Wednesday, March 9, 2011

A New Lent: Ash Wednesday

Last year, I made up some words to the popular Christmas Tune "It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year." The verses are as follows:

  1. Grab your Bibles, walk Stations (but no flagellations which cause some to fear)! It's the most wonderful time of the year!
  2. There'll be fasting and penance and Cap'n D's restaurants into which we'll steer! It's the most wonderful time of the Year!
  3. "En Ego O Bone et Dulcissime Iesu" (in English) you'll hear! It's the Most wonderful time of the year!

Some will just think that I have an odd sense of humor. Others might think that I'm missing the point of the season, when much of the focus is upon repentance for our own sinfulness. I can never help feeling a certain joy as this season arrives, though. For one thing, there aren't all the annoying songs you hear at Christmas (though as you can tell, I'm not helping in that department). The height of commercialism seems to be extra advertising by Red Lobster and Long John Silver's. There's some merit to this, I suppose.

But the real cause for joy is that this is our time for pruning, Spring cleaning, and renewing our relationship with God (and also our neighbor). It's a time for extra discipline in this regard. For all that I blog about our tradition of prayer, I've never seen myself as particularly good at prayer (the blogging has in fact done some good in my own prayer life). The essence of Lent is not just on turning away from our sins, but replacing these particularly bad habits with good habits. As the word "Lent" means "Spring", I have always assumed this is what makes Lent our "Springtime".

So, suffice to say that I'm happy to get rid of some of the crap and work on a relationship that's pretty important. This means prayer, prayer, prayer. But in doing so, I've decided to focus especially on Lectio Divina. I have always been quite drawn to Sacred Scripture and the Early Church Fathers (since I was about 15, really). Nevertheless, so much of my pursuit of these topics was from a purely academic, historical approach. The spiritual or devotional or relational aspect has always been neglected in my life (the one outlet for this was perhaps during Mass and the Hours).

I find that this form of prayer ought to be an aid toward a greater dialogue with God, as it is perhaps the purest form of meditation in our tradition. I am certainly not a natural contemplative, and have always had great difficultly maintaining focus during the Rosary or Adoration. I hope that this use of the text will be an aid to this discipline of prayer.

Especially in light of the Apostolic Exhortation on the Word of God, Verbum Domini, I thought that it would be very appropriate to engage more fully in this form of prayer. I plan to engage in other activities, to be sure, but this will be the primary activity for the time. I wish you well as you embark on your own journeys. Godspeed to all as we prepare for the full joy of Easter.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Time to Pray for the Faithful Departed

Of course, we should always pray for the faithful departed. Still, it is especially encouraged during the month of November, especially the beginning of the month.

There are a couple of ways to gain plenary indulgences for the dead during this week. These are listed in section 1 of no. 27 of the current Enchiridion:

"A plenary indulgence, applicable only to the souls in purgatory, is granted to the faithful who,
  1. on any day and each day from November 1 to 8, devoutly visit a cemetery and pray, if only mentally, for the departed;
  2. on All Souls' Day (or, according to the judgment of the ordinary, on the Sunday preceding or following it, or on the solemnity of All Saints), devoutly visit a church or an oratory and recite an Our Father and the Creed."

Again, it should be mentioned that, in addition to the act above performed, the other three conditions must be met for a plenary indulgence within a few days of the act: Communion, Confession, and prayer for the Holy Father's intentions (for which an Our Father and Hail Mary will suffice). It is best that the Commnion and prayer for the Holy Father's intentions be on the same day as the act. One confession can apply to multiple plenary indulgences, but only one communion. And of course, one may only gain a single plenary indulgence in a day.

Today would also be a to remember praying for the dead daily, as All Saints' Day begins this evening. We might certainly use that most common prayer for the dead, the Requiem aeternam:
Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon them. May they rest in peace. Amen.
In the coming days, it would be good also to pray the Office of the Dead, either from the Liturgy of the Hours or the Breviary. Praying the prayer Requiem aeternam above, as well as Lauds and Vespers of the Office of the Dead, are enriched with a partial indulgence. The former may be used after meal prayers and the Angelus.

I regret that I did not get this post up earlier, as it would be a great place to mention the Novena in preparation for All Souls, which was explicitly mentioned in no. 260 of the Directory of Popular Piety. I will include one such novena prayer here:

O God, the Creator and Redeemer of all the faithful, give to the souls of Thy servants departed full remission of all their offenses that, through pious supplications, they may obtain the pardon of which they have always been desirous. Who livest and reignest world without end. Amen.

V/. Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord.
R/. And let perpetual light shine upon them.
V/. May they rest in peace.
R/. Amen.

Despite missing out on the novena, we can at least go on with the Octave. Let's get to praying for the Poor Souls!

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Little Office of the Blessed Virgin Mary

Today we will turn to that oldest, most popular of the Little Offices, which is also the one which has long been a part of the Church's liturgy. Of course, that is the Little Office of the Blessed Virgin Mary (not to be confused with the much shorter Little Office of the Immaculate Conception).

The last edition of this Little Office was published with the Breviary reforms of 1961. It was not revised in the wake of the post-Conciliar reforms. Nevertheless, it is indulgenced even in the latest version of the Enchiridion. One version of this text may be found here.

The earliest reference to an Office of the Blessed Virgin Mary was in the eighth century at Benedictine monastery of Monte Cassino. As this devotion originated in monastic communities, it was common to pray the Hours of the Blessed Virgin Mary immediately after the Hour of the Divine Office itself. For laity living in the world, one can imagine that it might be rather difficult to undertake this practice, especially as the Little Office is as long as the Hours in the Divine Office (though Matins is sometimes longer). However, as the text is generally identical from day to day (with some daily changes to the psalms in Matins, as well as seasonal changes for Advent and Christmas, plus some other minor variations) it became popular for use among the laity in place of the Divine Office. One can understand that it would be much easier to use than the full Divine Office, leading to its more frequent use.

It came to be found in the devotional books of the laity, especially Books of Hours. For instance, it was one of the major components of the English Book of Hours known as The Prymer. It was accompanied by the Office of the Dead, Litany of Saints, Penitential Psalms, and Gradual Psalms, all devotions which would have originated (with the exception of the Litany) with monastic communities.

There are certainly some great places to go for information on this particular Little Office. Theo Keller's site certainly provides some good background. The blog Psallite Sapienter provides some good reviews of different editions. Despite the critique of the Baronius Press edition on that blog, I find it refreshing to have ready access to the chants (even if the psalms are unfortunately not fully pointed for chanting). It should be noted that the Carmelites continue to have their own version of the Little Office of the Blessed Virgin Mary. It seems to me that, for Catholics generally, it is best to use the 1961 Roman version.

In keeping with the practice of our forerunners, this Little Office would be excellent at any time. However, those times during which it would most be appropriate on Saturdays, during the months of May, October, and December. While the Little Office of the Immaculate Conception would also be good to use during this last month, the particular Advent character of the Little Office of the Blessed Virgin Mary argues for its use as well.

This should wrap up our series on the Little Offices. For the other Little Offices, see the following links:

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

New Catechetical Opportunities

I'm happy to hear that my wife and I are getting prepared for catechetical work with kids in our parish. It's also wonderful that I have been able to start working with the kids in the Youth Ministry program. In about a month, I will give a presentation to our RCIA group on the first three Commandments. The Powerpoint Presentation for this last effort is about 80% done (I would like to comb through the Cathechism one more time, and add more art). I am grateful for these opportunities, and pray that I will have more to come.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Tallahassee Vespers: At a Crossroads

Our latest Sung Sunday Vespers was indicative of the progress which we have made. The mistakes were few and far between. Everyone sang the hymn very well together. There were only a few mistakes in the psalmody. The execution of the Salve Regina at the end of the prayer was quite good.

We are now at a point where our Sunday Vespers needs to grow. The problem will be determining how best to go about doing this. So far, we have grown by word-of-mouth and by posting events on Facebook on both our "Tallahassee Liturgy of the Hours/Divine Office" page, and on the "Una Voce Tallahassee: Latin Mass Community" page. The real growth will occur once we reach out to the bulletins of the several parishes in the area (there are four in the city of Tallahassee, plus a chapel for Florida A&M).

Once we advertise in the bulletin, however, we will need to have the resources for participation for the people who come. We could either try to do a big event for which we have rehearsals (for instance, on Christ the King), with handouts for participation, perhaps trying to link Vespers with Adoration. Alternatively, we can advertise in one of the four bulletins, seeking to draw people in from a single parish.

Currently, my inclination is to do the latter. Advertising within our own parish for people who are willing to sing the parts should draw out some of the more committed who will join weekly. Once we have a good idea of how many are willing to do this, we can advertise in the other parishes. Finally, we can create a more major event, during which I would expect a larger group to attend.

Such are my plans at present. I will seek the input of my cohorts. We know that we need to grow. The question is how we do it.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Litanies: Litany of the Sacred Heart

Today, being Friday, we'll focus on the Litany of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus. Like the Litany of St. Joseph, it was only approved for public prayer relatively late, in this case by Pope Leo XIII in 1899. This Litany is actually a composite of other litanies, primarily from the 17th century (please see the link above for more information). While virtually all litanies were forbidden from public use in 1601 (that of All Saints and of Loreto being exceptions), there was a slight loosening of this prohibition in the 19th century, during which the other approved Litanies received their approbation.

In structure, it is much like the other litanies which we have seen: the Kyrie, invocation of the three members of the Trinity to have mercy on us (first individually, then as a unity), the come petitions to the Heart of Jesus to have mercy upon us, followed by the invocations of the Agnus Dei. One of the notable features is that the series of petitions to the Heart of Jesus are 33 in number, reflecting the number of years which Jesus is said to have lived on earth.

Like other devotions to the Sacred Heart of Jesus (for instance the Little Office of the Sacred Heart, mentioned in an earlier post), it seems best suited for Fridays, especially the First Fridays of the month and the Solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus (third Friday after Pentecost). Additionally, it is well suited to every day during the month of June, which is typically held in honor of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, and is the month in which the Solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus usually falls. Like the other approved litanies, it is enriched with a partial indulgence

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Litany of the Most Precious Blood of Jesus

Thursday often devoted to the Eucharist, it seemed a good day to post on the Litany of the Most Precious Blood of Jesus, (found here). This is the last of the approved litanies to receive its approbation, which was given by Pope Bl. John XXIII in 1960 (which can be seen in AAS 52, pp. 412-13).

The structure begins and concludes like the other litanies. However, the response to the 25 petitions is "save us" (salva nos). It is noted for these petitions recalling biblical passages in the Directory of Popular Piety (no. 178).

In many ways, we can look upon this Litany as the most neglected of the six approved litanies. This might owe to its very recent approbation (which was quickly followed by a rejection in many quarters of anything traditional, leaving this rather new devotion to develop little following). While the other approved litanies are included in the Manual of Prayers published by the Midwest Theological Forum, for example, this prayer is unfortunately omitted. Fortunately, however, the U.S. bishops have seen fit to print it both in the Manual of Indulgences (translating the newest version the Enchiridion) and the book Catholic Household Blessings and Prayers.

This Litany is most suitable for every day of the month of July, which is traditionally devoted to the Precious Blood. Unfortunately, in the revised Roman Calendar, there is no longer a Feast of the Precious Blood. This is quite remarkable especially owing to the devotion to the Precious Blood which was held by Bl. John XXIII. However, this does not prevent priests from celebrating a Votive Mass of the Precious Blood. It may also be suitable for Thursdays (because of the Eucharist) or Fridays (because of the Passion). Like the other approved litanies, it is enriched with a partial indulgence.