Tuesday, August 26, 2014

The Divine Office: Together We Pray

I used to have little appreciation for the Liturgy of the Hours. I considered it ‘too structured,’ ‘too formal,’ and a mere recitation of words other people had written. It could be spoken while the speaker’s mind wandered anywhere and everywhere (I decided)… so wouldn’t such a practice just lead to dry, lifeless prayer?

I could not have been more wrong.  

The Liturgy of the Hours, also known as the ‘Divine Office,’ is an official group of prayers used by priests and Religious. It is a primary part of the daily schedules of monks and nuns.  

The Divine Office is the same for people throughout the Church, throughout the world. On the very same day, Father O’Neill in Dublin and a group of monks in Sydney and a monastery of nuns in Toledo are praying the exact same words.

And I can pray with them, if I wish.

As I wrote here a few weeks ago, the Liturgy of the Hours helps my prayer stay on track. In it, scripture is right before me; thus I have 'grillwork' for my day.  I am praying with the whole Church, right along with Father O'Neill and the monks in Sydney and the Toledo nuns. And, if I'm tempted to bypass prayer, I get help to carry me past my (laziness, in my case).

Do I, personally, pray the entirety of the Liturgy of the Hours?  No.  But My goal is to work toward that. I'm making a commitment to at least pray part of it every day.  I hope to pray more and more of it, to 'baby step' my way into staying solidly on its tracks throughout the day.

In my haphazard life (and my very nature is 'haphazard'), I definitely need some of that structure I once dreaded.  Otherwise, I wind up wasting entire days.

I find that those 'words others have written' often turn out to be cries and groanings from my very heart.

Does my mind wander while I pray in this way?  My mind wanders no matter how I pray.  The Divine Office helps call the drifting mind back.

Does the Liturgy of the Hours lead me to the dry, lifeless prayer I feared?  No.  Sometimes I feel dry and lifeless, yes, but again:  that would happen no matter how I pray.  The printed words help me stay focused.

In some key ways, the Liturgy of the hours is a lens that helps me zoom right in on the presence and reality of God.

Where can we find the Liturgy of the Hours? 

A WONDERFUL resource is Divine Office.org.  I cannot recommend this highly enough.  It is free, it has all of the hours available for reading or for listening to, and it's a marvelous tool for those of us who have trouble finding our way through the books themselves.  It's all right there for us.  The one and four volume breviaries are available for purchase at this site as well.

And for an excellent explanation of this kind of prayer, check out Daria Sockey's blog Coffee and Canticles for 'About the Liturgy of the Hours. '  


  1. Great post, Nancy! I think things changed for me personally, when I my son gave me the 4 volume set for Christmas a few years ago! I LOVE the Office of Readings! Also, I have a new love for the Psalms because of the Divine Office!

    1. Lindy, I love the Office of Readings also! And I am appreciating more and more the rhythm of prayer that keeps "calling me back throughout the day," re-focusing me more specifically on God.

      Thanks so much.

  2. Hi Nancy, I love the Divine Office, too. The priest at our last parish used to say that it is the prayer of the Holy Spirit so it doesn't matter if you get distracted as it is the Holy Spirit who does the work. This seems to make sense to me as it always seems to stir me in some way even though I am usually very lazy and lacking in fervour.

    I wanted to thank you, Nancy, for your comments about my art on Facebook. Sue emailed me about it and I was so encouraged. All I could think was how kind and special you are - and how holy you must be to have such a big heart :-)

    Since I stopped blogging, I've been reading a handful of blogs and yours has drawn me into the cloistered way of thinking. I recently read A Right to Be Merry after seeing it on your blog and I really felt that I had retreated (joyfully) into the cloister as I read it each evening. I so, so love reading about the cloistered way of life!


    1. Vicky, thank you for such kind words!! You are so talented that I don't think I could stand NOT sharing your art :) !

      I love what your priest said about the Holy Spirit doing the work of praying the Office. And as He does so, we are often inspired with exactly what we need to carry on into our day!

      Thank you very much, Vicky. It is so good to know you're here!

  3. Thank you Nancy, for this beautiful post. Imagine how beautiful it must be for God to hear all of his children saying "I love you" in unison through the Liturgy of the Hours. Imagine how wonderful it is that we are listening to Him together. In this way we love one another. We grow together in love with Jesus. We grow in spiritual strength and courage to following the directions of the Holy Spirit, and to please God the Father by obeying Him. Our Blessed Mother must be so filled with the joy of seeing her children conforming ourselves to the will of God by turning away from other activities to pray the Office. Additionally, in this way we present the evil one with a united front...

    1. Lora, I apologize for getting to this comment so late. I'll blame it on OBS (Older Brain Syndrome). You have said it so beautifully, and I really like thinking about God hearing our chorus of love in unison. Thank you.

  4. we were introduced to Liturgy of the Hours this past January and were immersed into 10 weeks of learning the routine while on a domestic mission. It was the best thing that ever happened to us as a couple. Our day does not seem complete unless we pray together at least once but more often, it is twice.

    1. Annie, what a wonderful introduction you had to the LOH ! It is a blessing to be able to pray regularly with your husband, isn't it?! (I know it is, for I've been given the same blessing). May God continue to pour out His graces upon the two of you!


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