a Sunday, and then during the same week have one or more feasts or solemnities, where  once again Sunday morning, week I is the default psalmody.

These people, some of whom are drawn to the Liturgy of the Hours partly due to the variety found in this prayer, tell me that Sunday Week I's frequency of use becomes a bit boring for them.

Do any of you find it to be so?  On Friday of the Easter Octave were you feeling ready to scream over yet another round of dew and rain, frost and chill, ice and snow, etc. bless the Lord?

Personally, I don't find the frequent repetition of Sunday week I psalmody to be a problem. For me, it's a plus.  First, simply as a matter of taste, I happen to really like both the psalms (63 and 149).  Psalm 63 in particular, when recited with  its Eucharistic imagery in mind, is always amazing.  And being a huge nature lover, who sits by a picture window overlooking some very pretty countryside when I pray, I don't often find the Canticle from Daniel to be that tedious either.

In addition, after several decades of using a breviary, I've finally learned this set by heart, and that is another plus. It is a pleasure to be able to take my eyes off the text and say them from memory.

However, I do understand having ups and downs in one's degree of attachment to, and enthusiasm for the never ending routine of the Liturgy of the Hours. So, what do you do when interested starts to flag?  My solution is to change it up a bit.

Just a few examples:

-fool around with chanting if you've never tried it before. Maybe just one psalm each time. I've written plenty of posts on resources for this before. Just check the archives.
- make a point of trying out the various senses of scriptural interpretation as you pray the psalms. Maybe one day just try to appreciate the literal sense (what the Jewish authors themselves were talking about). Another time, try the christological sense (how various verses could be seen as applying to Jesus, and then, to really set your heart on fire, imagine our Lord himself reciting these lines in the synagogue, knowing full well how they applied to him!)  Then, another day, look for the Moral sense: what is God trying to tell me about how I should walk the Christian path here and now?

-try to be more mindful that with liturgical prayer you are praying on behalf of the Church universal. Apply the verses of each psalm and canticle to the need, joys, and woes of the body of Christ on earth.

Okay, those are my ideas. Is there anything special you do when the Divine Office starts to lose its charm? Any tricks to revive your flagging attention span?  If so, post them in the comments below so that we can all benefit from your experience.

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

St. Alphonsus Ligouri on the Psalms

I was cruising around on Amazon today and found a real deal. It's a commentary on the psalms and canticles of the Divine Office by St. Alphonsus Ligouri.

I haven't read it yet, but for 99 cents, what could go wrong? It includes an interactive table of contents, so, unlike a 99 cent Augustine on the Psalms I got a while ago (useless!) this looks to be navigable.

Are any of you familiar with this work already?