By Father Bill Kneemiller
It is the third Monday of the month, and at the beginning of our parish council meeting I get the request, “Father, can you lead us in a prayer?” So I think, why not use the “Prayer of the Church?” This is what we have been accustomed to doing here at St. Joseph Parish in Hills. We begin with Night Prayer. Several of the parish council members anticipate this and bring their Shorter Christian Prayer, a handy travel version of the complete four-volume set of the Liturgy of the Hours (LOH). This is a good sign!
Parish council president John Oxley recognizes a familiar Scripture from his newly found devotion to praying the Liturgy of the Hours. He looks up and announces, “My favorite Scripture” and recites from memory 1 Thessalonians 5:23: “May the God of peace make you perfect in holiness. May he preserve you whole and entire, spirit, soul, and body, irreproachable at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
I feel like a proud dad with the “kids” as I realize anew how this discipline has helped parishioners enrich their prayer life. Parishioner Stephen Jerkins says that since he’s been praying Morning Prayer, he’s noticed it helps with the day’s activities. “It makes every day a good day!”
I use the Liturgy of the Hours often in the parish, and find that God’s word is a constant source of strength, comfort and insight. I have been using Liturgy of the Hours for years with families when I make a visit. We conclude with Night Prayer, which only takes about five minutes. It is always the best part of the visit, and a reminder that families need to pray together. I also use some of the “hours” or psalm readings when visiting someone in the hospital. The shorter version is a great companion on a walk, as it transforms an afternoon walk into a prayer walk.
In St. Augustine’s “Confessions,” he referred to God as “O Beauty ever ancient, ever new.” These words capture something of how God’s word can work in our lives. In a busy day, when I take a little walk, these words jump off the page: “When cares increase in my heart, your consolation calms my soul” (Ps 94).
When I was in a three-month program in the Holy Land during my third year of seminary, the psalms and Scriptures of Liturgy of the Hours made the world of difference between being a tourist and a pilgrim.
Historically, the custom of praying the psalms at morning and evening is rooted in the praying of these psalms at the temple in Jerusalem. The Book of Acts records the “Apostles going up to the Temple to pray the Psalms as they were accustomed to do.” (Acts 2:46)
The early Church continued praying the psalms as a way to sanctify times of the day. Since it is the universal prayer of the Church, whenever we pray it we are uniting ourselves to the Church at prayer throughout the world. I encourage everyone to pray the psalms and, if possible, morning and evening prayer of the Liturgy of the Hours as you unite your prayers with that of the universal Church at prayer.
(Fr. Kneemiller is pastor of St. Joseph Parish in Hills and St. Mary Parishes in Lone Tree and Nichols.)