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Fifty Years of the Daily Office!

March 19, 2009

I believe I was sixteen when I first began to say the daily office. The only one I knew was Matins & Evensong from the 1929 Scottish Prayer Book. I had already decided I wanted to be a priest, and of the most Anglo-Catholic sort, so I never looked back, and would no more miss Matins & Evensong than cleaning my teeth. A year later, when I went  up to Edinburgh University, my little Prayer Book was so tattered that a fellow undergraduate (and she a non-practising Presbyterian) went to the Episcopal bookshop and bought me a new one. Pityingly, no doubt, she could see that nothing else would have given me greater pleasure.

Now at St Clement’s, I am just as devoted to the daily office as ever. But my pattern is very different. When I came, the office was in theory said at 6.30 a.m. publicly before the 7 a.m. Mass. But no one ever came. So I continued to do what I had done since I went to Milan to become Anglican Archdeacon of Italy and Malta. I said the modern Roman Catholic office in Italian. And now I say it every day; not only Morning Prayer in Italian, but also the Office of Readings and Prayer during the Day. But at 5.30 every day, I join with my colleagues and any others who choose to come for 1928 Prayer Book Evensong in church, followed by intercessory prayers at the Shrine of Our Lady of Clemency. Finally, sometime later in the evening I say Compline according to the 1929 Scottish Prayer Book, which I know off by heart, and often say walking home after an evening visit.

This is pretty eccentric, but then so has my ministry been. But what I want to testify to is that the firm (and joyful) commitment to saying some form or other of the daily office has been the greatest gift of Catholicism to my prayer life. All the rest, meditation, spiritual reading, Rosary, etc, are built on this foundation.

I know that most people cannot give as much time to prayer as I can, but I am sure that everyone would profit by making at least one of the daily offices the bedrock of all their other prayers. The great  joy is: you don’t choose what you are going to say. And suddenly, the Psalms or the Magnificat or the Te Deum say exactly what you wanted to say but couldn’t find the right words for.

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3 Comments leave one →
  1. March 19, 2009 4:19 pm

    Father, how do you contend with the two different Kalendars when moving from the Liturgy of the Hours to Evensong according to the S. Clement’s “use?”

    • saintclementsblog permalink*
      March 19, 2009 7:09 pm

      Hi, Brian. I just use the modern calendar for the Hours and the old for Mass and Evensong. It can sometimes result in interesting juxtapositions. It also means I get some saints twice a year.

  2. March 19, 2009 5:00 pm

    Dear Father
    Your new blog is a welcome addition to my daily blogread. I follow the happenings at S. Clement’s with interest, and your personal take on things is much enjoyed. Keep up the good work. I’m told it’s addictive!
    Fr Raymond

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