What is the Divine Office? Fulton Sheen a saint?

| Father Kenneth Doyle | December 17, 2013 | 1 Comment

Q. I am an 82-year-old woman who lives alone. I would like very much to have a deeper relationship with God. I pray and meditate on the rosary and, although I have several booklets with devotional prayers in them, those prayers seem to be very short and not enough to satisfy me. I have heard of the Liturgy of the Hours and the Divine Office, but I am not familiar with them. Do they require that certain prayers be recited at particular hours in the day? (I still have to run errands, go grocery shopping, etc., and wonder whether I could keep to a specific regulated schedule.)

A. The Liturgy of the Hours, the Divine Office and the breviary all refer to the same thing: namely, an official set of prayers that is required to be recited by members of the Catholic clergy and monastic communities.

Consisting of psalms, hymns and readings, they are part of the public prayer life of the Church and are offered at various times to sanctify the day. The Divine Office has a long history in the Church. The earliest Christians tended to continue the Jewish practice of reciting prayers at certain hours of the day and night.

With the reform of Pope Paul VI following the Second Vatican Council, the Liturgy of the Hours consists of morning prayer, daytime prayer (divided into midmorning, midday or mid-afternoon), evening prayer and night prayer.

Monastic communities gather in their chapel at certain times throughout the day, while secular clergy tend to pray the office individually, fitting it at their own convenience into their other pastoral responsibilities.

I admire your desire for a deeper prayer life and encourage your efforts. I believe, though, that to take on the entire Divine Office might become too burdensome for you. What many of the laity have found helpful instead, and what I would recommend, is a publication called Magnificat (you can request it via this toll-free telephone number: 1-866-273-5215).

You are mailed a monthly booklet, which, for each day, includes morning prayer, evening prayer and the Mass texts for that day, together with some brief additional devotional readings.

The entire text can be read and prayed in about 20 minutes, and it can be done at any point in the day, depending on your schedule.

Q. About 10 years ago, I read an article in our Catholic newspaper about the possibility of Archbishop Fulton Sheen’s becoming a saint. Since then, though, I have heard nothing further. Could you tell me where that process stands now?

A. In June 2012, Archbishop Fulton Sheen was declared “venerable” by the Vatican. This means that he is considered to have been of “heroic virtue” and is worthy of imitation. The next step on the road to sainthood is beatification, which requires one miracle through that person’s intercession.

The media-savvy Sheen won the hearts of many Americans with his television show, “Life Is Worth Living.” It ran from 1952 to 1957 and, at its peak, had 10 million weekly viewers.

Father Doyle writes for Catholic News Service. A priest of the Diocese of Albany, N.Y., he previously served as director of media relations for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

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Category: Ask Father Mike