Tag Archives: Prayer

Finding Peace in the Liturgy of the Hours

The Liturgy of the Hours may only be required for priests and religious, but it is beautiful source of peace for all who take the time to pray it. Here’s why.

Last summer, I did a personal retreat at a Benedictine monastery in British Columbia. Five times a day, the bell would toll and all of the monks would silently make their way to the chapel to chant the Liturgy of the Hours, as Benedictines have been doing for centuries.  I loved following the monastic rhythm, albeit for a short period.

After returning to the East Coast, I decided to get into the habit of praying the Liturgy of the Hours on my own. This form of prayer, also known as the Divine Office, is an ancient part of the Church’s liturgical life. It consists of seven daily sets (or “hours”) of prayer. (Priests and religious are required to pray five of the seven hours.) Each hour includes an opening hymn, Psalms, a spiritual Canticle, a reading from Scripture, and intercessory prayers.

Even though it is a time commitment to keep up with the Divine Office, I love it. It provides a beautiful framework for the day: each hour is a small oasis in the midst of hectic daily life, and an opportunity to refocus on “the things above” (Col 3:1).

But the Liturgy of the Hours is more than an opportunity for finding quiet time during the day. It is an essential part of the life of the Church as the Mystical Body of Christ: it is her participation in the eternal priesthood of the Son of God. The Second Vatican Council put it like this:

For he continues His priestly work through the agency of His Church, which is ceaselessly engaged in praising the Lord and interceding for the salvation of the whole world. She does this, not only by celebrating the Eucharist, but also in other ways, especially by praying the Divine Office. (Sacrosanctum Concilium # 83)

In other words, the Divine Office is one of the ways in which the Church joins Christ in his priestly role of praising God the Father and offering prayers on behalf of all creation. How awesome it is that we can be a part of this!

The Liturgy of the Hours is a temporal expression of eternal prayer of Jesus Christ. It is the endless praise of the Son of God translated into human words. Again, the Vatican Council put it well:

Christ Jesus, high priest of the new and eternal covenant, taking human nature, introduced into this earthly exile that hymn which is sung throughout all ages in the halls of heaven. He joins the entire community of mankind to Himself, associating it with His own singing of this canticle of divine praise. (Sacrosanctum Concilium       # 83)

When we commit ourselves to the ongoing rhythm of the Liturgy of the Hours, we unite ourselves to eternal praise of the Second Person of the Trinity, and in so doing we get away from the hectic and feverish pace of our daily lives. The Liturgy of the Hours provides us with a moment to go to the border between time and eternity and, in some way, cross it.

In praying the Liturgy of the Hours, we leave the horizontal dimension of the here and now and enter a vertical spiritual dimension that transcends time; we join the ancient tradition of Psalmic praise that stretches back to the Babylonian exile; we become a part of the Church’s never-ending praise of God that will continue until the end of time; we enter into the very life of the Trinity by becoming part of the Son’s praise of the Father in the Holy Spirit.

It may be not possible for you to pray all of the hours, but it is worth it just to pray Morning Prayer and Evening Prayer, the two “hinges” of the whole Office. You will find the Liturgy of the Hours to be an excellent investment of time. Whether you are in the car or at Starbucks, commuting to work or waiting for your kids to finish soccer practice, taking ten minutes to join in the eternal praise of the Son will be more than worth it! Let yourself fall into the calming rhythm of the Liturgy of the Hours and experience the peace it brings.

To get more details on how to pray the Liturgy of the Hours, I suggest checking out Coffee and Canticles. You can always buy the hard copies, but I it is good to start with the Divine Office app, which offers audio as well as text.

Getting Things Done…with God

Dear friends,

The holidays are here, along with the temptation to exhaust ourselves trying to make them “perfect.” I would like to re-share with you this lesson God taught me some years ago about the importance of not allowing ourselves to be enslaved to our to-do lists. I hope you find it helpful.



Growing up Air Force:

I grew up in an Air Force family, so I always lived near or on a military air forcebase. My childhood took place underneath the roaring engines of F-16’s and the whirring propellers of C-130’s; my friends were officers’ children, and all of us were marked in one way or another by the military ethos of our parents.

Growing up, most of the men I knew were either engineers or pilots, all very driven individuals whom I admired a great deal (my father especially). I loved their discipline, dedication, resourcefulness, and efficiency. I loved going on base and watching the jets take off and seeing the airmen running here and there, fulfilling their respective missions. Even though I was just an “Air Force brat” (as we were humorously called by our parents), I liked to think that I was a part of the team; I always felt at-home on base and dreamed of…

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“Charged with Grandeur”: A Reflection on Hopkins’ Classic Poem

I like to start my days with a bit of beauty, so every morning, I spend a moment reading and memorizing some poetry. Right now, I am working on Gerard Manley Hopkins’ classic Grandeur of God.

The world is charged with the grandeur of God.
    It will flame out, like shining from shook foil;
    It gathers to a greatness, like the ooze of oil
Crushed. Why do men then now not reck his rod?
Generations have trod, have trod, have trod;
    And all is seared with trade; bleared, smeared with toil;
    And wears man’s smudge and shares man’s smell: the soil
Is bare now, nor can foot feel, being shod.
And for all this, nature is never spent;
    There lives the dearest freshness deep down things;
And though the last lights off the black West went
    Oh, morning, at the brown brink eastward, springs —
Because the Holy Ghost over the bent
    World broods with warm breast and with ah! bright wings.

The poem is divided into two stanzas. Stanza 1 has a rhyme pattern of ABBA ABBA, and Stanza 2 has a rhyme pattern of ABABAB.

Stanza 1 presents us with a conflict and Stanza 2 with a resolution.

In Stanza 1, lines 1 – 3, Hopkins begins his poem referring to radiance of God’s creation: God’s grandeur that “flames out” and “gathers to a greatness.” But in line 4, beginning with the word “Crushed,” he introduces the conflict: “Why do men then now not reck his rod?”

The three sets of alliteration, one of after the other, (men-then, now-not, reck-rod), give a sense of acceleration that emphasizes the discordance that is being introduced. Despite the grandeur of God, men do not “reck” (archaic word for “heed”) His governing rod. Instead, they carelessly exploit creation, and they trod and trod and trod in their pursuit of gain, mindless of the beauty of the world around them.

As a result, the world has been “seared with trade” and “smeared with toil.” Nature has been polluted with “man’s smudge” and “man’s smell”. There has been a fundamental divorce between man and nature, and the tables have been turned: man, who once walked barefoot upon the earth, has bared the earth and no longer feels it – he has separated and insulated himself from it with his industry.

After introducing the conflict,  Hopkins offers hope in the second stanza – hope that is found in nature itself because it is “never spent”, despite man’s heedlessness. He refers to the “dearest freshness deep down things”, the unique beauty that can be found in every single thing created by God. (This unique beauty of every individual reality is a recurring theme of Hopkins’ poetry.)

Even when things seem to be irreparably marred, even after “the last lights off the black West went,”  there is always hope; morning is always on the other side of the blackness of night. There is always this hope because God the Holy Spirit remains present in His creation.

To describe the Holy Spirit (whom he refers to with the old title of “Holy Ghost”), Hopkins evokes a bird-like image, perhaps of the dove so often used as a symbol of the Paraclete. Just as a mother bird covers her young with her wings (i.e. “broods”), so tenderly does the Holy Spirit care for His creation.

Hopkins ends his poem as he started with a reference to God’s luminous beauty. At the beginning of the poem he referred to God’s beauty as it is manifested in His creation. However, at the end of the poem, he makes a symbolic reference to the beauty of God Himself with his ecstatic recognition of the “bright wings” of the Holy Spirit.

In one way are another, we all have to wake up to face a world that is “seared with trade” and “smeared with toil,” but Hopkins offers us a beautiful insight and a wonderful reminder that not all is lost. No matter how dull or drudging our daily life may seem, and no matter how weary and gray our daily environment may be, there is always “the dearest freshness deep down” in everything around us. God’s beauty still charges the world.

All we have to do is take a moment to linger in God’s grandeur for the never-depleted freshness of His creation to fill and charge our own lives.

Letting God Love You

Rat-raceWe live in a world that hyper-emphasizes work and personal success. It teaches us to esteem ourselves according to our personal achievements, and often we project this faulty vision on our relationships with God. All too often, we think and act as if God’s love for us were somehow conditioned by how virtuous we are and by how often and well we pray.

God’s Infinite Love

Nothing could be farther from the truth. God’s love is not proportionate to our spiritual merit; rather, His love for us is infinite. All that He wants from us is that we accept His love and receive it with grateful hearts. All He wants is that we love Him back.

Imagine a marriage in which the husband day-in and day-out strives to show his love for his wife in many different details. He always kisses her good-bye in the morning, he texts her throughout the day, he often gives her little gifts, he prepares special meals for her on the weekend, and organizes well-thought Sunday outings and vacations.

Now what if his wife never did anything to thank him or show appreciation for his thoughtfulness and love? What if she remained completely indifferent and sometimes ignored his efforts? At the very least, she would be extremely ungrateful and thoughtless.

Unfortunately, this is how we too often treat God. Day-in and day-out, He offers us little gifts and manifestations of His infinite love, yet we pay them no attention.

Most of the times, this lack of gratefulness is not a result of bad intention but simply happens because we are too focused on ourselves. We put too much focus on what we are doing to love God and not enough on how He is loving us.

Nothing too Small

Since His love for us is infinite, there is nothing that is too small forimage Him to do to show us His love. He whispers His love to us in cool breezes, beautiful sunsets, and chirping birds. He expresses His love through the love of others – the constant love of our family and friends and through the random acts of kind strangers. Sometimes He loves us through special coincidences and little miracles.

When we receive gifts from God, we often think that we are obligated to do something in return, but, again, this is far from the truth: God’s love in no way depends on us. We can do nothing to lessen His love, and we can do nothing to increase it – it is already infinite.

How awesome it is to think that we are the recipients of infinite love! I believe that our lives would be so different if we remained aware of this amazing fact.

Responding to God’s Love

Although God requires nothing from us in return, He does desire our love, and we do not have to do much to show it. Little prayers such as “I love you” or “Jesus, this is for you” mean more than we can imagine. Also, simply spending time with our Lord is another way to show our love. When we put ourselves in His presence, be it in the silence of the church or the silence of our rooms, we express our love for Him in a powerful way.

Just being with Him means so much to God. Even if we are tired and barely able to pray, all that matters is that we want to be there with the Lord.

Lucy waiting for her belly rub.
Lucy waiting for her belly rub.

Many of us have the joy of having pets. Although I do not have any pets of my own, but I always look forward to seeing my family’s Welsh Corgi whenever I visit home. Lucy is a funny little dog who loves nothing more than belly rubs and playing fetch. I enjoy doing both for her, and I have often thought how interesting it is that I love making her happy even though she can do little in return. It has occurred to me that our relationships with our pets are partially analogous to our relationship with God. Just as we love our pets in spite of their limited ability to reciprocate, so God loves us despite our own limitations.

Making It Real

imageLetting God love you is simply being aware of His love and being grateful for it. Try getting into this habit. At least one day this week, try to remember God’s love for you at least five different times, and thank Him for His love on each occasion.  I think that you will be amazed at how much the awareness of God’s love will elevate your day.

Getting Things Done…with God

Growing up Air Force:

I grew up in an Air Force family, so I always lived near or on a military air forcebase. My childhood took place underneath the roaring engines of F-16’s and the whirring propellers of C-130’s; my friends were officers’ children, and all of us were marked in one way or another by the military ethos of our parents.

Growing up, most of the men I knew were either engineers or pilots, all very driven individuals whom I admired a great deal (my father especially). I loved their discipline, dedication, resourcefulness, and efficiency. I loved going on base and watching the jets take off and seeing the airmen running here and there, fulfilling their respective missions. Even though I was just an “Air Force brat” (as we were humorously called by our parents), I liked to think that I was a part of the team; I always felt at-home on base and dreamed of one day being an officer like my father.

Even though God had different plans for me, I joined the seminary with a lot of the values that I picked up by osmosis in my childhood milieu.  Thanks to my military father and my dedicated mother, I had been brought up to be a man who took his job seriously and disciplined himself to get things done. “Make it happen!” my dad would tell me when he assigned a task: no excuses were accepted – just a job well done.

Learning to Work with God

Now that I look back, I am very grateful for the high standard that my parents held me to because it prepared me for the real world; but I am even more grateful for the faith they imbued me with. They gave me a solid human foundation upon which grace can act, and they gave me the faith needed to be open to grace in the first place. The challenge left to me was learning how to rely on God while not relying too much on myself and my own virtue.

One day, during my pastoral internship in New York, I learned a lesson that taught me that every time you put God first and your own productivity second, it pays off. It was a busy day for me; I was in Midtown Manhattan running around fulfilling different assignments that my boss (a very energetic priest) had assigned me. My errands took me to the Upper East Side which I got to via subway.

As I came up out of the stop at 68th and Lexington Ave, a thought came to me: “Why don’t you take a break to pray a little while at St. Vincent Ferrer’s?” St. Vincent’s is a gorgeous Neo-Gothic church68th (my favorite in the city actually), and on any other day I would have been very happy to stop in and pay Our Lord a visit, but this particular day, I had way too much going on. I had an appointment 10 blocks north of the subway stop, so I was not too keen on walking three blocks in the opposite direction.

But after thinking about it for a moment, I made a quick “what-the-heck” decision and went to pop into the church. As soon as I walked in, I was happy to be there. St. Vincent’s interior is beautifully decorated with exquisite wood carving and impressive Gothic stonework. The light that filters through the blue stain glassed windows fills the apse, sanctuary, and nave with a calming aura. As the doors closed behind me, the traffic noise became a distant buzz and I allowed myself to be engulfed by the peaceful ambiance of my favorite urban oasis. I knelt down before the Lord, placed my head in my hands, and put my problems and worries into His.

St. Vincent Ferrer Catholic Church
St. Vincent Ferrer Catholic Church

After some time of calming serenity, I took my leave and stepped outside. As I left, I remembered that I had been asked by the priest to call someone who lived outside of the city. Walking down the front steps of the church, I pulled out my phone and started looking for her number in my contacts list, but as I was doing so, I heard someone call my name.  I looked up, and, believe it or not, the very person whom I was about to call was walking towards me!

Now, just think about it for a moment. I was in the middle of a city with over 8,000,000 inhabitants, and I just happened to bump into someone who did not usually go to the city in the first place. On top of that, I bumped into her just as I was about to call her! If I had stayed inside the church just a little longer, I would have missed her completely, as would have happened if I had not visited the church at all. The chances of us meeting at that exact moment were infinitesimal.

With that providential coincidence, God taught me a valuable lesson: give Him priority, and He will get things done for you. I gave Him a little bit of my time, and He did not ignore the small sacrifice. He is never outdone in generosity, so He made things a little easier for me that afternoon by saving me a phone call.

Rich Dividends

Prayer is a reward in itself, but we should not be surprised when God chooses toimage reward us for it. The next time you pass by a church, take a moment to step inside and greet the Lord, no matter how busy you may be. Have no doubt: in one way or another, your small time investment will yield rich dividends!