The Liturgy of the Hours

The Liturgy of the Hours orders our day “from rising of the sun to its setting.” We pray psalms and canticles for each day during the four-week psalter cycle. The routine and the ritual can mark time for us and influence the time.

The middle of the summer is upon us, and with that, we hope, the quietness and the less hectic days free from an academic calendar. These longer, lazier days of August may lend themselves to a “Liturgy of the Month” breviary complementing well the Liturgy of the Hours. By that, I mean using the solemnities, feasts and celebrations of August to pray through life in general and maybe life in particular. The Church is just over halfway through the ordinary Sundays, so make August “extraordinary” and pray not only the liturgy of hours but also the liturgy of the month, day by day.

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We have all heard the phrase “a month of Sundays.” A more pleasing description is “30 Sundays in the month.” Let the euphemism declare that every day is Sunday, a day to keep holy while enjoying your leisurely summer. Relax and allow the month of August to be 30 leisurely holy days by reflecting on the diversity of feasts.

August has holy days and regular days. As one glances at the 12-page listing of each month in the front of the Liturgy of the Hours (at least my edition), August seems to have more listings than any other month. There are only a handful of days still waiting to have something noted for them. Maybe on a day in the near future or a day “a month of Sundays” from now, the feastless days will be filled.

Think of all the founders and foundresses like St. Alphonsus, St. Jane Frances de Chantal, St. John Eudes, St. Dominic and St. Clare. Three men and two women from the 12th to 18 every day is Sunday, a day to keep holy while enjoying your leisurely summer. th centuries who, combined, initiated two religious communities for men and three for women, all of which are viable communities today.

I am biased toward St. John Eudes who was associated with Sister Mary Euphrasia, both instrumental in the founding of the Religious of the Good Shepherd (RGS). My great aunt (Sister Mary of the Divine Heart) was a Sister of the Good Shepherd. Though cloistered until the mid-1960s, these sisters certainly were not estranged from the world as they cared for young women who were in need of stability, care and love. These sisters brought the difficult world into their cloistered walls to provide an opportunity for young women who would not otherwise have had any opportunity to be safe within these walls of faith.

Clare, who with her companion Francis, dedicated herself to “preaching the Gospel and if necessary using words” lived a life of poverty. Dominic and Alphonsus founded communities who would use “words,” given their charism for preaching. Reflecting on these five great founders and saints, seek their intercession as to what new ministry might be initiated this year through you. Look around to see what is missing; we typically minister to those we see. Pray to St. John Eudes and ask for the eyes of a Good Shepherd to seek and to find that one ministry that is missing in your parish. Where is the vacuum in your parish or the apostolate still waiting for the Gospel to be heard through word or action?

The month of August is full of family saints, such as St. Monica and her son St. Augustine. St. Monica certainly is an icon of all mothers and deserves the title “patroness of mothers.” Renata Sedmakova/

Most of the readers of this magazine are not husbands and fathers, but all of us are sons. The month of August is full of family saints. There are husbands and wives, moms and dads, and even a mother and son team listed.

St. Monica certainly is an icon of all mothers and deserves the title “patroness of mothers.” She must have had the patience of a saint, a quality most mothers need. Her son, Augustine, taught her that virtue. Jane Francis, no stranger to heartache as a mother of six with three dying in infancy, became a young widow at the age of 28. After bringing up her children, Jane, under the guidance of Francis de Sales, founded the Visitation Sisters for those women whose health, age or other reason barred them from other communities.

The two kingly saints, Louis and Stephen, were fathers living an exemplary life for their children to emulate, so much so that Stephen’s son Emeric was canonized along with his father in 1083. Louis, the patriarch of a good Catholic family, had six daughters and five sons. Louis did not found a religious community but did found the Sorbonne, the school of theology in the University of Paris. Some of its graduates are saints — St. Albert the Great and St. Thomas Aquinas to name two.

Each weekend, we look out among our parishioners and see the many definitions of family. The “intact” family, the broken family, the widow like Jane Frances, maybe a few holy families like these saints, the single parent, the children without one of their parents. (Louis’s dad died when he was 12; Jane’s mom died when she was a barely a toddler.) Every one has a story, stories that have become the stories we read in Butler’s Lives of the Saints, and stories that could easily be our own.

The kingly saints have already been mentioned as fathers; we cannot forget their holiness as leaders. Consider praying to the kingly and queenly saints of the Church’s hagiography. Intercessions from the Louises and Stephens and their colleagues such as Elizabeth of Portugal are definitely needed at this time.

August not only honors men and women who are saints, but also events in salvation history that define and describe our faith, no matter how mysterious the event is. There are 20 mysteries of the rosary; three of these 20 have a specific day in August. Mysteries should be seen as those events whose meaning is never exhausted; where meaning is still being harvested from the event. Two dates, August 15 and 22, are the bookends for the Octave between Mary’s Assumption and her Coronation. With her coronation, it is fair to say that she is another royal personage in the month of saintly royals. Mary’s role in salvation history is unequal to any other person (saint or not) in salvation history. As queen of all the other saints in the month and of the entire communion of saints, her “fiat” has become the mantra for all saints who allowed their lives to be as God so willed them to be.

August 6 celebrates the Transfiguration, whereby a few apostles were privileged to glance at the glorified Christ. It was a day that spoke to them for decades to come and continues to be inspiring centuries after the Resurrection. Interestingly, August 6 is also the date that remembers the first atomic bomb. The event is still being pondered as to its significance in history. It and its companion bomb of August 9 began to put a closure to World War II. Ironically, August 9 is feast day of St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross, a Jewish woman who converted to Catholicism, became a Carmelite nun and was gassed at Auschwitz three years prior to the day of the bombing of Nagaski, just shy of one year of the starvation and execution of Maximilian Kolbe in the same camp (August 14, date of death and feast day). This woman who was born a Jew and this man who was born a Catholic both died for pointing out the Christ to others, as did John the Baptist whom we honor on August 29, a Jewish man who was executed for the pointing out the same person.

The lives of the saints in this month and every month of every millennium reflect and/or shine on our lives. Their lives are as diverse as the 21 centuries in which they lived — from the Apostle Bartholomew to the saints in the making living among us, as diverse as the continents where they were born, as the poverty or riches in which they lived their lives, as the natural or tragic endings of their lives. This diversity pales before their unified belief in Jesus Christ.

FATHER CARRION is pastor of the Catholic Community of South Baltimore and the Director of the Baltimore Archdiocesan Office of Cemetery Management.