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)