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

Aaron Lambert

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: From rare books to online resources, archdiocesan library has long history of service to students

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National Library Week, observed this year from April 4 to April 10, is the perfect occasion to highlight the essential role of libraries and library staff in strengthening our communities – and our very own Cardinal Stafford Library at the Archdiocese of Denver is no exception.  

Since 1932, the library has served as a religious, intellectual, and cultural resource for seminarians and students at St. John Vianney Seminary in Denver.

As the library of the seminary, we are always responsible for the four dimensions of the priestly formation of our seminarians. The library is charged with being responsible to all the divisions of the Seminary: the Lay Division (Catholic Biblical School and Catholic Catechetical School), the Permanent Deacon Formation Division, and the Priestly Formation Division, said Stephen Sweeney, Library Director. 

In addition to being one of the main resources to the seminary, the Cardinal Stafford Library serves the needs of other educational programs in the Archdiocese of Denver, including the St. Francis School for Deacons, the Biblical School, the Catechetical School and the Augustine Institute. While the library is currently closed to the public due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it was previously open to anyone, giving people access to more than 150,000 books, audios, and videos. 

The Cardinal Stafford Library was named after Cardinal J. Francis Stafford, Apostolic Penitentiary at the Vatican and former Archbishop of Denver from 1986 to 1996. He was a dedicated advocate of the library and of Catholic education.

In 1932, the library was established by two seminarians, Maurice Helmann and Barry Wogan. While they were not the first seminarians to conceive the idea of establishing a library, they are considered the founders for undertaking its organization.  

Since its founding, the library has grown and compiled a fine collection of resources on Catholic theology, Church history, biblical studies, liturgy, canon law, religious art, philosophy, and literature. Special collections include over 500 rare books dating back to the early 16th century and many periodicals dating back to the 1800s. The oldest publication in the library is a book on excommunication published in 1510. The Cardinal Stafford Library is also home to various relics and holds bills personally written by some of those saints.  

Over the past few years, the library has undergone a process of beautification through various renovations that include improvements in lighting, flooring, and even furniture restoration. During these difficult times, libraries are doing their best to adapt to our changing world by expanding their digital resources to reach those who don’t have access to them from home. 

The Cardinal Stafford Library provides a community space; we subscribe to about 200 print journals and have access to literally thousands more through online resources available on campus computers, Sweeney added. “I have been the Library Director for almost 11 years. I absolutely love my work, especially participating in the intellectual formation of the faithful from all of the dioceses we serve”.  

For more information on the Cardinal Stafford Library, visit: sjvdenver.edu/library 

Featured photo by Andrew Wright