Learn the Divine Office in Lent

Well, Day 1 of Lent was pretty rich. Got to lector at Mass for one of my favorite readings and psalms, which was neat. Got to spend more time at a doctor’s office than I wanted to for something so minor, but that was good, as it gave me a chance to finish Robert Hugh Benson’s Lord of the World, (free on Kindle, kids!) and I think I needed the downtime. The quiet allowed a deeper submersion into Lent, but I still haven’t gotten that book recommendation post done, sorry.

Speaking of deeper submergence — for those of you still feeling like you have not “found” what it is you’re supposed to do with your Lent, in terms of prayer, sacrifice or education — it struck me again, yesterday that there is no better way to really cast out into the depths of this season, and no better way to develop a very good habit, indeed, than to use Lent to learn to pray The Divine Office (aka The Liturgy of the Hours) which is the prayer of the church. If you allow it, it can become a constant wellspring of refreshment, as Father Bevil Bramwell notes here.

I can tell you that praying the Office
has changed me (I’ve moved from “greatest beast in nature” to a being something of a badger), as I have written recently:

[The Liturgy of the Hours has] wrought deep changes to my personality and understanding, but they’ve done it slowly . . .psalm line by psalm line.

It is in the psalmody that one begins to feel truly united with the whole Church; to light a candle in the gloaming, open a breviary and chant “God, come to my assistance/O Lord, make haste to help me” is to begin the prayers of vespers just ended in one time zone, not yet begun in the next; one gets a sense of the continuum, the sacredness of time and the oneness of eternity. The whole of the human condition is contained in the psalms; we meet our true selves there, in all of our weakness, folly, pride, hope, exasperation and sorrow; the Liturgy of the Hours daily ignites a truly humbling encounter, with God and with oneself. Last November, Pope Benedict XVI concluded a series of talks on the psalms — which he called “a school of prayer” — by urging all Christians, not just clergy and religious, “to pray the psalms, to become accustomed to using the Liturgy of the Hours, lauds, vespers and compline.” It is marvelous advice, especially during Lent; a prescription against all of our ills, administered by the Divine Physician.

There are all kinds of ways to begin familiarizing oneself with the Office, and none of them are taxing. An easy and very, very fruitful beginning may be made with a subscription to Magnificat Magazine, which — aside from the daily lectionary and some truly wonderful meditations — gives you a kind of abbreviated Morning and Evening prayer and Compline. I can never recommend Magnificat enough.

And of course there is this breviary, which is what I started with, but does not include the Office of Readings. It’s still excellent.

But you can also check out DivineOffice.Org, which gives you the whole shebang — the full Hours in eye-pleasing text plus an audio option if you prefer, or want to pray the office with a few human voices joining in.

I used to write about the Office more than my schedule has permitted, lately. In this post I tried to express what one morning’s Office of Readings became for me. Sometimes I wish I had the time to resume the podcasts I used to do, of Vespers or Lauds and Compline, but DivineOffice.org does it better than I did, anyway.

Brandon Vogt’s latest book giveaway this week is Phyllis Tickle’s Eastertide: Prayers for Lent Through Easter from The Divine Hours, of which he writes:

contains Morning, Mid-Day, and Evening prayers for each day during this season, all in the form of the Divine Office. If you’ve never heard of the Divine Office (also known as the Liturgy of the Hours), or have been too intimidated to approach it, this is a helpful doorway into the practice.

Worth entering for!

Also, check out the Magnificat Lenten Companion for Kindle and in small booklet form.

About Elizabeth Scalia
  • http://www.stateofplayblog.com Thomas L. McDonald

    Since you’re reading Benson, I really need to recommend two rare items you can now find on Kindle: The Light Invisible and A Mirror of Shallot. These are are essentially Catholic ghost stories, and many of them are moving and even profound. Benson is a writer long overdue for rediscovery.

  • FaithfulCatechist

    Boy, I hate to be pendantic, but I can’t resist. Neither you, nor I, have ever ‘lectored’ at any Mass; ‘lector’ is not a verb, and neither you nor I are instituted Lectors. When they ask me, ‘Could you lector this Sunday?’ I answer, ‘Cannot. But I’d be happy to act as reader.’

    ["I hate to be pedantic, but..." I wish people would just say what they want to say without saying they hate to say it...because they don't! :-) -admin]

  • Karen LH

    Have you ever read Benson’s “Dawn of All”? I loved “Lord of the World”, but really hated “Dawn of All”. It put me off of Msgr. Benson’s writing ever since. I’ve never heard of anyone else who had the same negative reaction, though.

  • aj4coco

    Magnificat Magazine also has an iTunes app, which is free if you are a print subscriber, fairly inexpensive it you’re not.

  • fiestamom

    Thank you so much for “nagging” about the Divine Office. I read your multiple posts about it, and longed for it, but I didn’t know how to do it/was afraid I would do it wrong. Santa brought me a kindle fire for Christmas, and that Divine Office App is the first thing I purchased. I love it. I feel like I’m really part of the universal Church. And what great news!!! about the Magnificat Lenten app for kindle. I am looking forward to when they expand their regular magazine to android/kindle app.
    Keep nagging. :)

  • http://www.savkobabe.blogspot.com Gayle Miller

    I quit smoking which has the benefit of being good for my body AND my soul! The sacrifice is very tough right now and more so because I’m attempting to quit smoking without gaining 30 pounds as I did the last time I quit. I’ve lost that 30 and don’t want them back!

    Pray for my success please!

  • Karen LH

    There’s also Universalis.

  • Michael

    There are also:
    http://ebreviary.com/ (Liturgy of the Hours)
    http://dariasockey.blogspot.com/ (Coffee and Canticles – The Divine Office in Your Life)

  • Jen

    Thanks for the great suggestion, Elizabeth. It’s something simple I can grab onto, and I need that right now. Bless you. :)

  • Ron19

    Amazon says that ” this breviary” in your post is the one that I bought, and it does have the office of readings. The large print version of this does not, as I remember, but I gave it away and can’t check. There is also a shorter version, which is a good way to dip your toe into the Liturgy of the Hours, which simply does the four week cycle without the prayers for saints or seasons.

    Last year I got an Android phone app for the Divine Office from Laudate (http://www.androidzoom.com/android_applications/books_and_reference/laudate_htyr_download.html or Amazon, both are free), which was easier to use and much more portable, plus I can set multiple alarms on the phone to remind me of the various hours, and the Angelus (included with the app). It also has many prayers, the Daily Mass readings, and the Stations of the Cross (several versions). They have recently switched to linking to http://www.universalis.com which is just as easy, and is directly available on the internet if you’re on your PC.

    As far as I can tell, every publisher has their own similar but different version of the Divine Office. If you decide to do this, and find a group you would like to participate in, you can find out what they are using and go from there. I do not have the self discipline to always do the hours on schedule, or even at all; but like Pope John Paul II said when he brought out the Luminous Mysteries of the Rosary, it’s your devotion, you can do it the way that fits you.

    Since I sometimes use a nearby parish that does not have English language masses during the week, I also have the iMissal app (available through Amazon) that has the Daily Mass prayers, readings, etc.

    Thank you for bringing this up. I’m going to email this post to some friends, since you cover this better than I can.

  • skp

    You can also get the Magnificat Lenten app on the Nook, for $.99. I’m really enjoying it!

  • http://fkclinic.blogspot.com tioedong

    I bought my four volume Divine office via ebay. used.
    But for those without money, try Universalis, or for mp3 DivineOffice.
    And Benson’s book as an audiobook is available at Librivox.LordOfTheWorld

  • Pingback: The Divine Office in Lent | ourladyofgracemonastery

  • kevin

    I’ve never understood what the Divine Office is really. I have to take a look

  • Michelene Orteza

    Have been doing the LOTH off and on for a couple of months, mostly from your “nagging,” and also from the inspiration of a Protestant pastor who made a retreat to do LOTH. Bought the iPod app for Lent. Now when I’m lying in bed in the morning, not wanting to get up, I can use the app. Almost never do the hours on time, and rarely do all of them. Still, I can’t describe how much the prayers have meant to me.

  • http://fineoldfamly.blogspot.com Sally Thomas

    Our parish began praying the Office after either the morning or the evening daily Mass, depending on when it falls on a given day (small parish, one priest, wonky Mass schedule), a couple of years ago. That’s the been the best catechesis for beginning to pray the Hours — to do them corporately, with a priest to guide us through, telling us which page(s) we’re supposed to be on. About half the daily Massgoers stay for Morning/Evening Prayer after Mass; for those of us who do stay, it’s been a treasure and a great incentive to make the Office a part of our lives.

    I currently pray Morning Prayer with my kids at the start of our homeschool day, and Compline at bedtime. We were doing this before Lent started, but I’m even more intentional about it — and one of the things I love about the LOTH is that you *read* the change of the seasons in the psalms, antiphons and readings. Saves thinking, “Now, what are we going to do to remind ourselves about Lent every day?”

    I also love that my kids are starting to memorize psalms, without my having to say, “We will now memorize psalms.”

    And for Kevin: Essentially the Liturgy of the Hours is just praying your way through all the psalms in a 4-week rotation, with antiphons, canticles, and readings from other parts of scripture. If you’re doing it full-on, then you’re doing Morning Prayer (Lauds), Mid-Morning, Midday, and Mid-Afternoon prayers (sorry, I can never remember which is terce, which is none, and so on), Evening Prayer (Vespers), and Night Prayer (Compline). There’s also the Office of Readings, which priests and religious (and anyone else who wants to) do, though I’m not quite sure how that fits into the whole scheme. I do it only very sporadically.

    So, if you’re praying even some of the Office, you’re setting up a framework of prayer to hang your day on, or making prayer your day’s punctuation. You’re praying not only as individual you, but in concert with the whole Church — even if you’re praying alone, you’re not praying alone. And by praying in concert with the Church, the Mystical Body of Christ, you’re participating in the life of the Holy Trinity, in that divine conversation.

    I’m not nearly as disciplined as I wish I were at praying. Doing it with my children helps no end — I’ll do for them what I wouldn’t do for myself.


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