I was introduced to the Divine Office by a lifelong friend who is a Catholic Priest. From time to time he has come to visit our family for a few days, and he always brings several beautifully bound large volumes with him for his daily prayers. I was fascinated and intrigued by all of the ribbons and the elaborate process involved, but thought of this prayer as a somewhat arcane practice, reserved for the clergy.
At some point I considered praying the Office (also called the Liturgy of the Hours) as part of my Lenten practice one year, and did a little research. Unfortunately, a lot of the material online seemed more complicated and daunting than helpful.
I was eventually lucky enough to find a resource called Universalis. In addition to the website, there is also a smartphone app which makes it simple to add this ancient and beautiful prayer tradition to one’s day. My own practice is to pray the Office of Readings combined with Lauds (morning prayer) first thing in the morning, and then Vespers sometime during the evening.
Initially, I prayed the Hours only during Lent, and by the time Holy Week arrived, was satisfied with the prospects of putting the practice behind me until the next year. For some reason here in 2020 I continued the practice after Lent ended, and it has now become a habit that I intend to observe, if the Lord wills it, for the rest of my days. Beginning and ending each day with this deep dive into the Psalms helps to bring a longer-term perspective and a sense of centeredness to the flurry of life and its daily activities.
This practice has also given me a deeper understanding of the nature and context of Judeo-Christian scripture itself, and of the character of the God we Christians worship.
If you’re interested in praying the Office, I would highly recommend the Universalis website. There’s no cost for the web version, and both the desktop and smartphone apps are very reasonably priced. If you pray the Office of Readings with Lauds, you’ll want to set aside fifteen or twenty minutes for it, and Vespers is a bit shorter (maybe five or ten).
Do you have a formal daily prayer practice? I’d love to hear your experiences, resources, and questions.