Monday, May 4, 2015

Hymns and hymn tunes for Christian Prayer

Lay people who pray the Liturgy of the Hours at home often find the hymns that open each hour to be troublesome and confusing.

I'll deal with confusing first.

 You notice that the hymn for, say, today's Morning Prayer is  one thing at DivineOffice.org, but two different selections at Ibreviary.com; that in volume II of the four-volume set it is still something else; and that in the Christian Prayer breviary you are free to choose one of any 11 Easter hymns in the guide.
Which kind of makes you wonder how "official" these hymn choices are when they differ so widely among the various breviaries, both print and digital.

The answer: not very official at all. If you wanted to, you could choose a different Easter season hymn whether it appears in your breivary or not. My Easter hymn of choice is the sequence from the Mass of Easter Sunday, "Christians Praise the Pascal Victim" , so I sing it nearly every morning from Easter until Ascension.

Now for troublesome. What happens when you don't know the hymn? There are several options:
1. Just read the lyrics as if you were reading a poem. There's no strict requirement to sing it.
2. Substitute another hymn that you do know.
3. You really want to sing the hymn that appears in your breviar? Then look it up on one of the very helpful blogs:

Breviary Hymns, where the ever helpful Kevin Shaw  tells you about the history of each hymn in a separate post and then links you to a YouTube video performance of it.

OR:
Christian Prayer Hymns, where the equally helpful "Jim" give you a single page of links for every single hymn in the Christian Prayer breviary.

These two guys have done a tremendous work for the musically challenged among us.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

How I Pray: Three Catholics talk about the Liturgy of the Hours

Blogger Thomas McDonald of the Patheos website has an irregular series called "How I Pray" in which he interviews various bloggers or other people about their prayer life.   I think I"ve called attention in the past to this one by Will Duquette and this one by Elizabeth Scalia, because both of them discuss at length what the Litugy of the Hours has meant in their lives.

Looking back over the last few months I've uncovered several more like this, and want to share them with you, especially this first one. Melanie Bettinelli has been following Coffee&Canticles from the very beginning, and, especially in its early months, made lots of encouraging comments. Her How I Pray interview is one that will resonate with mothers of small children, homeschoolers in particular.:
If I have the time I like to start off the day sitting quietly in bed reading Morning Prayer, either silently to myself, or out loud accompanied by one or more of my children. I love praying the Liturgy of the Hours with my kids and they often love to sit and pray with me. But if that doesn’t happen, and recently it hasn’t been, then I try to listen to the divineoffice.org podcast while I’m making breakfast and doing my morning clean up after breakfast. It’s not ideal as I’m often distracted and interrupted. Some days I’m lucky if I paid attention to part of a psalm and one antiphon or I just prayed the Invitatory Psalm which starts off the first hour of the day.
If I listen to the podcast then sometimes the kids do too and join in. Most times they just ignore it and chatter and shout and argue over it. Still, even if we all seem to ignore it somedays, I like to have it as the background noise of our mornings. Better than many other background noises, you know? I know they are absorbing it, though, even if they don’t seem to notice, because I hear them repeat phrases, they have favorite bits, they ask questions. My favorite is hearing my toddler pray. My  two year old recites along with me: “Lord, open my lips…” and “God, come to my assistance…” She knows the beginning of Psalm 95 and of the Benedictus. She likes to repeat antiphons.
Next, there's this interview with Sister Mary Catherine Perry, O.P.,a cloistered Dominican who chants the entire office with her community every single day. This is very different from the experience of most of us who read this blog, but her perspective will certainly inform and expand the way we look at our own attempts to join in the prayer of the Church Universal: 
Our life is centered on prayer. Formal prayer is about 4-5 hours a day. It might sound like a lot but it isn’t. We sing the entire Divine Office (Liturgy of the Hours), Holy Mass and have about 1.5-2 hours of “private prayer” each day.
The Divine Office is the “structure” of my day. Not just my prayer but my day. The whole day is one of praise and adoration like the angels who stand before the Throne of God in love and adoration. We just do lots of ordinary things besides because we’re human, not angels.
Last, you will want to read what Brother Humbert Kilanowski, O.P., one of the wonderful Washington, DC Doinicans, has to say about praying the psalms:
Through this collection of inspired poetry, the Holy Spirit teaches us the words to pray, and the People of God have used these words in divine worship for some three thousand years.  In praying the Psalms, I find myself united to the Chosen People as they gave thanks and praise to God and anxiously awaited their Savior, and to the Church throughout the ages and around the world who found these words fulfilled in Christ.  Moreover, as St. Athanasius once wrote, through the Psalms, you learn about yourself, as these prayers express a wide spectrum of human emotions, in which I often find myself (or someone for whom I’m praying).  I started praying the Psalms through the Liturgy of the Hours while in graduate school, and this greatly helped me make the transition into the rhythm of religious life.
Reading the thoughts of others about their love for the Liturgy of the Hours will help us see things that we hadn't seen before (or had forgotten), and inspire us to pray it with renewed enthusiasm. At least, that's what it does for me.