Wednesday, June 19, 2019

The Liturgy of the Hours and the Diaconate

One of the most important promises that a deacon makes on the day he is ordained is to "celebrate faithfully the Liturgy of the Hours, with and for the People of God, and indeed for the whole world."

Somewhere along the line someone seems to have gotten the idea that the promise to celebrate faithfully the Liturgy of the Hours does not apply to deacons in the same way that it does priests. Many deacons will tell you that they are only required to pray morning and evening prayer (Lauds and Vespers), but not any other part of the Divine Office. I don't recall the promise I made at ordination specifying which of the hours I had to pray every day. I promised to pray the Liturgy of the Hours, not "the Liturgy of the Hinge Hours."

Our formation class was very fortunate in that when we had the canonical retreat that is required of all clergy before they are ordained in the Church, our Bishop was our retreat master. Not only did this give him an opportunity to get to know us, and to teach us one-on-one, it gave us a very genuine opportunity to question him with frankness. One of our brothers put the question quite frankly, asking how much of the Liturgy of the Hours we should pray every day. The bishop was very clear that we should pray as much of the Office as we possibly can, we are not limited to Lauds and Vespers and we should do our best to pray as much as possible.

Granted, the Divine Office has been an important part of my personal prayer life for many years, well predating my ordination or even my years in formation, so the idea of increasing the amount I pray the Liturgy of the Hours posed a new challenge because I had to schedule for that, but it has never seemed like a burden. I look forward to praying my Office each day.

I often hear from deacons in other dioceses that they only pray morning and evening prayer, and they feel no obligation to pray any of the rest of the Office. Yet so much of the Office they are missing presents us with such rich scriptural prayer, especially the Office of Readings, (Vigils or Matins), which I find provides me with an excellent opportunity for Lectio Divina.

It is to be understood that there will be days when many of us have family, occupational, and secular obligations that will keep us away from the kind of deep prayer life that those in the religious life or the priesthood should be enjoying. That is going to mean that some days we won't be able to pray the entire cycle of the Office, but that does not mean that we shouldn't try. In view of the promise that all deacons make at ordination, it would be legitimate to say that we have an obligation to do so, if not a direct obligation, certainly a spiritual one.

Our Bishop has been quite clear that he wants us to use the Office as contained in the four volume set of the Liturgy of the Hours. I've heard many brothers complain that this can be an expensive undertaking, and I certainly understand that complaint. I have several liturgical books, including the Liturgy of the Hours, and no, they are not cheap. However, if you are having trouble affording them, technology today really doesn't give many of us an excuse. Applications such as IBreviary and websites such as Divine Office  are accurate as to the liturgical texts and they make the Liturgy of the Hours accessible not only to the clergy, but to all of the People of God.

I want to challenge everyone, but especially brother deacons, to pray more of the Liturgy of the Hours if you're not already doing so. It will make your ministries and apostolates more fruitful, your preaching more effective, and your family and personal life more rewarding. Many of us have the ability to access more of the Liturgy of the Hours today than ever before. It is right that we should take advantage of this, in fulfillment of the promises of our ordination.

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