Coffee & Canticles
Long tradition calls the Our Father “The Lord’s Prayer”, because Jesus uttered it in answer to a disciple who asked Him, “Teach us to pray.”
But there are lots of other “Lord’s Prayers”, and all of them teach us how to pray.
All 150 of them.
Yes, of course, the Psalms. These portions of Sacred Scripture are unique. They’re not there as narrative, prophecy, or wisdom as is the rest of the Bible. The psalter is the prayerbook of the people of God. It was thus for the chosen people of Israel, and it continues to be for the body of Christ.
That’s why the Church so urgently wishes us to pray the psalms in their liturgical form, the Liturgy of the Hours (aka Divine office.)
Pope Benedict calls the Psalms a “School of Prayer”:
The Psalms are given to the believer exactly as the text of prayers whose sole purpose is to become the prayer of the person who assimilates them and addresses them to God. Since they are a word of God, anyone who prays the Psalms speaks to God using the very words that God has given to us, addresses him with the words that he himself has given us. So it is that in praying the Psalms we learn to pray. They are a school of prayer…
…This is what happens with the prayer of the Psalms. They are given to us so that we may learn to address God, to communicate with him, to speak to him of ourselves with his words, to find a language for the encounter with God.…
One point the NZ Bishops made was that the Missal is a sacred book whose use it specifically for celebration of mass. An ipad has many uses, both sacred and profane. Hence, there is something less than fitting about an ipad sitting on the altar as the vehicle of the texts for the ritual. In some kind of emergency situation where no mass at all could be said if the ipad were not used, then it might be okay, but normally, a genuine altar missal should be the default version. Makes sense.
This makes me think about our handy digital breviaries. Since the Vatican has already commended and approved at least one breviary application, I don’t think that this kind of statement is likely to be made about print vs. internet Liturgy of the Hours. But it does give one pause. I use my Kindle for the Divine Office, and also to read all sorts of books, from the sublime to the ridiculous. More recently, an iPod Touch has become a daily companion gadget. It’s convenient to switch it on to ibreviary or universalis. But this same gadget also blasts the theme from Rocky, selections from West Side Story, and (blushes) John Denver and ABBA tunes when I’m doing a morning power-walk. And counts my calories.…
A month ago I asked what people were planning for the “Fortnight for Freedom” that the Bishops have asked us to observe from June 12 thru July 4th. Responses were few, mostly, I expect, because most people were only just becoming aware of the Fortnight, and their own dioceses had not yet made any announcements.
Our own diocese, beyond a news release from the USCCB in the diocesan paper, doesn’t seem to be doing much. However, I’m told that the recent entry of our diocese into the lawsuit fray has expended a lot of our Bishop’s energy, and so any activities related to the fortnight in and around the cathedral may be thrown together at the last minute.
But that didn’t stop Catholics in our region, at the southern end of our mostly rural diocese. Our parish will have literature tables out after every mass (with cookies and donuts to slow down the exodus from mass!) with an assortment of pamphlets and fact sheets on the HHS mandate and other issues related to the current Religious freedom struggle. There’s some excellent stuff for free at the USCCB website, plus some wonderful, inexpensive pamphlets at Our Sunday Visitor and Catholic Answers.
In addition, we’ll be holding a series of evening lectures over the course of the Fortnight. Part I will be an in depth look at the entire mandate/lawsuit issue, getting beyond evening news soundbites and explaining why more is at stake than a quibble about an unpopular moral teaching.…
Now that the grand finale of the Easter season, namely Pentecost, has passed us by, one might tend to think that things go “back to normal” in the liturgy. After all, we do call it “Ordinary Time”, right?
But no, not exactly. For one thing, the term “ordinary” in ”Ordinary Time” does not quite correspond to the, um, ordinary definition: routine, normal, business-as-usual. It mostly refers to the fact that the Sundays and weeks are numbered, or “ordered”. (Although we certainly can feel the contrast between the solemn events of the previous holy seasons as compared to ordinary time, so we’re not entirely wrong to feel that Ordinary time is somewhat ordinary in the popular English sense of the word.)
For another thing, for those who use mostly hard copy breviaries, rather than rely on breviary websites to do their work for them, the next week or so can be among the most confusing of the entire year. Although we enter Ordinary time as of Monday, there are no Sundays of Ordinary Time until the middle of June! All this makes for plenty of head scratching as we flip here and there trying to figure things out.
So just keep an eye on your parish calendar if you forget what week we’re in. Or print this post and keep it in your book.
Monday starts the 8th week of ordinary time, using week IV of the Psalter. There is no 8th Sunday because of Pentecost.…
I’m writing another article for Catholic Digest, this time about how the internet and all related gadgets can help our prayer life (e.g. online breviaries) or hinder it (we spend so much time on the internet surfing catholic websites that we don’t have time to pray).
I’d love your comments on this. How has living on the “digital continent” helped you? Or does it keep you from prayer at times? If the latter, what is the solution? A digital fast?(how often and for how long?) Do online prayer aids help give you quality prayer time, or does making prayer one more chunk of time spent screen-staring leave you feeling something isn’t quite right with it?
Your thoughts please! I assume permission to publish them, by the way. I’ll use just your first name, or make up a pseudonym for anyone with usernames that don’t sound like ordinary names. (e.g. Mr.CelticHunkyCoolness, AthanasiusAgainsttheWorld, etc.)
As we wind down the feast of the Ascension of the Lord,( or head toward it depending on what diocese you live in) I’ll share my recent digital prayer experience from Thusday evening. I am now using my new ipod touch, rather than the Kindle, for the Liturgy of the Hours. I realized that my music playlist will keep going while I use other apps, so… I said Evening Prayer II for Ascension Thursday with the theme music for the 1961 biblical epic King of Kings as a background.…
Perusing the General Instruction of the Liturgy of the Hours the other day, I came across this helpful passage. It answers two common questions raised by those who are starting out with the Divine Office: First: What use is it for me to pray a happy psalm when I’m grieving or depressed, or a sad psalm when I’m feeling joyful? Second: Isn’t the Liturgy of the Hours only a “devotional” prayer (as opposed to a liturgical act) when prayed by a layperson, without the presence of a priest or religious mandated by the Church to pray the hours? Read this to find the answers:
108. Those who pray the psalms in the liturgy of the hours do so not so much in their own name as in the name of the entire Body of Christ. This consideration does away with the problem of a possible discrepancy between personal feelings and the sentiments a psalm is expressing: for example, when a person feels sad and the psalm is one of joy or when a person feels happy and the psalm is one of mourning. Such a problem is readily solved in private prayer, which allows for the choice of a psalm suited to personal feelings. The divine office, however, is not private; the cycle of psalms is public, in the name of the Church, even for those who may be reciting an hour alone.[emphasis mine.-D.S.] Those who pray the psalms in the name of the Church nevertheless can always find a reason for joy or sadness, for the saying of the Apostle applies in this case also: “Rejoice with the joyful and weep with those who weep” (Rom 12:15).…
The most recent (April 12th) statement of our Bishops is another winner that makes one truly proud to have such shepherds. The justice of Church’s position is clearly laid out. The government’s encroachment on religious liberty is proven with summaries of various actions taken by both federal and state governments over the last few years. The concept of religious freedom and its centrality to what it means to Americans is illuminated with examples from our nation’s history. If you haven’t read it yet, do yourself a favor and read it now. Homeschoolers could probably use it for a combined history/civics/religion unit.
What excited me was this call to action:
“We suggest that the fourteen days from June 21—the vigil of the Feasts of St. John Fisher and St. Thomas More—to July 4, Independence Day, be dedicated to this “fortnight for freedom”—a great hymn of prayer for our country. Our liturgical calendar celebrates a series of great martyrs who remained faithful in the face of persecution by political power—St. John Fisher and St. Thomas More, St. John the Baptist, SS. Peter and Paul, and the First Martyrs of the Church of Rome. Culminating on Independence Day, this special period of prayer, study, catechesis, and public action would emphasize both our Christian and American heritage of liberty. Dioceses and parishes around the country could choose a date in that period for special events that would constitute a great national campaign of teaching and witness for religious liberty.”
Inspired by this, I emailed my pastor, sent him the link in case he hadn’t read it yet, and offered to help in any way he liked with any possible activities our church might have.…
I usually write about the Divine Office: encouraging reflections on the psalms and prayers of the liturgy. My lapses into punditry are so rare that people who notice such things remark on it the way birdwatchers will remark on spotting a California Condor. But the blue moon is here again.
I just returned from a short trip marking our wedding anniversary. One doesn’t do much blog surfing on such an occasion. So…maybe someone else has said this already, and if so, just let me know. If it’s already been said, then call me a Johnny-come-lately, not a copycat.
Natural Family Planning is in the news these days as faithful Catholic writers, bloggers, and so forth have seized on the teachable moment provided by the HHS contraception controversy. Judging from long and often sizzling comments sections following many articles, they are certainly succeeding in raising awareness, if not acceptance. Anyway, seeds are being planted. Always a good thing, right?
So now I’m wondering whether our dear, valiant bishops should re-engage the Obama administration by stating willingness to fund all the NFP instructions and equipment necessary for any female employee who wants them (in lieu of paying for artificial contraceptives). This could include the cost of the in-person, online, or self-teaching course of the employee’s choice, plus costs of both one- time and recurring supplies. Which is not exactly cheap, if you include a $130 Clear Blue fertility monitor and $33 a month for test strips.…
Unlike last Easter, when I felt quite Resurrection-y every day of the octave, this year is decidedly not like that. The more earthly joys of my visiting grown children–cooking elaborate meals for them,and staying up late talking–took their toll on my capacity for spiritual delight. For the last 8 days, the Liturgy of the Hours was mostly a chore to be gotten through. The most I could muster at each gorgeous antiphon was something along the lines of, “He is risen… that’s nice.” The psalms were even worse, bringing on thoughts like, “I’ve read this a million times before. What can I possibly say about it on my blog that I haven’t said before?”
I felt totally bored with the psalms.
In my younger days I might have put away the breviary when this happened, letting it go altogether for weeks or even months. Then, after a time, picking it up again and struggling to re-establish the habit of daily liturgical prayer. Or, in my much younger days, I might have worried that there was something wrong with my spiritual life, when these wonderful, life-giving psalms and prayers of the liturgy no longer filled me with joy and spiritual insight.
But now, I know it’s just that I’m tired, and then when I’ve had a few days of rest, I’ll probably enjoy daily prayer again. So instead of putting the breviary away, I just keep at it anyway, and don’t worry about how I feel about it.…
As well as other creative lay Catholics. Thus says the latest statement from the US Bishops on religious freedom, which is really long but worth reading. Among its most salient features are
a 7-item list of recent federal and state government assaults on religious freedom, for example, an Alabama statute that would make it illegal for priests administer the sacraments to illegal aliens (!) and a failed 2009 attempt by the state of Connecticut to interfere with the Church’s hiring policies. Placing these violations alongside the HHS mandate might help fence sitters to see a pattern, rather than a tempest in a teapot about contraception.
A great explanation of “freedom of religion” vs. “freedom of worship”, bolstered by an excellent statement from the Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations in America.: “Most troubling, is the Administration’s underlying rationale for its decision, which appears to be a view that if a religious entity is not insular, but engaged with broader society, it loses its “religious” character and liberties. Many faiths firmly believe in being open to and engaged with broader society and fellow citizens of other faiths. The Administration’s ruling makes the price of such an outward approach the violation of an organization’s religious principles. This is deeply disappointing.”…
Some excellent historical background on the history of the Church in the United States.
Dots connected between our situation in the United States and the severe, horrific persecution of religious believers in other countries.