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Father Muench Says...

The prayer guide in my pocket

May 8, 2024

By Father William Muench
NCC columnist

“I’m saying my prayers.” I could see that person staring at me. I was in Church preparing to celebrate Mass. I was kneeling in a pew looking quite attentively at my cell phone. “I really was saying my prayers.”

You probably know that we, priests, like the monks in a monastery, and like the deacons, and like many lay people, promise to say the prayers of the Divine Office each day. This prayer is found in what’s called the Breviary. I remember well that the first thing I had to do after I was ordained a deacon, was to purchase the four volumes of the prayers of the Divine Office. Part of accepting diaconate and later priesthood was to promise to say the Office each day. These prayers are also called the Prayer of the Hours; there is a series of prayers to be said several different times during the day. And these prayers were all in those four volumes for each day and for each feast day. I still have the four volumes on my bookshelf.

Well, now there is an app – an program on a cell phone or tablet – with all the prayers of the four volumes of the Divine Office available. I can find each day’s prayers and each hour’s prayers right there in a moment. There are sometimes when I gather with other priests to pray a particular hour of the office, and I can just open that app (it is called the Divine Office) and be ready to pray the prayers of the Church together with them.

Let me share with you the outline of one hour. This morning, I prayed Morning Prayer – traditionally called Lauds. This prayer has a similar pattern each day. First there is a hymn. Then we pray two psalms and a Canticle. Today, as I write this, the psalms chosen for today’s prayer are Psalm 24 and Psalm 33. The Canticle chosen for today is from the Old Testament Book of Tobit 13:1-8.

Then follows a short reading from Sacred Scripture. Today, since it is the Easter Season this reading is from the Acts of the Apostles. As you may remember, the Acts of the Apostles describes the early days of our Church – the time following the Resurrection and Ascension of Jesus.

Today’s reading – following the Pentecost – the first disciples begin to teach and preach the story of Jesus – his message and his life, his crucifixion and his Resurrection. In this reading, we are told of the beginning of St. Paul’s missionary journey to the various cities as announce that Jesus, the Son of God, came to our world to brings us the message of God’s great love for all people, for us all.

As the Morning Prayer continues, we now pray the Canticle of Zechariah, from the first chapter of St. Luke’s Gospel. This prayer reminds us of the coming of St. John the Baptist announcing to all who listen the coming of Jesus to this world. John will go “before the Lord to prepare his way, to give his people knowledge of salvation by the forgiveness of their sins.”

Then follows the day’s intercessions – calling us to pray for our needs and the needs of our Church, praying for our hopes and dreams. This ends with the Lord’s prayer and a concluding prayer, preparing us for the day’s celebration of the Mass and the duties of our day.

During the day, we are called at various times to the prayers of the Office – mid morning, midday, midafternoon – the evening prayer is called Vespers, the Night prayer is called Compline. And it is all on that Divine Office app on the cell phone, right there in my pocket.

I encourage you to check it out. Again, the app is “The Divine Office.” You don’t have to pray all the hours each day. You could start with just Lauds (the Morning Prayer). It’s a wonderful way to start the day. Or possibly Vespers; this would be a wonderful way to end the day with the Lord.

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