Friday, 13 November 2015

In Praise of the Divine Office

“I would like to renew my call to everyone to pray the Psalms, to become accustomed to using the Liturgy of the Hours, Lauds, Vespers, and Compline.” Pope Benedict VI

I was introduced to our Catholic Divine Office by an Anglican prayer community that used it. At the time I was a Presbyterian so the concept of liturgical prayer was new to me. But this introduction to liturgical prayer led to an attachment that has remained with me since. 
The Divine Office takes me daily into the liturgical life of the Church. The Liturgy of the Church isn’t just for Sunday’s and Holy Days or any other day we attend Mass. It is there for us every day, and even for different times of every day.  

Maybe the fact that at time of writing this Sunday will be the 32nd of Ordinary Time doesn’t mean that much to some apart from to help find the correct pages for the readings in the missal, but I find entering into the liturgy more fully is entering more fully into the spiritual life and communion I share as part of the Body of Christ.

An adage I heard approaching the end of Lent once went along the lines of “fast with the Church, feast with the Church!” So I am adding “pray with the Church!”

The Divine Office, including the main Offices of Lauds, Vespers and Compline are largely made up of Psalms and whilst Jesus Christ died with the Psalms on His lips the very same Psalms are at the same time the cry of His people. This is an incredible spiritual realisation yet paradox and in itself a great proof of the authenticity of our faith. I get a sweeping sense of the magnitude of salvation history and what we are part of whilst praying the Psalms - the new Israel, journeying in the wilderness between the dangers of our spiritual enemies and the refuge we find in God within His new temple, Mother Church.

The Divine Office celebrates saints and events we are not obligated to by attending Mass on Sunday’s or Holy Days so I have become more aware of these saints and events and how the Church views them. It has helped increase my knowledge of scripture and tradition and therefore the whole Catholic faith handed down and certainly my understanding and appreciation of salvation story. 

There are different options of Office to use and as a bit of a breviary anorak I admit that I do mix it about. If I were stuck in a Benedictine Abbey I wouldn’t have the option to vary but I am not, so I do! Apart from the modern Liturgy of the Hours, there are also Traditional Offices available to us such as the Monastic Diurnal or the Breviarium Romanum which contain Latin and English Translations side by side. To name but just a few! Even though I pray the Traditional Offices almost entirely in English, using these from time to time has given me the unexpected bonus of introducing me to Ecclesiastical Latin.

The good news is the internet now means the Divine Offices both modern and traditional are now easily accessible, inexpensive, and give you the option of variety if that helps you. If you travel a lot but own a mobile phone or tablet you have everything you need to recite the Offices. There are some great web-sites and internet resources out there both for accessing them and learning how to recite them.

Personal prayer or liturgical prayer? The Divine Office can supplement and enhance my prayer life, not replace it, and I am still mixing personal prayer time around the Office in different ways.

For early morning birds like myself Lauds is easy, but when the cares of the day have taken hold Vespers and Compline can be a bit more difficult to remain faithful to. For others it will be different but I realise unlike our clergy and religious I haven’t signed up for anything and I do what I can how I can. It can literally change with the seasons between reciting Vespers on its own before the evening activities start to reciting it later and even combining it with Compline.  It is also possible to combine the Office of Readings with Lauds, and mixing in the daily Mass readings is always a great option for both Lauds and Vespers if you do not attend Mass every day.  
I try and stick at it even at times of being conscience of sin or of dryness in prayer. (Todays Short Reading at Vespers included the text from Romans 12 “be patient under trial and persevere in prayer!”)

Over the years picking up my Office book has been the first step back into the confessional. To be conscience of sin and discover a penitential Psalm like Miserere Me (Psalm 50) or De Profundis (Psalm 129) awaiting me in the Breviary is a great blessing and not something to be feared. The Office isn’t Holy Communion. As surely as trials will come, more frequently the Word of God speaks to us when and how we need it. Along with the Psalms the readings and commentaries from the saints are a great treasure which we access to each day and praying with the whole Church I am never alone, just as a Catholic parish is never alone at Mass.  

The Prayer of the Church is primarily to give glory to God not for our spiritual consolation, so although I rejoice in the days I get some spiritual crumbs and consolations, it is a good habit to arrive without expectation, and just to recite the Office to be said and let the Holy Spirit do the rest.

I am not a theologian or a spiritual advisor so do tread with care. That said, I heartily and humbly recommend considering taking up your prayer books with Mother Church! Or your tablets even!


Saturday, 17 January 2015

Free Church Moderator Elect welcomes strong stance of Catholic "brothers and sisters"

The following letter was published in Hebrides-News at the end of 2014. It was written by Rev David Robertson rated one of the top 100 influential online Christians in the UK in Archbishop Cranmer's Top 100 list. 

The Jim Murphy Catholic-Secular Scotland story is one thing,  but what I found most significant was the Moderator Elect of the Free Church of Scotland no less, referring to "catholic brothers and sisters". I think it is probably the first time such an attitude to Catholicism was espoused in public by someone at this level in the Free Church of Scotland. I may be wrong.  But I give you said letter in full anyway. 


I was intrigued to read Alistair McBay's critique of myself and the Free Church.

Mr McBay belongs to the National Secular Society (not the Scottish Secular Society - the secularists are apparently worse than Presbyterians when it comes to forming different groups) which does conduct an aggressive, militant, fundamentalist campaign against all religions in general and Christianity in particular.

For the record I have never made a personal comment about Mr McBay, other than to question his loyalty to Dunfermline FC! 

I do however reserve the right to challenge the increasingly strident and intolerant attempts of the atheistic secularists who are seeking to impose their philosophy on the whole of Scottish society.

The recent spate by the Scottish Secular Society, a tiny Glasgow based pro-independence, pro-abortion, pro-euthanasia and anti-reglious group, in which they accused Jim Murphy (Leader of the Scottish Labour Party)  amongst other things of being a 'militant, Pope Benedict loving, Catholic fanatic' is sadly all too typical of the kind of bigotry and sectarianism which has blighted the Lowland West of Scotland in particular.

Mr McBay argues it is hypocritical for me to complain about this bigoted extremist language because of 'the Free Kirk's well-known attitudes to Catholicism.'

It would help his cause if, before he went in to print, he did so on the basis of fact and not gossip. It is not without significance that in the area where the Free Church is strongest, that covered by your newspaper, anti-Catholic sectarianism is virtually unknown.

The Free Church in fact, whilst we disagree with some very important aspects of Catholic theology, nonetheless welcome the strong stance taken by our Catholic brothers and sisters in support of traditional Christian values and morality.

I recall that in my first charge in Brora, the Catholic church was built in the Free Church manse glebe.  

We abhor any kind of sectarian bigotry and are somewhat disappointed that it is the Secular Societies who somehow seem to think that calling a politician a 'religious Catholic fanatic' is somehow acceptable in today’s Scotland.

David Robertson
St Peters Free Church
4 St Peter St 

Wednesday, 7 January 2015

Social Media Hypocricy

Pope Francis is absolutely correct to refer to the "terrorism of gossip".  It isn't the first time he has correctly highlighted the gravity of some of our social interaction which we too easily take for granted such as gossiping or judging our neighbour.

Our social interaction often anticipates a conversational style which is not far away from fitting both these descriptions. Too often it fits exactly. These days social media, whilst having its merits, is often the root cause of much of this "terrorism".

Some of our Catholic social media commentary isn't exactly edifying either. It can be down right nasty.

It has made me wonder what benefit these media actually have for me? I feel the best use I can have for them at the moment is to give them up and return to them during Lent as a penance! Although forty days of enforced using Facebook and Twitter again does seem a rather extreme!

Give me a cilice any day!

Time for a break, at least a revaluation.

(Apart from the fact I am going to have to share this post on Twitter.) 

Wednesday, 31 December 2014

Bliadhna Mhath Ur!

A bit of a re-post this one.

A clip from the film Whisky Galore based on the book by Catholic convert  Sir Compton MacKenzie.
Not a jot of a link to any Hebridean Hogmanays or  New Years!


Bliadhna Mhath Ur! Happy New Year!