8 Steps to Begin Praying the Liturgy of the Hours

20140916_063101Liturgy of the Hours has taken off among young Catholics. Young Adult Catholics are interested in delving deep into traditions. For Young Catholics who are involved, they are probably more theologically literate or spiritually articulate than their parents. They may use the app on occasion.

A Parish that considers dropping a weekend Mass, may consider filling in the extra time with Common Recitation of Morning Prayer. A group of 4-5 committed lay persons is all you need, and will eventually grow.

There are a few reasons why people who want to pray, but do not, that have nothing to do with their personal busy schedules: The Office books are expensive. It is too confusing for beginners who pray alone. Flipping back and forth in the breviary is difficult. It is still a challenge for proficients who only pray it alone. You have never heard of any of the songs in there.

There are a few reasons why people do pray. They are drawn to formal prayer. They are discerning a vocation to consecrated life, or they have, and see the value in this. They are settling down and find more time in the day. They know a place that prays in common once, and would like to pray for themselves.

The following steps are advice for lay persons who want to start praying, and may not find a regular place where they can pray in Common with others.

  1. Ordinary Time after Pentecost is the best time to start.
    “It’s Lent! What better time to start praying LOTH!” Unfortunately, many people who try this are quickly defeated. Lent requires flipping back and forth in the breviary, Ordinary Time requires little of this. Lent has specific prayers, Easter has specific prayers, Christmas time, the different Feasts as well. Ordinary Time follows the standard format: Hymn, Psalms, Scripture Reading, Canticle, Petitions, Our Father, and Collect Prayer. It makes sense that each of these things be proper to the Season or Feast, Ordinary Time would have it laid out from beginning to end. In six months they will be familiar with the format, it will be Advent, and that is about how long it takes for it to have become an integral part of their day.
  2. Shorter Christian Prayer is the inexpensive easy option.
    Shorter Christian Prayer is $15, the larger print is $20. Christian Prayer which has additional hymn notations and prayers is ~$40. The IV Volume LOTH is not a good idea to start with. Shorter Christian Prayer is a slimmest volume, that fits in your back pocket, or purse, and you can sneak in with you to Daily Mass or other visits to the Blessed Sacrament. The other alternative, that I will write about in tomorrow’s post is the Little Office of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
  3. Start by praying a portion of it every other day.
    For beginners, do not attempt to pray every hour every day. Commit to praying Monday, Wednesday & Friday, or Tuesday, Thursday & Saturday. If you are a morning person, pray Morning Prayer three days a week. If you have a nice moment after getting home from work or eating dinner, this might be a good time for Evening Prayer. You are probably better off with only doing either Morning Prayer, or Evening Prayer. Your first step should be seen as something that is immediately easy, simple, and suited to you. Since you are a lay person, you are under no obligation to say it. You have nothing to be ashamed of if you miss it.
  4. Negotiate your schedule around it*
    Praying 2-3 times a week, will eventually feel natural to pray either Morning Prayer or Evening Prayer daily. This may take about a month. It may become meaningful enough that you schedule your life around it. If you have been praying only MP, you can look at ways to negotiate your late afternoon or early evening for EP. If you have come to value EP as part of your daily routine, look at changing your morning around to include MP. Use the same principle above, so that the other hour can grow into part of your day.
    The goal is, that between mid-June and the end of November, you will have come to value and understand LOTH, and would be ready to naturally start praying for Advent, and then Christmas.
  5. Set up a prayer space or Oratory in your home.
    Set up a Crucifix, candle, Icon, or other Sacred item, to help foster your prayer. Sitting is an appropriate posture for praying the Office, and a comfortable chair facing a window might also be suitable. Initially, these things can allow one to feel the satisfaction, but the idea is that your prayer is not dependent on your feelings of prayer being good enough or not. Initially these help, and they do not need to be removed in order to get better.
  6. Modifying your prayer
    The majority of the Hymns in Christian Prayer will be unfamiliar to young Catholics. It is optional. One may want to read the words of the hymn instead of singing it, or use one that they are familiar with. The use of an appropriate poem is acceptable. Sometimes I use a prayer from Augustine when I am not praying with my community.
    If you prefer spontaneous prayer, omit the Intercessions, and pray your own. There are options for shorter intentions in the back.
    Including Spiritual Reading, or journaling, or other prayer activities immediately following your prayer of the Office is very helpful, and may even add depth of reflection to your prayer routine.
  7. Make a Visit to a Church or Adoration Chapel during the week as part of your routine to pray the Office.
    Find a time, once a week, on the way home from work, or on the way to the gym, to stop in a Church, or chapel, to pray the Office. This will add to the Sacred Character. It will help foster a sense of being a pilgrim. If one is already committed to a weekly or monthly (First Friday) Holy Hour, this is a good time to include it. What better way to experience your Catholic Devotion than in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament?
  8. Attend a Retreat, and pray Morning Prayer, Evening Prayer & Night Prayer.
    Find a way to make an overnight personal retreat, or if you can afford to make a weeklong retreat. Sometimes these may include LOTH, often they don’t. This would be a good time to commit your time. It will characterize your retreat by Sacred Time.
    The Church requires that Priests make an annual 5 day retreat. In order to be ordained one must make a canonical retreat. To make Solemn Vows, a Religious Sister or Brother is required to make a retreat. Jesuits, and many other Congregations are required to make a 30 day Ignatian Retreat, and several 8 day Ignatian Retreats. I believe that all Lay Ministers have the same responsibility for themselves and those who they minister to. If they are working full time in a any Apostolate, they have a responsibility to themselves to make an annual week long retreat. If they are part time, they have a responsibility to make a weekend retreat, or a few days of Recollection.
    Work may not give you the luxury of an annual five day retreat, but it would be helpful to find ways to get away on a weekend retreat two or three times a year. For those who work and have kids, at the very least, once a year (especially on Father’s or Mother’s retreats offered by parishes or other groups). Retreats are a good time to spend extra time praying the Hours, even when you don’t normally do it.

*However, for some people with full work loads, or plenty of kids, it may be more challenging to pray both Morning Prayer & Evening Prayer most days. If this step itself makes you quiver as being too impossible… In this case, I would recommend skipping this step.

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2 thoughts on “8 Steps to Begin Praying the Liturgy of the Hours

  1. What about Night Prayer? It doesn’t have the full structure of Morning and Evening Prayer, but it is short enough that it can be almost memorized and can be prayed every day. I didn’t start there, but that’s the only hour I’ve managed to stick with (over 17 months without missing a day!), so it might be a good starting point for those looking to create a habit.

  2. I ended up starting praying the LotH at my home altar as I began my inquiry into the Lay Dominicans a few months ago, knowing that doing so would become a key part of my prayer life from then on. I actually went for the easy way out of using an app for it (started with Laudate before moving on to iBreviary as I got more used to how the office worked). I own a copy of Christian Prayer, but mostly use it as a reference or for when the app interface hiccups (or occasionally to switch out a hymn for feast-related reasons if I’m adding in a reading on the Order of Preachers supplement or such).

    I’ve been discussing with our pastor about how to go about fitting Morning or Evening Prayer into the parish and have volunteered to help out leading it at first (now that I have some actual exposure to doing it in a group at Lay Fraternity meetings — plus I’m already known as a lector in the parish) — he likes the idea, as he admits to being tired himself of doing every hour by himself each day, but he’s not sure how best to fit it in around our two morning masses (we’re a major suburban-commuter parish, albeit in a one-priest-with-substitutes situation at the moment, so mornings can be rough), or whether we can get people back in in evenings.

    I’ve suggested perhaps tying it to between masses for Morning Prayer and during that time where parents are waiting for their kids to finish CCD for Evening Prayer (so that folks have more reason to be at the parish than just for the LotH), but we need to see. As for the issue of books, my idea for starting up was actually to print out and run off copies of PDFs of each day’s appropriate hours from iBreviary.com or DivineOffice.com as a booklet in the parish office until we got a better sense of numbers and folks got a better sense of the form of the LotH as a whole (before having to flip through anything). I did a test run-through of a day’s preparation and could make a day’s Morning Prayer and Evening Prayer booklet in about five minutes each between Word and Adobe; the hardest part was remembering how to reload the paper to print on the back of the sheets of the “booklet” properly!

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