The practice of praying the Hours should be encouraged at Pre-Cana instructions so that couples will make the Hours an integral part of their married life—and very early in it. In fact, it is recommended that shortly before or after the sacrament of matrimony, they make a week’s retreat to prepare for their married life. How often do we hear: ‘It takes three to make a marriage.’
If prayer is the underlying power of one’s life, then parents will find ways to incorporate some part of the Hours in their daily schedule. In prayer, married couples derive the strength of God’s grace to live their married vocation. As children mature, they too must learn discipleship in the Lord. A minimal and external Christianity will not fortify the Domestic Church. Christ must be the living and central presence within the family. It takes only a few minutes to pray short sections of the Hours recalling that “in him, we live and move and have our being” (Acts 17:28).
The Hours can be prayed with small children at bed time, during a coffee break, or on public transportation. If this is not feasible during the week, then the weekend is an alternate possibility. The Benedictine rhythm of prayer, work, and rest offers the family a rewarding life.
An Unforgettable Experience
One Sunday evening a few years ago when I was visiting the Benedictine Abbey of Chur in Switzerland, the Abbey church was filled to capacity for solemn Vespers. From the procession of monks into the sanctuary to the end of the service, the entire Assembly chanted and sang the Office of the day with full and enthusiastic voices. This was an indispensable Sunday practice that took priority over all other activities. One of the monks remarked that the townspeople so loved this liturgy that they were “wedded to Sunday Vespers.”
The rewards of praying the Hours far exceed any sacrifice. First, as was noted in last week’s essay, the psalms are a treasury of human emotions. Praying the psalms allows our emotions some outlet; it guides them, and elevates our feeling in God. Second, the Liturgy of the Hours is the very prayer which Christ himself together with his Body, addresses to the Father. (The Church at Prayer, IV: 188). We are praying with Christ who prayed the psalms. Third, when we pray the Hours, we are uniting ourselves with the whole of the Catholic Church around the world. While Catholics in the Far East are praying one Hour, others are praying another Hour. Fourth, when we pray the Hours, we are not only remembering the sacredness of civil time but transforming it as well to a higher plan of consciousness toward Christ in God. Fifth, praying the psalms is an experience in reading profoundly beautiful religious poetry.
Great Movements . . .
Great movements are born out of great adversity. Such was the experiment of the first colonists, and later, of the Civil Rights Movement. Such is the situation in the Church today. What is needed for a great movement of renewal? For a moment, let us imagine a cross section of the Church who, convinced of the power of the psalms in their lives and in the culture, would pray the Hours on a daily basis. These might include: commuters in New York subways, farmers and ranchers, political leaders and bankers, blue collar workers, the bedridden and the imprisoned, the addicted, the disenfranchised, artists, scientists, physicians and lawyers, media moguls, and yes, the stay-at-home mother, caring for her family. Imagine such a renewal!
The Rosary Emerges from the Liturgy of the Hours
The present form of the rosary is traced back to the sixteenth century, even though the fingering of beads can be traced to ancient Eastern traditions. In the eleventh century, 150 Our Fathers were given to an illiterate laity to pray as a substitute for the 150 psalms that were prayed by the monks and nuns. Called “the poor person’s breviary,’ the psalms were divided, as was the Psalter, into three sets of fifty, and the strings of beads were used to count them as “paternosters.” Eventually, the rosary, consisting primarily of Hail Marys, was popularized by the Carthusian Order. Today, there is a renewed emphasis in the Church on praying the Liturgy of the Hours (Encyclopedia of Catholicism, 1138-39). In the public prayer of the Church, the Body of Christ immerses itself in salvation history, God’s infinite love for us all.
(Column continues below)
Subscribe to our daily newsletter
At Catholic News Agency, our team is committed to reporting the truth with courage, integrity, and fidelity to our faith. We provide news about the Church and the world, as seen through the teachings of the Catholic Church. When you subscribe to the CNA UPDATE, we'll send you a daily email with links to the news you need and, occasionally, breaking news.
As part of this free service you may receive occasional offers from us at EWTN News and EWTN. We won't rent or sell your information, and you can unsubscribe at any time.