By Lou Baldwin
Special to The CS&T
When young men arrive at St. Charles Borromeo Seminary to begin the long process of continued discernment and formation for the priesthood, they are probably aware that all priests pray daily from their breviary. What they may not then know is this daily prayer is really the Liturgy of the Hours, with a history tracing back to the fathers of the Church and the psalms of ancient Judaism.
“I was not at all familiar with the Liturgy of the Hours before I entered the seminary,” said John Masson, now in second year theology. “Now it’s an integral part of my prayer life. It really forms a very structured time of prayer in my day and really helps me to focus on prayer when I get distracted and caught up in all of the hustle and bustle. It draws me back to what is important, to center things on God.”
Immediately after they arrive at St. Charles the men are given an introduction to the Liturgy of the Hours and taught how to celebrate it, according to Father Patrick J. Welsh, dean of men of the theology spanision and the seminary’s liturgist.
Ordinarily, Monday through Saturday, the “hinge hours” of Morning Prayer and Evening Prayer are celebrated in community, although the two spanisions, college and theology, do so separately. The college spanision prays in St. Martin’s Chapel and the theology spanision in the older Immaculate Conception Chapel.
On Sundays and special feasts both houses combine for Morning and Evening Prayer, usually at the larger St. Martin’s Chapel, but not always – this week the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception was celebrated at Immaculate Conception Chapel.
There are times during the year, for example Forty Hours, when all of the hours, Morning Prayer, the Office of Readings, Daytime Prayer, Evening Prayer and Night Prayer, are celebrated. Ordinarily the various prayers, psalms and responses are simply prayed. On special feasts “we tend to chant them,” Father Welsh said.
“The heart of this, the root of the Liturgy of the Hours, is the Church’s way of making concrete Christ’s command that we pray at all times,” he said. “The way the Church has traditionally gone about doing that is the Liturgy of the Hours. We literally, here at the Seminary, shape our day around the hinge hours of Morning Prayer and Evening Prayer. It is a pattern we try to incorporate into the men’s lives so that there are times when they need to stop, relax and pray.”
Christopher Moriconi, second year theology, has found the Liturgy of the Hours very important to him.
“It sanctifies the day beginning with Morning Prayer, then Daytime Prayer and Evening Prayer,” he said. “It allows us to reflect on the word of God and pray, using the words God has given us.”
Whether it is prayed by a priest, a religious or a lay person, together or alone, “praying the Liturgy of the Hours is praying with the whole Church,” he said.
Robert Boileau, also second year theology, said, “It’s amazing we pray not only with our community here, we pray with the communion of saints. Even when we get out of the seminary and have to pray it alone in our rectory, we will never really be praying it alone. The Liturgy of the Hours keeps my day focused on prayer. I really see it as the center of my day along with the holy sacrifice of the Mass.”
Lou Baldwin is a member of St. Leo Parish and a freelance writer.