Recently I’ve joined the legions of users of the Apple iPhone. I haven’t figured out how to get my MP3s and photos into it, yet, but have downloaded a few “apps.” One app that was highly recommended by Fr. Nick Junker, a member of my priest support group, was called “Divine Office.” I have to admit, it’s rather neat and worth the price.
As a priest, I’m supposed to pray the Liturgy of the Hours (LOH) each day. The LOH is a prayer of the church required to be prayed by clergy and religious but the laity are also encouraged to pray it. There are many forms, especially when prayed in parishes or other gatherings of the laity. I confess I don’t always get all the praying done during the day of the official rite that the church has provided. This daily ritual is also called “the Divine Office” or “Breviary.” At minimum those obligated to pray “the hours” should do Morning and Evening prayer. The Liturgy of the Hours is ideally prayed in a communal setting with others but even when you pray it by yourself, in a sense, you are praying in union with all the church and in the name of the church. The prayers for each of the hours of all the days of the year are found most completely in a set of 4 volumes of prayer books. There are shorter and more compact versions published. But one volume of the full 4 volume set can be bulky to carry with you when you’re away from home.
The app suggested by Fr. Nick proves to be a great aid to getting the hours prayed, I’ve discovered, even after only one week since downloading the software to the iPhone. You connect to the company’s server through the internet using the wireless phone network or wi-fi and download several days’ worth of the prayers. Then, you can read the prayers by yourself using your phone (this also works on iPads). This is really convenient, I suspect, if you are traveling…there’s no heavy bulky book in the luggage, carry-on, briefcase or backpack. You can pray anywhere without having to dig out a book, since, as we all know, we cell phone users feel naked without the thing in our pocket or on our belt! Plus, you can listen to a pod cast of the prayers, including the opening hymn being sung. I’ve discovered I like to read along, or just listen, and pray silently along with the pod cast. There’s a screen where you can see on a picture of the globe where other people are also praying one of the hours with the app while you’re using the app. These features of listening to a pod cast and viewing the map, I guess, are meant to give you a sense that even if you are alone physically, you are still praying with the church. Some people might argue that “listening” to the prayers be read by a recorded voice doesn’t fulfill the obligation, that a person must actually move their mouth (that was the law in the old Cannon Law of 1917) to pray. I have found myself praying the words either silently moving my mouth or in a sort of mental assent as I listen, because the psalms being prayed are so familiar, since I have been doing the hours the “old-fashioned way” for 30+ years, holding a book in my hands and reading out loud or “soto voce” (low or inaudible voice in Latin) the prayer on the page. I don’t have all the psalms, readings and prayers memorized, but with the aid of hearing them, they easily come to mind. I do find a little distracting the instrumental music (mostly piano) playing in the background of the recited pod cast portions, but then again, it does help in some ways to set a reflective spirit for prayer. By reading along with the spoken pod cast, it forces me to slow down and pray the words, not just recite them in a hurry to get the “hour” done. Just don’t expect to go to a monastery and see all the monks in their choir stalls whip out their iPhones instead of the printed prayer books they normally use. Some things in liturgy are just not right, even in the twenty-first century.
If you’re interested is seeing, learning more or downloading the app:
You can use your computer or laptop to go to http://divine-office.com/ and learn more. At http://divineoffice.org/ you can experience hearing the pod cast for the day and read along.
The app is available for iPhone, iPad, Android phones and Nokia Phones. Sorry, no Blackberry version (the app is one of the reasons I gave up my BlackBerry).
To get the app on the iPhone, I searched Liturgy of the Hours using the App Store app on the iPhone.
The app is designed and developed by Surgeworks.
There are other web sites that will have versions of the Liturgy of the Hours in electronic form for download or reading at your computer screen (not the most prayerful setting, but then we are to “pray always and everywhere” according to St. Paul and I certainly believe that work and spirituality are not two separate realms, that we should integrate the two, finding Christ present in all situations.
A free service is found at Universalis. But, it’s a British web-site and copyright issues are involved so the translation is different than the prayer books used in the U.S.
A fee for service site, especially good for downloading and printing prayer booklets for congregational use is ebreviary.com. Our parish subscribes to this site and on feasts and solemnities that occur on weekdays. I use it to print booklets for our little weekday Mass congregation when the “Shorter Christian Prayer” book doesn’t have the “propers” of the day. We pray the LOH before all weekday morning Masses at St. Stephen.
Thanks, Fr. Nick, for a great suggestion!
Fr. Nick Junker is administrator of Sacred Heart Parish in DuQuoin, IL. Check out their web site and his reflections posted on the parish web-site.