Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Weighted Breviary

Over the past few months I haven't been praying my offices. There are countless reasons why I haven't, but those really don't matter. Along with not praying my offices, I haven't been reading any spiritual writings. A few days ago I came out of whatever "funk" I was in and went to pick up where I left off reading in Fulton Sheen's "A Priest is not his own," and it just happened to be that the chapter that I left off on was talking about praying the divine offices. (That's God!)

A lot of people have trouble praying the offices because it is sometimes tiresome and not as intimate a prayer as one can achieve (in most cases). But we need to remember that in it we gather up not only the intentions of the Church, but also all of the the sinners, those who turn away from God, and those who physically and emotionally can't pray.

Sheen relates this to Our Lord who was sinless, yet he took on the sins of the world. When we pick up the breviary we are picking up all unbelievers, fallen-away Catholics, and the burden of the Church throughout the world.

The breviary is not a personal prayer; it is an official prayer, that's why it's called "The official prayer of the Church." When we pray the divine offices we are praying for everyone else, and in a sense, isn't praying for others over our own personal prayers a good thing? If all of our prayers were personal wouldn't that be selfish?

In the breviary we are making an act of love not only for the Church, but for her enemies. The breviary is a test of our strength. It helps one to die to oneself for the betterment of humanity, the good and bad. We shouldn't look at praying these prayers as some kind of consolation, but rather as a struggle, as a little piece of the cross. In doing so, we will in turn learn to enjoy it and turn it to the glory of God.

What is so amazing about the divine offices is that it is the universal prayer that all religious take vows to pray all around the world. That means that 24/7, 365 days a year every second someone is praying for the Church and for the whole of humanity.

Not everyone is called to pray the divine offices, and that is perfectly fine! The clergy take care of that for us (the laity). They pray the offices for us who can't, who don't have time. The majority of the laity work inside "the world," and aren't able to pray for their redemption and the world's redemption all of the time. That's why there are monks and nuns! They take care of us who aren't able to pray. While we in turn carry out our lives in a christian manner and spread that faith to everyone else.

It is a bloodline that pumps the faith through the whole of humanity.

The church is the Body of Christ. So to have a body you need a heart, and that's the cloistered nuns and monks who pray for us who can't pray all of the time. They pump the blood (the faith) out to everyone else. The skin is the laity. The laity (or skin) is what everyone sees, it is the face of the church. We need lots of people to be laity so that they can spread the good news and live a christian life. Likewise, we don't need as many people to be the heart and live a cloistered life. Then all of the other religious are at different locations in the body, the diocesan priests are like the muscles who are closest to the skin (we need lots of muscles, but not as much as we need skin), while the deeper you go into the body the more of a monastic life you live until you reach the heart.

So, there are many reasons to pray the divine offices, and I'm going to try to get back to praying them, I really do love to pray them.


CH (CPT) Brian Stanley, USA said...

I am so glad that you have returned to this most admirable spiritual practice. The Liturgy of the Hours keeps me going, lifts me in the Psalms. I can't help but here some of the melodies of some of the Psalms we chanted at Moreau Seminary or at Sacred Heart Seminary. Once those get in your mind, they are hard to forget.

I've been praying Morning Prayer with one of the priests here at Chaplain Basic Officer Leader Course, US Army Chaplain Center and School, Ft. Jackson, SC. Although he outranks me [He's a major, I'm a captain], he insists I lead the office because I was ordained 12 years before he was. I told him I started praying the office when he was only 11 years old.

Thank you for sharing Fulton Sheen with us, Jock. Stay close to the Lord Jesus.

Dad said...

Hooooray!!! Pray for me when I can't! I promise I will return the favor someday! To borrow from your analogy, sometimes I feel like the pimple on the skin of the body of Christ, and some days squeezed more than others. (sorry that's just gross... gross but true). Keep praying Nate- Mom and I love you ferociously!!!

Dad said...


Got those pushups down????
Remember, girly pushups don't count.

Anonymous said...

St. Joseph the worker, pray for us.
St. Gregory, pray for us.
St. Jude, pray for us.
Our Lady, seat of wisdom, pray for us.

Psalm 102
LORD, hear my prayer; let my cry come to you.
Do not hide your face from me now that I am in distress. Turn your ear to me; when I call, answer me quickly.
For my days vanish like smoke; my bones burn away as in a furnace.
I am withered, dried up like grass, too wasted to eat my food.
From my loud groaning I become just skin and bones.
I am like a desert owl, like an owl among the ruins.
I lie awake and moan, like a lone sparrow on the roof. All day long my enemies taunt me; in their rage, they make my name a curse.
I eat ashes like bread, mingle my drink with tears.
Because of your furious wrath, you lifted me up just to cast me down.
My days are like a lengthening shadow; I wither like the grass.
But you, LORD, are enthroned forever; your renown is for all generations.
You will again show mercy to Zion; now is the time for pity; the appointed time has come.
Its stones are dear to your servants; its dust moves them to pity.
The nations shall revere your name, LORD, all the kings of the earth, your glory,
Once the LORD has rebuilt Zion and appeared in glory,
Heeding the plea of the lowly, not scorning their prayer.
Let this be written for the next generation, for a people not yet born, that they may praise the LORD: "The LORD looked down from the holy heights, viewed the earth from heaven,
To attend to the groaning of the prisoners, to release those doomed to die."
Then the LORD'S name will be declared on Zion, the praise of God in Jerusalem,
When all peoples and kingdoms gather to worship the LORD.
God has shattered my strength in mid-course, has cut short my days.
I plead, O my God, do not take me in the midst of my days. Your years last through all generations.
Of old you laid the earth's foundations; the heavens are the work of your hands.
They perish, but you remain; they all wear out like a garment; Like clothing you change them and they are changed, but you are the same, your years have no end.
May the children of your servants live on; may their descendants live in your presence.

O guardian angel, whom God in His infinite mercy has appointed over me, enlighten, protect, direct and govern me this day.


CH (CPT) Brian Stanley, USA said...

Yes, I know about the pushups -- all the way down. Better to drop quickly, which takes less effort. Very sore, but helps the form. Form is soooo important.

It also helps to be lighter, thinner. Less stuff to push up, knowwhudahmsayin'?