“We can pray in communion with the Church on earth and in heaven. Let us not underestimate the power of so many voices united in prayer!”
Despite growing up Catholic, I had never even heard of "praying the office" prior to working with priests. Even now, 15 years later, I get a little turned around when trying to navigate a breviary. Beyond the mechanics, it’s never really struck me as a meaningful way to pray. A few weeks ago I joined some priests for evening prayer and afterwards I turned to a priest friend of mine and commented on my lack of appreciation for the Liturgy of the Hours. "Does it do anything for you?" I asked him nonchalantly. My priest friend looked back at me with a face that suggested he wanted to be snarky, but instead he responded patiently, "It does actually," he said, "But this prayer isn’t just for me. We pray the office for the whole world. It’s like prayer at Mass." My face clearly demonstrated confusion. He continued, "Our prayers at Mass are for the world. You come to be fed but it’s also about what you bring to the table…what you offer to God for the sake of everyone else."
His words came back to me vividly as family poured in to my home, with side dishes and desserts, this Thanksgiving. My Italian mother would have off’ed me if I dared come to someone’s house without bringing something for the meal, particularly a holiday meal. How often do I come to my prayer with nothing to offer? While I know how often I hope to be fed at Mass, how often am I conscious of my priestly responsibility to pray for the sake of everyone else? How might my relationship with liturgy change if I remembered the whole of my role? As I paged through the breviary the next night, the psalms sounded different, like they might have something to offer, because I was offering them for someone else.