Prayer doesn’t get much more “old school” than the Liturgy of the Hours. In fact, its basic structure (psalms, canticles, readings) has remained pretty much the same for about 1000 years—but the Liturgy of the Hours, also called the Divine Office, was prayed even before that, in the earliest monasteries.
As a Secular Franciscan, I pray Morning and Evening Prayer on a daily basis, either individually or with the other Franciscans in my fraternity. It’s a wonderful way to pray the Psalms and to unite in prayer with the worldwide Church. In fact, in November 2011, Pope Benedict XVI said that there was one prayer he wished all Catholics would learn to use: the Liturgy of the Hours. You don’t have to be a priest or a Sister to pray it.
Unfortunately, praying the Liturgy of the Hours involves a learning curve, and that discouraged many people. When you’re trying to learn this on your own, it feels pretty complicated. Fortunately, technology has come to the rescue!
Thanks to a few handy websites and apps, now it’s easy to pray the Liturgy of the Hours. You can smoothly and seamlessly pray your way through the Psalms, canticles and readings without needing 17 bookmarks and a quick-reference guide.
All three of the resources below offer a free online breviary plus the other features listed here:
- Divine Office offers apps for android, iOS, Mac, and Kindle Fire. Users have the option of downloading audio prayers (great for listening during your commute to work!) You can also download several days of prayer at a single time, which is a wonderful option when traveling. This app costs $19.99.
- iBreviary is a free app for android, iOS and BlackBerry; there is also an option to add a widget to your own website that contains the prayers. Instant downloads are also available up to a week at a time for convenience during travel.
- Universalis allows you to download the prayers up to a month at a time and save them as e-books to be used with a Kindle, Nook or other e-reader. You get a one-month free trial to see if you like the services this program offers; after that, you can purchase a license for the program. There is also an app for iOS devices which costs $20.99 but has the entire Liturgy of the Hours contained within it; you will never need to connect to the Internet to download the day’s prayers.
While there’s plenty to be said for keeping it “old school,” I find digital prayer to be much less distracting. It’s easier to focus my mind on the prayer when I’m not worrying about whether I’m on the right page. My biggest obstacle (other than finding the charger for my iPhone) is the transition. Instead of finishing the prayer and then sitting and reflecting quietly with the book in my hand, it’s very tempting to jump onto Facebook or Twitter as soon as I’ve finished with the final blessing.
The key, I’m finding, is to look for balance. But these digital prayer tools have made the Liturgy of the Hours more accessible and less frustrating for me.
Copyright 2012 Barb Szyszkiewicz