Wednesday, March 22, 2017

The "Ideal" Monastic Horarium

The eight canonical hours, or services of prayer throughout the day, are underlined.
This schedule varied by the time of year and by the exigencies of each community, and depended on the nature of the rule, esp. whether Benedictine or Augustinian in origin.
5 a.m. NOCTURNS or VIGILS* (5 a.m., or early enough to be done by 6)

6 a.m. LAUDS
followed by private masses or time for meditation

7 a.m. PRIME. followed by the Chapter, then the Chapter mass, attended in particular by the those attached to the community who were not bound to the choir office, e.g. "conversi" (lay brothers not bound to the full office in choir), "servants", and locals before their work day began. Members of the community who were not communicating at the Conventual mass then breakfasted. This was a light meal, sometimes eaten standing


9 a.m. TERCE immediately followed by the
Conventual Mass (in more active communities, the conventual mass might only occur on major feasts without labor).

12 Noon SEXT followed by PRANDIUM (i.e., Dinner, or Lunch, the main meal of the day).

SOMNIUM or nap, 30 min, or an hour, depending on community. Spiritual reading was allowed for those who were not sleepy.
An hour of exercise was here sometimes inserted, especially for those who engaged in sedentary labor. Some of this exercise was required to be done outside.


3 p.m. NONE


6 p.m. VESPERS followed by
CENA or Supper, a light meal

After Supper is sometimes inserted a Spiritual conference, an hour for recreation, or time for reading.



Nocturns or Vigils is now usually called "Matins" of "Mattins", which originally referred to a combined service of Nocturns, Lauds, and sometimes also Prime. This was also celebrated at midnight in some places, and in others on certain great days like Christmas. Where Nocturns was celebrated at Midnight, Lauds was sometimes celebrated at 3 a.m.
The day was generally spent in silence, except for times of recreation or exercise, and for necessary communication during work hours. Monastics lived and worked in a Cloister, an enclosed space from which members of the opposite sex, and seculars generally, were excluded.

Certain principles underlay the structure of the hours: (1) Psalms, prayers, and readings appropriate to the time of day and the liturgical calendar, (2) the praying of the whole psalter throughout the week (usually modified to omit those portions of the weekly psalter occurring on major feasts, which had their proper psalmody), and (3) the reading of most of Scripture throughout the year.  Of these principles, it is the third which was most quickly obscured by changes in the office.

Parishes prior to the prior to Reformation (and continuing in some countries until the disturbances of the French Revolution, with the notable exception of the Jesuits), celebrated Mattins (including Lauds and Prime), Mass, and Vespers publicly, the other canonical hours being usually prayed by the clergy in private.

In the Anglican Church, with the first book of Common Prayer, Nocturns, Lauds, and Prime were combined and abbreviated to form Morning Prayer (Mattin), and Vespers and Compline to form Evening Prayer (Evensong). The obligation for curates and canons to celebrate these publicly in their own churches has been retained (up through and including the 1979 BCP in the U.S., for instance) although it is now quite widely ignored.

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Stopping Clergy Burnout

On the Sojourners website, Layton Williams has an interesting post on clergy burnout: .

She makes some very good points about the tendency toward workaholism, and the failure of clergy to look after their spiritual life and physical health.  I myself have observed these problems in clergy practically my whole life, and have suffered from them myself.  Part of the problem is that we have adopted the ways of the world, and the expectations of worldly success.  A priest is expected to marry, have 2.4 children, live in a suburban house, advance up the career ladder from small parish to medium-sized parish to large parish, and end up as a cardinal rector, senior bureaucrat, or (real success) bishop.  Then one retires and plays golf or travels around.

Is it surprising that having adopted this pattern of worldly behavior, clergy suffer worldly ills?  Perhaps we need to rethink this.

Why are these choir stalls empty?

In many of our older churches and cathedrals we have choir stalls.  Historically that was for the clergy of the place to get their posteriors out of bed and go pray matins, and then pray in common the other offices of the church's liturgical day (for which those laity who could were encouraged to joi
n them).  They are designed, in short, for the common celebration of the mass and the offices of the day.  Nowadays those choir stalls are empty most of the week, except perhaps for an hour or two on Sunday morning.  Of all the signs that something is wrong, that we are not doing common prayer and the rest of a balanced priestly life as we ought, this strikes me as the strongest sign.

I think we need to rethink the idea that all clergy must be married, live suburban lives, move from place to place up the ladder, and then retire.  We need to rethink our rejection of the common life, and the assumption that the daily office is a private devotion that, in a few spare moments, we squeeze in, and then often say the bare required minimum, or less.  We need to rethink the idea that public worship is a show we put on to draw people in the door for one hour out tf the week.  We need to reoccupy the choir stalls.

The solution, I think, is to have a Rule for a balanced spiritual life for priests. One such rule for celibate clergy that I have been researching lately is that of the Canons Regular.  It is arguably the oldest form of religious life.  Prior to the destruction of the religious houses in the 16th century, monasteries of Canons Regular were the most common form of religious life in the Church of England (and in the rest of the West).  The canons regular committed themselves to stability (staying in one place), the common life, the common celebration of the Daily Office and the mass in choir, and to communal property.  On this basis they devoted themselves to pastoral work of various kinds.  What better model for priestly balance than this?

This is one model.  There are others.  However, whatever the model, I think only when we have gotten a handle on questions of stability, common life, and rule of life we we begin to tackle clergy burnout, and the destructive behavior—alcoholism, sexual misbehavior, etc.—that proceeds therefrom.  Only then, when we have a rule that puts God first, will we be able to address our own spiritual emptiness, and that of our people.

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Three Disciplines for Lent from Bp. Grafton

In his book, A Catholic Atlas or Digest of Catholic Theology, Bp. Charles Grafton of Fond Du Lac, the leader of the Catholic Movement in the Episcopal Church in his day, commends to us in Lent the mediation on our Lord's victory over his temptations, meditating that

"I can do all things in Christ who strengthens me."

and recommends the three disciplines of
(1) Fasting,
(2) withdrawal from the world,
(3) prayer.

It is the second which struck me as being of particular importance in our time.

(p. 229)

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Shrove Tuesday Penitence

Today is Shrove Tuesday.  Shrove is from the verb "shrive" (shrive, shrove, shriven) to forgive or grant absolution (also to hear confession, or to prescribe penance).  So, one way of glossing this might be to say "Forgiveness Tuesday".  This day was traditionally set aside for going to confession before undertaking penance for one's sins during Lent.

There is a custom in the Byzantine Church on the Vespers the Sunday night before Clean Monday (which commences their Lent) of going around the Church and prostrating before everyone individually and asking forgiveness for one’s sins of the last year.  I think this is a most godly custom.

While I cannot physically prostrate myself before each of my friends and contacts on line, nonetheless I can do so in spirit.  This I do, and ask your forgiveness for any way in which I have sinned or offended you in the past year, and (especially since this is an on line post) I should like particularly to do so if I have sinned in anything I have posted on line.

I wish you all an Holy Lent,
Michael LaRue+

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

On Decimalization Day: A Primer on Inflation, our Economy, and its Relation to Economic Justice

A 13th-Century English Penny (likely of Edward I) 
Today is Decimalization Day < >, the day the British Government in 1971 switched from 240 pence to the pound to 100. It also seems like a good day to review our monetary history here in the US.

In England throughout a good part of the Middle Ages the sterling silver penny of 22 and 1/2 (Troy) grains retained its purity and value. The current value of a Tower pennyweight of 22 1/2 grains is about 75¢ due to the increase in the silver supply and the decline in the value of silver. If tower pennies were in production today they would be worth about a dollar. However this old English penny was a day's wages for someone at the bottom of the wage scale, and that was enough to subsist. (Vide: ) Our current high prices thus include the enormous costs, in historical terms, that we now incur producing everyday necessities.

In the later Midde Ages, King and Parliament realized they could make money for themselves and reward their friends by devaluing the coinage, mixing in more base metal like copper. Thus, despite the switch in 1527 to the Troy measurement of 24 grains to the pennyweight, English coinage declined in value.

However, due to the discovery of the New World there was also an influx of silver, and the Spanish Dollar (pieces of eight) of 424 grains "standard" (very close in quality to sterling) came into circulation. This became the common currency in the New World, including in the British colonies.

The new United States decided to mint its own dollars after a disastrous attempt at producing paper currency. The new American dollar was minted at 416 grains to reflect the average weight of the Spanish dollars in circulation. The first American dollar was minted in 1794 and $1 had then the purchasing power of 213 2017 dollars. The purpose of our original monetary policy, like that of early Mediaeval kings, was currency stability, namely currency that had a stable value in relation to the goods and services available. This was seen both as a matter of sound economic policy, and also of justice to the holders of currency.

As in the late Middle Ages, politicians discovered, however, that they could devalue the currency as a means to their own power. Since we no longer mint coins from a limited supply of precious metals, this is easy to do, by creating more money (called "fiat" money, from the Latin "let there be"). Adding more to the supply already in circulation is called inflation, that is, inflation is, technically, the increase, or inflating of the money supply, although it is usually measured by the consequent increase of prices. As new currency is issued to add to the supply it has the most purchasing power for those who first have access to it, in the US namely those banks who "borrow" it from the Federal Reserve, and those large corporations who have access to cheap credit. Eventually the increased money supply results in higher prices, but not before those who have first access to it can use it to their own advantage. In the meantime, those who save the currency in circulation see a diminution in their savings. Thus inflation is actually a tax on those who hold currency, at the rate of 1-2% per annum nowadays.

This is all justified in the name of "growth". One must bear in mind how this growth is supposed to work. In the US, as in most countries, most of the economy is in the hands of large for-profit corporations. The stated legal purpose of these corporations is not to to provide living wages for their employees, nor to build a healthy society, nor to manage and conserve the Earth for future generations. Their stated legal purpose is to make money for their stockholders. Their managers and officers are legally charged only with making a profit. That there are laws in place to try to do these other things is not relevant to them, except insofar as they may be penalized for not following these laws. These laws are obstacles to making a profit, and therefore it is the duty of these managers to use their great wealth and power to influence politicians to minimalize these legal obstacles. This politicians of both major parties largely do, getting the votes they need to maintain themselves in office by deceiving the electorate that they are actually interested in the public good, and playing off various factions in the electorate one agains the other.

Thus, as one looks at our economy more closely, it begins to look suspiciously like a sophisticated, subtle, long-term Ponzu scheme, designed not to help those at the bottom, but gradually to impoverish them and take away their economic freedom, not to preserve our natural resources for future generations, but to despoil them, all to enrich the powerful, especially corporate managers, large stockholders, and their friends and allies, including politicians of all major parties.

The solution for this would be to change the legal nature of for-profit corporations, making them responsible for the public welfare and to their employees and to the people, including using economic means, such as fully charging them for the cost, including future cost, of things such as environmental degradation or the loss of limited natural resources. In terms of monetary policy, it would be to insist using the strongest means possible to have currency that maintains its purchasing power relative to the goods and services available in the economy, in short, not no inflation, but a %0 rate of inflation as it is is currently measured. On the basis of natural law (the basis of practically all Christian social teaching), these are two measures I would judge essential for economic justice in our society.

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Don't beat a dead horse.

"If you realize that you have been unable to correct mistaken ideas in a conversation, you must pass on to another subject." — St. Francis de Sales

Once I realize a person is not amenable to rational discussion, I shut up, and change the subject if possible.

Thursday, January 26, 2017

How to Lose a Fight

One of the more interesting episodes in military history is the British defeat at the Battle of Castlebar in 1798. Maj. Gen. Hutchinson, with 6000 troops was defeated by the French general, Humbert, with 1000 French and 1000 Irish rebels. The defeat was the result of Hutchinson's rushing into battle, against the advice of Lord Cornwallis (the Viceroy, and the former commander of the British forces at Yorktown), impelled by the urgency of the situation, without taking time to rest, consider the state of his forces and the disposition of the enemy, and make proper plans. It is one of the most shameful defeats in British history, and a lesson in the dangers of letting passion overrule reason.…/races-castlebar.php