As friars, prayer is essential to who we are. You may not think about it much, given the amount of ministry and work we do, but the Franciscan charism is rooted in an experience of God through prayer. We could not do what we do, nor do I think we could find the motivation to even try, if we didn’t start with a relationship with God.
So how to do we pray? The short answer is “any way we feel called.” There is no true “Franciscan” way of praying that all of us do every day. Some pray in silent meditation, others sing loudly as prayer; some focus on relieving their mind of all of life’s trouble through centering prayer, others fill their mind with the words of Holy Scripture. There are devotions such as the Rosary and the Stations of the Cross, and ancient prayers like Lectio Divina. Each friar has his own set of prayers that fill him and guide him back to God.
With that said, there is one prayer that unites us all as it is the universal prayer of the Church: The Liturgy of the Hours. Also known as the Divine Office or Breviary, the Liturgy of the Hours is a prayer that pre-dates even the New Testament in its earliest forms. For those who know much about the Mass in the Catholic Church, it is similar in many ways to Liturgy of the Word, as Scripture and prayer are its focus: there is a hymn, multiple psalms and canticles, a reading from Scripture, a Gospel acclamation, and intercessions. The reason that it is called the Liturgy of the Hours is that it designates certain times of day to pray and specific prayers for each hour. In the Catholic tradition there are seven possible times to pray: Morning, Midday (consisting of Mid-Morning, Midday, and Mid-Afternoon), Evening, Night, and the “Office of Readings,” which can be prayed at any time. (This is a lot like the later-developing Muslim prayer, Salat, in which Muslims will stop to pray five times a day.) As religious, we are required to pray the major hours, Morning and Evening prayer, but are encouraged to say one or two of the minor hours as well.
I did my best to share what I like best about praying the Office in this week’s “Ask Br. Casey” segment, but there is definitely a lot I left out! If any of these reasons interest you, you can try praying it yourself using a breviary, downloading any number of cellphone apps (iBreviary, Divine Office, Universalis) or finding the prayers online (Divine Office or Universalis, among others).
Click here for the video.