Thursday, February 28, 2008


You know that there is an official energy bar for the Olympics and that your favorite sports team has an official airline, and there is also an official prayer of the Catholic Church. I love this prayer though I will admit I did not always. It was a drudgery for a long time but now it is as important to me as sitting down to eat (and sitting down to eat I take very, very seriously.)

It is called the Liturgy of the Hours. Clergy and religious are required to pray it daily and it is highly recommended that ALL Catholics pray it. It consists of five parts and is prayed throughout the day, sanctifying the day and keeping us united in mind of God. There is of course Morning Prayer (Lauds) and Evening Prayer (Vespers), which are the most important of the lot. They are the hinges upon which all the other prayers turn. They consist of psalms and canticles, readings, responsorials, petitions, and the Our Father. Midday Prayer is much shorter but similar. Night Prayer (Compline), which is my favorite, leads us off to sleep and ends with placing ourselves in the care of the Blessed Virgin. There is also the Office of Readings, which can float around and be said at any time including the night before.

You might not think so but this can be difficult to work into your schedule. That is why they give us such a long time in the seminary to get used to it before we take a vow to pray it daily.

Sometimes there is a great temptation to skip it. We used to study for tests late into the night (well, morning actually) and someone would say, “Why don’t we skip Night Prayer tonight?We’ve got to get this done.” But experience taught us to do otherwise. We found that if we stopped for prayer work went more smoothly and more quickly. If we did not stop the work would drudge on more painfully and longer.

It is also a tricky thing to catch on as to the “how” of it. My suggestion is to ask your parish priest if you could pray part of it with him one day to get the hang of it. (Ideally it is supposed to be prayed in public anyway.)

To get access to the prayer you could buy the four-volume set but unless you are into it and taking it very seriously I probably would not recommend that to you straight off. (It can be quite an expense.) There are a number of single volume versions the most popular probably being The Shorter Christian Book of Prayer. Then again Rich, who has started praying it with me, says that HERE is a daily post of the prayer and even better, HERE is a daily pod cast where you can pray it along and learn the ins and outs of the Church’s official prayer.

As it is supposed to be the public prayer of the Church you might also consider gather a few people to pray it. Even if you only did Night Prayer once a week in this way, the universal prayer of the Church would at least find some exposure to the very Body of Christ for which it was intended.

That being said, you probably pray a version of the Liturgy of the Hours now though perhaps you do not realize it. The Rosary is called the "Poor Man's Psalter" as the 150 Aves correspond to the number of psalms, the prayers that make up the majority of the prayes of the Liturgy of the Hours. It is said that in early times, the people wanting to pray as the monks did but not having the resources to do so would pray the Rosary, meditating on the Life of Christ, and uniting their prayers with the monks who chanted the Divine Office.


Anonymous said...

During my Come-and-See weekend with the Trinitarians in January, I was able to pray the Divine Office with the Sisters on Saturday morning (bright & early). I was so lost by the 3rd prayer. Not only do they pray the Divine Office - they also pray certain prayers for their Order, especially those with the Most Holy Trinity.

When I saw Mother Superior at the Novena for Our Lady of Lourdes, I was telling her about the experience with these prayers & how lost I was. She laughed & told me that when I get there, they'll teach me. (I think she's already expecting my well as ALL of the other Sisters there! Do they know something I don't???) *grin* LM

Odysseus said...

I highly recommend the Divine Office. It not only unites you to the Church more strongly, it aids in freeing oneself from temptation (when you spend so much time praying, you can't really commit any sins!)

Anonymous said...

I bought the Christian Prayer Book several years ago and the guide on how to use it but still find it confusing. I promised myself I would start saying the prayers this year and bought another guide but here it is the beginning of March..... Can you start by just doing morning and evening or morning and night or is that not a good idea?

Deacon Bill Burns said...

I think Magnificat magazine is a pared-down version of the Liturgy of the Hours. My wife and I use it daily.

Odysseus said...


LOL! It took me months to figure out how to work that volume. You have to realize that it was edited by a European mind: to boot - the instructions are in Te middle of the book! (My other favorite European habit is putting the table of contents at the end of the book. Thanks!)

The Ordinary (as it is called), somewhere near the middle of the book, is basically an outline of the day, sending you to different pages for each prayer. I recently came into possession of the four-volume set (it's not exactly mine, but no one is missing it, if you know what I mean). I had hoped there would be less page turning - I was wrong. Get used to it! LOL!

As to what to pray, I don't think it really matters. If all you get to is morning prayer, so be it. If, the next day, you have more time, do more. I hardly ever get to evening prayer. By the time I have time to pray, it's almost bedtime, so night prayer is more appropriate.

My favorite is the Office of Readings! You can do it anytime, though I believe monks do it at some god-awful hour (2AM?). Actually, though, as a parent with babies, 2AM often presents itself as a time for prayer!

Adrienne said...

I snagged the Christian Prayer book at the thrift store. Since I grew up in the large Roman missal I was accustomed to all the page flipping. What is nice about the sites you suggested (particularly the first one) is you can do a fast check to see if you are on the correct prayers for that day.

And I agree with Rob. Do what you can do.

Anonymous said...

I recently purchased the Christian Prayer book. Unfortunately I have found myself "forgetting" to say my prayers. I believe God could be tapping me on the shoulder as I read your post regarding same! Thanks, Father.

Adrienne said...

eileen - I keep a Bible at the dining room table along with my Christian Prayer Book. That way I'll get at it while I'm having my first cup of coffee.

I keep my other Bible (the one I write in and highlight) in my office and I have a more portable one in my car and yet another next to the bed. That still leaves at least three more Bibles on the book shelves for emergencies. Sometimes this OCD stuff pays off:)

Adoro said...

I'll have to learn how to pray LOTH if we do start our chapter of Lay Dominicans. There might be some in our potential group that already know it, but tonight I found out the Pastor at my parish will help us learn it. (I was actually hoping he would tell me, "NO! DON'T DO IT! YOU'RE INSANE!" about working to start a chapter, but he didn't. He thinks its a good idea.) least we know who we can go to to learn this.

I didn't realize it was so complicated. I use the Magnificat (need to buy one for March!), and often don't get to evening prayer.

Anonymous said...

I bought a one volume Daily Prayer book and was totally lost. I happened on "The Divine Office For Dodos" by Madeline Pecora Nugent and followed her instructions and was able to start praying.

I only pray Lauds, Vespers and Compline. Yes it is ok to start slowly. I started with Compline until I felt comfortable and slowly introduced the other hours. For the first year I didn't pray Lent/Easter or Advent/Christmas but when I got Ordinary Time under my belt I prayed the special times.

I also use Psalms and Canticles for Morning and Evening Prayer by Pope John Paul II and completed by Pope Benedict XVI.

Adrienne said...

Father V - Stop by and pick up you flowers.

Fr. V said...

You see? That is why you guys are so cool. Not only do you know about the Liturgy of the Hours (something so many know nothing about) a lot of you HAVE BOOKS and PRAY it. Wow.

And I agree with the general comment that it is better to pray something rather than not pray at all so do part. If you get that down and start feeling like you want to do more - work it in. That is what we did as seminarians.

Adrienne - Thanks! That was swell of you.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for that post
I try and encourage the praying of the Liturgy of the Hours ecumenically at
I was sad when the connection with the rosary was lost as you say
when the rosary became 200 Aves
rather than one per psalm

Anonymous said...

The Liturgy of the Hours is one my "great loves". Your readers might find this little thing I put together useful.

Got here via Catholic Carneval by the way!

Anonymous said...

I strongly suggest getting the little St. Joseph's guide that goes along with the LOTH that lists the page numbers you need for every day of the year (remembering of course to make sure you have the proper guide depending on whether you have the one or four-volume versions). When I was starting out it was a real help to get to the pages where I needed to be. Now I'm comfortable enough with the format that generally I just check the guide to see if there are any memorials on the day.

Adoro said...

I stopped by our parish gift shop (I belong to a Catholic mega-church), and saw all the volums of LOTH.

No way can I afford this. I really didn't realize how expensive it is. There's a set for Ordinary Time, for Advent, for Lent, and for Easter. Seriously, who can pay for all of that?

I might have to start a bleg. But I'm grateful for the stuff online, and Magnificat, which I do use regularly.

There are a lot of people who can't afford to pray LOTH...and many who don't have internet who may want to pray but simply can't.

Maybe there should be an apostolate for those people?

(Don't look at me..I'm still on dialup and I don't own an ipod or a cell phone.)


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