Written by: Mike McCann
God, come to my assistance. Lord, make haste to help me. Glory to the Father and to the Son and the Holy Spirit: as it was in the beginning, is now and will be forever. Amen. Alleluia.
These are the opening words to the Liturgy of the Hours, the daily prayers that are said by priests and religious as part of their daily duties. Perhaps you’ve seen a priest sitting in a park reading Midday Prayer from the book that he is carrying with him, or heard the chanting of Lauds (Morning Prayer) at a seminary before daily activity began. While these prayers used to seem to me to be exclusive to priests and religious, I have come to realize that this is only because of societal changes/pressures; indeed, the Church highly recommends and encourages the laity to pray the Divine Office.
During an audience in November of 2011, our beloved Pope Benedict encouraged the laity to start praying the Office: “I would like to renew my call to everyone to pray the Psalms, to become accustomed to using the Liturgy of the Hours, Lauds, Vespers, and Compline. Our relationship with God can only be enriched by our journeying towards Him day after day.” As he indicates, the Divine Office focuses much on praying with the Psalms, a rich source of wisdom and a window into the personality of Christ, through the prayers of praise, thanksgiving, repentance, and lament. In every life situation, from the best to the worst, the Psalms are essential to an authentic Christian spirituality.
The Apostolic Constitution Canticum Laudis says, “The Office is… the prayer not only of the clergy but of the whole People of God.” Indeed, after beginning to pray the Divine Office as my personal prayer throughout the day, it is very deeply rewarding. While it may seem like a daunting prospect, of praying multiple times throughout the day (there are 5-7 different Hours, depending on the requirements/schedules for priests and religious), we are not required to pray them all. My parish priest told me that if the laity were to pray Morning and Evening prayer (Lauds and Vespers, respectively) then that would be a very good start to a solid personal prayer life. Each Hour only takes 10 minutes or so to prayerfully say in private, hardly an unreasonable amount of time for personal prayer and done at the start and end of your day is extremely beneficial. Praying the Office is as easy as downloading an app on your smartphone (there is a free one called iBreviary which is excellent, and gives the readings in the proper order and format). Otherwise, the laity are encouraged to use the book of Christian Prayer, if one knows how to use it (it can be very confusing for a first time reader, so being guided by someone in the know is encouraged at the start).
This Lent, I highly recommend praying with the Divine Office, the prayer of “the whole People of God”, perhaps as a new habit to form. It will be nothing but rewarding. Pray without ceasing!Catholic Living, Lent, Prayer, by Catholic Chapter House.