We will begin by asking a simple question…
Are there lay people who pray the Liturgy of the Hours? Are there lay people who adopt this prayer of the psalms that recurs at various moments of the day — morning, midday, evening, and nighttime? Is this happening now in the Church? We will explore the nature of this prayer more closely, but before we do, I will address the current reality as I encounter it in ministry.
Shortly before I began writing this book, I spent five days in a parish offering a retreat. In earlier visits, I had experienced the spiritual energy of this parish, which is a vibrant center of spiritual life. I knew the weekday routine. After the first Mass, the Blessed Sacrament was exposed, and a time of quiet prayer followed. Gradually, as the time of the next Mass neared, people entered the church to pray. I joined them for the prayer that began at 7:30 a.m.
Two priests were seated at the back of the church on the right side. Some forty lay people occupied the pews near them on both sides of the church. Most held the book of the Liturgy of the Hours in their hands; others prayed it from their phones.
The priests began the psalms of the Office of Readings, and the lay people alternated with them in the recitation. This morning, we prayed Psalm 55, a cry for help in time of trial. One of the priests then read the scriptural reading from the prophet Daniel, God’s revelation to Daniel that his prayer has been answered:
“Fear not, Daniel . . . from the first day you made up your mind to acquire understanding and humble yourself before God, your prayer was heard.”
I was asked to read the second reading, taken this day from a second-century homily and its call to conversion and spiritual renewal:
“We must remain firm in our faith, therefore, and live holy and upright lives.”
All listened attentively as the readings were proclaimed. We then prayed Morning Prayer from the Liturgy of the Hours.
Again, the priests and the people alternated in the recitation: Psalm 51, with its humble petition for mercy and healing; Tobit 13, a prayer of thanksgiving for God’s intervention on behalf of His people; and the joyful praise of Psalm 147. A brief biblical reading followed, then the Canticle of Zechariah and intercessions for the needs of the Church:
“Guide us to spiritual growth. . . . Accept us, for our hearts are humble and our spirits contrite. . . . Help us proclaim your mighty deeds.”
As we prayed and the hour of the 8:00 a.m. Mass neared, people continued to enter the church. We concluded a few minutes before Mass began.
I was struck by the simplicity of this prayer. There was no confusion, no anxious searching for the right page in the book, no distractions of this sort. All knew the “routine.” These lay people came daily to pray the Liturgy of the Hours with their priests. This prayer bonded priests and people together. These were lay people who found in the Liturgy of the Hours a rich way to begin their day.
This article is adapted from a chapter in A Layman’s Guide to the Guide to the Liturgy of the Hours by Fr. Timothy Gallagher, O.M.V., which is available from Sophia Institute Press.
Art for this post on Lay people and the Liturgy of the Hours: Cover and interior images used with permission; Featured image used with permission of Pixabay.
To read more about forgiveness and prayer, click HERE.