Coffee & Canticles
Our brilliant Pope Benedict has given his last few general audiences on the topic of the liturgy. What he says applies equally to the Mass and to the Liturgy of the Hours. The paragraphs below are from last week’s audience. I’ll add some from today’s in the next post. After reading these word you can’t help but pray the liturgical hours more fervently and, to use a popular word, mindfully.
Therefore, the first requirement for a good liturgical celebration is that both prayer and conversation with God, first listening and then answering. St. Benedict, in his “Rule”, speaking of the prayer of the Psalms, indicates to the monks: mens concordet voci, ”may the mind agrees with the voice.” The Saint teaches that the prayer of the Psalms, the words must precede our mind. Usually it does not happen this way, first one has to think and then what we have thought, is converted into speech. Here, however in the liturgy it is the inverse, the words come first. God gave us the Word and the Sacred Liturgy gives us the words, and we must enter into their meaning, welcome them within us, be in harmony with them. Thus we become children of God, similar to God…
Dear friends, we celebrate and live the liturgy well only if we remain in an attitude of prayer, united to the Mystery of Christ and his dialogue as the Son with the Father.…
September 29th thru October 7th is one of my favorite stretches of the entire year. On the natural level, the fall foliage is approaching its peak. Just walking the dog or driving out to buy milk becomes an exercise in joy, as sky and trees compete with one another to astound us mortals with their beauty. Liturgically, we get a string of beloved feasts: The Holy Archangels, St. Therese, The Holy Guardian Angels, St. Francis of Assisi, and Our Lady of the Rosary.
The only downside to this time of year is something I call on both my Guardian Angel and St. Francis to assist me with. Anyone who drives through the farms, meadows and forests of northwest Pennsylvania these next ten weeks runs a huge risk of hitting a deer. It’s mating season among our hoofed and antlered furry friends. The boys are (literally) chasing the girls, and no one is watching where they are going. True, deer never pay much attention to cars in the best of times, but they are twice as careless in the autumn. The roadside body count goes up dramatically this time of year. Along with insurance claims.
My first close encounter came yesterday morning on the way home from mass. This photo is almost identical to what I experienced:
photo credit: hungeree.com
Except that I was a lot closer than this before the buck got to the other side of the road. I reflected that if, as I was leaving, our pastor had clearly heard a remark I called out to him and had NOT asked me to repeat it, I would have been a second or two closer to this creature and something terrible might have happened.…
There a lot of books about the spirituality of St. Therese, and I’m not sure why. Since this saint and doctor of the church wrote during the late nineteenth century–indeed, she missed out on being a 20th century saint by only a few years–her writing is not at all difficult to get through. My own inclination is to skip the commentaries and just read Therese. (Today’s Office of Readings give just one sample of her beautiful, ardent thoughts.)
But I’ll make one exception. If you want a refresher on the Little Flower’s teaching, yet are not in the mood to wade through her entire autobiography, you might want to try out I Believe in Love. This series of retreat conferences, translated from French, has been around since the 70s.
The author, Father Jean D’Elbee, takes you quickly into the heart andgenius of Therese: her unique confidence in God’s Love. A confidence that never fails, despite out sins, despite dryness and desolation, despite any suffering.
You can read I Believe in Love in a couple of sittings, or spread it out,say, with two chapters per day for a five-day, do-it-yourself retreat. This book has been a spiritual milestone for me, my husband, and many people that I know.
Great stuff to read during Eucharistic adoration.…
Pope St. Gregory the Great explains this and lots of other neat stuff about the archangels in the Office of Readings for today’s feast:
“You should be aware that the word “angel” denotes a function rather than a nature. Those holy spirits of heaven have indeed always been spirits. They can only be called angels when they deliver some message. Moreover, those who deliver messages of lesser importance are called angels; and those who proclaim messages of supreme importance are called archangels.
And so it was that not merely an angel but the archangel Gabriel was sent to the Virgin Mary. It was only fitting that the highest angel should come to announce the greatest of all messages.
Some angels are given proper names to denote the service they are empowered to perform. In that holy city, where perfect knowledge flows from the vision of almighty God, those who have no names may easily be known. But personal names are assigned to some, not because they could not be known without them, but rather to denote their ministry when they came among us. Thus, Michael means “Who is like God”; Gabriel is “The Strength of God”; and Raphael is “God’s Remedy.”
Whenever some act of wondrous power must be performed, Michael is sent, so that his action and his name may make it clear that no one can do what God does by his superior power. So also our ancient foe desired in his pride to be like God, saying:
I will ascend into heaven; I will exalt my throne above the stars of heaven; I will be like the Most High.…
St. Michael tends to steal most of the spotlight today, given all those St. Michael the action hero paintings and tee shirts that are out there. But let’s not forget the other two archangels. We are familiar with Gabriel because of the two annunciations (to Mary re: Jesus and to Zachariah re: John the Baptist). But today’s Office of Daytime Prayer , at Midday, reminds us that Gabriel appears in the Old Testament as well, in the book of Daniel. It only gives a snippet, but if you go to Daniel, chapter 8:15, and chapter 9:2 through all of chapter 10, you will read more about Gabriel and a little bit about Michael as well. The footnote in my Bible says that the man in chapter 10 with the body of chrysolite and face that shone like lightening was also probably Gabriel, although he is not explicitly named as he was in chapter 9. If this is the case, then we see that Gabriel does some warrior work as well, although clearly he is second string to St. Michael, who has to come help him out.
The Mid-afternoon reading is from the book of Tobit, where Raphael makes his appearance. You might also want to go to this book of the Bible to review the whole interesting story of this angel in disguise.…
Do you Mommies out there get discouraged and frustrated with the Liturgy of the Hours (or any prayer or spiritual reading for that matter) because of constant interruptions from little ones?
In the Office of Readings for his feast day, St. Vincent de Paul offers all the reassurance we can possibly need. He is referring to the poor that his disciples cared for in the slums of France. But our our little ones are surely the poor in spirit. They keep us feeding the hungry, giving drink to the thirsty, instructing the ignorant, wiping noses of the runny, and cleaning bottoms of the dirty all day long.
If a needy person requires medicine or other help during prayer time, do whatever has to be done with peace of mind. Offer the deed to God as your prayer. Do not become upset or feel guilty because you interrupted your prayer to serve the poor. God is not neglected if you leave him for such service. One of God’s works is merely interrupted so that another can be carried out. So when you leave prayer to serve some poor person, remember that this very service is performed for God. Charity is certainly greater than any rule.
Back in the day when the chances of completing morning and evening prayer straight through was a fifty-fifty proposition or less, I liked to imagine the angels would complete it for me. In fact, the church universal completes it for you.…
Hey, remember the talking Barbie that got recalled back in the 80′s because one of her phrases was “Math is hard!” This was thought to be poor role-modelling. Thanks to the recall, there are now millions of twenty and thirty-something women working as engineers and physicists today, saved as they were from the horrible power of Barbie- suggestion.
Suppose Mattel toys developed “Talking Catholic Barbie”. She would be dressed in a tasteful knee length skirt and a top with sleeves, and accessorized with a rosary, a miraculous medal, and a tiny breviary. My candidates for what she’d say when her string is pulled?
“The Liturgy of the Hours is hard!”
“I’m trying to get Ken to go to RCIA”
“Choose Life! Unborn Babies are People too!”
“Viva el Cristo Rey!”
“I wonder if God might be calling me to the religious life.”
“Would you like to come to adoration with me this week?”
“I’m going to clean out my closet–there’s a clothing drive for the missions.”
“Wouldn’t it be fun to go to World Youth Day?”
“I’d just love to meet the Pope!”
Anyway, I sympathize with Catholic Barbie’s first statement. It’s hard to find time to say morning and evening prayer. It’s hard to figure out which page in the breviary to use on a saint’s memorial. It’s hard to know which elements are optional and which are not.
Although I am NOT good at math, I am good at these Liturgy of the Hours questions.…
Without savvy readers like Nancy from Illinois, I don’t know what I’d do. She just pointed out that…
picture credit: blacksoil.wordpress.com
…Which shepherds are dead? Those who seek what is theirs and not what is Christ’s.
-from the Office of Readings, Tuesday, 25th week in ordinary time, Liturgy of the Hours.
If I were a bishop or even a priest, I might be tempted to use the alternate Office of Readings for every saint’s memorial that occurs between September 16th and 28th. It would mean avoiding nine out of twelve days of reading “99 Ways a Bishop is Likely to End up in Hell.”, otherwise known as St. Augustine’s sermon on Pastors. Yesterday he called out shepherds who do not make the effort to go after sheep who stray. On Sunday, it was shepherds who do not do what they can to strengthen the weakest of their flocks against temptation. Last week, there were warnings for those who downplayed some of the hard truths of the gospel for fear of offending others, or who gave bad example by the way they live their lives: the shepherd who lives a wicked life before the people kills the sheep under his care. Let not such a shepherd not deceive himself because the sheep is not dead, for though it still lives, he is a murderer…
As a layperson reading this, I have come to a few conclusions:
1. I’m really glad I’m not a bishop or a priest.
2. I can’t imagine anyone wanting such a responsibility.
3. Since Augustine’s warnings apply, to a lesser degree, to priests as well, it reminds us what an awesome (as in awe-full, or awful) responsibility they have as well, and how we laity have a very serious responsibility to pray for them as well as our bishops.…
Another re-run. But I like it.
Call of St. Matthew …