Wednesday, July 1, 2015

A Famous Catholic and the Breviary

I was reading the published letters of a notable 20th century Catholic this morning, and came across this quote from a letter that she wrote to a friend who had recently converted to the Catholic faith:

Oh. I am sending you a rather garish looking book called A Short Breviary which I meant to get to you when you came into the Church but which has just come. I have a 1949 edition of it but this is a later one, supposed to be improved but I don't think it is. Anyway, don't think I am suggesting that you read the office every day. It's just a good thing to know about, I say Prime in the morning and sometimes I say Compline at night but usually I don't, But anyway I like parts of my prayers to stay the same and part to change. So many prayer books are so awful, but if you stick with the liturgy, you are safe.

Can you guess who it was? You can tell she is a woman who does not  shy away  from expressing a negative opinion. I'll make this a multiple choice question. Was it:

a. Flannery O'Connor
b. Clare Boothe Luce
c. Dorothy Day

I happen to own a copy of the 1954 edition of A Short Breviary,(Liturgical Press) the gift of James I. McAuley, who reads this blog sometimes. It's a nice, little, almost pocket sized book. Here are a few pictures so you can decide whether you agree with the above author that is it garish.

this one came out sideways. Dust jacket is an early example of modern Catholic art. 

Not so garish without the dust jacket.

This of course, is the Divine Office from before Vatican II, translated into English for use by laity and active religious who were not canonically bound to use the complete Latin office that Priests and monastic orders used. I go to this book at times to compare today's breviary with the old system,  and also for the lovely short footnotes that explain the scriptural context and messianic meanings of the psalms. These were written by Fr. Pius Parsch.

Okay, now for the identity of the author I quoted above. Let me know if you guessed correctly. It is...drumroll...

Flannery O'Connor 
The quote can be found in The Habit of Being, a collection of her letters.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Laudato Si - a Quick Note

My, there is so much commentary in the blogosphere on Laudato Si, and most of it addressing controversy-whether to defend or to criticize what the Pope has written.

I have my opinions, but thank God I don't do blogging of the punditry sort. And so--the mercy of God is great!--none of you have to learn whether I think the Pope is mistaken (or not) about global climate change. Nor should you care what I think about that.

Furthermore, I've read only 1/4 of it so far, so commenting at any  length would be really, really dumb.

But I'll share a section that will resonate with us breviary lovers:

72. The Psalms frequently exhort us to praise God the Creator, “who spread out the earth on the waters, for his steadfast love endures for ever” (Ps 136:6). They also invite other creatures to join us in this praise: “Praise him, sun and moon, praise him, all you shining stars! Praise him, you highest heavens, and you waters above the heavens! Let them praise the name of the Lord, for he commanded and they were created” (Ps 148:3-5). We do not only exist by God’s mighty power; we also live with him and beside him. This is why we adore him.

The Holy Father is trying to teach many things in this document. One of them is the need for us to detach ourselves from technology and overwork, to rest, contemplate, appreciate the beauty of creation and thus grow in gratitutde and praise toward the Creator. If we are stopping two or three or four or five times a day  to pray the psalms, we probably are making a lot of headway toward that habit of priase. Think of all the psalms and canticles that talk about the grandeuor of creation and God's loving guidance of it all.  ( We get lots of these on Sundays-- Lauds and Office of Readings in particular.) 

If we are internalizing those "nature psalms" then we are acquiring a habitual awareness of the gifts of creation, and are responding with the praise that is God's due. Just one more way that the Liturgy of the Hours is so, so good for us. 

PS. A quick scan of the encyclical reveals quotations from Psalms 148, 104, 136, and 33.