“Seven times a day I praise you” (Ps. 119:64) – live-streaming a day of worship in the Oratory

“Pray constantly”, said St Paul (1 These 5:17), using two simple words to describe something that would exercise the minds of many, and thousands of volumes of books by Christians, through the centuries. Almost all modes of spirituality and Christian practice (Jesus Prayer, Divine Office, Little Hours especially, Practice of the Presence of God) aim to help us remember God and that we are in the Divine Presence always. To pray constantly.

I have been doing a bit of live-streaming of the liturgy during the lockdown as I celebrate it each day in the little Oratory at home (which is how I use an old lean to on the house). It’s been good to have a few old and new friends join me for that. Several have asked for more. I am something of an introvert and although I arrange the live-streaming in such a way so as not to focus on me (I hope) it does feel a little intrusive and less relaxed so I won’t be doing this all the time (you will be relieved to know) but as a one off on Friday 17th April I am going to live stream all the set prayers for a day.

My first experience of the Office was at Douai Abbey and of the monks singing the whole of the Office. That experience marked me indelibly and even though I am not a good singer (as you will find if you tune in at all), I love to sing and find it relaxes me in ways that simply reciting the Office does not. Somehow it engages different parts of my brain. When (in another life) I was doing a lot of driving, if I stopped and sang an Office it felt far more refreshing when I started driving again than if I had simply recited it, and reading to myself in my head never seems like praying the liturgy at all, but on trains, buses and planes is usually necessary.

Since Holy Saturday, and partly because for live-streaming the text is more accessible, I have been singing the Divine Office, the texts are in the Universalis app which does charge but only a very small amount. The Universalis website sadly uses a different translation of the psalms. The antiphons and hymns I use are in the setting of the music for the Office that I have done and is available here (a revised edition should be available in the not too distant future and will be posted on this blog very soon). The booklet below this post puts them together in order with the usual texts and music for this single day of live-streaming, you will need the booklet together with the psalms, readings and prayers from Universalis to be able to follow everything. Please note I use a different set of Collects – translated from a French Cistercian source (from Proclaiming All Your Wonders, Dominican Publications).

I wrote yesterday about the joy of coffee, tea and lunch breaks in our Zoom driven working days. I have always maintained little spaces to pray at least one daytime Office and that has kept me going through many hard times in my working life. If you haven’t discovered it yet do give it a go.

So, the timetable for the day:

5:30 am Office of Readings/Vigils (two nocturns the Mid-Day prayer psalms as in Universalis – but omitting sections of psalm 119 – providing the second group of psalms) a triple alleluia antiphon for all psalms. The psalms at Vigils are sung to traditional plainsong tones.

I will switch off live streaming between each Office/devotion – a chance for me to get a cup of tea or check the dog doesn’t need to go out …

6:15 am Rosary the Luminous Mysteries

I would normally celebrate Mass at 6:30 but am doing that later in the day, at 12:15, in the Octave.

7am Lauds (Morning Prayer)

Jesus Prayer

About 7:45am Prime with Martyrology – Psalm 119 (118) shared across the Little Hours in a day – see the booklet for the text.

I should point out that this is a rather luxurious lockdown schedule. On normal working days I would tart at 5:20 combine Vigils and Lauds (or Sing Mattins/Morning Prayer when praying BCP or CWDP), go straight into Mass, then Prime. Rosary and Jesus Prayer prayed as I drive.

10am Terce

12 noon Sext and Eucharist

2:00 None

4:30pm Vespers

6:30 Devotions on Hebrew Heroes – Deborah –

and Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament

7pm Compline

Again normally on a working day Vespers would be either stopping on the way home or as soon as I get home, often quite late, and Compline much later, ideally just after dinner but sometimes just before bed, ideally at 9 to 9:30.

BOOKLET:

Resources for Prayer When Public Worship is not Possible

Welcome. PLEASE NOTE THAT UPDATES ARE BEING ADDED AT THE TOP OF THIS PAGE (further contributions are very welcome) scroll down for original post.

19 March 2020 Update 5 – Prayer Spaces At Home

18 March 2020 Update 4 Blessing of Daffodils in a Time of Pandemic for Mother’s Day

And here is the text of the above prayer:

Blessing for daffodils

– A Mother’s Day Prayer in a Time of Pandemic

Daffodils are placed in a vase in front of those praying:

Lord of the dance,

as we wander on our earthly pilgrimage

we know moments when we float like clouds

not knowing the way ahead.

You remind us by simple signs that you are beauty.

In all that is simple and beautiful

we see that you are as a mother to us, 

continuous as the stars that shine.

We praise you for these golden daffodils,

that they may be signs 

of  gratitude to all who are mothers in your world:

our mothers and those who show a mother’s love.

Fill our hearts with pleasure,

that in the breezes and winds of life we may dance with the daffodils

and bring a mother’s love to all we meet.

We make our prayer 

through Jesus, who loved moments of solitude,

and who lives and reigns with you, 

God for ever and ever.  Amen.

18 March 2020 Update 3:

A list of online prayer resources from Fr John-Francis Friendship:

ONLINE PRAYER RESOURCES

Churches TV

www.churchservices.tv/

A range of daily services and other resources from around the UK.

Coptic Church in Britain

birminghamcopts.org/

The Egyptian Orthodox offer some excellent resources via this website.

Daily Meditations – Richard Rohr

cac.org/category/daily-meditations/

Developed by this well-known Franciscan this site is well-stocked with useful information including a Daily Meditation for active contemplatives

Daily Prayer – Church of England

www.churchofengland.org/prayer-and-worship/join-us-service-daily-prayer

Available in both contemporary and traditional forms for all times of day.

Daily Prayer – Universalis (Roman Catholic)

universalis.com/

Mobile phone app. Offering Morning, Midday and Evening Prayer together with information about the day.

Diocese of London

www.london.anglican.org/articles/author/communications/

Offers resources for those unable to attend church (see 12.03.20)

Sacred Space

www.sacredspace.ie/content/about-sacred-space

A ministry of the Irish Jesuits.  The pages guide you through sessions of prayer in six stages culminating in reflection on a scripture passage for the day.

The Ordinary Office – alone together

anordinaryoffice.org.uk/

Designed to be as accessible for the disabled and able-bodied. 

World Community for Christian Meditation (WCCM)

wccm.org/

A global and inclusive contemplative family founded by Dom John Main offers resources for meditation

Fr John-Francis Friendship has produced this helpful booklet on ways of praying:

Finally, from Fr John-Francis an alternative (to the one below) Act of Spiritual Communion, using some imaginative, Ignatian type elements:

Update 2: A simple form of prayer for making a Spiritual Communion at home when the Eucharist can’t be received:

Update 1: Thank you to Mary Hawes for this set of resources for worship at home: here.

17 March 2020 Thank you to Facebook friends for providing links to some of these. This is not a polished response but a quick list, please send me any other links to add or resources you have made. I will keep updating at the top of this post. Our Archbishops urge us to maintain the disciple of daily prayer and Eucharist. This is more important than ever. Reducing stress and anxiety will come when we have solid patterns of praying in our lives and model that for others. For all of us this is an opportunity to deepen our prayer and pray in new and old ways. As the Bishop of Liverpool writes to the diocese:

You will see that [the Archbishops] encourage us all to find new ways of being the Church in these days. As they say: “Public worship will have to stop for a season. Our usual pattern of Sunday services and other mid week gatherings must be put on hold. But this does not mean that the Church of England has shut up shop. Far from it.” Church is changing, and we all need to be part of that change.

I particularly urge us to explore the serious Christian tradition of praying 7 times a day; even if only briefly. The use of Psalm 119 divided over the day is very powerful with its gentle rhythm and constancy. Nothing dramatic just the simple love of the Lord who is the Way, the Truth and the Life.

Psalm 119 arranged to be prayed in a day:

Prime – before the day gets going – verses 1 – 32

Terce – about 9am – verses 33 – 80

Sext – about noon – verses 81 – 128

None – about 3pm – verses 129 – end

Here are some old posts of mine on this subject:

Serious Christianity (2): The Little Hours, a gift for the forgetful

On praying the Little Hours: New Wine and 1 Thessalonians (5:17)

Serious Christianity (4): Psalm 119

The following booklet by Fr Dominic Cawdell OGS of the Diocese of St Asaph in Wales is very good:

It contains:

  • Simple Orders for Morning and Night Prayer, which you can use at home;
  • The special readings and prayers for each Sunday
  • Some sermons for between now and Pentecost
  • A way of reflecting on Jesus’ journey to the Cross, using poems from Malcolm Guite
  • Information about further resources that may be helpful

The Methodist Church is providing a sheet each week:

https://www.methodist.org.uk/our-faith/worship/singing-the-faith-plus/seasons-and-themes/worship-during-the-coronavirus-pandemic/

This form of worship is particularly suitable for families:

Fr Alexander Crawford has produced these excellent materials:

https://aigc88.wixsite.com/beautyofholiness/post/prayer-resources-for-use-in-isolation?fbclid=IwAR1dlucFoCvOPdfxz7LXKdnk-9S-T42V1PuhevqIwfn-dQncFucviX-2C18

Some popular hymns are available on YouTube here assembled by Father Angela:

A form of Morning Prayer for Sundays here from Mother Nicol:

http://westhoathly.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2016/01/How-to-Worship-when-you-cant-get-to-church.pdf?fbclid=IwAR2isOuIsCNaP-X-YDXrFiio9rKlLaTBjJeTHZso6qPwjFK614NsJ9aoj0U

Some more varied ways of praying here from Mother Jo:

https://docs.google.com/document/d/1ZGrALL8wTwlsvJEUhFD2B35KH8pN0K4roAbCjE_rnz4/edit?fbclid=IwAR0QWA1cN4rRFtip-NiLrXYQzzKBEEh7RL6Ty-DWoWgPA5pefBfIQzLFytw

As well as the usual Church of England apps these are good resources:

Reimagining the Examen

Examen Prayer

JesuitPrayer

Pray As You Go

***

Litany in a Time of Pandemic Fr Rick Morley

God the Father,

Have mercy upon us.

God the Son,

Have mercy upon us.

God the Holy Spirit,

Have mercy upon us.

Holy Trinity, One God,

Have mercy upon us.

Spare us, good Lord, spare your people, who you have redeemed with your most precious blood, and by your mercy preserve us through this crisis, and for ever.

Spare us, good Lord.

From all evil and wickedness, from disease and illness, especially this coronavirus,

Good Lord, deliver us.

From all ignorance and apathy, and from all willingness to engage in activities that could harm others,

Good Lord, deliver us.

From all refusal to understand, from pride and a sense of invincibility,

Good Lord, deliver us.

We your children beseech you to hear us, O Lord God, to look upon this world struck by pandemic, and drive from us this disease,

We beseech you to hear us, good Lord.

That it may please you to strengthen the weak, the elderly, and those with compromised immune systems,

We beseech you to hear us, good Lord.

That is may please you to give health and comfort to all who are already stricken with illness,

We beseech you to hear us, good Lord.

That it may please you to give patience and grace to all those who are in quarantine or who fear that they have already contracted the virus,

We beseech you to hear us, good Lord.

That it may please you to surround those who are scared and fearful, those who are overcome with anxiety and worry,

We beseech you to hear us, good Lord.

That it may please you to give wisdom and stamina to all scientists, biologists, doctors, and all who are working on tests, vaccines, and treatments,

We beseech you to hear us, good Lord.

That it may please you to uphold all those who are treating and ministering to the sick,

We beseech you to hear us, good Lord.

That it may please you to give to your people a heart to love their neighbour through this time, and to look after those who are most vulnerable.

We beseech you to hear us, good Lord.

That it may please you to support, help, and comfort those who are worried about getting through this time financially, and whether they will have employment when this passes,

We beseech you to hear us, good Lord.

That it may please you to help our young people grow in wisdom and knowledge even as schools and universities are closed,

We beseech you to hear us, good Lord.

That it may please you to heal the sick, lift up the stricken, and open the airways of those who have difficulty breathing,

We beseech you to hear us, good Lord.

That it may please you to receive into your bosom those who have died from this disease, and to gather into your arms those who grieve,

We beseech you to hear us, good Lord.

Son of God, we beseech you to hear us.

Son of God, we beseech you to hear us.

O Lamb of God, that takes away the sins of the world,

Have mercy upon us.

O Lamb of God, that takes away the sins of the world,

Have mercy upon us.

O Lamb of God, that takes away the sins of the world,

Grant us your peace.

Common Worship Daily Prayer: readings for Terce, Sext and Nkne

For those who pray Terce, Sext and None daily (as suggested on page 20 of Common Worship Daily Prayer) there is a need to supplement the provision of readings for these additional Little Hours. I suggest in Ordinary Time that the four week cycle at Prayer During the Day is divided to become a two week cycle providing readings for two Hours and that the very short reading is used at the third Hour. In the seasons the weekly cycle and the very short reading provide for two Hours, a sentence from the Gospel for the day could be used at the third Hour.

On saints days the Little Hours are of the feria on memorias/Lesser festivals; on Festivals and Principal Feasts readings are needed which the table provided here gives references to in the rather rich provision available in CWDP. Three of the longer readings are suggested for each Common and one of the short readings. The first number, in bold, is a page reference to CWDP. Readings for the LH CWDP

New Wine and the Little Hours

I met her at the New Wine Leaders’ Conference in Harrogate in 2017. We got on straight away, after she told me there was no doubting that the friend and colleague I was with was my son, “You have the same smile!” (sorry Dave, although technically possible, I suppose … ). We have kept in touch ever since although we were at different weeks of New Wine United in the summer. We communicate about prayer (and books, sometimes, books on prayer). She has changed her routine to get up earlier and have time with the Lord in the early morning. It has taken about three months to change sleeping habits to feel really comfortable with this. But it still feels like something is missing she tells me. “I have a great prayer time in the morning, I listen, and sing along to worship songs, I pray in tongues I read my Bible on a Bible in a Year plan. But then when I get to work I am just as crotchety and irritable as ever.”

St Paul tells us to “pray constantly” (1 Thess. 5: 17), continually, without ceasing. Easier said than done. There are three techniques that I think can really help this. I have written much about them here on this blog, I won’t put links here, you can search the blog below. Briefly on two of them:

Mindfulness: two elements turn mindfulness practice into prayer. One is recognising that the breath, our breathing is God’s Holy Breath, pneuma, breathing in us. The second is awareness of God’s presence when we achieve stillness, “Be still and know that I am God.” (Ps 46:10). Amazingly, it is possible to have this sense of the presence of God whatever you are doing and however busy you are.

Jesus Prayer: when this prayer becomes part of us, when it prays itself in us we can pray constantly, at all times. Again, it doesn’t matter how busy or preoccupied we are, if we allow it the prayer will rise. It is however, another technique that the Tradition gives us that I want to draw attention to here. The practice of extending the Daily Office across the day by praying short little Offices or Hours, during the course of the day. Punctuating the day with prayer.

Since I first wrote about praying the Little Hours my own practice has moved on a little as has that of some of those I accompany. I have also been struck by how this tradition of praying a sevenfold Office has emerged in two recently published books. The historian Eamon Duffy has published a collection of essays Royal Books and Holy Bones – Essays in Medieval Christianity (Bloomsbury 2018) which includes an excellent essay on The Psalms and Lay Piety. Like all of Duffy’s writing it is accessible and readable. There has been much research on the medieval Primers, collections of prayers for the laity. They are usually very liturgically based books and and always contain a good deal of psalmody. Often psalmody for use at the Little Hours – Terce, Sext and None – used to punctuate the day with prayer. Despite churches of the Reformation removing Little Hours from their official liturgies, and the Roman Catholic Church only mandating clergy to pray one Daytime Hour since the early seventies, there is a remarkable hunger for these Hours. They just won’t go away because they meet a need.

As an example the unofficial Lutheran Office Book, The Daily Prayer of the Church, edited by Pastor Philip Pfatteicher (Lutheran University Press, 2005) includes forms for Terce, Sext and None, as well as an alternative single Daytime Hour. For each section of the Daily Office lectionary of the BCP 1979 it includes a short extract which could be used as the reading at these little Hours to extend the prayer into the day, an ingenious idea. It is an excellent book containing a rich resource of hymnody for the Office from the Lutheran tradition. The two recent books I recommend are:

The first is from The Episcopal Church in the United States but has been published in England with a preface by the former bishop of Oxford, John Pritchard. Daily Prayer for All Seasons – A contemporary Benedictine prayer companion (Canterbury Press, 2016). (DPFAS). Fr Christopher Woods reviewed this for the Church Times, here. Derek Olsen of St Bede’s Publications writes a somewhat harsh review here from a liturgical purists point of view. He is right on almost every substantive point but wrong about the helpfulness of the book. DPFAS is not a liturgical book, it is a devotional prayer book which uses liturgical structures, seasonal, weekly and daily, to provide a framework for prayer. For each day eight sets of prayers are provided, one for each of the canonical Hours (Prime, Lauds, Terce, Sext, None, Vespers, Compline, Vigils), each provided with a an overarching theme used in every season:

Prime – Praise

Lauds – Discernment

Terce – Wisdom

Sext – Perseverance and Renewal

None – Love

Vespers – Forgiveness

Compline – Trust

Vigils – Watch

A set of prayers is provided for each Season of the church’s year and two sets for Ordinary Time. The prayers are designed for private use at Prime and Vigils but corporate use at the other Hours. Here are two examples of provision, the first in Advent and the second in Eastertime. I think this would make an excellent resource for punctuating the day with prayer, for drawing from the liturgical tradition but doing so in a somewhat more devotional way. I have recommended it to several people and so far have had very positive feedback.

*

The second recommendation is a book edited by Sister Stan, a Sister of Charity in Ireland who is something of a star. It is a beautifully crafted book, published by Columba Press. Awakening Inner Peace provides a four week cycle of little offices for each of the eight canonical hours for every day. There is no seasonal material. The short but helpful introduction also provides suggestions for using particular hours at various points in life or in need.

For each ‘Hour’ there is a verse or two of psalmody, a very short meditation in poetic form and a final verse of intention. The shortness of these Hours would provide a momentary pause in the working day or on retreat, the meditations are simple but profound. Here are two example pages.

Even the traditional forms of the Little Hours take only a few minutes. These devotional forms even less. Breaking the day for these prayer pauses asserts the fact that there is something more significant than what we have to do, or the demands of the diary. It asserts our control over our diaries and over our busy-ness and the sovereignty of God in our lives. We cannot say “Jesus is Lord” and then ignore him from morning til evening. Busyness is just a state of mind. It is about choices we make. We could all of us fill our days many times over. Praying the Hours can help us reduce stress and anxiety by reminding us of what is important and also by giving us an ‘Office’ that is completed at the end of the day. Many of us do jobs that are never really finished. Finishing, completing the Office can be immensely satisfying.

The Daily Office is often said to be about sanctifying time. The interesting thing for me in my present job is that it is also about sanctifying place. I have prayed the Little Hours in car parks, shopping centres, garden centres, empty offices in schools, town halls, the diocesan office, across the diocese of Liverpool and on trains and in my car. If these books don’t appeal, and the structure of the traditional offices seems too much, just pray your way through Psalm 119 a section at a time. This is what Christians have done for much of Christian history. My New Wine friend has only just begun this practice but already she has messaged me several times to say that her day feels so much better, so much more fully offered to the Lord.

The Little Hours: a gift for the forgetful

First published in May 2018.

At Plum Village, the Buddhist monastery founded by Vietnamese teacher Thich Nhat Hahn, when a clock strikes or a gong sounds, everyone stops, breathes deeply and remembers a brief gatha or mindfulness verse:

“Listen, listen,this wonderful bell

brings me back to my true self.”

We human beings are forgetful, half-asleep creatures. Mindfulness is nothing more than waking up, becoming attentive and aware. You can download a mindfulness bell to sound on your computer. I used to have it ringing in my office when I was a Headteacher, an old fashioned chiming clock can serve the same purpose. Stop and breathe deeply three times. The Christian tradition, too, has many ways to remind us to stay awake. One of these is the Liturgy of the Hours. For some people, two longish liturgies a day, in the morning and evening, are sufficient, as in the Book of Common Prayer.

For some of us, however, little and often is best. One way many Anglicans have found to pray, in this little-and-often sort of way, is through the ‘Little Hours’ of the Daily Office: Terce, Sext and None, at the third, sixth and ninth hours of the day. One of the Anglican books used for this, for many decades was the Monastic Diurnal, a translation of the Latin Benedictine Office, produced in 1933, and edited by Canon Winfred Douglas. Writing in the Preface to The Monastic Diurnal he said:

“The Monastic Office was planned from the first for busy men [sic] … for our frequently overburdened parochial Clergy, it is an ideal Office because it combines great variety with comparative brevity.”

(Monastic Diurnal, OUP, 1933 v-vi).

From the very beginning of the separation of the church in England from Rome, many people have supplemented the Offices of the Prayer Book with liturgical devotions at other times of the day. In 1627 John Cosin (later Bishop of Durham), then just thirty years of old, published his Collection of Private Devotions for The Hours of Prayer. It is a beautiful combination of Prayer Book liturgy and language, providing forms of prayer for Prime, Terce, Sext, None and Compline, translated from traditional sources, as well as many other prayers and devotions.

We know too that the community at Little Gidding prayed the psalms throughout the course of the day. There were, no doubt, many other examples of the punctuation of the day with psalmody (see Anglican Devotion, C.J. Stranks, SCM 1961, for the period from the Reformation to the Oxford Movement). The Catholic Revival of the nineteenth century continued this tradition. Many clergy prayed the Western Office in Latin, but soon books of Hours appeared to enable the traditional canonical hours to be prayed in English, using the texts and Calendar of the Prayer Book, and usually providing for the Little Hours to be prayed alongside the Prayer Book Offices of Matins and Evensong. Versions of these books are so numerous that it would be a long list if it was reproduced here. Two traditions predominated among Anglo-Catholics: the monastic version of the Office, as in Canon Douglas’s book, and more popularly, translations of the traditional western Office (before the 1911 reform) which made provision for the recitation of Psalm 119 over the course of each day at the Little Hours. These Offices found their way into the Cuddesdon Office Book and the very popular Prime and Hours and The Priest‘s Book of Private Devotion and are recommended in Fr Whatton’s magnificent The Priest’s Companion. For the laity they appeared, in simplified form, in A Manual of Catholic Devotion.

An 1891 version of The Day Hours.

It was the reforms of the Second Vatican Council that reduced the normal Office to a fivefold form, with a single daytime Hour, and Prime removed. However, The Divine Office, the current western (Roman) rite does make provision for Terce and None. Even now, some people use the old books, including The Anglican Breviary (a translation into Prayer Book English of the post-1911 Breviary) to pray a sevenfold, or even eightfold, Office.

I often hear the claim that a Catholic renewal in our Church is not a management issue but a spiritual one. I believe that all renewal needs good management. St. Paul was highly efficient.

Next week, when I am at the New Wine Leaders’ Conference I have no doubt that I shall be part of something that is superbly managed. When Anglican Catholicism was at its strength it was a serious enterprise. Fasting, as Newman and Pusey recognised, was an essential part of the spiritual life. The praying at regular intervals during the day was the foundation of the energy and mission of countless heroic priests and laypeople. It seems unlikely to me that spiritual renewal will come unless we too embrace these disciplines, as our predecessors did, joyfully.

Like many Catholic Anglicans I have been praying the five-fold Divine Office for almost all of my adult life. Using it as a supplement to Common Worship. In 2014 I added Terce, using Psalm 119 over a week, to end the quiet desk time after my morning prayers and before the workday begins. In Eastertide 2016 I added None to the daily round and in September 2016 a brief Office of Prime. I do so using Psalm 119 to link myself to Catholic and Anglican tradition. I recently put together a little card to tuck into my Breviary with some simple music and the distribution of the psalms. Common Worship: Daily Prayer also refers to the Little Hours and they could easily be prayed using it. Here are the cards:

(Music for the opening verses is from Abbot Alan Rees OSB)Word version here. (You will need to install the St Meinrad fonts to read the music, available here)PDF here.

Psalm 119 arranged for praying over a week at Terce (or any other Hour) here, in the Grail translation.

The obligation to pray Morning and Evening Prayer is a serious one for Anglican clergy, and they should not be omitted except for a substantial reason. I find it deeply moving on my travels as Superior of the Sodality, and in the diocese of Liverpool as Director of Education, to pray with my sister and brother priests and to know they are praying day by day. Some people choose to add to the basic obligation the praying of the Office of Readings, Daytime and Night Prayer. This is a personal choice, so not of obligation. Just as with fasting, there is always a danger of scrupulosity or adding these devotions as ego-centred ‘works’, this is why a Spiritual Director is so important. We must never forget that we are freely saved and can never merit the salvation Jesus brings – we don’t have to, and can’t, earn it. However, if done lovingly and freely, like a lover who wishes to phone his beloved during the day, not once but many times, or when in the beloved’s presence can hardly resist their touch, this can be a beautiful way of enjoying the divine Presence throughout the day. It is not just a cure for forgetfulness, but a satisfying of the desire and need to be with God intensely.

Just as with fasting there is the suggestion that somehow modern people are not quite up to praying so often. That we are too busy, our lifestyles too full. I am not at all sure about this. I particularly object to the use of the word busy. I think we need to think more carefully about how we use, and control the use of our time. Surfing the web, watching TV, even listening to the news can suck up time. We could all fill our days many times over, but we can, mostly, choose the things that we want to do. Why not choose to spend a few extra minutes with God? If prayed quickly each Office can be said in three or four minutes, it would be hard to make them last longer than ten. Today, for example, I prayed Terce sat in my car on a street in St Helens, Sext on the same street, after the meeting I was attending and None, outside the school I was due to visit in Garston in Liverpool, a little later. These are, for me, refreshing pauses, Psalm 119 a gentle brook, gently gurgling its way through my day and renewing me.

“Happy indeed is the man … whose delight is in the law of the Lord and who ponders his law day and night. He is like a tree that is planted beside the flowing waters.” (Ps 1)

The Little Hours are little mindfulness bells, reminding us of the great story of salvation told in Scripture, but they are also a loving touch in the working day with the One who made us and loves us. As Fr Jonathan Graham CR wrote,

“Psalm 119 is a love song.Not a passionate love song; certainly not.It is not the song of love at first sight,nor of the bitter sweet of emotion and desire.It is the song of happy married life.That is not to say that it is, literally, the song of a poet happily wedded; but it breathes all the way through   the charmed monotony of a life vowed to another;it repeats with endless variety and sweet restraintthe simple inexpressible truth that can never grow weary or stale– I love thee. Thou, thee, thine;every verse of the poem, except the three which introduce it,contains thou, thee or thine.And a very large number of them echo: I, me, mine.Well might its author find the sum total of his song in the high priestly prayer of Jesus:All mine are thine and thine are mine.”

Serious? Well, yes, but joyful, light and energising, if prayed freely and as a free gift to Him.