Holy Obligation

Today I rejoiced. The USCCB approved what I think is the most important liturgical project it has recently engaged. Today the Bishops approved a new translation project for the Liturgy of the Hours. Finally! The Roman Missal was a giant step in the renewal of the whole English speaking Catholic world. This will be no less of a renewal. But it is a renewal with a narrower scope. This, I think, will be a large step toward the renewal of the clergy and religious. You see, we take on the obligation to pray with and for the Church in the Liturgy of the Hours. It is our Holy Obligation, hence the name: Divine Office. It is a sanctification of all time and all space, hence the name: Liturgy of the Hours. The Office, as it is tersely referred to, is not a private devotion. It is a public act of Worship. It is not undertaken for the sake of building the virtue of religion in the one who is praying it. Rather it is prayed for the salvation of the whole world.

However, one who prays the Office faithfully cannot help but be changed by it. Such repetition begins to form one's thinking, one's actions, one's prayer life. Holy habits are just as formative, and addictive, as profane habits. I know it has dramatically effected my own life. My favorite psalms are always whirling through my mind during the day. But more than that, the very schedule of my day is literally ordered around the celebration of the Divine Office. It permeates everything a cleric or religious does.

Something that is so deeply infused into the life of the cleric or religious is going to deeply form him. The Mass is a big part of this, but I think the Divine Office is a much bigger influence on those obliged to keep it. I'm really excited by this move. It is a tangible point of demarcation in the effort to renew the clergy and religious in our country.

Now, if we could only get Rome to re-reform the structure of the Office.