A millennial explains her fondness for the Liturgy of the Hours and how she helped unite more in prayer through Twitter.
Or 50 or so.
That’s the latest count for Catherine Addington, so to speak. She recently started a Twitter movement to sponsor people in praying the Liturgy of the Hours. After the #BreviaryViews hashtag caught her eye (which John De Guzman, a seminarian from Raleigh, North Carolina, tweeted, and which you can read more about below), she noticed a sale on prayer books and thought she’d invest in someone praying the Liturgy of the Hours by gifting them the Roman Breviary volume or shorter Christian Prayer book. As the requests came in, she opened it up to the Catholic Twitterverse. At my last count, 50 people were praying with new books from this great little idea. She talks about #BreviaryViews and the difference it can make in an interview.
Kathryn Jean Lopez: What gave you the idea to start a breviary sponsorship drive?
Catherine Addington: The idea had a totally practical—or rather providential—inspiration: Pauline Books & Media was having a sale, and they had psalters in stock. Seeing the excitement around the #BreviaryViews hashtag earlier this summer, I offered to buy one for anyone who could not afford the physical book on their own. I ended up receiving so many requests for breviaries and offers to contribute that I opened up breviary sponsorship to the public.
Lopez: Why do you think #BreviaryViews should become more of a thing?
Addington: I would always encourage users of social media to practice what the Daughters of St. Paul call “media mindfulness,” which is a prayerful discernment of how God is calling you to engage the media to hear and proclaim the Gospel. For me, the #BreviaryViews hashtag is a way of listening to what God is speaking to his Church through the devotion of the Liturgy of the Hours. That’s why my favorite #BreviaryViews posts aren’t all the cool places people have taken their breviaries to—though I totally get a kick out of that.
My favorite posts are when people share the words of the hours themselves and reflect on what God is saying to us through the day’s devotion. These posts remind me that even though the Liturgy of the Hours is the prayer of the whole Church, it is also the prayer of every individual person who offers it, and God is so eager to speak to each of us.
Lopez: Do you pray the Liturgy of the Hours daily, or regularly? Why, if so?
Addington: I try to pray morning and evening prayer daily, and I’m working on adding night prayer. Sometimes I’ll add the Office of Readings too, especially if it’s a feast day. I love to pray the Liturgy of the Hours because its structure helps me to check in with God throughout the day.
I think of the Hours as holy interruptions that break through my busy schedule to remind me of the One who should be the most important priority in my life, the One whom it is so easy for me to forget without that structure.
I also really value the devotion’s universality. Praying the Liturgy of the Hours is like extending the Liturgy of the Word at daily Mass throughout the whole day, so that your time lives and breathes with the Scripture as ordered by the Church. Living in that liturgical time is a great gift, especially as a layperson whose work can sometimes feel disconnected from the Church. The Liturgy of the Hours reminds me that I am part of this worldwide body of Christ, and that my work, my time, and my energies all belong to Him.
Lopez: What was your first real introduction to the Liturgy of the Hours?
Addington: While I was in high school, a few of my friends entered religious life, and I got to know the devotion through them. My parents generously bought me a breviary, which I still use, though during the busier times of year I carry around my small Spanish-language psalter instead. Since I got to know this devotion before I had a cellphone (which makes me feel impossibly old for a 25-year-old), I’m used to praying with the physical books, and find that it’s much easier for me to devote my entire attention to God in that format.
That said, I pray with the free iBreviary app often when I’m on the go, and so long as the phone stays in airplane mode, we’re good!
Lopez: What do you say to people who find it intimidating?
Addington: The point is to pray; so as long as you’re giving more of your day to God than you would have otherwise, there’s no way to do it wrong. If it’s the ribbons and the moving parts that are intimidating, there are many free online resources that will put it all together for you: Universalis and iBreviary come to mind. If it’s the sheer volume of the thing, don’t worry: God will work with whatever time you can give Him.
Lopez: Is it important that more laypeople take up praying the Liturgy of the Hours at this point in Church history in a particular way?
Addington: In my experience, one of the reasons many laypeople feel disconnected from the Church is because they are physically disconnected from it outside of Sunday Mass. Especially in the U.S., where work schedules are particularly unforgiving and priests are scarce in many places, daily Mass is not practical for most laypeople. As a result, it’s easy to feel like the Church consists of 24/7 collars and habits that you only get to pray with on Sundays, and that can only lead to more alienation and sadness. It seems like a small thing, but praying the Liturgy of the Hours—as much or as little as your state in life allows—is one way of bringing the whole Church together in prayer, and reminding ourselves that we are a vital part of the Church, living the liturgical year as one body.
But it is also a great way to gather community together physically. It’s a built-in structure for household prayer, whether as families, roommates, or religious communities. Or as I learned from Leah Libresco Sargeant’s dinner parties (and later, her excellent book on community building), you might end a friendly gathering with night prayer or invite others to pray and picnic on a feast day. Whether said individually or with others, the Liturgy of the Hours unites us spiritually to Catholics across the world who are joining together in adoration of God. It might not be an obligation for laypeople, but it’s definitely not something I want to miss out on!
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