Sunday, July 23, 2017

Memorial of St. Sharbel Makhluf

If you use an American breviary, you won't find the optional memorial of St. Sharbel Makhul in your proper of saints. But it's tomorrow, July 24th.

This Maronite rite saint from Lebanon, who died in 1882, has gained quite a following in recent years, probably due to his reputation as a miracle worker.  There are a number of dramatic cures attributed to his intercession, including that of a blind woman in Arizona who venerated the saint's touring relics in 2016.

If you want to include St. Sharbel in your Office tommorrow, you would use the regular psalter for Monday week IV. If you wish, after the psalmody you could go to the Common of Pastors and use that from the reading onwards, but staying with the entire Monday psalter is fine, too.  Then, use  this concluding prayer, which you can find at

O God, who called the Priest Saint Sharbel Makhlūf
to the solitary combat of the desert
and imbued him with all manner of devotion,
grant us, we pray,
that, being made imitators of the Lord’s Passion,
we may merit to be co-heirs of his Kingdom.
Who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever.

Now, those of you who use the Office of Readings are wondering if there is a second reading for St. Sharbel.   ibreviary does not have one. does  have one for him, a reading from St. Ignatius to the Magnesians.   Now this is curious, because my 2009 Pauline African breviary has a different reading, "from the letters of Amonius, hermit". I can't find it online, so I cannot copy and paste it here.  And my dedication to this cause does not extend to being willing to type out 800+ words here on the blog. Plus that may violate copyright. 

I understand that St. Sharbel even has devotees (and has answered prayers for) Muslims. So we might do well tomorrow to ask his intercession for the conversion of many more of them. 

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

College Student LOTH fan explains it all

Just wanted to share a lovely article by a college student at the Lifeteen website.  It's always wonderful to see anyone telling the world about the Liturgy of the Hours, but this is a particularly well done piece. The author gives a good, popular introduction intended to appeal to her peers, and to that end seasons the piece with goofy graphics.


Saturday, July 15, 2017

Free from the Burden! (guest post)

Here's the conclusion of a meditation on Psalm 81, verse 7.  Many thanks to Harold Koenig for sharing these thoughts with us. It's been a wonderful example of how daily liturgical prayer, although offered primarily on behalf of, and in union with, the Church universal, will also bring personal gifts from God to the one who prays it. 

Part 3: I relieved you from your burden
I hear a tongue I do not know: I relieved Israel’s shoulder of its burden; they set down the basket.– – –– – after Ps. 81
One reason to pray the office is that it is the work of God, the “opus Dei.” And the work of God, our Lord tells us, is to believe in him who God has sent. Our prayer is a work of faith.
To believe in him whom God has sent is not a matter of assent to certain propositions or articles of faith.  It is to have confidence, to trust. Jesus, whose very name amounts to “God saves,” is to be trusted to save us, to have saved us, to be saving us, to save us at the last day, the great morning.
I reproach myself often for my lack of fervor. I approach the office sometimes in ennui and frustration. I am not very devout, my mind wanders. This little commitment of time to him who deserves all I have and am seems like a huge and empty burden.
Me, me, me!  What foolishness!  He removes the burden from my shoulder and I immediately stoop to pick it up, turn to him irritably, and ask, “Now where were we? Oh yes, talking about me and my inadequacies.”

If you pray, “Lord, open my lips,”  do you think he will leave you mute?  If you cry, “God, come to my assistance!” will he not hasten to help you? Trust him, and the burden will be lifted, the basket of self-criticism set down.

Friday, July 14, 2017

A voice I do not know (guest post)

We continue today with guest author Harold Koenig's meditation on Psalm 81 verse 7. Enjoy!

Part 2: A tongue I do not know

I hear a tongue I do not know: I relieved Israel’s shoulder of its burden; they set down the basket.
– after Ps. 81

Why don’t we know?  Is the voice unfamiliar?  Is the language one we do not understand? This unknown tongue, unknown voice, unknown speaker … who is it that speaks?
Our heads are full of noise.  There are a hundred reasons not to pray; there are a thousand voices tugging at us as we pray. Even if we pray alone, we bring a crowd with us.
Consider.  We are here in answer to a call. We think it is our decision to pray, our inner voice that proposed the custom and this moment’s prayers.  And it was and is, but not ours alone. The Love himself, by being supremely lovable, calls love from us.  Though we grudgingly take up our breviary, it is an act of love to pray.  And that love did not originate within us.
The voice is unfamiliar and the tongue unknown because even as we yield to the Love, we ourselves natter and chatter with concerns, worries, desires, plans, self-reproach, or self congratulation.  “I and my piety have brought me here to pray this office,” we say. And immediately a jangling chorus arises. “Am I REALLY pious?  Look at my sins! Am I doing this well? Am I doing my LIFE well?”
Yet still the Spirit whispers in us and through us, “Lord, open my lips,” and “God, come to my assistance,” and our lips open and divine help is subtly, softly, even hastily given.
Maybe the voice is purposefully unfamiliar.  It seems to be the Spirit’s choice to prefer, while he prays in sighs and groans to deep for words, the sound of our halting and mumbling voices, as every parent rejoices in his child’s professions of love.
A beam of light through clear air is unseen unless it strikes our eyes.  We see not the illuminating beam but illuminated objects as light reflected from them reaches our eyes. So often the Spirit is known not in himself but in his works.
The unfamiliar voice, the unknown tongue speaks in your words of prayer.

Tomorrow: Freed from the burden

Thursday, July 13, 2017

A Single Verse of Psalm 81 (Guest Post)

Harold Koenig is a former Episcopalian clergyman, now a third order Dominican, a Divine Office enthusiast, and a Facebook friend of mine. He's done guest posts here once or twice before, and now we are blessed with another. Three actually.   Today we get part I.   It's the fruit of his meditations on a favorite verse of Scripture: Psalm 81 vs. 7, which by happy coincidence appears in the Psalter this morning. 

Note:The translation Harold uses is a bit different from what most of our breviaries use, but it's close enough for you to appreciate what he says about it.  The Revised Grail Psalms that we'll all be using eventually (when the new breviary translation is published)  also use "basket" rather than "load". 

I hear a tongue I do not know: I relieved Israel’s shoulder of its burden; they set down the basket.
– after Ps. 81:7

Part I: I hear

All good giving, every perfect gift is from above.  The intention to pray is good; the decision to pray now is a gift. We address God because he addressed us first. An infant roots for the breast when its cheek is touched.  God has touched us, so we seek him. He is first mover; his voice summons ours
Our prayers are not perfect, because even when we’ve learned how to negotiate our breviaries, there is still the wandering mind, the diversion of thought and attention to anything but the words before us.  We do not know how to pray as we ought. Can anyone doubt this? Therefore rejoice, because the Spirit prays in us, in sighs too deep for words.
So, in the quiet act of praying the office, lips moving silently, finger gliding down the page, there is a mystery.  We speak because we are spoken to; we utter that we may hear. As the eyes of servants look to the hand of their masters, as maids are alert to the hand of the mistress, so we attend to the word which evokes our words.
We lose focus. Of course, when we notice, we should bring ourselves back to this work of God.  But as our prayers come from him, we cannot justly allow ourselves to be too distraught when we stray.  After all, it is God who speaks, and his Word stands forever.  It may be so in the world’s eyes and our own that “hearing, we do not hear.” But he means to make himself known to us, and to spend too much effort and anxiety on the poverty of our efforts is just another distraction from our task which is to listen to our beloved who loves us.
Perhaps then we should trust that, though we do not now feel as if we were listening, much less hearing, yet he who made the ear knows what he is about.   In the depths, there where the Spirit sighs, there is a seed of hearing being planted.  And as Creation itself groans as in childbirth, so that seed will grow and come to term in us, to be brought forth at the proper time.

Next time: a tongue I do not know

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

A special Day for Breviary Lovers

It's the feast of St. Benedict, and if any sort of psalter, Office, breviary, or other book of daily liturgical prayer is an important part of your life, then you should consider him a special patron. It was St. Benedict, after all, who refined the already existing monastic custom of praying the psalms at regular hours throughout the day and night. Our breviaries today are all based, to great extent, on his system.    

So how to honor St. Benedict?  That might mean saying his office today as a feast rather than a memorial--use the entire common of holy men/religious. Or use the following poem as a hymn today. You may sing it to the hymn tune known as Old One Hundredth, a.k.a. Praise God from Whom All Blessings Flow. 

Below are pictures of a statue of St. Benedict taken in a church in Pittsburgh, PA last year. Note the detail shot of the raven at the bottom. Legends say that when monks who resented Benedict's reforms tried to feed him poisoned bread, a raven swooped in, grabbed the bread, and flew away with it. 

So was this an angel in disguise, or a real raven "possessed" by an angel? 

The sports teams at Benedictine University are known as the Ravens. 

I like birds so this sort of trivia makes me happy.  

A bit of extra news. If you use Facebook, you might be interested in joining groups that are devoted to the Liturgy of the Hours.  One that I've recently joined is Liturgy of the Hours Discussion and Support Group. It's for those who use either the Liturgy of the Hours (1970) and/or any of the Anglican breviaries. The membership is enthusiastic and you will probably get prompt replies to your own posts.   Another group, which I've belonged to for years, is called Breviary and Divine Office Discussion Group. People on this group use all sorts of breviaries both pre and post-Vatican II, but it seems that those who comment most often are mostly enthusiasts of pre-conciliar breviaries. They are especially helpful if you are trying to learn how to use these and also how to locate books and apps for the same. 

Of course, there's always Q&A here as well. I have several readers who are often faster at answering questions than I am, so even if I have been semi-AWOL these last few months, you are likely to get good responses to any questions here as well.