Your Liturgy of the Hours Tip of the Day: on Solemnities, pray Night Prayer for Sundays.
Today the Roman Catholic Church in the USA celebrates the Solemnity of St. Joseph. That means you’ll pray the Hours for the Solemnity all day today, right up until Night Prayer.
Night Prayer is very straightforward, with prayers for every day of the week. But Sunday Night Prayer is also labeled “for Solemnities.” This makes sense, because Solemnities are celebrated just like a Sunday would be, with two readings before the Gospel and a Gloria at Mass (yes, even during Lent!), and usually with Evening Prayer I the day before.
So when you pray Night Prayer tonight, pray like it’s Sunday.
That means there’s a page you’re not going to need this year.
Sundays in Lent are of a (slightly) higher liturgical rank than Solemnities. So tonight, pray Evening Prayer II for the Fourth Sunday of Lent. Tomorrow, celebrate St. Joseph all day!
If you have a St. Joseph Guide to the Liturgy of the Hours, which is an excellent resource for putting you on the right page for each day’s prayers, you’ll be all set. Find this at your local Catholic bookseller or online at CatholicCompany.com.
If you’re praying through the Divine Office app, you may have noticed that they have the prayers for St. Joseph’s feast today (Sunday, March 19), which is not applicable to Catholics in the USA. So you’ll need a book today, not an app, to be praying the prayers for this liturgical day.
Have you ever tried praying the Liturgy of the Hours?
Have you ever given up praying the Liturgy of the Hours because it seems too complicated? Too many pages, too many ribbons, too many ways to go wrong?
What if I told you that you can pray one part of the Liturgy of the Hours without needing to flip around in the book—all you need to know is what day of the week it is?
This Lent, try praying Night Prayer.
It doesn’t matter whether it’s a saint’s feast day or the season of Lent or anything like that: there’s only one week a year that Night Prayer is different, and the instructions for that are right there in the book.
In my new book The Handy Little Guide to the Liturgy of the Hours (available now on Kindle; the print version releases March 27), I emphasize that for Liturgy of the Hours beginners, Night Prayer is a simple introduction to the cadence of the prayers.
Is it worth the effort? Yes. Is it doable? Yes! Start small, both in building the habit of prayer and your skills in navigating the breviary. Night Prayer is a wonderful way to begin, because it’s shorter and less complex than Morning and Evening Prayer. Take all the time you need to build up your prayer muscles. (21-22)
If you’re using Christian Prayer, you’ll find Night Prayer beginning on p. 1034.
Copyright 2023 Barb Szyszkiewicz
Photos created in Stencil, all rights reserved.
This article contains Amazon links; your purchase through these links supports the work of this website at no cost to you. Thank you!
Today in the USA we celebrate the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord. With that, the Christmas season comes to an end.
(One) It’s time … to take down the Christmas tree.
This is me, with a big case of the “I don’t wannas.” I put the tree up, strung all the lights, and decorated it all by myself this year. (Normally I do the lights, because nobody else in the house is willing to bother with a Christmas-light total that has a comma in the number, and the kids decorate. Empty-nest problems.)
I’m back at work, but my husband is still using his banked “use or lose” vacation time and my college student has another week of winter break. I think this task needs to be delegated this year.
(Two) And put it in the body bag.
The bag for this Christmas tree is 5 feet tall, and so wide it barely fits through the exterior doors of the house. We keep our tree in the shed. This year I’m going to be smart about it. It’s easier to carry the 5 pieces of the tree down the stairs, out the back door, and through the porch to the backyard and THEN put them in the body bag than it is to bag everything up in the living room and wrestle it outside without damaging anything.
(Three) On the up side, I’ll get my living room back.
As a creature of habit, it does drive me crazy that I have to move my Reading Chair every year to make room for the Christmas tree. I look forward to putting that chair back by the window, with its lamp nearby, the way it belongs.
(Four) My reputation precedes me.
Overheard after Mass yesterday, when the usher came over to hand bulletins to the musicians:
Singer: Oh, Mass tomorrow is for my mom, but I can’t be there because I have an appointment.
Music director: Barb will be there! She’ll pray for your mom!
Join me in praying for the repose of the soul for Mrs. B, would you?
(Five) Regarding Mass intentions
Do you pay attention to the list of Mass intentions in your parish bulletin? It’s not just there for the people who go to daily Mass. You can pray for the repose of those souls whether you attend daily Mass or not. Consider adding that prayer after a meal, just like we used to do after lunch in the Catholic grade school I attended:
We give Thee thanks for all Thy benefits, Almighty God, who lives and reigns, world without end. Amen. May the souls of the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace. Amen.
(Six) Tonight, swap out the breviary!
Don’t forget to move the holy cards! If you pray the Liturgy of the Hours using the 4-volume breviary, tonight after Evening Prayer you’ll need to bring out the Ordinary Time I volume and put away Advent/Christmas.
My husband likes Ordinary Time I because it means summer is coming. I’m not ready to think that far ahead (after 7 weeks we’re switching again, into the Lent/Easter volume) but his particular liturgical year revolves around the opening of the pool, conveniently timed right around Holy Saturday if it doesn’t rain that day.
(Seven) Book News
There’s a great sale right now on The Handy Little Guide to Prayer: it’s more than 50% off on Amazon right now! There’s no better time to order a copy for yourself or your friends.
If you’ve read this Handy Little Guide, would you kindly do me a favor and leave an Amazon review? One sentence is plenty; those reviews help other Amazon customers who are thinking about what book to purchase AND they help get the book in front of other readers in Amazon’s recommendations section. Thanks!
In other book news, my next book comes out in less than three months! You can preorder The Handy Little Guide to the Liturgy of the Hours now (and if the price drops before the release date, you’ll get it at the lower price). Did take 6 leave you puzzled? This new book will explain it all.
Copyright 2023 Barb Szyszkiewicz
Photos copyright 2023 Barb Szyszkiewicz, all rights reserved.
Amazon links included; I make a small profit when you use these affiliate links, at no additional cost to you.
‘Tis the season to think about a new devotional. Whether you prefer a daily or weekly format, you’ll find something to love about these five new prayer resources. The first three are weekly devotionals; the final pair offer daily reflections.
I’ve had this book for weeks and have been impatiently waiting to really begin reading it—because it’s designed to help prepare for Sunday Mass! One Sunday at a Time: Preparing Your Heart for Weekly Mass by Mark Hart is a companion to the Cycle A readings that begin in Advent (November 27 this year), from Ave Maria Press. This is a companion to Cycle A (2023, 2026) so I’m hoping we can expect similar volumes for Cycles B and C.
You’ll want to have the readings available when you use this book (or a Bible where you can look them up). After an opening prayer, you’ll get a look at the message in these readings—and some behind-the-scenes info, always fascinating to me—and then there are some journal questions and a challenge for the week. You can even use the journal questions as conversation starters! This book will help you dig deeper into the meaning of each Sunday’s Mass readings and apply them to your life.
As a musician in my parish, I admit that I need to be focused on the next cue, to be ready to start hymns and acclamations at just the right moment. This means I’m not paying attention to what I’d really like to pay attention to. I look forward to using this book this year, outside of Mass, to help fill in what I’ve missed.
Of the five devotionals listed here, this one wins the prize for Most Likely To Be Given as a Gift. Loving God, Loving Others: 52 Devotions to Create Connections That Last is a beautiful book that would make a lovely gift for a friend, mother, or sister. This multi-author volume is set up in a fascinating way: each of the six authors has written a particular section of the book, each exploring the different types of relationships we experience throughout our lives and sharing from her heart about her own path of growth within that particular type of relationship.
Authors Beth Davis, Megan Hjelmstad, Nell O’Leary, Bonnie Engstrom, Sarah Erickson, and Emily Stimpson Chapman offer three-page-per-week meditations, followed by a brief recommended Gospel reading and two questions for prayer and journaling. A brief discussion opens each section, and reflections are interspersed with simply illustrated pull quotes. The book is printed on lush, thick paper and includes illustrated end papers, a white ribbon bookmark, and a dedication page.
Loving God, Loving Others is not tied to the liturgical or calendar year, so you (or your friend) can begin praying with this book at any time.
The homilies are brief, running about 3 pages each, with an additional page or so for the reading from the Church Fathers. The Introduction by Pope Francis is excellent, accessible catechesis about paying attention at Mass, teaching our children, and “encountering the Passion and Resurrection of the Lord”—and what the homily is there for in the first place.
Reflections on the Sunday Gospel is for the Cycle A readings only, though I had to go hunting to verify that information. The back of the book provides dates for each Sunday in the next 3 incidences of Cycle A (2023, 2026, 2029) and a table of sources for both the Pope’s and the Church Fathers’ selections.
For anyone interested in Ignatian spirituality, Jim Manney’s What Matters Most and Why: Living the Spirituality of St. Ignatius of Loyola offers 365 daily reflections inspired by Ignatian wisdom. Each daily entry begins with a quote, mostly from Jesuits throughout history but from other sources as well, including Dorothy Day, Thomas Merton, the wisdom of Alcoholics Anonymous, and occasionally Scripture. Following that is a brief two-paragraph reflection on this quote.
Jesuit spirituality ultimately invites us to a way of living and leading characterized by heroism, self-awareness, love, and ingenuity. (Chris Lowrey in the Foreword)
The entries in What Matters Most and Why follow monthly themes, including Awareness, God, Love, Freedom, Work, Desire, Humility, Compassion and Trust, Choosing Well, Relationships, Practical Truths, and Becoming the Person You Are Meant to Be. This daily devotional is a good way to dip your toe into this powerful spiritual way of life.
If your goal is to read the Bible in a year but podcasts aren’t your thing, Meg Hunter-Kilmer has your answer with A Year in the Word Catholic Bible Journal from Our Sunday Visitor. You’ll need your Bible handy as you use this journal. A one-year reading plan is the first thing you’ll find as you open this book, with a checkbox next to each day’s reading, so if you miss a day (or more than a day) it’s easy to pick right up where you left off.
You can start using A Year in the Word whenever you want, as the reading plan is not tied to the liturgical or calendar year. In the Introduction, the author explains that her reading plan (which includes a psalm or part of one, a section from the Gospels, and chapters from either the Old or New Testament each day) is not a chronological approach but one that mixes the “harder books” with easier ones (her words) to keep you moving along and motivated to do so. By using this reading plan, you’ll actually work through each of the four Gospels twice.
This hardbound journal, with its sage-green cover, thick cream-colored pages, and simple design, will appeal to men and women alike. Wide lined spaces at the bottom of each brief daily reflection invite you to record your thoughts, and a timeline at the end traces the writing of the books of the Bible and the major events in salvation history.
That means I’m reading parts of three psalms every single morning.
The Psalms have the power to derail my morning prayer—or, more accurately, switch it to a different track—like no other element of the readings and prayers for the day.
Usually that’s because, as a musician and sometimes cantor at my parish, I can’t help but hear the melody for those psalms from when I’ve sung them at Mass. (This is only a bad thing when the verses I’ve sung before are different from the verses I’m reading now.)
But Psalm 42:3 (from yesterday’s responsorial psalm) hits different.
Athirst is my soul for God, the living God.
When shall I go and behold the face of God?
I don’t hear a melody behind that one: I hear a voice.
There’s a woman in my parish who served faithfully for many years as a sacristan for daily Mass and a frequent lector. When I read that psalm, which comes up fairly frequently in the weekday readings, I hear Cathi proclaiming it. Her accent (there’s more than a hint of New York City) sounds like home to me, so that might be the reason her delivery of the first part of that verse made such an impression.
Athirst is my soul for God—the LIVING God.
That’s not a word I would have emphasized, but every time she did so, I’d lose track of the rest of the psalm while I mulled over how it’s important to remember that God IS a living God. Living, present, active, and loving. And our souls long to see Him. We were created for exactly that.
I suppose it’s OK to be derailed a bit if you’re actually thinking about the message of the readings, as opposed to your grocery list or how behind you are on the laundry or how you’ll solve this or that problem at work.
If you’re a lector, your natural inflection and emphasis can lead the reader to contemplate in a way you probably never expected. You are bringing the LIVING Word of God to your parish. And our souls long to hear it.
Copyright 2022 Barb Szyszkiewicz
Images created in Stencil
“Walk with me,” she beckons, one hand outstretched as if to take mine, and one hand over her heart. That heart, ringed with a garland of beautiful flowers, has been deeply and thoroughly pierced with a sword.
Her smile trembles as her eyes brim with tears about to spill over—but her eyes do not leave mine. She does not shy away from meeting my gaze, even in her own pain.
Young—so young—and newly postpartum, she reaches out to me, inviting me to hold her hand as I shoulder the cross of my troubles, that ever-heavier burden of cares and worries that knocks me down at times under its weight.
“I’ll help you up,” she assures me, reaching out her hand again to lift me off my knees, to catch me as I stumble forward, my vision blurred by my own tears.
“I’ll walk with you,” she promises. Sorrow and joy are no strangers to her. As I cast down my cares with each bead that slides between my fingers, she listens.
She knows all my pain—the pain I’ll talk about, and the pain I feel I have to keep inside. She knows. And she cares. And in my pain, I know I’m not walking alone. I know she is beside me, holding out her hand to guide me, to lift me up, to hold me up.
“I’m here,” she assures me, as every mother assures her little child in fear or pain. “I’m here.”
And as I stumble along, bolstered by contemplating the joy, the light, the sorrow, and the glory she has witnessed, I look into her eyes, answering her trembling smile with my own.
Our Lady of Sorrows, pray for us.
Copyright 2022 Barb Szyszkiewicz
Photos: unattributed painting of Our Lady of Sorrows, found in Resurrection Parish Adoration Chapel, Delran, NJ; photographed by Barb Szyszkiewicz
The saints and Mary cannot answer our prayers; only God can do that. But they can, and we believe they do, hear our prayers and pray for us, acting as intercessors on our behalf with God.
Our holy helpers, the saints, are the “cloud of witnesses” mentioned in the Letter to the Hebrews who surround us, helping us “persevere in running the race that lies before us while keeping our eyes fixed on Jesus, the leader and perfecter of faith” (12:1-2).
By uniting our prayers with those of Mary and the saints and learning more about their lives and their example, we can draw closer to God.