The beauty of Liturgy of the Hours
Prayer brings us closer to God. The Church gives us the Liturgy of the Hours as a wonderful way to honor our Lord. During Lent, we prepare ourselves for forty days to celebrate Easter. That’s why this is a perfect time to discover, learn, and practice the Liturgy of the Hours to find full conversion and to reflect about God’s mercy and love.
Jesús Segura, 21, a seminarian who is in his fourth year of formation for the priesthood in the Diocese of Fort Worth, explains the Liturgy of the Hours this way.
“The beauty of the Liturgy of the Hours is that they are offered for the intentions of others, not only for your own personal intentions,” noted the seminarian, who attends St. Joseph Seminary College in Louisiana.
The Liturgy of the Hours, also known as the Divine Office, comprises many canonical hours. They are prayed in the morning, at noon, in the afternoon, and again at night. They are organized into four volumes according to the four seasons of the Liturgical Year: two seasons of Ordinary Time; Advent and Christmas; and Lent and Easter. They are structured as a four-week cycle and each day of the week has different psalms and readings from the Bible, hymns, prayers of intercession, and a collection (office) of readings and reflections written by bishops, Fathers of the Church, and saints.
Prayers are intended to aid in reflection on the corresponding liturgical season, explained Segura, who is originally from Dolores Hidalgo, Guanajuato, in Mexico. Praying in this way "helps me to enter into the presence of the Lord, leaving aside the things that can take away my peace or distract me from His loving presence," added the seminarian. He acknowledged that before entering the seminary he was unaware of the call of the Church to say these prayers. Nevertheless, "little by little the Lord has given me the grace of learning that, through the Liturgy of the Hours, I am uniting my heart to the heart of the Church, and uniting myself to His loving heart, for which we are especially called as we prepare for the priesthood.”
Segura invites all the lay faithful to also pray the Liturgy of the Hours to achieve "a deeper spiritual growth, by joining the Mystical Body of Jesus Christ, together with the faithful from all over the world, with the angels and the saints to adore the Lord; give Him thanks; ask Him for help; and offer ourselves to Him every day,” said the seminarian, who grew up a member of Our Lady of Lourdes Parish in Mineral Wells.
Father Fernando Preciado, pastor of St. Frances Cabrini Parish in Granbury and Santa Rosa de Lima in Glen Rose, points out that for him as a priest, after the Eucharist, “the Liturgy of the Hours is one of the important moments of the day to pray for the sanctification of the People of God.”
The laity are encouraged to join in the daily prayers of the Church and to pray together with the priests using the book Liturgy of the Hours for the People of God, which includes Lauds, Vespers, and Compline (night prayer), added Fr. Preciado.
"Starting our day with prayer, thanking God in the afternoon and at night before going to sleep for what we receive each day is very important," emphasized Fr. Preciado.
“If we all learned how wonderful the prayer of the Liturgy of the Hours is, our lives would be completely different,” he added. “It does not have to be a full hour of prayer. The name is given because they are prayed at specific hours of the day.”
These days, anyone can take advantage of technology by following priests or religious communities that pray the Liturgy of the Hours through digital platforms. "A process of conversion is created, and it leads you to an encounter with God. The methodical prayer of Lauds, Vespers, and Compline becomes an intimate moment with God and for God," he said, highlighting the opportune beginning of Lent to create this wonderful habit of prayer in our lives.
“It is one of the best ways to have a meaningful Lent, as it is about participating in this prayerful encounter with Christ,” he added. Fr. Preciado encourages everyone to at least pray Lauds and Vespers.
“Just as we talk about the Eucharist as a sacred symbol of our faith and help people understand this mystery of faith, it is also important to invite people to learn to pray,” the priest continued.
“Through the Liturgy of the Hours we communicate with God who speaks to us. If we do the daily prayers as a community or as a family, it would be even better, because it leads to the sanctification of all the faithful. There is no better way to sanctify our family, our children, and our community than with these daily prayers that the Church gives us!”