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The seminarian and story behind a viral Catholic hashtag, #BreviaryViews

BREVIARY VIEWS
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“It’s absolutely amazing to see the amount of prayer, fidelity, and friendship that’s come about through this hashtag and we owe it all to God.”

Every now and again trending Catholic hashtags surface on Catholic Twitter.

Kathryn Jean Lopez often would share #homilytweet from the Mass she attended, which lead many other priests to share a snippet of their thoughts with the same hashtag. Daughter of St. Paul Sr. Teresa Aletheia Noble created a trending movement of #MementoMori, which has led to a journal, book, and devotional. And within the past week, #BreviaryViews has been flooding Catholic Twitter.

Read more: Remember your death: A memento mori playlist

Individuals are posting pictures of where they are praying the breviary. The breviary, also known as Breviarium Romanum or the Divine Office or the Liturgy of the Hours, is a liturgical prayer prayed daily by priests, deacons, consecrated religious, and gaining popularity among the laity. Monks and Canons Regular chant the Divine Office, which is composed of psalms, canticles, readings, and petitions. On the day of ordination, a deacon promises to pray the Liturgy of the Hours for and with the people of God.

Seminarian John De Guzman, from the Diocese of Raleigh, North Carolina, is the aspiring priest behind the trending Catholic hashtag.

He is a second-year theologian at Theological College in Washington, DC. You can follow him at @JohnDeGuzzy on Twitter. The #BreviaryViews hashtag is promoting this beautiful prayer to so many who were unfamiliar with daily liturgical prayer. I had the opportunity to talk with John Guzman about this trending Catholic hashtag movement.

Fr. Edward Looney: What has been your experience of praying the Breviary?

Guzman: My experience has been a gradual one. I had never heard of the Liturgy of the Hours before seminary, so my first encounter with it was when I saw it on my “to buy” list for seminary. My pastor graciously offered to buy me the 4-volume set which I still use to this day, five years later.

The Breviary has added a structure of prayer, a pulse if you will, throughout my day.

The Breviary has added a structure of prayer, a pulse if you will, throughout my day. When I first started praying the Breviary, however, I was overwhelmed at the amount of times and hours that were required of me to pray. I tried to start by doing all of them at once and I immediately discovered that I just could not do it. I decided to stick only to Morning Prayer and Evening Prayer to start. Gradually, with each year of seminary passing by, I added another hour. Having just finished by fifth year of seminary, I have grown in my discipline of incorporating the entire Liturgy of the Hours into my day.

Read more: A beginner’s guide to the Liturgy of the Hours

What inspired #BreviaryViews?

Guzman: It really started when I first posted a picture of me sitting in Reservoir Park located in Pinehurst, North Carolina, praying Daytime Prayer. I was looking out into the water and figured “Hmm, this is a nice view” and so I took a photo of the angle with my breviary in the shot as well. I also posted this picture on Facebook.

A friend of mine, John Rogers, saw this on Facebook and commented, “You def need to start a #viewfrommybreviary series.” This got me thinking. I did not want to do my own series mainly because I definitely could not keep up with posting a unique #BreviaryView every day, but I thought it might be cool to see where people who do pray the Breviary pray it.

It really only started out as a fun hashtag to use for cool scenery shots. I tweeted the idea the next day to see if people would be interested. A few people thought it’d be cool and thus #BreviaryViews was born. The response after that was all the Holy Spirit. I could not and I definitely did not plan for it to turn into what it is now, but all the same, I’m humbled and thankful to God that He’s used it for His own plan.

Why should lay people pray the Breviary?

Guzman: I think one of the major reasons why the Breviary should be prayed is that it really does provide a pulse of prayer in one’s daily life. There’s the Office of Readings, Morning Prayer, Daytime Prayer, Evening Prayer, and Night Prayer. It seems like a lot, but the good news is that the laity aren’t expected to pray every single one of the “hours” every day. They can choose which hours would fit best in their schedule and plan to pray those hours, keeping up a daily pulse of encountering the Lord in prayer for a few minutes.

Plus, I think it’s also really neat to see the laity join in on the prayers that the clergy and the religious promise and vow to pray each and every day for the rest of their lives. It really encourages a unity of prayer.

Book or app? Your recommendation?

Guzman: I personally prefer using the book because I already spend too much time with a screen in front me. I would personally rather not let another screen permeate my prayer times. That said, there is nothing wrong with using the app either. I have the “iBreviary” app on my phone so that I always have the Breviary on the go in case I forget the book. The app does a really good job of laying out the structure of the hour you’re praying so it would be very helpful to those who are starting out, because the book can initially be very tricky. It takes a while to get used to it, but it can definitely be done and there are guides out there with page numbers for the day to help out.

I would recommend, for beginners, to start out with the app in order to familiarize yourself with the structure of the hours and then gradually progress towards using the book if you so desire.

Read more: 10 Apps that can improve your prayer life

What hour is your favorite?

Guzman: Honestly, I think the Office of Readings is my favorite. It’s definitely the longest, time-wise, but it’s always the hour that gets me thinking and reflecting. The Scripture readings and the readings from Church Fathers and Church documents are always so rich. I very much enjoy reading and reflecting on them because, as they say nowadays, they’re “straight fire.”

Which Daytime prayer do you say most often?

Guzman: Definitely mid-afternoon. Often, around 3 p.m. is when I have a quick opening to sit down and pray for 5-10 minutes, so that’s usually when I’m able to do Daytime Prayer.

The Holy Spirit, however, took the hashtag and turned into a place of encounter, both with fellow Christians and with the Lord.

What is your impression of how this Twitter initiative has been received?

Guzman: Stunned and humbled. My original “plan” for the hashtag was just for it be a fun Twitter link to play with and to see cool scenery shots of people and their breviaries. The Holy Spirit, however, took the hashtag and turned into a place of encounter, both with fellow Christians and with the Lord. I’ve seen people reach out and inquire about the Breviary with the intent of starting to pray it. I’ve seen people inspired to return to their old discipline of praying it, and I’ve seen people encourage others to pray to consciously strive to encounter the Lord every day.

People are talking, people are praying, and people are developing healthy, positive relationships with another on Twitter. There’s even a spreadsheet now, started and headed by @caddington11 for people to sign up, both to request a sponsor for a breviary and to encourage people to sponsor others for a breviary.

It’s absolutely amazing to see the amount of prayer, fidelity, and friendship that’s come about through this hashtag, and we owe it all to God.

Read more: What is the Liturgy of the Hours?

Read more: What the Church teaches by saturating liturgy with the “Glory Be”

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