It’s hard to see from the porch. Come inside.
The former Protestant in me, accustomed to extemporaneous prayers, offers an occasional objection; something about repeating the same old rote prayers day after day.
It started with an assortment of random Catholic prayers. That led to downloading the iBreviary App. By July 2018, after visiting St. Bernard Abbey’s bookstore in Cullman, Alabama, I began using Benedictine Daily Prayer, A Short Breviary. Continuing to use it for daily readings, for Lent 2019 I’ve substituted The Little Office of the Blessed Virgin Mary as I pray Lauds, Vespers and Compline each day.
Now, the protest grows weaker and barely gets off the ground. I do not use the Liturgy of the Hours. Nor does my life permit praying the Hours at perfectly fixed times. Even so, I’ve discovered several things about this ancient practice. As I pray,
- I consume large chunks of Sacred Scripture;
- The Word of God, living and active, renews me;
- As C.S. Lewis taught me long ago, what might seem rote actually is digging channels in dry soil; readying oneself for the rains to come;
- Thoughts and ideas appear out of the blue;
- The day’s problems are seen through eternal lenses;
- Much of prayer becomes, not my words to God, but God’s Word to me;
- On paper, praying Lauds or Vespers or Compline might look the same, for example, every fourth Monday, but it never is; always and without fail I’m different; others are different; and circumstances are different;
- Especially at Lauds, I’m doing what the works of God (sun and moon, heaven and earth, powers and spirits, fish and fowl, all the sons of men) are supposed to do at all times: bless and praise the name of the Lord;
- Unlike angels of God and unlike inanimate nature, by God’s grace and the gift of faith, I’m doing it volitionally and with an added dimension: this is my Redeemer who calls me friend and brother and son; and
- I get regular, much needed opportunities throughout the day to recalibrate my prone-to-wander soul.
Discovering regular, fixed prayers is not unlike my discovery of the Catholic Church as a whole. It’s hard to see from the porch. Once inside, it’s completely different.
AS FOR ME, I KNOW THAT MY VINDICATOR LIVES, AND THAT HE WILL AT LAST STAND FORTH UPON THE DUST. THIS WILL HAPPEN WHEN MY SKIN HAS BEEN STRIPPED OFF, AND FROM MY FLESH I WILL SEE GOD: I WILL SEE FOR MYSELF, MY OWN EYES, NOT ANOTHER’S, WILL BEHOLD HIM: MY INMOST BEING IS CONSUMED WITH LONGING. JOB 19:25-27