Q: In your book The Everyday Catholic’s Guide to the Liturgy of the Hours you devote an entire chapter to reasons for praying The Liturgy of The Hours. For those who have not read the book yet, could you give some highlights as to why the Liturgy of the Hours is so important and relevant today?
A: There are so many reasons. First, this is liturgical prayer–like the mass. It’s the daily public “sacrifice of praise” offered multiple times daily by Catholics of every state in life, all over the world. You want to be part of that world-wide congregation at least once or twice a day. You pray the Liturgy of the Hours on behalf of the Church universal. It’s quite a privilege, second only to the mass itself.
Second, it’s all scripture or prayers based on scripture. It’s a way to both read and pray God Word at the same time. After a few months of praying the liturgical hours, the language of the psalms begins to inform all of your prayer life. Pope Benedict said the psalms give us the perfect language for the encounter with God.
Third, you deepen your relationship with Jesus when you pray the Liturgy of the Hours. The psalms especially are just packed with christological references, messianic types and prophecies. And when you realize that these were the prayers that Jesus prayed daily during his life on earth–it adds a whole new layer to your understanding just to imagine Him praying each psalm. Best of all, it’s not just imagination! As members of the body of Christ, when we pray the psalms of the liturgy, He prays them still–in us, through us, with us. The Church teaches us that the Liturgy of the Hours is “the very prayer that Christ Himself, together with His body, addresses to the Father.”
Q: What was your inspiration for bringing your book to print?
A: Mainly, I just wanted to write a book, which is a nagging ambition most magazine and newspaper writers have to get out of their system eventually! But what could I write about? It seemed to me that nearly every possible Catholic topic had been done and re-done. The Liturgy of the Hours was something that very few people had written about. I’d met lots of people who said they had tried to pray with a breviary but couldn’t figure it out, so I knew there was a need.Even though online breviaries have now made the process somewhat easier, people still have lots of questions about where these prayers came from and why they are set up the way they are.
Q: Can you tell us a little about your own history with the Liturgy of the Hours?
A: Our chaplain during a summer abroad program herded us into the chapel each night to pray compline (night prayer). This was my first consistent experience of the liturgical hours. I fell in love with these bedtime prayers, which included the gorgeous De Profundis (Psalm 130),the Nunc Dimittis (canticle of Simeon), and Our Lord’s last words, “Into your hands I commend my spirit.” What a perfect way to end the day, I thought, and I kept it up ever since. Later, I found that my husband to be had also gotten interested in the liturgy of the hours. He gave me my first breviary, and soon I had added morning prayer and evening prayer(lauds and vespers to my daily routine. That was more than thirty years ago. Next came the Office of Readings, and finally, daytime prayer. There were plenty of periods when I got away from it for weeks and months at a time, but I always kept coming back. No other prayer works as well for me.
A: The book I’m working on now is quite different–more creative and purely entertaining. It’s short stories about saints and other Catholic figures, but told in a style similar to Paul Harvey’s “The Rest of the Story” radio program. In other words, I tell the story with key identifying details left out, then surprise the reader at the end when I reveal who the story was about.
Q: Time for my signature ending question. This is a blog about books. What is currently on your bookshelf to read?
A: Well, there’s always lots of review copies since I write the book column for Catholic Digest. Topping that pile at the moment are Dangers to the Faith by Al Kresta, The Miraculous Medal by Donna Marie Cooper O’Boyle, Everyday Meditations by Cardinal Newman, Drawn from Shadows Into Truth by Fr. Ray Ryland, and American Church by Russell Shaw. As to pure entertainment–things I don’t have to review–I just finished re-reading, for probably the third time, In This House of Brede by Rumer Godden, and I have a Mary Higgins Clark mystery on my nightstand which I bought off a sale table at Barnes and Noble last week. Oh, and something I read recently on someone’s blog made me pull Dante’s Purgatorio off the shelf, but whether I’ll actually crack it open is anyone’s guess. I imagine myself to be much more literary than I am in reality.