Three months after retirement is probably a good point at which to stop and take stock. Those three months follow thirty-two years as a very busy specialist nurse, the final year of which was exceptionally busy because of the pandemic – the changes this brought with it added significantly to my workload and changed the way I worked in a very substantial way. And so, the ‘down’ time has been very welcome, if a little unusual, and something I am not used to in the least.
The single thing which has been positive these past months is my fidelity to the Liturgy of the Hours. I have noted previously that I began praying the Office in the 1980s and love this form of prayer. But despite that, it was the one form of prayer I struggled to remain faithful to – time always seemed to get in the way. And missing one ‘Hour’ quickly led to missing more. Now, thankfully, time is no longer an issue – I have plenty of that. Consequently, I made a determined effort to be faithful to the Office and – so far – I have done as I hoped. I pray Morning, Evening and Night Prayer, and these three Hours have become very important to me.
Promulgating the revised Divine Office in his Apostolic Constitition ‘Laudis Canticum’ (The Canticle of Praise), Pope St Paul VI wrote –
“The Office has therefore been composed so that it is the prayer not only of the clergy but of the whole of the People of God.. Since the Liturgy of the Hours should sanctify the different times of the day, in its revised form it can be fitted into the actual hours of people’s daily lives.. the most important Hours are Lauds as morning prayer and Vespers as evening prayer, and these become the two hinges, as it were, of the daily Office.. This complete revision of the official prayer of the Church, taking into account both the oldest tradition and the needs of modern life, will, it is hoped, renew and vivify all Christian prayer and serve to nourish the spiritual life of the People of God.”
I wonder if Pope Paul had any idea just how accurate his description of the main Hours as the ‘hinges’ of the day would be. This is exactly as I have found them – for me, everything else flows around these two Hours, it seems. They are the hinges of a door which swings open to allow the light to touch everything else the house contains. And that light is truly wonderful.
The Liturgy of the Hours is comprised mainly of the Psalms and two things always strike me about this. Firstly, these are the same Psalms known and prayed by the Lord during His earthly life. And secondly, while I am praying the Hours here, Catholics across the whole world – priests, religious, laity and the Holy Father himself – are praying exactly the same Psalms in the same Hours. And so it truly is ‘the prayer of the People of God’.
Since it is the official prayer of the Church, I offer it for the Church – anyone can see that her need is great in these days. And as the issues have a spiritual root, so any resolution must begin with a spiritual approach – that is, prayer. Everything else must follow on from that, but it needs to start with prayer. If I can add a little to this outpouring of prayer from the People of God, I am very happy to do so in union with all my brothers and sisters across the world who are doing likewise.
My other forms of daily prayer – the Rosary, the Chaplet of Divine Mercy, and one or two others – have remained stable and constant. The Office was the one I felt I really need to work on.
Here in the United Kingdom, the pandemic restrictions are about to ease significantly, although infection rates are increasing very rapidly just now. Looking around and listening to others, there is such great need in the world just now because of what the pandemic has done, both directly and indirectly. There has been enormous loss and suffering for so many people and families. There is such division within the Church. And the world has not fully learned all the lessons which the pandemic has offered us one way or another.
And so, there is a great need for prayer in the world.
As things stand at the moment, my intention is to contribute to that treasury of prayer as fully and as well as I can.