AnneMarie Miller discusses her family’s recent decision to begin praying Liturgy of the Hours together.
“Boys, get the breviaries!” Our young children zoom towards the living room bookcase. A mild commotion ensues as they reach for prayer books and clamber onto the couch. A moment later, my husband begins: “God, come to my assistance.”
Six months ago, I would not have imagined this scene taking place in our home each evening. Yet, here we are: day after day, worn red breviaries in hand as we join the whole Church in praying the Liturgy of the Hours.
The Liturgy of the Hours is, as its name implies, a liturgical practice. Since the early days of the Church, people have consecrated the entire day to God through this regular recitation of the psalms and other portions of Scripture. In the Liturgy of the Hours, also called the Divine Office, the entire Church joins in prayer, continually offering praise to God. “It is the very prayer which Christ Himself, together with His body, addresses to the Father.” (Sacrosanctum Concilium #84)
I first encountered the Liturgy of the Hours as a young teenager, and throughout high school and college, regularly participated in this prayer. In fact, one of the ways that my husband and I first connected was through praying Liturgy of the Hours together daily, sometimes multiple times a day. However, ever since having kids, the Liturgy of the Hours only comes into our lives sporadically. I’ve gone through phases of waking up early for Morning Prayer before the kids rise, as well as periods where I attempt to pray at least part of Morning Prayer as the kids climb on me or run around in circles. I eventually resolved that “this just isn’t a good time” for the Liturgy of the Hours.
This is what I thought, at least, until a few different things happened at once: I began reading about the Second Vatican Council, my husband sent me an entire document about the Liturgy of the Hours, and I watched episode three of Meet the Bulmans, where Rachel and Jason Bulman talk about praying the Liturgy of the Hours as a family.
I couldn’t avoid the topic any longer, so I brought it up to my husband. I tentatively suggested that perhaps we could try to pray Evening Prayer on Sunday (Vespers) each week as a family. Our three kids are all still under the age of six, so I didn’t want to ask too much of them (or myself). One day a week might be feasible, right?
In his beautiful, matter-of-fact way, my husband offered his suggestion: Instead of doing it once a week, why not just pray Night Prayer every day?
Initially, I shot down this idea. Praying the Rosary each day seemed like a big enough challenge at times; how could we add in another prayer? However, I agreed to try it and see how things went.
Shortly after this conversation, when we gathered with our children in the living room for the Rosary and nighttime prayers, we introduced the Liturgy of the Hours to them (making sure to note that all of their favorite priests and our archbishop pray Night Prayer every single day). Cautiously, we began … and they loved it.
I was shocked by just how well our children have responded to praying the Liturgy of the Hours. Although they’ll still have high-energy evenings where we need to keep pulling them back to the couch, they often become quite engaged in the prayer. Now that we’ve been doing this practice for a few months, our 1 ½-year-old has even figured out the routine. After we pray the Rosary, she’ll happily grab a copy of Shorter Christian Prayer (a smaller and more stripped-down version of the one-volume breviary) and page through it on the couch as we pray, grinning from ear to ear. Our 5-year-old decides on our hymn, and our 3-year-old proudly recites the Responsory each night, his small voice carefully annunciating the words: “Into your hands, Lord, I commend my Spirit.”
The Liturgy of the Hours is a powerful way that we have grown in our liturgical living at home. It creates continuity between what we do at Mass and our activities at home, and it joins our prayers to those of our priests, religious sisters, and fellow lay men and women across the world.
While I would love to eventually incorporate Morning or Evening Prayer into daily life, bringing Night Prayer into our family’s routine has been a tremendous gift. If you are looking for ways to grow in liturgical living and prayer as a family, I recommend trying out Night Prayer from the Liturgy of the Hours. It’s short, consistent (the psalms and readings for each day are the same from week to week), and it’s a powerful way to sanctify our lives and homes.
Next month, I’ll discuss what we can do when topics at the liturgy are challenging for young ears. In the meantime, let’s ask ourselves: What is one small practice we can incorporate into our home to make our family life more liturgically-oriented?
Copyright 2022 AnneMarie Miller
About the Author
A bibliophile, wife, mother of young children, and lover of the Liturgy, AnneMarie Miller enjoys exploring the manifold—and quirky—ways in which God speaks. She can often be found reading books to her kids, burrowing her toes in the red Oklahoma dirt, or sipping black coffee. Her reflections on Catholicism, literature, and hope can be found on her blog, Sacrifice of Love.