Notre Dame parish brings Liturgy of the Hours into the home with Church at Home program

Last spring, while everybody was stuck at home during the height of the pandemic, Notre Dame Parish in Denver saw an opportunity for spiritual renewal among its parishioners.

With Masses shut down for a time and then celebrated with limited attendance capacities in the months that followed, Notre Dame pastor Msgr. Edward Buelt sought to bring the liturgy to his parishioners so they could still feel connected to the Church. More chiefly, he wanted to encourage families to pray together at home and keep the Sabbath holy. Thus, Notre Dame’s Church at Home program was born.

“The real genesis was the pandemic, but then that brought together a lot of liturgical and theological and ecclesiastical strands to weave together into what we’ve developed,” Msgr. Buelt told the Denver Catholic. “Everyone was at home during the pandemic. We were all isolated or quarantined or socially distancing. And one day began to run into another day and people were not able to attend church, especially the Eucharist, and otherwise come together in community. Since they couldn’t come to Sacred Liturgy, we had to take the Sacred Liturgy to them.”

Msgr. Buelt had previously implemented a similar initiative during his tenure as pastor of Our Lady of Loreto Parish in Foxfield. The program is based on the Liturgy of the Hours, the daily prayer of the Church which, contrary to its well-known association with religious life, was actually started by laypeople in the Church as early as the second century.

“The Liturgy of the hours, [going way] back to the third and second centuries even was not started by the monks, it was started by the laypeople as they gathered at their bishop’s church, at the Cathedral Church,” Msgr. Buelt explained. “It was the laypeople who started the Liturgy of the Hours, not the monks. The monks took it over and the laypeople kind of forgot about it for historical reasons.”

One of main goals of the Church at Home program, then, is to reinstate the Liturgy of the Hours as a prayer done by laypeople, and more specifically, by the family at home – the domestic church, as it were.

“The family is the first church Christ founds,” Msgr. Buelt said. “If we really believe what Jesus said when Jesus said, ‘when you pray, go home to your rooms, close the door,’ then maybe this is an opportunity. The pandemic’s given us a wonderful opportunity by Christ to get back to the the family, the domestic church.”

Notre Dame Parish in Denver created a Church at Home guide based on the Liturgy of the Hours last year during the height of the pandemic to help its parishioners stay connected to the Church and encourage a more intentional prayer life at home. The parish printed copies of the guides and mailed them out to each home registered at the parish. (Photos from Notre Dame Facebook page)

The way Msgr. Buelt and ministry and evangelization assistant Andre Escaleira, Jr. did this was by adapting the Liturgy of the Hours to a format that was easier for the average layperson and family to follow and implement as a daily practice within the busyness of their own life. 

“We said that the four week, 28 day cycle of Liturgy of the Hours is too complicated for someone who’s got three little babies and her husband home sick or whatever,” Msgr. Buelt explained. “It’s too complicated for priests and nuns who take years to learn it. [So we said] let’s adapt it, let’s just make it the three primary hours: morning, evening and night. Let’s make it a seven day cycle. Let’s go through and choose songs and canticles that might speak to people more than otherwise.”

After establishing the prayers, Psalms and canticles for each day, they put together guides for the three major liturgical seasons: Ordinary Time, Lent/ Easter, and Advent/Christmas. Then they printed copies for all of their registered parishioners and mailed them out. For convenience, the guides are also available in digital formats on their parish website for anyone to download for free.

Throughout the pandemic, Msgr. Buelt said he’s observed three sources of renewal for the Church that he prays become more apparent as life returns to normal: The Scriptures, the Sacred Liturgy and the Sabbath. He hopes that the Church at Home program proves to be useful in helping people to place more emphasis on these three crucial elements of the Church.

“We’ve got to get the Sabbath back from the National Football League. We’ve let them steal Jesus from us,” Msgr. Buelt said. “In my judgment, until we renew the Scriptures, we renew the Sacred Liturgy and we renew the Sabbath in family life, we won’t be renewed as a Church.”

To download Notre Dame’s Church at Home guides, visit .denvernotredame.org/our-parish/church-at-home.

COMING UP: Moral courage and the many cultures of death

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CRACOW. Thanks to the pandemic, it’s been two years since I was last in Cracow, where for three decades I’ve done extensive research and taught great students while forming friendships with many remarkable people. It was wonderful to be back in one of the world’s greatest cities, and soon after I arrived in late June, I took a long walk to see what had changed. The first major difference I noticed was that the plaza in front of the central railway station (named for my late friend Jan Nowak-Jeziorański, a World War II courier for the Polish Home Army and the man from whom the future John Paul II got real news via Radio Free Europe’s Polish service) has a new, strikingly modern memorial, dedicated to the memory of Colonel Ryszard Kukliński.

That name is not well-known throughout a western world that has largely forgotten the meaning and lessons of the Cold War. But if Jan Nowak-Jeziorański was right when he spoke about the Polish colonel in the mid-1990s, Ryszard Kuklinski was a genuine hero of the long, twilight struggle against communist totalitarianism — the man who helped prevent a bloody Soviet invasion of Poland to crush the nascent Solidarity movement.

An accomplished officer in the communist-era Polish Army, Ryszard Kukliński began to doubt the truth of what he had been told about the West when, as a member of an international commission, he met American military men in Vietnam in the mid-1960s. His doubts about communism and its purposes intensified by orders of magnitude in 1968, when the brutal Warsaw Pact invasion of Czechoslovakia ground the Prague Spring to dust under the treads of Soviet tanks, and in 1970, when the Polish army shot Polish workers during labor strife. Privy to some of the Warsaw Pact’s most confidential strategic plans, he became convinced that, if the Cold War turned hot and the east bloc attacked the West, the Soviets would sacrifice Poland as retaliatory western tactical nuclear strikes hit the second wave of Warsaw Pact troops pushing west. So, in 1972, Kukliński, risking his life and his family’s safety, offered his services to the United States and for the next nine years was the West’s most important intelligence asset behind the iron curtain.

His greatest service to Poland and the cause of freedom came in the later months of 1980. Thanks to his efforts, the United States knew the entire order-of-battle the Soviet Union had organized to stamp out Solidarity, which had held its first formal congress in September 1980. With that information, and working in concert with the incoming Reagan administration, outgoing national security adviser Zbigniew Brzeziński, with the help of the AFL-CIO’s Lane Kirkland, was able to organize a comprehensive western response to a potential Soviet invasion of Poland: an international economic blockade that would have severely damaged the already-staggering Soviet economy. Faced with economic ruin, the Soviet leadership backed down and the Warsaw Pact divisions that had surrounded Poland withdrew.

Colonel Kukliński and his family were exfiltrated to the West; two of his sons later died under dubious circumstances that may have involved Russian retribution, and Kukliński lived out his life under an assumed name in the United States, dying in 2004. There was public controversy when he returned to his native Poland for a 1998 visit, with some charging that he had violated his officer’s oath by working for American intelligence for a decade. John Paul II, through various intermediaries, quietly passed the word that Kukliński was to be regarded in Poland as a national hero. Zbigniew Brzeziński, who held the exact same view, put it brilliantly, in a comment that appears on the Kukliński Memorial in Cracow: Colonel Kukliński was “the first Polish officer in NATO.” 

Communism was a distinctive form of the culture of death, for the effort to create “Homo Sovieticus” was a lethal assault on souls. Colonel Ryszard Kukliński took a courageous stand against that particular culture of death, knowing as he did that freedom is never cost-free: freedom lived nobly always requires sacrifice. His example should be pondered by Catholic citizens and Catholic public officials throughout the West today, who are called to resist, with similar moral courage and effect, that form of the culture of death that masquerades as the ideology of “choice.” May we and our elected officials be as principled and brave as the Polish officer who took what John Paul II described at the United Nations in 1995 as the “the risk of freedom.”