All right. You want to start praying the liturgy of the hours. Unless you are are super-zealous, it is probably not a good idea to attempt all 5 liturgical hours (or seven since you have the option of doing daytime prayer 3 times instead of just once). The Church recommends that the laity use Morning and Evening Prayer, calling these two hours the “hinges” of the liturgical day. So that is a worthy goal.
But for those in the just -starting- and -not-so-sure-I can-handle-this category, I’m going to recommend you hold off on the “hinge” thing for a while. Instead, begin with the hour of Night Prayer. There are several reasons for this:
1. It is shorter than Morning or Evening prayer, ever an advantage to those of us who are piety-challenged.
2. Night Prayer is on a simple 7-day repeating cycle. It does not change during Advent, Lent, or for feast days. It’s in the no-flip zone of your breviary.
3. For those who already pray around bedtime, there is no huge change in habits to form.
4. The psalms of Night Prayer are just about the best ones there are in terms of beatiful imagery and inspiring one-liners that will soon become part of your spontaneous prayer language. For example, Psalm 130 (the De Profundis for you Latin geeks), and Psalm 91, the “Warrior’s Psalm”.
Okay, here we go. Note that in your breviary breviary, there is no night prayer for Saturday. Saturday night is called Sunday I and Sunday night is called Sunday II.
1.Begin with the sign of the cross while reciting O God come to my assistance. O Lord make haste to help me. say the Glory Be. And unless it’s lent, you may add Alleluia
2. Do a brief examination of conscience and make an act of contrition.
3. Skip the hymn or poem unless you really like these. These elements are optional.
4. Recite the antiphon. Recite the psalm and the Glory Be. Repeat the Antiphon. (note: the subtitle and the scripture citation directly under the psalm number is not meant to be recited out loud as part of the Office. It is there for private meditation. Of course, if you are doing this by yourself, the whole thing is private, but I just want you to distinguish the essentials of the prayers from the little extras that are thrown in.)
5. Repeat #4 with the second psalm if there is one.
6. Read the reading. Pause a moment for reflection. 7. Recite the responsory.(Into your hands,Lord, I commend my spirit, etc.)
8. Canticle of Simeon (the ultimate bedtime prayer) Aniphon, canticle, Glory Be, Antiphon.
9. Recite the final prayer, and then the concluding verse: May the all powerful Lord grant us a restful night and a peacful death. Amen. Then recite one of the traditional Marian Prayers listed. (Hail Holy Queen, Hail Mary, Ave Maris Stella, etc.)
10. Enjoy the peaceful restful mood Night Prayer will give you as you drift off to sleep.
That’s it. The whole thing takes 5 minutes, not counting your examen. Longer, of course, if you linger to savor and meditate upon the psalms.
Next time: Morning and Evening Prayer.