Category Archives: Easter

Praying the Office Online

I’ve been praying the Office since 1997 or ’98. My aunt and uncle sent me a copy of _Christian Prayer_ for, I believe, my Confirmation. My wife also had a copy she’d received from an uncle. We bought the four volume set (at least two of one). The latter is tricky because despite my best efforts, I always seem to be unable to find the correct volume for the season. The one volume versions have both fallen apart from use.

One of the goals of Vatican II was to make the Liturgy of the Hours more accessible to laity, reducing its complexity, but many people are still intimidated by all the “ribbons,” keeping track of the Psalter, the Proper of Seasons, the Proper of Saints, and the various Commons, etc.

It was about 10 years ago that I started thinking how it should be relatively easy to create an interactive version of the Office using HTML, where one could click on a link, bringing up a frame with the appropriate materials, and providing choices for optional memorials, or memorials celebrated as personal Feasts, etc.

So, I created several HTML files in Word, and made it part of my daily prayer to type the relevant sections into the appropriate files.

Then I discovered that others were already deep into similar projects, and I saw little need to recreate their work, though some of the problems still remain, as I will discuss in reviewing and linking each site in this post.

The Liturgy of the Hours is one of the oldest prayer forms in the Church, and is used by Catholics, the various Orthodox churches and many “mainline” Protestant denominations. In Roman Catholic (as opposed to Byzantine/Orthodox) theology, the Liturgy of the Hours is “public prayer” or liturgy, an extension of the Mass. To pray the Office is to pray “with the Church,” so it’s important the words be as unified as possible. This is distinguished from “private devotion.” So, in a popular internecine debate among faithful Catholics, 1,000 people saying the Rosary are in “private prayer,” while one person praying the Office under certain circumstances is engaging in “public prayer.” Catholic clergy (bishops, priests, deacons), religious (nuns, monks, friars, sisters) and members of secular orders are under canonical obligation to say the Office but also have the grace of praying “publicly” even when we’re “alone,” because in sharing the common texts that others are praying around the world, we are joining with them spiritually. For laity who are not in Third Orders, it’s still a private devotion, unless they’re saying it in community with others. Thus, the “trick” with online adaptations is whether the translations are appropriate.

Even a few years ago, there were not as many options there are now.

One of the first sites providing a daily Breviary online was Universalis, which is based out of England and provides detailed information on the degree to which its texts are approved for various English-speaking countries. It has gotten much more elaborate, of course, since 2005, and it provides apps. For those under obligation, I just discovered that Universalis provides the official Latin translations, so if you’re extra-cautious about whether the translation is official, you can always just use Latin. ūüôā

Perhaps the most popular and well-made, and the one I use most regularly, is DIvineOffice.org.
It has all its copyrights in order and uses the canonically approved texts for the US. It also has very well-made podcasts of a group of people praying the Office, with licensed hymns, and the participants (mostly volunteers who, IIRC, started the project as a way of teaching the Office to an RCIA class) alternate methods of communal praying: sometimes chanting the Psalms, sometimes repeating the antiphons, sometimes having one person read or sometimes alternating. You can read the text with no audio, listen to the audio, or read and listen. The audio usually takes about 20-25 minutes for morning prayer and 15-20 minutes for evening prayer, depending upon how much is chanted.

Before Divine Office, I used to use PrayStation Portable from Fr. Roderick Vonhogen’s SQPN. I used to also have it on an RSS feed here but found it was unreliable. Sometimes, it seems to update too quickly and you can’t find the actual links for the day. Other times, there was a delay in posting. I hope they’ve fixed those issues, but it’s been a while since I followed it. It’s just Fr. Roderick reading it, not a group of people, and much simpler, but he does include prayer requests that listeners send him as part of the General Intercessions.

Plenty of websites and apps offer the Traditional Breviary, and several sites offer the various offices of Eastern Churches.

The added challenge, which led to my most recent discovery of a treasure trove of sites, is praying “Optional Memorials,” days that are not on the “General Calendar” (such as the Discalced Carmelite Propers), days that are personal/community Feasts or Solemnities, etc.

CatholicCulture.org* has a cool Liturgical Calendar page with the Feast(s) or Saint(s) of the day on both the Extraordinary Form and Ordinary Form Roman Calendars, Collects, devotional prayer suggestions and other activities. So, if I’m looking for a Collect that’s not in DivineOffice.org, I have been turning to CatholicCulture.

Still, if it’s a day where I want, say, the Common of Doctors or the Common of the Blessed Virgin, and DivineOffice just has the regular Four Week Psalter options, I often find myself searching the Internet, and recently those searches have proven more fruitful:

Liturgy Archive is exactly what I imagined 10 years ago. It is a basic HTML page with links to every option for the entire year: the liturgical seasons, and the collect for every saint on the general calendar. It also has the Commons. So now, when it’s a Carmelite day, I go there for the Commons. I don’t know what their arrangements are with the copyright-enforcing USCCB, but it’s all there for now. Its wider “Archive” has both internal and external links for a variety of liturgical prayers from a number of Christian traditions.

iBreviary is also very good. Indeed, when I heard people say “iBreviary,” I always thought they meant “Divine Office.org”. It is based out of Italy, and defaults to Italian but offers a variety of language options, including both Latin and the official (Grail Psalter) English translations. It is a relatively simple website but is oriented towards tablets.

eBreviary offers everything in PDF format but only offers certain parts for free on its website or App and otherwise requires a subscription because of the copyrights.

More and more, with all these apps available, priests, deacons and religious are finding their confreres praying along in chapel with their phones, tablets and eReaders.

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Why Kenny Rogers and John Lennon were wrong

“The best that you can hope for is to die in your sleep,” said one.
“Imagine all the people living for today,” said the other.

Our neighbors like to have bonfires on the weekends and play the radio. ¬†Usually, they do it in fall and our relatively mild winters, but, given the bad winter we’ve had, coupled with yard debris, they’ve been having them the last several weekends. ¬†When we were leaving for Mass,¬†the repulsive “Imagine” started playing on the radio at the neighbors’. ¬†I quickly started the car engine, knowing it was on Casting Crowns. ¬†I thought about switching to Fr. Antonio Vivaldi’s _Four Seasons_, but figured I’d rather hear content to get Lennon’s book of Marx out of my head (so to speak; “Imagine” came out nearly a year after “American Pie”). ¬†I didn’t, and it fit in with the weekend’s meditations.

“Imagine all the people living for today”??
That’s exactly why we’re in the mess we’re in. ¬†That’s what Thomas Hobbes famously describes as the state of nature: the war of “all against all” because everyone is “living for the moment,” and “the life of man [is] solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short.”

"YOLO? No, bro"

Living for today is a good thing if you’re focused on the eternal “today” that is our destiny.

In his address at the 1998 Seattle C. S. Lewis Institute, Peter Kreeft quoted Voltaire saying that too many people had their minds on Heaven and Hell and not on France. ¬†“I don’t know where Voltaire is now,” said Kreeft, “but, wherever he is, he’s not in France.”

Me with Peter Kreeft and Tom Howard

Me with Peter Kreeft and Tom Howard

Liturgically, this weekend’s theme of course was resurrection in anticipation of the upcoming Easter. ¬†Saturday, we also celebrated the Memorial of St. Vincent Ferrer, known for his preaching on¬†the Last Things, for promoting the following:

Prayer of St. Vincent Ferrer to be Sinless at the Hour of Death

Lord Jesus Christ, who willest that no man should perish, and to whom supplication is never made without the hope of mercy, for Thou saidst with Thine own holy and blessed lips: “All things whatsoever ye shall ask in My name, shall be done unto you”; I ask of Thee, O Lord, for Thy holy name’s sake, to grant me at the hour of my death full consciousness and the power of speech, sincere contrition for my sins, true faith, firm hope and perfect charity, that I may be able to say unto Thee with a clean heart: Into Thy hands, O Lord, I commend my spirit: Thou hast redeemed me, O God of truth, who art blessed forever and ever. Amen.¬†

As we usually do, ironically, when I actually make it to Mass with my family, we went to the “last chance” college Mass, with a very kindly priest of the Holy Father’s generation who tends to overemphasize, as it were, “Niceness.” ¬†He gives pleasant, uplifting homilies but never really challenges people. ¬† He has a lot of good qualities, but I found his homily a bit lacking in the caution that should come with these themes.

“I am one of those who believe this life isn’t all there is.”
I should hope so.
He emphasized, “But if Christ is in you,
although the body is dead because of sin,
the spirit is alive because of righteousness.” (Rom 8:10).

He kind of left out the conditions “if” and “because of righteousness” and went with, “Christ is in all of us, so we’re all going to be together.” ¬†He phrased it in that “ambiguous” manner that typifies his era, but he definitely promoted presumption.
I don’t know if it was posted because of St. Vincent, or the Sunday liturgy, or just an act of Divine Inspiration, but a blogger who goes by Tantamergo at “Dallas Area Catholics” posted¬†a great piece on¬†praying for a Happy Death, particularly¬†praying for the opportunity to be conscious, as St. Vincent recommends above, so we can invoke Our Lady in our dying days, with various examples from Saints to that effect.
Thus, it was dismaying coming into Mass with those things in mind to hear Father say how most of his family were dead, and they’d all died of cancer, and he hoped to be fortunate enough to die in his sleep or suddenly!
No, the best we can hope for is not to die in our sleep; it is to die fully aware so that we’re not further punished for putting off our repentance.

Reports claim that Yellowstone is getting closer to eruption, and the animals are fleeing. ¬† Others say that the supervolcano theory hasn’t been proven, that the animals are just engaging in normal migration, etc. ¬†I say that, obviously, if they knew it was going to happen, they wouldn’t want to trigger mass chaos by saying that a mass extinction event is coming. ¬†Either way, whether it’s Yellowstone, cancer, a heart attack, a gang playing the “knock out game,” or the proverbial bus, we must all heed Our Lord’s warning to store up treasure in Heaven, not on Earth. ¬†Whether we die tomorrow or 90 years from now, we’ll still face the same personal judgement and the same two options for Eternity. ¬†We worry so much about preparing for “retirement,” or how to survive various disasters, but do we worry about what will happen if we die a sudden and unprovided death?

Daily examination of conscience
Daily devotion to Our Lady and to Our Lord’s Passion
Self-sacrifice and almsgiving
Frequent recourse to the Sacraments
and, most of all
Praying daily that we and our loved ones will experience¬†a “Happy Death,”¬†with¬†complete Confession, the Anointing, Viaticum, and the Apostolic Blessing (collectively, “Last Rites”).

These must be everyone’s priorities.

Get thee to a Confessional

“He chose poorly”:

“Therefore whosoever shall eat this bread, or drink the chalice of the Lord unworthily, shall be guilty of the body and of the blood of the Lord.” (1 Cor 11:27)

On this feast of Corpus Christi, we should do penance for all the sacrilegious communions that take place, particularly in this country, my own included.¬† Every Catholic should *at least* go to Confession once a month (the concept of “obligation to go once a year” is based upon the Easter Communion obligation, and the presumption that reception of Communion is preceded by Confession, particularly from those who’ve been away).¬† As Mother Angelica would say, we take baths or showers every day, even if we’re not that dirty. It’s just spiritual hygiene, and I daresay most of us commit at least one mortal sin per month (I know I do).¬† So please get thee to the Confessional, and make a frequent habit of it–even the Pope goes every week.

Confession
“Unless you change and become as little children, you shall not enter the Kingdom of Heaven.” (Matthew 18:3)

Think yourself free from sin?

If we say, “We are without sin,” we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we acknowledge our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive our sins and cleanse us from every wrongdoing. If we say, “We have not sinned,” we make him a liar, and his word is not in us. (1 John 1:8-10)

Start with these:
http://www.usccb.org/prayer-and-worship/sacraments/penance/upload/Examination-of-Conscience.pdf

And since there’s a Plenary Indulgence attached to studying the Catechism of the Catholic Church this year, a good place to start would be the section on the Commandments.

Pope Francis Holding a Monstrance

Know where You Are on the Liturgical Calendar

It can be confusing keeping track of saints and feast days, particularly in regard to the General Calendar, Local Calendars, and if you are at all involved with an Order.¬† I’ve been asked from time to time to provide guidance for people trying to pray the Liturgy of the Hours, and I’m always looking for convenient “One stop Shop” options for my own prayer life.

Well, I’ve spent most of the past day and night working on a Spreadsheet that gets that process started.¬† It is ready for beta-testing.¬† Right now, all it does is calculate what day of what Season it is, and what the celebrations are, if any.

If you want to try it out, download the following attachment: Collects.

Here’s how it works (I’ve only uploaded it in Excel 2007+ format):

1.¬† The first page of the Spreadsheet, currently simply “Sheet1”, announces the date, the day of the liturgical week, and what if any special feasts or memorials are designated for today according to your preferences (see below).¬† If you are following along with the Office, then you’ll know to turn to the Proper of Saints and the appropriate Common for the kind of Saint.¬† Eventually, I hope to add features where it will automatically provide the pages, and maybe even the collects, antiphons and reading references.¬† Right now, though, it just tells you what’s going on in the most general sense.

2.¬† Here’s the fun part.¬† The second tab is called “Preferences.”¬† I give you a list of religious orders (Carmelite, Dominican, Franciscan, Benedictine and even Anglican Ordinariate).¬† If you wish to use the calendar of one of those Orders, enter its number at the top of the list (as I am a Carmelite, the default option is 1).

Next, it asks for Nationality.¬† I’ve done the major English-speaking countries: US, UK, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Malta and Ireland.¬† Again, each has a number.¬† Enter the number that corresponds to your homeland.

4.¬† The Third tab on the Spreadsheet is called “Saints” and is the calendar of saints.¬† I have a special column there for “Patrons.”¬† If you want to highlight a patron saint of you or your family, or else you want to add a special patron saint or celebration that’s not already listed, enter it in that column.¬†¬† You could put in anniversaries, birthdays or parish dedication days if you want to include those in your Office.

5.¬† The next tab is called “Liturgical Seasons.”¬† Don’t mess with this, as it’s carefully programmed, and some columns are hidden, but based upon the dates of Easter and Christmas for the year, it calculates the entire liturgical year, from last Advent through next Christmas.

The calendar year’s Christmas will always be under “next,” and the Calendar year’s Christmas season and epiphany will always be under “Last.”

But I put a lot of work into looking up the algorithms for calculating Easter and Ordinary Time.

The last sheet is called Calculations–don’t even go there; a lot of the background formulae are there.

Hope this helps a bit.¬† As I add features, I’ll repost it.

A Little Easter Humor

The Angel said,
“You seek Jesus, who was crucified. He is not here. Has has risen, and He has gone out for Sunday brunch.”

The women looked puzzled.

“Come on, He hasn’t eaten since Thursday evening. He’s hungry.”

….
While they were still incredulous for joy and were amazed, he asked them, “Have you anything here to eat?” (Luke 24:41).
Jesus said to them, “Come, have breakfast.” (Jn 21:12).