The Liturgy of the Hours Isn’t What You Think

Liturgy of HoursChances are you have probably heard of the Liturgy of the Hours, but if the size and cost of a complete four-volume set didn’t ward you off, the dizzying maze of Psalms, antiphons, ribbons, and red-colored directions certainly did.

The Everyday Catholic’s Guide to the Liturgy of the Hours, a new book by Daria Sockey, is for you.

We tend to associate the Liturgy of the Hours, also known as the Divine Office, with what priests, monks, and nuns do—not those of us who have jobs, kids, or school. Sockey, a mother of seven and a self-described experienced homeschooler, makes a convincing case for why everyone—yes, everyone—should practice this form of prayer.

Sockey’s liturgical know-how combined with her constant attention to practical questions—complete with easy-to-digest break-out sections for the particularly querulous reader—make this book as informative as it is accessible.

The Liturgy of the Hours, Sockey explains, is the Church’s response to the command to “pray unceasingly.” Indeed, with seven hours, or times of prayer, each with strong doses of prayers, petitions, and Psalms, the Liturgy of the Hours certainly lives up to its name.

But it’s more than simply constant prayer. There is no greater form of prayer outside the Mass, Sockey writes, than the Liturgy of the Hours. And yes, she says that even includes the rosary. It’s an admittedly bold claim, but one that Sockey defends well over the course of her book, drawing upon eminently reliable authorities like the catechism and C. S. Lewis—along with experience from her aptly titled blog, Coffee and Canticles—in making her case.

In a concise 115 pages, Sockey successfully achieves her stated aim of offering readers a forest-and-trees look at the Liturgy of the Hours. The first three chapters provide a crisp bird’s eye view of what the Liturgy of the Hours is, how it developed over the centuries, and why it is relevant to us today. It’s here that novices will find helpful and clear answers to such questions as: What’s the difference between the Liturgy of the Hours and a breviary? Or: What do terms like lauds and matins mean?

The middle section of the book zooms in for the trees, where Sockey breaks down the basic building blocks of an hour and how each hour, in turn, fits into the liturgical day—all the while ensuring readers don’t get lost in the proverbial forest.

In the final section, readers are in for a treat: an honest and wise look into questions that many people probably have but maybe are afraid to ask, such as—How can we faithfully complain to God? Why does God demand so much praise? How do we pray through the ‘violent’ Psalms?

More than simply a how-to-guide, The Everyday Catholic’s Guide to the Liturgy of the Hours, is studded with insightful gems with broad relevance to the devout life. Take this one on making time for prayer:

The opportunity to sanctify time is something we should welcome. Certainly we all value our time. We are always complaining that we do not have enough of it. We are disappointed with ourselves when we realize we’ve been wasting it. We marvel at the swiftness of its passing. We cling to our day planners and calendars as to anchors in a storm. So it makes sense to dedicate this valuable commodity—the fleeting hours of morning, noon, evening, and night—to our Creator.

Ultimately, The Everyday Catholic’s Guide to the Liturgy of the Hours, like its subject matter, has something for everyone. That includes those who are not novices to this form of prayer, but perhaps are seeking a richer understanding of why they do what they do in the Liturgy of the Hours. Even those readers who do not immediately rush out to buy a breviary or log onto to divineoffice.org will find their prayer lives instantly enriched by reflections on the devout life that are universally applicable.

By

Stephen Beale is a freelance writer based in Providence, Rhode Island. Raised as an evangelical Protestant, he is a convert to Catholicism. He is a former news editor at GoLocalProv.com and was a correspondent for the New Hampshire Union Leader, where he covered the 2008 presidential primary. He has appeared on Fox News, C-SPAN and the Today Show and his writing has been published in the Washington Times, Providence Journal, the National Catholic Register and on MSNBC.com and ABCNews.com. A native of Topsfield, Massachusetts, he graduated from Brown University in 2004 with a degree in classics and history. His areas of interest include Eastern Christianity, Marian and Eucharistic theology, medieval history, and the saints. He welcomes tips, suggestions, and any other feedback at bealenews at gmail dot com. Follow him on Twitter at https://twitter.com/StephenBeale1

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