By Barb Arland-Fye
Praying Liturgy of the Hours with my classmates in the Master of Pastoral Theology Program is an uplifting experience, leaving me with the desire to practice that prayer form daily, in community.
While I haven’t mastered the rubrics of morning and evening prayer, which our class prays together monthly, someone invariably allows me to follow along in his or her breviary (a book of prayers, hymns, psalms and readings). Among these fellow students are deacons and deacon candidates and their wives who have been praying Liturgy of the Hours longer and more consistently than I have.
Prayer is an essential part of our program of study, which is a partnership between St. Ambrose University and the Diocese of Davenport to provide academic formation for the diocese’s future deacons. While I am not going to become a deacon, I can study and pray with them and I feel blessed to be a companion on this faith journey.
Each month I have the opportunity to observe deacon candidates leading morning or evening prayer. They are critiqued afterward, usually by Deacon Frank Agnoli, the diocese’s director of liturgy and deacon formation, and by each other.
It’s been a joy these past nine months to watch the deacon candidates grow in their confidence as prayer leaders. I am amazed at how they have mastered the breviary, guiding the rest of us in prayer that focuses on our relationship with God and one another.
In the chapel at Assumption High School in Davenport where we pray, we alternate from side to side reciting verses of canticles and psalms. A canticle we prayed during morning prayer the second Sunday of Easter was especially moving to me.
We asked ourselves, all creatures of the earth and the earth itself to bless the Lord. The weekend’s marvelous weather enriched the prayer for me; I felt thankful that the harsh winter had finally given way to the promise of spring.
I also appreciated reciting the Canticle of Mary in the evening because of the heartfelt gratitude Mary expresses toward God, her savior, for the blessings bestowed upon her:
“…my spirit finds joy in God my savior, for he has looked upon his servant in her lowliness; all ages shall call me blessed.” (Luke 1:47-48) She is a model of humility that I can only hope to emulate.
I’ve missed morning prayers a few times, choosing instead to await my classmates’ arrival at St. Ambrose University for the day’s studies. But those missed opportunities of communal prayer left me feeling unfulfilled. There’s a sense of bonding that occurs when you join others in prayer, at least that’s been my experience.
I am not fond of driving a Volkswagen Beetle with manual transmission up and over the hill leading to Assumption’s driveway – especially in the winter — but that’s what I have to do if I want to join my classmates for prayer. As it turns out, prayer may be all I need to get over the hump.