By Jonah McKeown/CNA
What does it mean to pray “ceaselessly”?
For Cardinal James Francis Stafford, Major Penitentiary Emeritus of the Apostolic Penitentiary, the answer to that question is the key to an “unspeakable joy.”
“We have to rediscover the fruits of the Holy Spirit. One of those fruits is joy,” Stafford said. “And that is the joy of being children of God.”
Stafford is set to deliver a free online lecture on the Liturgy of the Hours on May 21. (Editor’s note: This event was postponed to a later date. RSVP at the link above to be notified of the rescheduled lecture.)
The Liturgy of the Hours, also referred to as the Divine Office or breviary, has been a fixture of Catholic prayer for centuries. Clerics and religious pray the full Liturgy of the Hours every day, and Sacrosanctum Concilium, the Second Vatican Council’s constitution on the liturgy, encouraged the laity to recite it as well. Sacrosanctum Concilium also said pastors “should see to it that the chief hours, especially Vespers, are celebrated in common in church on Sundays and the more solemn feasts.”
Stafford described the Liturgy of the Hours to CNA as “the prayer book of the Church,” saying praying it can help Catholics avoid making “idols” out of daily tasks and routines, and instead making time for God throughout the day.
How difficult it is, he reflected, to “move from the idols of each hour, and to give worship to the only One that is worthy of us.” Stafford said in his view, a renewed understanding of the meaning of time is necessary, so that “we don’t make idols of what we’re doing in time.”
“I’m so engaged in the course of a day in my daily activities…not just engaged, but I’m committed to it. I’m kind of overwhelmed by it. They almost become idols for me. In fact they do become idols,” Stafford said.
“So, the Liturgy of the Hours is a call, for me at least, to give priority to numero uno — to God the Father through Jesus.”
Stafford noted that in the course of the day, “we are urged sursum corda, to lift up our hearts” to God, repeatedly. He encouraged families, in particular, to learn how to pray the Liturgy of the Hours and to do so together.
“The Liturgy of the Hours is central to the spiritual life of the family…for the already baptized, it engages them in the gift that the Church gives them,” Stafford said.
You can RSVP for Stafford’s livestreamed lecture on the Liturgy of the Hours, presented by the Lay Division at Denver’s St. John Vianney Theological Seminary and set to begin at 10 am Mountain Time on May 21, here.