Thursday, June 23, 2011

Answering Common Objections to Praying the Divine Office

Choir Stalls at St. Vincent Archabbey, where the monks pray the Office.


Long time readers of this blog know of my devotion to the Divine Office. I know many of you out there are saying it too in whatever form suits you best. Now, how many of you out there couldn't name 5 other people you know personally who are also saying it?

Besides those in the priesthood, I know about three people who say it faithfully every day.

There are any number of objections to its recitation - ignorance being one of them. If you are ignorant of the Office it isn't your fault. The Prayer of the Church isn't promoted as it should be. Here are some common objections and my answers to them.

1. I would love to pray the Divine Office, but I just don't have time.

A) Morning Prayer/Lauds in the traditional form takes 10 minutes. The Novus Ordo version takes about 7 minutes. Evening Prayer in either form takes no longer than 7 minutes. It can take a little longer while you are getting used to the rubrics. But once you have them down it takes little effort. Fitting in one of the little hours, or Daytime Prayer, is easy. If you take a break at work, simply use 4 of those minutes to say the Office. We make time for things that are important to us. The Prayer of the Church is important.

2. Isn't that the thing priests do? (sometimes followed by a scowl)

A) Yes, hopefully, it is. The fact is, the Divine Office is not promoted much by our priests. I suppose this is because many of them view it as a burden rather than a privilege to pray the Office. I once heard a priest's breviary referred to as "his wife." But laity praying the Office has a long history in the Church. In medieval times it is said that laity could recite the entire Little Office of the Blessed Virgin Mary from memory - and not just say it but sing it.

Especially since Vatican II there has been a greater emphasis on the laity to pray with the Church in the Divine Office. We can debate whether or not the new version is good or not, but we are blessed to have several older versions (1962, Monastic,etc) to choose from. The breviary is not just something "the priests' do".

3. I have 30 children, I can't possibly say the office.

A) What a blessing! You live in a monastery full of little monks and nuns. Start with Compline/Night Prayer before putting everyone to bed. It will connect your children to the Church in yet another way. As they get older you can pray Vespers/Evening Prayer immediately after dinner. The Office is a great catechetical tool. It contains scripture, saints, doctrine, tradition, and the Church year. It is the perfect way to keep your family connected to the Church throughout the week, especially if you can't make it to daily Mass with your family.

4. I would like to learn, but it is complicated.

A) No, it really isn't. It just seems that way. Start slowly if you need to. Trying to say Matins in the Benedictine version is not a good place to start. Compline is, in whatever form you choose. When you are ready to move on, you can find numerous guides to help you. There are also a ton of forums out there on the internet that are filled with people who know how to do it right. If you need help, just ask.

5. Why can't I just pray the Rosary? I say "Our Lady's Psalter" every day!

A) The Rosary is a wonderful prayer. I say it every day too, both the "regular version" and the Franciscan Crown. But the Rosary is not the Divine Office. They are different. Our Lady's Psalter is a substitute for the Office. Keep in mind that the Psalms are the prayers that God wants us to pray. He wrote them for us to say back to him.

I think there is a prevailing attitude that the Rosary is somehow more important than the Divine Office. It isn't. Our Lady would have heard the Psalms being chanted all the time in the temple or synagogue. The psalter, or the Psalms of David, are far more ancient than the Rosary. We even see evidence in the New Testament of this practice, when we hear of Peter and John going up to the temple for the Hour of None.

We shouldn't pit the Rosary and the Office against each other. It isn't an either/or but a both/and situation. Say them both with fealty and devotion.

6. The Liturgy of the Hours (or whatever version) is so expensive!

A) You can get any version of the Office for free online. If you have a smartphone or other portable device, there is a version for you. Its free! You can also purchase shorter breviaries that are inexpensive such as the small "Shorter Christian Prayer" or Monastic Diurnal.

Free versions of the Office online:
Divinum Officium (Traditional - in any meaning of the term.)
Universalis (Novus Ordo)

In the iTunes AppStore just do a search for an app. iBreviary Pro Terra Sancta will even let you say the Liturgia Horarum in Latin. Breviarium Meum is a new app for the 1962 Breviary put out by the Franciscans of the Immaculate based on Divinum Officium (website above).

1 comment:

Presbytyrannosaurus Rex said...

Awesome Matt!

I am not sure about your comment regarding the importance of the Rosary vs. the Divine Office, though. I need to check into this a bit more. I loved the Psalms even when I was among the Presbyterians seeking for the "Truth." I have now found it i.e., Him / Jesus Christ, in his Catholic Church, by the grace of God.

"The whole truth is generally the ally of virtue; a half-truth is always the ally of some vice." - G.K. Chesterton