Thursday, June 28, 2007

Liturgy of the Hours 2

Last week I gave a quick and dirty overview of using Christian Prayer to pray Liturgy of the Hours. There is a shorter (and cheaper) volume that allows an individual to participate in this continuing prayer of the Church. It is called fittingly enough Shorter Christian Prayer. It is available for about US$15.00 online or at many Catholic bookstores.
Shorter Christian Prayer contains the four week Psalter used for Morning and Evening prayer, a selection of the Proper of Seasons and and the week of Night Prayer readings. It is much simpler to pray than the multi volume Liturgy of the Hours or even the Christian Prayer single volume. It is small enough to slip into your backpack or messenger bag ne attache case and carry with you.
Like the larger Christian Prayer it does benifit from being kept in a bible cover if you primarily lug it around every day. I found a cover at Barnes & Noble which fit my Christian Prayer book perfectly. They also had thinner covers meant for paperbacks that should accomodate the Shorter Christian Prayer book. I suspect many Christian or Catholic bookstores would also have them, though you are likely to pay a bit more.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Steubenville Youth Conference

Returned yesterday from the Youth Conference at Franciscan University of Steubenville. As always it was awesome. This was my fourth Steubenville Youth Conference, but my first at Franciscan University itself.
For those unfamiliar with them, the Steubenville Youth Conferences are events which bring together thousands of teens from all over the United States (and Canada) for a weekend of Mass, Adoration and talks from some of the most knowledgeable speakers on Catholic teen issues.
Yes, guitars are in evidence, but the worship music is anything but irreverent. Much of it is hardcore Catholic by such artist as Sean Forrest and Kelly Pease. No one who knows them could consider the Franciscans as anything but orthodox Catholic, and the conference shows it.
The adorations are famous for their charismatic nature, but Mass is promoted as the crown jewel of the weekend. Reconciliation is promoted, with dozens of priests present to hear the teens confess and grant absolution.
The keynote talks are the separate men and women talks. Each of these speaks to issues which are vital to teens.
This year the subject for the guys was the importance of having Christian male friends who can "cover your back." Too many males think they have to go it alone. Our society pushes and rewards individual effort so much that teen males are made to feel that if they can't handle it all themselves they are weak and inferior. The talks turned that notion on its head. Strong men have a group of male friends they can count on to tell them when they are over the line. Guys who can help them live a Christian life. And, of course, help them to treat our Christian sisters with the respect they deserve. Because a real man is one who protects the dignity of woman, both collectively and individually.
I, of course, did not attend the woman's talks, but am told they concentrated on building self esteem. If isolation and sexual objectification of woman is the major failing of teenage males in our society, then lack of self esteem is the major difficulty young woman face.
So the message? Christian men give women the respect they are entitled too. Christian woman demand and expect that respect. That respect includes living a chaste life.
The effect I have seen on the teens that I been blessed with accompanying to the various conferences is nothing less than amazing. While I'm not claiming that every participant is a candidate for sainthood, I have seen teens who are only lukewarm in their faith become highly spiritual practising Catholics, continuing their active participation in activities into their college years and beyond. None of them confused about subjects like Real Presence or what's a mortal sin.
Now I just have to get ready for our mission trip in two weeks.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Liturgy of the Hours

Liturgy of the Hours is the Church's prayer. It fufills Paul's exhortation that we pray continually.
The prayers of the liturgy are available in several forms. On line there is Universalis and Liturgy of the Hours Apostolate. The former is free, but lacks all of the Antiphons, while the latter is a paid subscription service. There is a multi-volume set, costing ~ US$150 and a single volume, Christian Prayer, which contains the office. Each diocese in the United States, at least, also publishes a booklet listing all of the readings for each day of the specific year.
Using one of the online services is easy. the proper set of readings for each day is delivered to your computer, or mobile device. Using the single volume Christian Prayer can be quite challenging.
The full set of hours number seven. They are:
  1. Matins, also called the Office of Readings
  2. Lauds or Dawn Prayer
  3. Terce or Mid-Morning Prayer
  4. Sext or Mid-Day Prayer
  5. None or Mid-Afternoon Prayer
  6. Vespers or Evening Prayer
  7. Compline or Night Prayer
The Christian Prayer book doesn't really have full set of readings. It is sufficient to pray Lauds, Vespers and Compline. Only one of the three day readings (Terce, Sext or None) is obligatory, and so only one set of day readings is included. An abreviated set of Office readings is included.
My copy of Christian Prayer has five ribbons to help mark readings. The book itself is divided into a section of Seasonal readings, a four week cycle of Morning and Evening Prayer, a Night Prayer section, a two week cycle of Day Prayer, a section of readings based upon the Calendar called the Office of Saints, a section of Common readings and an Ordinary, which contains rubics for Morning and Evening prayer.
So how do you use this somewhat complicated volume to actually pray the hours?
Start by deciding how much of the Office you're going to pray. Since I'm neither a priest nor a lay member of a specific order I typically only say Lauds, Vespers and Compline. The first step is to decide where on the Liturgical calendar today falls. If the day is during Lent, Advent or the Easter season then the readings will be found in the Proper of Season section of readings. If the day is a feast day or a solemnity then readings will be found in the Proper of Saints section, which is arranged by day and month.
So say today is Monday May 1st, which is dedicated to Mary. So go to the Office of Saints section and you'll find readings for Morning and Evening prayer (as well as the Evening Vigil i.e. the day before, because it is a major feast day.) If this is your first reading of the day start with the Invitatory. There will be an antiphon, which is in the Proper of Saints section followed by Paslm 100, which you'll find in the Ordinary.
After the Invitatory there will be a doxology. Glory be to the Father Son and Holy Spirit, As it was in the beginning, is now and ever shall be . Amen This is also said after each Psalm or Cantical.
Then there are three Psalms readings. Before and after each Psalm reading there is an antiphon. The antiphons come from the Proper of Saints or from the Common readings. This section has readings for Pastors, Doctors of the Church, Apostels, Holy Men, Holy Women, Martyrs, and Marian Feasts. So start in the Proper of Saints and it will direct you to the Common readings for Mary. The Psalm readings come from the four week cycles of Psalms. On a Feast day these Psalms are typically from Sunday of Week 1.
After the Psalms there is a Reading, typically from one of the Epistles. Then a Responsorial verse. The Benedictus, from the Ordinary. Intercessions. The Lords Prayer. The closing, from the Ordinary.
If the day is a memorial instead of a feast then the proper for the saint, from the Office is used, while the other parts come from the weekday cycle.
Suppose it is not a saint's feast day? Then all of the readings, except those from the Ordinary come from the weekday cycle. So if Tuesday May 2 is not a feast then use the weekday. How do you know which of the four Tuesday weekdays to use? It's based on the Sunday reading. If April 30 was the Third Sunday after Easter then it would be the Third Week Psalms, and Tuesday's readings would come from Tuesday of the Third week.
Evening Office is done using the same day as morning readings, unless the day is the vigil of another feast. Saturday evening readings always come from the Proper of Seasons for the following Sunday.
Night prayers have a single week of readings. Two for Sunday, one after the first evening office and one after the second evening office, none listed as Saturday.
So how does one maintain continuity while jumping from place to place? That's where the colored ribbons come in. I mark the week in the Proper of Seasons with a ribbon, the nearest day in the Proper of Saints with a ribbon. The Night Prayers for the day with a ribbon. The Ordinary with a ribbon, etc.

Saturday, June 9, 2007

Feast of Corpus Christi

The feast of Corpus Christi, or the feast of the Body and Blood of Christ, is traditionally celebrated on the Thursday after Trinity Sunday. In countries where it is not a holy day of obligation, such as the United States, it is celebrated on the Sunday after Trinity Sunday.
The celebration of Corpus Christi can be traced to 1208 when a sixteen-year old orphan named Juliana received a vision. Raised by the Augustinian nuns of Cornillion the young novice while at prayer saw the moon, whose disk was darkened in one area.
Years later the Holy Spirit blessed her with the interpretation of her vision. The moon was the Church. The darkened area a missing feast, required to complete the glory of the liturgical year.
Juliana confided her vision to her superiors, but not her inspired explanation, not for another eighteen years.
One of the people that she finally revealed it to was the archdeacon of Liege, Jacques Pantaleon. In 1261 he became Pope Urban IV, two years after her death in 1258. In 1264 Urban made Corpus Christi a feast of the universal Church.
The establishment of a new feast required that a new office be created for it, a selection of psalms, readings, etc. for use in the Mass and the Divine Office. Urban asked the brilliant Dominican scholar Thomas Aquinas to compose the office. The Hymn St. Thomas composed for use at Vespers is still sung today. It was the Pange Lingua:
Pange, lingua, gloriosi Corporis mysterium...
Sing my tongue the Saviors Glory, of His flesh the mystery sing;
Though Urban's degree was binding, it required a later pope, Clement V to enforce it's observance through another degree, promulgated in 1314.

Friday, June 8, 2007

In The Presence of Our Lord

XLT (exalt) began in Atlanta, Georgia under the leadership of veteran youth minister Paul George. In many cities it is an event which draws from multiple parishes. It is really just the latest layer on the practice of Eucharistic Adoration which started, not in the Middle Ages as some would have you believe, but actually as early as the sixth century in Lugo, Spain, where the reserved sacrament was carried in procession and displayed on the alter.
Certainly Eucharistic Adoration received wide acceptance in the Universal Church in the Middle Ages. The monstrance appeared in the second half of the thirteenth century, before that the consecrated host was most commonly kept in a pyx.
The most important aspect of the celebration of XLT in a parish is that it does not replace the more conventional silent adoration, but supplements it. XLT draw teens and young adults into the presence of Christ. They should also be encouraged to spend time in silent adoration. In my opinion, the best way to do this is to arrange for a period of silent adoration during catechism.
It is common practice in many parishes to have adoration monthly. Sometimes this is nocturnal adoration, sometimes it is only from morning Mass until the evening. Most times there is a list to ensure that the Blessed Sacrament is never left alone while exposed. Often this list is filled by pensioners or others who have free days. Challenge teens to sign up for a block of time during the summer or after school.
Remind teens that often we spend time with friends partying; listening to music, dancing and talking. With really close friends we sometimes just sit silently. Being in each other's presence is enough. For adults and older teens this kind of quiet intimacy is most often practiced by loving couples, who often sit together for hours in silence.
Just so, it is possible to meet Christ in the charismatic experience of XLT and also find him in the quiet of silent Adoration. Neither venue is exclusionary.