its been a while...

Monday, December 31, 2007

Well its been along time since I’ve posted! It has been one crazy and stressful semester! High school can be well... insane. Keeping up with grades, dealing with just trying to be a teenager today and trying to truly find God’s will. I go back to school on Thursday and then I have midterms the week of the 14th. Please keep me in your prayers then, unfortunately I’ve been struggling to keep up lately.

Other than that nothing has really changed in my life. Though more and more I feel called to the Servants of the Lord and the Virgin of Matara. Yes I am young, but its never to early to realize what God is calling you to, after all The Little Flower entered at 15.

The last few months I have felt that pull to the convent stronger. Everything that I have ever wanted to find in an order I found in them. I just couldn’t imagine anything else. I feel so at peace when I think about entering. Actually, the other night I had a dream about the day of entering. Even though dreams can sometimes be a little crazy I felt so happy about entering when I woke up. I was more relaxed about everything.

The is just one thing that still seem to bother me though. I know for a fact that one of my grandmothers is extremely against me entering. She has no idea that I have a calling but yet my whole life she’s always made comments that tell me she is against it. I’m her only granddaughter. And I know that the day I tell her I have a vocation to the religious life she will be very angry with me. Unless she has a change of heart my only hope for anyone to calm her when I tell her is my adopted grandfather. He has a way of calming her. Please keep him in your prayers that if it be God’s will that he will be on this earth for a longer time so I may bring Him with me when I tell her. I would greatly appreciate it.

God bless!


It Isn't Often...

Friday, December 28, 2007

St. Josemaría

...that you get to listen to a saint. Whatever your views on Opus Dei, you will undoubtedly find these short videos worthwhile viewing.(Spanish with English subtitles)

Please repost this on your own blog, or include a link to this one.


The most wonderful time of the year?

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

I've always imagined that Christmas for priests can be pretty awful. I don't mean the obvious heavy workload of services and ministry throughout this deeply spiritual season, but a more subtle, personal pain.

For those who have dedicated themselves to God in celibacy, and who must minister to a parish/other congregation over Christmas, this especially family-orientated time of year must be bittersweet. Would anybody be willing to post about what Christmas is like for the clergy? I don't have much to share on the matter, so if someone else wouldn't mind, that would be great...

Lord, care for and comfort thine servants during Christmas, through Christ Our Lord. Amen


Office of Readings & Prayer during the Day

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Veníte, exsultémus Dómino, jubilémus Deo, salutári nostro : præoccupémus fáciem ejus in confessióne, et in psalmis jubilémus ei.
O come, let us sing unto the Lord ; let us heartily rejoice in the God of our salvation. Let us come before his presence with thanksgiving ; and shew ourselves glad in him with psalms. (Ps. 94)

[Note: sadly the first part of the this tutorial will be next to useless to all but those using the larger Office books which include a full Office of Readings; Christian Prayer, etc., are unfortunately deficient in this regard.]

Matins -- The Office of Readings

Matins is the oldest Office of the Roman Breviary -- hence its nickname the "Parent" Office -- and historically the longest. It consisted of Opening Versicles, the Invitatory (Ps. 95), a hymn, and a number of "Nocturns". Either there was one Nocturn of nine Psalms, interstices (responsory, Our Father, and Absoltuion) and three scripture lessons; or, there were three Nocturns of three Psalms, interstices, and three lessons.

Following the reforms promulgated in Laudis Canticum, matins or the Office of Readings has now been simplified in terms of structure. The structure is now:

  • Opening Versicles;
  • three Psalms, with Antiphons and doxology, as previously explained for Lauds, Vespers, and Compline;
  • a reponsory (i.e. a versicle and response);
  • two readings, each followed by a reponsory
  • (on feasts and solemnities, the Te Deum with doxology); and
  • a concluding prayer.

Opening Versicles

The Opening Versicles would normally be:
V. "Lord, open my lips",
R. "And my mouth will proclaim your praise".
-- a sign of the cross is traditionally made by the thumb over the mouth at these words.

The Invitatory (Ps. 95) is then said, but can be optional in private recitation. This is a "hymn of adoration to God", as an "introduction to the Sabbath liturgy of the synagogue. The Church has placed it at the beginning of each day's Divine Office"(1).

However, if the Office of Readings is not the first Office of a particular day (this is called "anticipation" and takes place after Evening Prayer; see below), the Versicles would instead be:

V. "God, come to my assistance"
R. "Lord, make haste to help me."
"Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit: as it was in the beginning, is now and will be for ever. Amen."

-- An Alleluia is said outside Lent. These are all listed in the Ordinary/"Common Texts".


The Hymn is generally taken from the Psalter, though obviously if the Proper of Seasons, the Proper of Saints, or the Commons mandate a particular other Hymn, then this would be said.


Three Psalms/Canticles are then said as per Morning, Evening or Night Prayer. Again, they may come from the Psalter, the Propers or the Commons. Each is preceded by an Antiphon, and followed by a doxology and Antiphon.

The final Psalm is followed by a Responsory.


The Readings are not listed in the Psalter. For ant given feast, the second reading will generally be given in the Proper of Seasons/Saints. The first reading is often taken from a Common, but do not worry, as the Proper of Seasons/Saints will always direct which Common to reference. For Solemnities and other very important liturgical days, sometimes both readings are given.

Each Reading is followed by a Responsory.

For me, the readings are the joy of the Office of Readings. In them we find spiritual nourishment; whilst I find the Psalms and Canticles of the other Hours (and indeed of this Hour) speak to me on an emotional and subconscious level, the Readings imbue direct catechesis and learning, at the same time as allowing us to pray.

Te Deum

If it is a Sunday outside Lent, a Solemnity or feast, the canticle Te Deum is then said, followed by a doxology (Glory Be).

Concluding prayer and Closing Versicles

If another Office will not immediately follow (see below), then a prayer is said. It is preceded by "Let us pray", but is not often listed for the Office of Readings. Most often we find the direction "As in Morning Prayer". The this Office then ends (traditionally whilst making the sign of the cross) V. "Let us praise the Lord", R. "And give him thanks".

Prayer during the Day

Prayer during the Day consists of:

  • Opening Versicles;
  • a Hymn;
  • three Psalms, preceded by Antiphons, and followed by a doxology and Anitphon;
  • a short scripture reading;
  • a responsory; and
  • Concluding prayer and Closing Versciles (as per Office of Readings above).

The material is usually drawn from the Psalter.

A problem arises because the Office of Prayer during the Day represents three traditional Offices (i.e. terce, sext, and none), and can still provide the material for all three. If you only wish to pray one Hour during the day, then it is simply a matter of following the directions for the reading and prayer according to whether it is AM, noon, or PM.

However, if you wish to pray the three Hours of terce, sext and none, it is slightly more complicated. Your Office book will hopefully have a section entitled "Complementary Psalmody". To explain this in a nutshell, one Hour will take its Psalmody from the regular 4-week Psalmody, whereas the other two will come from the complementary Psalmody. Personally, I do not pray more than one Office during the day, so I cannot really advise or comment further; even for the clergy, only one is mandated(2).

A note on conjoining Offices

The General Instruction of the Liturgy of the Hours does provide for the joining together of the various Offices with each other or Mass. Some combinations are prohibited (e.g. Office of Readings with Mass, except for on Christmas Eve), whereas others are explicitly described.

I personally do not like conjoining Offices because it means I have not been faithful to the tradition of veritas temporis (correspondence of the Hour to the time of the day(3)). However, from a practical point of view, I recognise that -- particularly for the laity -- this is necessarily in the hectic lives we live, if one does want to pray particular Hours of the Office, e.g.:-

  • unless I "anticipate" the Office of Readings, by praying it the night before (after Evening Prayer, but before Night Prayer), I am forced to pray it and Morning Prayer together; and
  • often, I have not had a chance to pray Prayer during the Day actually during my working day, so I often join it with Evening Prayer.

Practically, this generally means omitting the final prayers of the first hour, and omitting the opening versicles and hymn of the next. However, for a full explanation, please do check GILOH §§ 93-99. Methods are also given for adding further scriptural readings to Evening Prayer I to form, for example, a vigil prior to a Solemnity/major Feast.


Having now covered all the Hours of the modern Divine Office, this is my last planned post on the Liturgy of the Hours. If there are any outstanding questions, queries, suggestions, etc., I would be more than happy to cover them, even by a further post if that is required. Feedback is very welcome, as I have learned things by writing these posts.

Last time, Matthew asked me if I could comment on the older pre-Vatican II Breviarum Romanum. In short, I cannot, because I am not well-enough acquainted with it. However, the commentary on the website looks promising. Oh, and some good news: these and other goodies will be collated into a web-resource in the New Year.

In the meantime, I hope you have all gained something from these posts, so we can recite the Liturgy of the Hours, and "celebrate the praises of the Creator of the universe with dedication" (dubia, op. cit.).

(1) Socias, Handbook of Prayers, p. 47
(2) c.f. GILOH §77, CDW Dubia no 2330/00/L
(3) c.f. GILOH §7


Merry Christmas!

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Hi everyone!

I just wanted to wish everyone a blessed Christmas and a wonderful new year!

I also wanted to ask everyone for prayers, as I am going to the Pauline discipleship week in Boston with the Daughters of St. Paul. This retreat starts on Dec. 28. I will be praying for all of you this Christmas season and especially on the upcomming retreat!

Thanks for your time!


Ember Days for Vocations

Sunday, December 16, 2007

This coming Wednesday, Friday and Saturday (i.e. 19, 21 and 22 December) at Ember Days under the classical Roman Calendar. Their observance is no longer required by many Catholic bishops conferences, however they are naturally of benefit and merit.

Ember Days were marked by fasting and abstaining from meat as one would do on Ash Wednesday or Good Friday. Ordinations were often conferred at this time, so it is traditional to pray for Vocations at this time! Something to remember.

The New Advent Catholic Encyclopaedia has a good small article on Ember Days.

(my apologies to Matthew for stealing the picture he used last September in his post on the subject)


Liturgy of the Hours -- Compline

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Compline is the beautiful night prayer of the Church. It can be said just before retiring to bed, and has a penitential aspect, where we expose our sins and shame to God, but at the same time commend ourselves to His infinite mercy and care. It also is profoundly a renewal of hope -- after all, who knows what will happen when they sleep! Hence the Church prays "Lord, we beg you to visit this house and banish from it all the deadly power of the enemy. May your holy angels dwell here to keep us in peace, and may your blessing be upon us always."

Structure of Compline

Compline is found in its own section of your Office book (pp. 1034-1057 in Christian Prayer). Though there is a different text for each day of the week (note "after Evening Prayer I" means 'Saturday night'), there is no further variation, i.e. no referencing of Propers, Commons, etc.

Opening Versicles

The Hour always commences with these versicles (p. 1034, et. seq.) with the sign of the cross being traditionally made:
V. "God, come to my assistance"
R. "Lord, make haste to help me."
"Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit: as it was in the beginning, is now and will be for ever. Amen. [Alleluia](1)"

A brief Examination of Conscience, though optional, is now recommended. In communal celebrations this often takes the form of a pentitential rite, e.g. the Confiteor.


Though a Hymn for Compline is, like other Hours, compulsory, the exact Hymn is left up to choice. Hymns are listed in an Appendix at the back of the book.


One or two Psalms are then recited. As in Lauds and Vespers they are preceded by an Antiphon (which may change if it Easter), and are followed by a Glory Be, and the Antiphon then being repeated.


A short scripture reading is then said. Again, there is no need for the preface "A reading from ...".


The responsory is then said, and it is unvarying, with the exception of adding alleluias during Easter:

"Into your hands, Lord, I commend my spirit.
-- Into your hands, Lord, I commend my spirit.
You have redeemed us, Lord God of truth,
-- I comment my spirit.
Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit:
-- as it was in the beginning, is now and will be for ever."

Personally, I find this part of the Compline the most solitary, the most emotional, and the part I am least able to explain. In the dead of night, there am I, talking to my God, and telling Him I trust Him, using the words our Saviour used.

Gospel Canticle

Now follows the Nunc Dimittis, the Canticle of Simeon. I find the emotional moment continues as we hear Simeon's heart-rendering thanks to God upon seeing the infant Jesus. It is preceded and followed by an unvarying Antiphon. I will quote this in full:

"Protect us Lord, as we stay awake; watch over us as we sleep, that awake, we may keep watch with Christ, and asleep, rest in his peace.

Lord, now you let your servant go in peace;
your word has been fulfilled:
my own eyes have seen the salvation
which you have prepared in the sight of every people:
a light to reveal you to the nations
and the glory of your people Israel.

Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit:
-- as it was in the beginning, is now and will be for ever.

Protect us Lord, as we stay awake; watch over us as we sleep, that awake, we may keep watch with Christ, and asleep, rest in his peace."

Concluding Prayer, and Blessing

The final prayer is then said; it is preceded by "Let us pray".

Then blessing is then said "May the all-powerful Lord grant us a restful night and a peaceful death. Amen" (p. 1037, et. seq.); here traditionally, a sign of the cross is made.

Marian Antiphons

Most people then pray a traditional Marian Antiphon. Although Compline is over, this is done in honour of Our Lady, and to my mind indicates the faith we have that she will intercede for us and cause us to come to her beloved Son, Jesus.

You can pray whichever final Antiphon you wish, but if it is of any interest they were previously prayed thus:-

  • during Advent, and until the Feast of the Purification, Alma Redemptoris Mater;
  • from the Feast of the Purification until the Wednesday in Holy Week, Ave Regina Cælorum;
  • from Holy Saturday until Trinity Sunday, Regina cæli lætare; and
  • from Trinity Sunday until Advent, Salve Regina.

Naturally, you are free to pray any of those listed, but I found sticking to a particular one -- in either English or Latin -- was an excellent method to learn them. I would also recommending reciting the Memorare, or some other small devotion.

In monasteries and other religious communities, the "Great Silence" then started (and still does). During this time no conversation is usually permitted, save for emergency. I find this highly commendable and would not dally after Compline. You have just prayed for God's blessing over your sleep; go to sleep!

Over at The Propaganda Machine blog, my friend Mike has said he may write a post on the spirituality of Compline; I would recommend that when/if he does so.

Next time:

I plan to wrap up this series on December 23rd (Advent IV) by covering the "inheritor" to the vigil of matins, the Office of Readings, as well as Prayer during the Day. The latter Hour can be one or three, but after praying Morning Prayer and Evening Prayer is relatively simple.

As usual I would welcome any feedback or questions, but particular before next time because I have nothing further to say! God bless!

[Hymns: Also, I need to apologise; last time I said that the hymns are optional in private recitation. I have clarified that in terms of GILOH §§ 42, 61, 79, 87 and 173 it is not optional. Naturally those reciting (parts of) the Office can choose what they want to recite, but if you want a truly authentic experience... ;-) ]

(1) Alleluia being omitted during Lent.


Lauds and Vespers -- Morning and Evening Prayer

Sunday, December 09, 2007

'Lauds, traditionally recited in the early hours of the morning, is actually a twin. Its identical sibling is Vespers, the early evening office. As the extended watch of prayer which preceded the early Christian Eucharist became detached from that celebration, it developed into three distinct services: Matins, which as the longest office is a sort of "parent," and two identical twins, Lauds and Vespers' (Anglican Breviary(1) tutorial).

Here I will begin, as suggested, to talk about the individual Hours. However, please note, as a practitioner I may naturally forget to mention much material; I also do not intend to mollycoddle readers. I would therefore earnestly exhort "learners" to consult the Ordinary of his/her Office book, the General Instruction of the Liturgy of the Hours. Equally, please do leave feedback to address individual questions or concerns.

Structure of the Hours

I would like to teach people how to recite the individual Hours, however, I am all too conscious that Seth Murray's excellent and thorough tutorial Discovering Prayer covers the same ground. Therefore I have decided not to go into much depth -- because I think you should all use it instead! Also, don't be afraid to make mistakes!

I will however sketch the structure, briefly; as Lauds and Vespers are indeed "identical twins", their structure can be jointly summarised as follows [all page references are to the Catholic Book Publishing Company's Christian Prayer]:

Opening Versicles

The very first Hour said in a day starts(2):
V. "Lord, open my lips",
R. "And my mouth will proclaim your praise".
-- a sign of the cross is traditionally made by the thumb over the mouth at these words.

The very first Hour of the day (i.e. Morning Prayer, but maybe the Office of Readings) can then have what is called the the Invitatory. It is Psalm 95 (usually) with each strophe separated by an Antiphon (see p. 686-689).

If you do not say the Invitatory, then pray the following. Evening Prayer always commences with these versicles (p. 689, 694), with the sign of the cross being traditionally made:
V. "God, come to my assistance"
R. "Lord, make haste to help me."
"Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit: as it was in the beginning, is now and will be for ever. Amen. [Alleluia](3)"


The hymn then follows, which is optional. It will be indicated in the Proper of Seasons, the Proper of Saints, the Commons, or the Psalter... but a word of caution: despite having covered this in the last post on ranking, I know this is very confusing. I would advise at first only looking in the Proper of Seasons and the Psalter -- i.e. I would ignore the Proper of Saints, the calendar of days of the year, to being with.


Then follow a Psalm, a Canticle, and another Psalm. Each is preceded by an Antiphon (a short section from scripture, often repeated in choir), and followed by the doxology (the Glory Be) -- unless indicated otherwise, e.g. Dan. 3, which contains one -- and by the Antiphon again.

That is to say, the position is as follows (I have included the correct positions for the "psalm-prayers" unique to Christian Prayer):

  • Antiphon;
  • Psalm;
  • Glory Be;
  • Anitphon;
  • psalm-prayer;
  • pause for reflection; then
  • repeat to make three Psalms/Canticles.

Scripture Reading, Responsory

Next follows a short scripture reading; this is not prefaced by "A reading from ...", as we are accustomed to hearing at Mass. Then follows something called the Responsory.

For example, the Responsory of Sunday, second Evening Prayer (i.e. of the Sunday not the Saturday), of week 1 in the Psalter is rendered in Christian Prayer as (p. 717):
"The whole creation proclaims the greatness of your glory.
-- The whole creation proclaims the greatness of your glory.
Eternal ages praise
-- the greatness of your glory.
Glory to the Father...
-- The whole creation ..." (i.e. repeat 'the whole creation proclaims the greatness of your glory', then stop).

However, this could equally be written as the rather cryptic:
"R. The whole creation proclaims the greatness of your glory. Repeat R. V. Eternal ages praise the greatness of your glory. R. Glory be. R."
-- so watch out!

Gospel Canticle

Now the Gospel Canticle is said. This is either the Benedictus at Morning Prayer, or the Magnificat at Evening Prayer, and, as with Psalms/Canticles, is preceded by an Antiphon, and followed by a doxology and then the Antiphon again. The Gospel Canticles are traditionally said standing, and a sign of the cross made at the first words (i.e. "Blessed be the Lord"/"My soul glorifies"). They can be found in the Ordinary (see pp. 691/696).


Intercessions are then made, which can be in the form of call and response. Alternatively, some Office books give an alternative set which are maybe more appropriate for private recitation, but I think this is up to private taste (and I must admit, despite preferring those forms aesthetically, I still try to stick to the normal ones given, because I want to pray with the Church the prayer of the Church).

Our Father, Closing Versicles

Then the Our Father is said. It may be preceded by a traditional invitation to pray it (e.g. "Now let us offer together the prayer Our Lord Jesus Christ has taught us"), and is followed by the concluding prayer. Note, the two segue into each other, i.e. if it is Monday of Week 1, at Evening Prayer, then we hear "...And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil; Father, may everything we do...".

If a Priest/Deacon is present then there is a more complex formula of blessing and dismissal, but if not, the closing versicles are (traditionally said whilst making the sign of the cross):
"May the Lord bless us,
protect us from all evil
and bring us to everlasting life.
-- Amen"

That's it; you're done! Now for some general points.

General points:

I cannot decide whether to recommend learning Morning and Evening Prayer first, or whether I should recommend Compline, Night Prayer. In terms of the Breviary's intent to sanctify one's day, I think it should be lauds and vespers, and they were rightly declared by Vatican II (if I am not mistaken) to be the very central "hinge" on which the entire Office is held together. The tutorial I quoted above quite rightly points out that whilst the recitation of these Hours alone would be insufficient for the devotion of clergy (indeed this being why the Catholic Church maintains that those in Holy Orders must recite the entire Office), their recitation is highly commendable by the laity.

A final word on ranking, to explain it practically:

  • if the day of the year, is not a feast or anything special at all, then the material will all come from the Psalter (and the Ordinary, of course!);
  • if it is something amazingly special, such as Christmas, Easter or Corpus Christi, then it comes from the Proper of Seasons (and anyplace else it directs to look -- beware!);
  • but all the Sundays throughout the entire year come from the Proper of Seasons too;
  • if it is something like, say, the Annunciation, or the Immaculate Conception, whose date is a fixed calendar day, then it is from the Proper of Saints -- the Commons will generally be referenced for material Common to that day, e.g. the Common of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

As an example/tutorial, if someone wants to learn a particular day, then please let me know in advance, and I will gladly cover it (e.g. suggest "please tell us where to find all the material for Morning Prayer on Wednesday 19 December").

Next time:

Next time I shall have a quick look at Compline, the Church's offering to our Maker at the end of the day. And a final word of warning: do not be in a rush to "master" any more than one Office at a time. I won't be posting the next post until Sunday 16 December (Advent III), but to be honest if you can master Morning and Evening Prayer, then the other Hours are, by comparison, not hard.

Good luck, and God bless you!

(1) Note: The Anglican Breviary is for all intents and purposes as translations of the 1955 Breviarum Romanum into Elizabethan English. Whilst some Book of Common Prayer collects have been added and the calendar slightly amended, it should not be seen by Catholics to be heterodox as one would normally view other Anglican materials.
(2) Of course I traditionally know these as "O Lord, open Thou our lips", "and our mouths shall shew forth Thy praise"; don't get me started on the English translation from the Latin editio typica... The Liturgy of the Hours sadly suffers from some of the same defects as the English translation of the Missale Romanum.
(3) Alleluia is omitted from Antiphons, Glory Bes, etc., during Lent.


Liturgy of the Hours -- Structure and Rankings

Saturday, December 08, 2007

With the positive response to my first post on the Liturgy of the Hours, I have decided to make something of a series of this. It has been suggested that I write about each of the individual Hours -- something I am happy to do -- but to do that requires first of all some consideration of the structure of various Office books, and of the rankings of different liturgical "days".

The structure of an Office book

[Note: this refers to the Christian Prayer and Divine Office books I am familiar with. I know the US Liturgy of the Hours book is the same, but I can only assume the Shorter Morning & Evening Prayer and other books follow a similar pattern. Feedback would be welcome.]
Within your Office book you will find many sections, but those I would draw particular attention to are as follows. Their use varies depending on the type of liturgical day, i.e. a Solemnity versus a Memoria. They are:-

  • The Ordinary (also called "Common Texts") is essentially the Outline of the structure of each of the particular Hours contained in your Office book; it is important to become familiar with this before starting out, and necessary to refer back to if you encounter some of the "liturgical shorthand"(1) in the Breviary;
  • The Psalter -- the Psalter contains the staple part of the Office, i.e. the Psalms and Canticles prayed at various Offices; rotating over a four-week cycle, it also includes introductory texts, hymns, Antiphons, and a concluding prayer;
  • The Proper of Seasons, as the name implies, contains parts, e.g. Psalms, Antiphons, hymns, etc., which are "proper" to various days in the liturgical calendar, i.e. they override those listed in the Proper of Saints, the Commons or the Psalter;
  • The Proper of Saints -- similar to the Proper of Seasons, these texts override the Commons, and the Psalter, but refer to specific calendar days; and
  • The Commons are various texts common to particular classes of people, or thing, e.g. Common of Doctors [of the Church], or Common of Dedication of a Church.
Top tip: If you are stuck about which text to say, consider the parts to rank in this order:

  • The Proper of Seasons overrides:
  • The Proper of Saints, overrides:
  • The Commons, overrides:
  • The Psalter, overrides:
  • The Ordinary.
There are various other sections, depending on your book; those I would highlight as being of importance are (indicated by me running out of ribbons and using prayer-cards):-

  • appendices covering the Saints of the national Calendars -- use this to "amend" the Proper of Saints to cover your particular national Calendar;
  • Night Prayer (Compline) often comes in a section all its own -- though there are different Psalms for each day, it is otherwise unvarying;
  • the Final Anthems to the Blessed Virgin Mary -- these are traditionally said after Compline, e.g. Alma Redemptoris Mater during Advent.

    You'll also note a lot of red text throughout; like the Roman Missal, it is a case of "say the black, do the red"; though, you may on occasion find that "Ant." (for Antiphon) or "R." (for response) have been printed in black by mistake -- use your initiative and don't say them! There are known printing errors in Breviaries; give yourself plenty of time, say the Office slowly, read the red and become familiar with it!


    When I talk of rankings, I speak of being able to work out the importance of a particular liturgical "day", and of determining any particular rules which relate to a set of days. One must take cognisance of the ranking of liturgical days if a day in the Proper of the Saints collides with one in the Proper of Seasons.

    The old pre-Vatican II Breviarum Romanum was found by many to be complicated. It split Liturgical days into the genus and species of:

    • Greater Sundays (Sundays of the Ist Class, and those of the IInd Class);
    • Greater Ferias (a certain type of weekday, being Privileged Ferias or Non-Privileged Ferias);
    • Privileged Vigils (Ist Class Vigils and IInd Class Vigil);
    • Primary Ist Class Doubles;
    • Primary IInd Class Doubles;
    • Primary Greater Doubles;
    • Octave of Feasts (Privileged Octaves, Common Octaves, and Simple Octaves);
    • Lesser Doubles; Semi-Doubles; Ordinary Vigils; and so-on...
    It is relatively complex, especially when one then has to consult a table of each type against each other, to establish the rule for that combination. It certainly seems that the reformed Liturgy of the Hours has changed things for the better, in having, like Mass, the distinctions only of:

    • Solemnities;
    • Feasts;
    • Memoria;
    • Optional Memoria; and
    • all other days.
    The class, or ranking, of the day determines which sections of the Office book the various parts will be drawn from. It also established various things, such as whether or not to say the Te Deum after the Office of Readings, and whether there will be a vigil Evening Prayer the night before.

    To give a practical example, today, Saturday 8th December 2007 is the Immaculate Conception, and in Scotland is a Solemnity. The next day is the Second Sunday of Advent. Given that a Solemnity has its own "proper" Evening Prayer (from the Proper!), but that a Sunday has an additional "vigil" Evening Prayer the night before (i.e. on the Saturday night; also from the Proper!), which one wins?

    The reformed Liturgy of the Hours had made such decisions relatively easy by giving a "Table of Liturgical Days"(2). Upon glancing at it, it is clear there is still a complexity, because there are still 13 different classes of liturgical day, but generally the system is still easier to resolve.

    Having explained all of that, I can now explain the practical implications of rankings, by paraphrasing Christian Prayer, p. 37:

    • Sundays draw from the Proper of Seasons, the Psalter and the Ordinary (in that order), and have an Evening Prayer I the night before as well as an Evening Prayer II on the actual night (in addition, the Te Deum is said in the Office of Readings, except during Lent);
    • Solemnities draw from the Proper of Seasons or of Saints (depending which they are listed in), the Commons, as well as the Psalter and the Ordinary; they too possess a first and second Evening Prayer, and the Te Deum is said;
    • Feasts do not normally have an Evening Prayer I, with the bulk of material coming from the Proper of Seasons or of Saints (again depending which the Feast is listed in), and the Commons;
    • on Memoria the Psalms are drawn from the Psalter itself, with Antiphons, etc., coming from the Proper of Saints, or from the Commons, if not listed;
    • Optional Memoria are the same, but -- as the name implies -- their observance is optional; and
    • normal Weekdays draw all of their material from the Psalter (or the Proper, depending on the Season), never have a Te Deum, and the concluding prayer comes from the Psalter.
    I would advise anyone considering taking up the Breviary to read the General Instruction on the Liturgy of the Hours. As well as covering practical considerations, it covers the spirituality of the Liturgy of the Hours, and why we pray them.

    Please leave feedback on how helpful you find this; thank you!

    Next time:

    Some of you may be feeling you're still none the wiser, so next time I will be looking at how to actually say the major Hours of Lauds (Morning Prayer) and Vespers (Evening Prayer).

    Though you may wish to consider Baronius' reprint of the Little Office of the Blessed Virgin Mary, or similar short prayer-books, if you do not want as much variation as the Breviary offers.

    Note: I will not be covering the "odd Hour", Prime, as this Hour was suppressed for normative use following Vatican II. It is not, however, obsolete, as it is said by some Western monastic communities, the Societies of Apostolic Life using the 1962 liturgical books (e.g. FSSP), and other "traditional" Catholics. For more on Prime, see the appropriate Wikipedia article, or the "Anglican Breviary" page on the subject.

    (1) "Liturgical shorthand" refers to the way many common prayers are referenced by their first few words. We already do this in our naming of prayers, e.g. "Our Father", "Hail Mary", and "Glory Be" refer to the entire prayer, however the Breviary will also write, for example, "Into Thy hands" for "Into Thy hands, Lord, I commend my spirit".
    (2) LotH, vol. I, pp. xciv-xcvi
  •

    Eucharistic Adoration for vocations

    Thursday, December 06, 2007

    In case you haven't seen the news on Fr Tim's blog, or over on Rorate Cæli, the Congregation for the Clergy is writing to all Bishops to propose Perpetual Eucharistic Adoration "to the benefit of all Priests and Priestly Vocations".

    Here in my own Archdiocese there is Eucharistic Adoration every Saturday in the Cathedral, and whilst the Congregation acknowledges that Perpetual Adoration is not always possible, I would love to see the frequency/duration certainly increase. I hope this initiative is actively supported by all the Bishops.

    Rorate Cæli has the full text of H.E. Cardinal Hummes' letter, which is very encouraging.



    Liturgy of the Hours

    Wednesday, December 05, 2007

    Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
    This is a follow up to Mark's post. For those of you in the United States who wish to purchase a four-volume edition of the Liturgy of the Hours (which, if it's within your means to do so, I'd highly recommend) , you can find it on Barnes and Noble or on
    The best deal right now is from Barnes and Noble, which is where I purchased mine earlier this year, and I have enclosed a link below to the Barnes and Noble description of the LOTH four volume. If you have any questions about the LOTH in the United States, please e-mail me or post a comment to this post. I have been praying the LOTH for over a year now (using the one-volume from last fall until this past August), and will be happy to answer any questions you may have. I use the Post-Vatican II version, and, like my fellow writer Mark from the U.K., enjoy this form of prayer very much. You will be amazed with how much the LOTH aids the discernment process.
    As promised, here is the link to the Barnes and Noble page on the LOTH four volume.

    Take Care, and may God bless you all abundantly in all you do, now and forever.
    Your brother in Christ and companion in discernment,

    +Ad Maiorem Dei Gloriam+


    Happy Belated Feast Day of St. Francis Xavier!

    Tuesday, December 04, 2007

    Yesterday was the Feast of St. Francs Xavier, a missionary and Jesuit priest. Originally from Spain, St. Francis Xavier met St. Ignatius of Loyola at the University of Paris around 1529. He joined St. Ignatius as one of the Founding members of the Jesuit order.

    St. Francis Xavier worked tirelessly for the salvation of souls in India, Japan and China. He died of the coast of China in 1552. St. Francis Xavier is known for his great zeal for souls, and for his charity, manifested in his great love of God and neighbor.

    St. Francis Xavier is the Patron Saint of my family, as such he is very dear to my heart. St. Francis Xavier has obtained many graces and blessings for my family and I over the years. We have never known his intercession to fail. My Family and I were introduced to St. Francis Xavier by a friend through the "Novena of Grace." I cannot expound enough upon how efficacious this novena is. Trust and Confide in St. Francis Xavier, and he will obtain all the grace and blessings you need. Promise.

    St. Francis Xavier, Pray for Us!


    The Liturgy of the Hours

    Those of you who know me personally will know that I have a deep affection for something called The Liturgy of the Hours, also know as the Divine Office, or Breviary. But if you don't know me, you might be wondering what on earth it is... In this post I would like to touch on the history of the Liturgy of the Hours, its appeal, and why the Church enjoins us to participate in this, the 'prayer of the Church'.

    History and structure

    (Note: this refers to the traditions of the Latin Church, i.e. the Roman Catholic Church, and those Churches in communion with her. For other traditions, see the Wikipedia article 'Canonical Hours'.)

    The current Liturgy of the Hours originates from 1974 when the Breviarum Romanum -- or Roman Breviary -- was reformed according to the principles Vatican II outlines in the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, Sacrosanctum Concilium. However the Breviary itself is much older.

    The Breviary (latin, meaning short/concise book) evolved from the ancient custom of Jewish prayer ("Seven times a day do I praise Thee", c.f. Ps. 119:164) in monasteries and chapterhouses across Europe. With the addition of a pre-Eucharistic vigil or "watch", there became eight "Hours" or "Offices" of prayer. These were not strictly of one hour in length; indeed, prayer during the day is most short, whilst the night vigil is long! Until the reforms of Vatican II, the "Hours" of the Latin Church were:

    • matins -- the modern-day Office of Readings, which had a vigil or nocturnal character;
    • lauds -- morning-prayer, which together with vespers is considered a principal hour of prayer (both matins and lauds were observed during the night);
    • prime -- the "odd Hour", said upon rising
    • terce -- the "third" hour,
    • sext -- the "sixth" hour, and
    • none -- the "ninth" hour (together these constitute the modern "Prayer during the Day");
    • vespers -- evening-prayer, said around sunset; and
    • compline -- night-prayer, said before bed, and traditionally followed by a Marian Antiphon (e.g. Alma Redemptoris Mater in Advent, Salve Regina in Ordinary Time).
    (In addition, the first "Hour" is usually prefaced by the Invitatory, though this is optional in private recitation.)

    Each of the "Hours" has a particular character, e.g. compline has a slightly pentitential character, reflecting on the day and calling on God's mercy and can easily incorporate an examination of conscience; accordingly, they have different structural elements:
    • Psalms -- the staple element of the Liturgy of the Hours is the Psalter; these are said in all "Hours" and over a particular period -- in the older Breviary one week, and now, post Vatican II, over four weeks;
    • scriptural readings -- each "Hour" has scriptural readings, some quite small (in the case of the minor, midday, Hours between lauds and vespers), some extensive (matins could contain anywhere from three readings upwards, and nowadays contains two lengthy passages);
    • Gospel Canticles -- the modern arrangement of the Psalter includes certain canticles from the Prophets, Revelation, etc., but the three Canticles of note are the Benedictus(?) (Zecharias' song of thanksgiving on the birth of his son, St John Baptist), the Magnificat(?) (Mary's "yes" to God at the Annunciation), and the Nunc Dimittis(?) (Simeon's heart-rending thanks to God on the presentation of the infant Jesus in the temple), featuring in Morning Prayer (lauds), Evening Prayer (vespers), and Night Prayer (compline) respectively;
    • Intercessions -- since Vatican II, both Morning and Evening Prayer have contained intercessions -- and Responsories -- both of these echo the pre-Vatican II preces;
    • the Our Father -- along with Mass, the Our Father is also said at the conclusion of Morning Prayer and Evening Prayer, providing a threefold santification of the day; and
    • a Concluding Prayer.
    In addition to the rhythm of a four-week Psalter, the Liturgy of the Hours, like Mass, also changes according to the liturgical year and the calendar of the Saints.

    Note: for an in-depth survey of the transition from the pre-Vatican II Breviarum Romanum to the Liturgy of the Hours, I would recommend Stanislaus Campbell's From Breviary to Liturgy of the Hours.


    The appeal of the Liturgy of the Hours can be put down to a number of factors, all potentially subtly interlinked. For instance, I remember an Anglican vicar exhorting the the daily reading of the Psalter to me as, to quote, "it contains the whole of life and death, joy and sadness, all that there is". The sheer scope and beauty of the Psalter has a true appeal, especially in this modern world where there is little emotional outlet for the human spirit under times of pressure. How amazingly beautiful it is for the words of ones prayer to God eloquently echoing the various chapters of our lives!

    Meanwhile, the Gospel Canticles provide a familiar and consistent rhythm to each day, strongly echoing the three theological virtues (faith, hope and charity) as expressed by Zechariah, Mary and Simeon respectively. As noted above, the Liturgy of the Hours also provides the opportunity for the contemplation of and veneration of the Saints. The "Hours" are all themselves suited to longer periods of meditation and introspection.

    As regards the "words" themselves, there is always a danger in prayer that it can become like a spiritual shopping list. God does not need that. After all, do we honestly believe that God does not know our deepest needs and desires? No; of course he knows. Equally, we hope -- like John, believing "because we have heard" (Jn. 4:42) -- that these already written/authorised prayers of the Church, are free from error, and a fitting devotion or sacrifice to God. Indeed, the Church in calling them Opus Dei -- the work of God -- shows this to be true.

    From a psychochological point of view, there is certainly something liberating about letting go of "having" to find the words, and embracing something already written down for you. As with the Most Holy Rosary, the words flow over you, and at the same time engage the intellectual and cognitive parts of you, whilst the deep emotional parts are let go to commune with God.

    Another factor is quite simply that, for centuries now, the Liturgy of the Hours is truly the official Prayer of the Church. Indeed, Priests and Deacons have a canonical obligation to celebrate the Liturgy of the Hours, as well as religious (i.e. monks, nuns, etc.). Some religious are obliged to celebrate older arrangements of the Psalter, and the Societies of Apostolic Life which celebrate the sacraments according to pre-Vatican II liturgical books (e.g. FSSP, Institute of Christ the King, etc.) use these older books which include the eight "Hours". In prayer, one is then participating in the great Prayer of the entire Church, with all the members of the Church in the past, present, and to come. Your prayers are literally joining those of the Blessed in Heaven.


    Whilst Churches are enjoined by the Holy See to faciliate the public celebration of Morning and Evening Prayer(1), the bulk of celebration outside monasteries and other religious communities appears to be private, individual observation. A number of options are available to assist English-speakers in this effort:

    On-line matter:

    • The Universalis website provides the text of the Liturgy of the Hours "calculated" for each day, and configurable according to national calendar and timezone;
    • meanwhile, Praystation Portable provides mp3 files of audio to download
    Printed matter:

    The Liturgy of the Hours is available in a number of formats, split both by jurisdiction (for each, different translations for USA vs. UK) and by length (e.g. Morning and Evening Prayer alone in one volume). These include:

    It is possible also to acquire both modern and pre-Vatican II Latin Breviaries, as well as the popular Elizabethan English (and Anglican) translation, the "Anglican Breviary". The UK publisher Baronius Press is also working on an parallel English-Latin edition of the 1962 Breviarum Romanum, expected in the first-half of 2008. Those discerning vocations to the religious life may instead wish to consider the Roman Diurnal, or the Monastic Diurnal put out by St Michael's Abbey, Farnborough.


    The following resources may be of some help to those interested in finding out more about the Liturgy of the Hours:
    • David Chiang's A brief guide to the breviary;
    • Discovering Prayer -- Seth H. Murray's excellent PDF guide to praying the Liturgy of the Hours, whichever edition you use;
    • Instructions for Praying the LotH -- I found this via Google on a site in San Francisco;
    • The Roman Breviary -- the entire pre-Vatican II in both Latin, and the Elizabethan English of the Anglican Breviary; This is the pre-1955 Breviary which is before the 1962 changes and therefore before the Vatican II changes in the late 60's
    • St Francis de Sales' Guide to Christian Prayer -- this indispensable online version of the Saint Joseph Guide for 'Christian Prayer' lists page numbers for this edition; and finally,
    • The full texts of the General Instruction of the Liturgy of the Hours (1971), and the Apostolic Constitution Laudis Canticum (1970), promulgating the new LotH.

    Having prayed the Liturgy of the Hours in different forms for almost three years now, it is my constant companion, lending God's sanctification to each day, and allowing me to commune with my maker both on a literary and aesthetic level, but also on a deeper level, beyond words. I would heartily commend it, in any form, to all on this blog and beyond discerning a call to the Priestly or Religious state. At the same time, I would urge the laity to take up the Breviary too; they may find more there than simply the easing of the frenetic "structure" of their lives.

    Note: The resources listed above go some way to helping to explain the celebration of the Liturgy of the Hours, however I would be willing to make this into a regular series of posts, based on feedback. I would also be deeply honoured to assist those starting out with the Breviary (tip: even if you want to use the older books, start out with Christian Prayer and learn the structure one "Hour" at a time).

    As the day draws to a close at Vespers, "may the Lord bless us, protect us from all evil, and bring us to ever-lasting life". + 

    (Images: Wikipedia/flickr.)


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