Timing of Evening Prayer

I’ve been struggling to get Evening Prayer in lately. I can do Morning Prayer when I get up, and sometimes can get in one or two daytime hours. And then Night Prayer as I’m going to bed. But once I get dinner done, and the dishes done, and homework done, the whole evening has rushed by and I’ve forgotten it, again.

I try to stick close to the every-three-hours schedule, just because it’s easy to remember: 6 for Morning, 9 for Midmorning, etc, which puts Evening Prayer at 6 p.m. But because I keep forgetting about it until late, I just tried to look up what the ACTUAL requirements are for Evening Prayer.

Guess what I found? That Morning and Evening are more closely linked to sunrise and sunset than to a clock-time. And at my latitude, at this time of year, sunset doesn’t happen until 7:56 p.m.! So I’m totally justified in doing Evening Prayer at 8 p.m. 🙂

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Confirmation: a cautionary tale

Last night, our parishes had three people confirmed into the Catholic faith. One of them opted not to choose a saint’s name for his confirmation, which is fine, right? That’s up to him; we’ve had people do it before. Anyway, the guy has an unusual first name, so just for the heck of it, the priest decided to see if there was a saint with that name already.

And wouldn’t you know it? There was!

st. maturin

Say hello to St. Maturinpatron of comics, jesters, and clowns! 🙂

The lesson here is when you’re given the opportunity to choose a saint’s name for something, just pick one — otherwise you might end up with the patron saint of crazy people and clowns.

Given that St. Maturin probably doesn’t often make it into the Litany of the Saints, I can just imagine him up in heaven, all like, “Ha! The rest of you can suck it! I just got invoked on Easter, and it wasn’t even intentional! Score one for the patron saint of pranksters!”

St. Maturin, pray for us! 🙂

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The Divine Office during the Triduum

Interesting fact!

According to my prayer book, Evening Prayer on Holy Thursday and Good Friday are not said by those who participate in the Mass of the Lord’s Supper, and in the Celebration of the Passion of the Lord, respectively.

Cool! I don’t mind saying them, but I was just wondering when I was supposed to, given the traditional times for the services mentioned above. On one hand, it would be cool to pray, for example, the Midafternoon prayer on Good Friday; on the other hand, the Celebration of the Lord’s Passion seems to trump that.

As I mentioned before, I love how the prayers and readings correspond to the liturgical seasons; there is continuity between what I prayed this morning, and the Good Friday service I’ll be attending this afternoon.

Now I need to see if there’s a prayer that talks about the agonizing calculation of how many hot cross buns constitutes a “small meal.” 🙂

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The Divine Liturgy of the Office Hours

Ha! See the pun I made? It’s even grammatically correct!

Seriously, though, I recently started praying the Divine Office / Liturgy of the Hours. I didn’t really plan to; it just coincided with something else that I felt like I should be doing in my life, and here I am!

I remember hearing about the Liturgy of the Hours from the very beginning of my exploration of Catholicism. The idea was appealing; I had always greatly admired Islam for its 5-times-a-day prayer, and the concept of formally acknowledging God at predetermined parts of the day made a lot of sense to me.

The problem was that every time I investigated further, I was discouraged by the number of people who complained about how complicated and confusing it was, and how they could never figure it out, etc. etc. So, being the lazy and self-detracting person that I am, I concluded that I’d never be able to do something so (apparently) complicated, so I never bothered to try.

Well, I am here today to tell you that it’s really not all that complicated, at least to a lay person who has low standards.

IMG_6462

Here’s a back-lit picture of my books.

For me, of course, there have to be books. Partially because I lovelovelove books, but also because if you use one of the many, many digital options there are for the Liturgy of the Hours, then it’s not complicated at all, and you have no excuse for not doing it! 🙂

To me, the Divine Office is set up kinda like Mass. If you (like I do) follow Mass faithfully every Sunday in your little missalette, eventually you should be able to pick up on certain rhythms. Like: song, prayer, reading (with bracketed response before and after), psalm with responses, reading (with responses), homily, song, prayer, etc. etc. The Liturgy of the Hours is the same way, so once you pick up on the rhythm (which itself is not complicated), then you’re good to go.

I have always sucked at praying. I was raised Evangelical, so all prayer was supposed to be extemporaneous. So I always hated praying in front of other people, and even when alone, I always felt like my prayers were lacking. Since I’ve become Catholic, I tried to make my own little prayer book, carefully copying prayers that I liked into a notebook, even trying to divide them into morning and evening so that I could do them every day. Problem was, once I got the notebooks completed, I never used them.

I thought about being satisfied with the “Catholic minimum,” as I heard someone describe it: an Our Father, a Hail Mary, and a Glory Be, twice a day. That never worked either. For one thing, it’s so short that it wasn’t enough to re-orient my attention from whatever else I had going on. Plus, it’s really boring and repetitive.

So what with one thing and another, I picked up Shorter Christian Prayer a few weeks ago, and I’ve actually been able to stick with it — so far. Even though it’s greatly abbreviated, it’s great for beginners because it’s small and relatively cheap. You still have to learn how to flip ribbons, but that’s not that bad. Especially if you start in Ordinary Time; I started during Lent, so it’s a more complicated time. The book comes with one ribbon, but I have four in there that I usually use: one in the Ordinary (the instructional section that has the daily morning psalm), one in the Psalter (the four-week basic schedule of psalms for morning and evening), one in the Proper of Seasons (special readings and antiphons for Lent; in Ordinary Time I won’t need that one), and I ended up sticking one in Night Prayer once I added that to my rotation.

I am far from an expert, but this is my basic pattern for Morning Prayer:

  1. Inside cover, where I wrote in the Introduction: Lord, open my lips. And my mouth will proclaim your praise.
  2. First ribbon in the Ordinary for the Invitatory Psalm and its antiphon: say the antiphon, the psalm, the Glory Be, and the antiphon again.
  3. Second ribbon in the Psalter: say antiphon 1, 1st psalm, Glory Be, antiphon 1 again.
  4. Say antiphon 2, canticle, Glory Be, antiphon 2 again.
  5. Say antiphon 3, 2d psalm, Glory Be, antiphon 3 again.
  6. Fourth ribbon (since it’s Lent; otherwise all this stuff is right there in the Psalter where you just were): say the reading, responsory, antiphon, Canticle of Zechariah, Glory be, antiphon again, intercessions, Our Father, prayer.
  7. Conclusion, which I also wrote inside the cover: May the Lord bless us, protect us from all evil, and bring us to everlasting life. Amen.

See, that’s not so bad, is it? You only need the three ribbons, and once you go to each one, you finish that bit, then move to the next one.

Notes: I have omitted the hymns and “Psalm-prayers”; I have reason to believe that they are optional, and I plan to add them back as I gain proficiency.

This edition has the Canticle of Zechariah (said every morning) and the Canticle of Mary (said every evening) printed inside the front and back covers, which is great. I added the other couple little things that I need every time so that I don’t have to flip back to the first ribbon to find them. Otherwise, everything goes pretty much in order.

The first couple days I did it, I was loosey-goosey with the timing; I think I said Morning Prayer at 2 p.m. one day! Importantly for me, I didn’t set such a high standard that I was bound to fail and never try again, and I was super-relaxed about timing and mistakes. (St. Alphonsus, patron of the scrupulous, pray for us!) Which antiphon to use can get especially tricky sometimes, but I just went with it if I used the wrong one, or even started the wrong day or time and had to double up on a psalm or something.

I started just trying to do one “hour” (prayer) a day, and when that was easy, went to two, then added Night Prayer. Once I could be fairly certain that I would do Morning Prayer early enough that I didn’t have to take Shorter Christian Prayer with me when I left the house, I went back and picked up Daytime Prayer, which includes 3 potential hours for praying during the day (Midmorning, Midday, Midafternoon). That one’s very slender, so it’s easy to throw into my bag, and short enough that I can get a couple in during the day.

Right now, my goal is to say no fewer than two “hours” a day. Often I exceed that, and sometimes the two are Midmorning and Night. And I’m still pretty flexible with the timing.

Daria Sockey has a nice blog about the Divine Office. She says,

Luckily we lay folk are not bound to do everything according to regulation. In fact we are encouraged to adapt the Divine Office to our situation.

I’m taking her word for it, so that’s why I’m giving myself lots of leeway. Truthfully, as regimented as it seems, I feel like the flexibility has been the most enabling thing for me. If I miss Morning Prayer, I have 5 chance to make up for it, and that’s not even counting the Office of Readings (which is above my level, at this point). I have acquired a one-volume edition of the Breviary, and one of the Office of Readings, but what I have so far is working for me right now. Once I master this level, I’ll move up. There are options for different postures at different parts of the prayers, and options for saints days and stuff, so I feel like this will never get boring. And it’s linked to the liturgical year, which is helpful if you’re like me, and you’re checking at church every Sunday to see what season we’re in…

Short version: I really like praying the Liturgy of the Hours; it’s not that complicated; and if you have trouble getting a good prayer routine going, I highly recommend trying at least one section of it every day!

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Query

To:           God

Subject:  Suffering

Why?

From:     Me

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Works of Mercy opportunity

Not many of us often get the opportunity to perform “burying the dead,” but I think this comes close, and it also probably counts as “visiting the sick.” Not to mention giving alms to the poor, etc.

go fund me march 2017

Basically, a friend of mine from back in the military has a friend who is terminally ill, and needs some financial help to put his affairs in order.

I appeal to everyone who is a service member, a veteran, a Catholic, a Christian, and/or a human being to give even just a little to help him out!

And if you can’t give, then a share on social media would be great, too. It’s Lent, so be charitable! 🙂

“Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me.”

(P.S. I’m requesting the intercession of Mother Angelica for this intention. It’s been one year since her death, which means we only have four more years to get some miracles for her canonization! Anybody who wants to join in is welcome!)

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Laundry Madonna

Yesterday, I was at the Catholic bookstore, and I found a holy card with an image of the Madonna and Child that I had never seen before.

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Isn’t that great? Mary’s doing laundry, and Jesus is playing on the ground while He waits for His clothes to dry.

Apparently this image is called the Polish Madonna (not to be confused with the Black Madonna of CzÄ™stochowa), and I can barely find any information on it online, including the name of the artist. I know nothing about art, but I would guess it’s from the 20th century.

What little I can find online includes this, which is identical across several sites:

“This charming picture depicts Our Lady hanging laundry while the infant Jesus sits nearby. Polish legend has it that the bright warmth of the sun must shine upon the earth on Saturday, if only for a brief moment, in remembrance of Christ’s infancy when on that day Mary would wash immaculately clean his swaddling clothes so that Sunday might find delight in witnessing the baby God in pure and fresh-scented dress.”

This somewhat corresponds to what the lady at the bookstore told me, which was that there’s a Polish legend that the sun always shines on Saturday, if only for a few minutes, to recall the Blessed Mother doing laundry during the Flight to Egypt. I’m always fascinated by the folk-traditional aspects of Catholicism: these unwritten things that hark back to a time before the masses were literate, and the only records are oral.

As a convert from Protestantism, I don’t yet have a strong Marian devotion, so these unusual depictions appeal to me. I love this picture because it is so real: what mother hasn’t had a naked baby running around beneath her feet as she tries to get his clothes clean enough to put back on him?

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Eternal rest grant to Mary Angelica, O Lord…

There. I’ve said one prayer for the soul of Mother Angelica. I figure that’s all she needs, and now she’s in heaven, ready to rock and roll.

There was someone in a combox yesterday, lamenting everyone else’s assurance that Mother Angelica is / will very, very soon be enjoying the Beatific Vision. She said that everyone’s flawed, so a Catholic funeral ought to focus on prayers for the soul of the departed, acknowledging their many flaws, etc., etc.

And in general, I agree. It is possible to focus too much on what isn’t an absolute positive, after all. The vast majority of us need a pretty thorough in-processing evolution before we get to the final party.

HOWEVER… I don’t think that that means that we can’t acknowledge that some people are already extremely holy when they die, and that we can’t have a pretty good idea of their state when they shuffle off this mortal coil. Throughout Christian history, there have been stories of people who, as soon as they stopped breathing, were pretty much mauled for relics, because everyone around them knew, by virtue of their life and actions, that they would soon be in heaven.

Full disclosure: I am one of the group that believes that Mother Angelica ought to be canonized as soon as legally possible after her death. (In fact, I’m peeved that she died the day after I entered the Church; I would have chosen Angelica as my confirmation name!) I recognize that not everyone feels this way. But to deny that we can have any idea at all where someone’s final destination is defies common sense. It is up to the Church (now, at any rate), to determine when someone has achieved sainthood, and I will patiently wait for that to happen. But I can hold my own personal, private, pious belief that God allowed Mother Angelica to undergo most of her purification while still on this earth, and that she only needed a bare touch-up before being escorted into His presence by choirs of angels.

All that being said, who needs a miracle? I don’t really need anything, otherwise I’d be invoking her intercession for something huge. Come on, people, let’s get this show on the road!

Mother Angelica, pray for us!

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Crossing the Tiber

Holy Saturday / Easter Vigil, 2016: Successfully made entry into the Catholic Church. Notes follow.

First confession: after days of anticipatory terror, was somewhat anticlimactic, mainly because I managed to royally screw it up. I had labored on a list of sins so that I wouldn’t forget anything — and managed, somehow, to forget the list. So I only had about four things to confess, and I forgot some fairly major ones. So I’ll be going back fairly soon to tidy that up, although it is comforting to know that I can make such a huge mess of something, and it still counts, because its effectiveness has nothing to do with my efforts. Thankfully!

Easter Vigil: the original plan was for the four-year-old to stay home in the afternoon and take a nap, so that she would be able to make it through the Vigil. Alternatively, she could go to the Easter egg hunt at the Methodist church, and stay up all afternoon. We went with the latter option.

We had our showers before we left for church, and I cut the time too close, so I forgot to put on nice earrings and change necklaces. And I was nearly out of gas, so I was standing there at the pump shivering in my stockings and summery dress, pumping as fast as I could so we wouldn’t be late.

I realized that I had left my to-do notebook at another church on Friday night during Stations of the Cross, so we had to scramble to find another notebook for my daughter to color in. She ended up with multiple notebooks and workbooks and pens, which she scattered all over three separate pews as she climbed around throughout the Mass.

In general, I was too terrified about getting up in front of people and messing things up to really pay attention to what was going on; fortunately, I think the pastor uses the same homily every year. And I can go back through and read everything in my missalette. I basically just sat/stood/knelt there and tried to keep from shaking while trying to keep my daughter quiet and not miss my cues.

First communion: again, so terrified about missing cues, and the assembling of the candidates up at the altar was a mess, so more trying not to knock into people than focusing on the Eucharist.

All in all, the take-away was that despite all of our efforts, we managed to mess up a bunch of pretty simple stuff. But that didn’t matter, because none of what we received was anything we earned. God pours out the graces from the generosity of His nature, not because of anything we’ve done to earn it.

Also: priests have WAY too much fun slinging holy water onto people with that aspergillum thing.

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Definition of terms, lack of (part 2)

Last time I spent a bunch of time critiquing a Protestant author’s understanding of Catholic theology. There were two fundamental problems: 1) the author is operating under a mistaken conception of what the Catholic Church teaches, and 2) since there is no attempt to define terms (on either side), most criticisms turn out to be directed against straw men.

I mentioned that I was frustrated because of the lack of defined terms, and also because of the lack of citations. It wouldn’t be so bad if the author was honestly trying to understand the Catholic position, but if you’re going to straight up claim that something isn’t a true church (“At the moment the Roman Catholic Church condemned the biblical doctrine of justification by faith alone, she denied the gospel and ceased to be a legitimate church, regardless of all the rest of her affirmations of Christian orthodoxy.”), then you’d better have at least some footnotes or something to show where you’re getting these ideas.

So there are a couple of issues happening here: confusion about terms, and a certain amount of confusion about some underlying principles of logic.

The first underlying principle is a common meme among Protestant converts to Catholicism: “either/or” versus “both/and.” In many instances, Protestant theology tries to make hard distinctions between various things, forcing them into “either/or” positions against each other. In contrast, Catholic thought is much more likely to utilize a “both/and” understanding of various concepts. To wit, I present a quote from this Protestant author:

The fundamental issue is this: is the basis by which I am justified a righteousness that is my own? Or is it a righteousness that is, as Luther said, “an alien righteousness,” a righteousness that is extra nos, apart from us—the righteousness of another, namely, the righteousness of Christ?

The Protestant says, “There must be only one kind of righteousness: righteousness of my own, or the righteousness of Christ. Since I cannot merit salvation myself, then it must only be Christ’s righteousness.” The Catholic looks at the same scenario and says, “On my own, I have no righteousness. Christ has righteousness, which He then gives to me, so that I, too, have righteousness.”

You will notice that in neither case does the person claim to have earned or merited the righteousness themselves, but the Catholic sees righteousness as a thing that God truly gives to us, that changes us and makes us righteous, whereas the Protestant seems to claim that while God is willing to impute Christ’s righteousness to us, He doesn’t see any reason to actually change us, to make us righteous ourselves. See? Either/Or vs. Both/And

…Which leads into the next issue, the divergence in term definition. I’ll start with the Protestant version, because that’s the one I learned first (caveat: I was raised non-denominational, evangelical, fundamentalist, etc. I recognize that other Protestants have different understandings, but mine matches fairly closely to the article in question.)

In Protestant thought, “justification” and “sanctification” means different things.

I was going to try to explain this, but I couldn’t verbalize my thoughts clearly, so I’m going to use a metaphor, okay? Basically, in our fallen state, we’re like criminals in prison. We’ve done bad things, and have been convicted of those bad things we did. We got what we deserved, and there’s no way we can escape the prison ourselves. Justification is a one-time event, when God gives us a full pardon.  We didn’t earn it, but God just lets us walk right out of the prison, even though we are still, objectively, guilty. Sanctification is a separate process, that is seen to begin at the same time justification occurs, but that takes time. Sanctification is like rehabilitation: after we get out of the prison, God works with us to gradually make us holy, so that we won’t keep doing the things that get us thrown in prison in the first place.

In Catholic theology, justification and sanctification are used interchangeably, based on the usage in the New Testament. To the Catholic mind, it is impossible to be sanctified (made holy) without being justified (receiving the merit of Christ’s work), and it’s impossible to receive the merits of Christ’s work without those merits making you holy. They occur simultaneously, relying on and supporting each other, like a man walking on two legs. For a Catholic, the thought that God could justify you without sanctifying you is a contradiction in terms, a logical impossibility.

Now, this is where the differences in these particular definitions gets difficult. Ever since the Protestant reformers started preaching “justification by faith alone,” they’ve struggled to parse how one could become right with God and still live in blatant, unrepentant sin. It’s something that offends common sense, as well as Scripture, but according to faith alone, the only important thing is intellectual assent to the truth of God, regardless of repentance and becoming actually holy. Here’s the important thing: most Protestants, despite how they may parrot what they’ve been taught, don’t actually believe this. They are steeped in Scripture, and they KNOW that true Christianity involves an actual change of life, that God actually changes the people who follow Him, that striving to become holy is part of the real Christian life. But they’ve been told that “sola fide” is the foundation of their faith, so they suppress the cognitive dissonance. In real life, they act according to the Bible: that faith, hope, and charity are all necessary parts of the true believer’s life.

Sometimes, when you press them, Protestants will try to resolve the conflict by defining faith as “intellectual assent that is lived out in works that are empowered by God.” And the Catholic Church has agreed that, if you define faith this way, then to say “by faith alone” would be correct.

But the terminology that the Catholic Church uses separates faith (intellectual assent to the truth that God has revealed), hope (trust in the sufficiency of Christ to bring us to salvation), and charity (the active working out of love for God and neighbor), as all necessary to the Christian walk, and all three as what God gives to us in justification/sanctification.

This is an area where the great divergence of Protestant thought makes discussion difficult: some Protestants will buckle down on “faith alone,” and claim that as long as intellectual assent is present, nothing else is required: one could live in gross violation of every moral code, but as long as one claimed to “believe,” then one is justified before God, and is heaven-bound. Other Protestants will say that such a person is not genuinely saved, otherwise the sanctification process would have started, and the person would show signs of a regenerate life. Catholics have more options to work with: the person could either 1) never have been saved at all, or 2) have been saved, but exercised his free will in a direction that took him away from God, and is no longer saved.

If I have made this clear enough, hopefully you’ll be able to see the overlap in the Catholic and Protestant positions.

Again, I’m not claiming that there aren’t significant differences between certain Catholic and Protestant positions, but some are a lot closer than Protestants, at least, have been led to think.

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