The Daily Office

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In this blog post, The Rev’d Melanie Rowell, SCP, responds to these questions:

What has praying the daily office done for your spiritual life? What is your favorite or preferred way of praying it (e.g., online, straight from the BCP,  at church, apps, etc.)?

My relationship with the Daily Office began in seminary, in particular with Morning Prayer. I confess that it really wasn’t a priority or practice before then. I can honestly say that I cannot remember a priest ever mentioning its importance . . . a sad fact and something that desperately needs to be remedied. At Sewanee School of Theology, Morning Prayer began at 8:05, about 45 minutes before class started. Most of us had class first thing in the morning, so it wasn’t that much harder, after dropping kids at school, to make it to MP. Getting to Evening Prayer was less reliable, as I was so often a geographically single parent on the Mountain and had to pick up children at the same time EP occurred. Still, the rhythm of Morning Prayer was indelibly set into my spiritual psyche.

Once I graduated, however, I had no Morning Prayer to attend. Suddenly, I realized that I had to make it work for myself. I tried different ways and failed. When I had to use the BCP on busy mornings trying to get the family out of the house for school, I found it was just too much! But . . . what I finally realized is that I could do it on my terms and when I had time—as I got ready for my day or getting ready for bed. It’s one of the few times during my day that I’m a captive audience. Rite I is my go-to, and I found that the easiest way was online. Thanks to St. Bede's Breviary, I could pray the Rite I Daily Office in the “High Church Prayer Book” style, with elements for Our Lady. This was gold for an Anglo-Catholic: I could pray MP and EP my way with the convenience that the internet provides at the click of a button. Soon I was not only praying the office, but also the Regina Coeli, the Angelus, and other spiritually rich additions, along with commemorations of saints that St. Bede’s provides when you choose the “Amplified” option. As a Lower School Chaplain and mother of two girls still in school, St. Bede’s is a Godsend. I can pray MP and EP whilst getting ready for my day or right before bedtime.

Praying the office has revolutionized my spiritual life. The repetition of Canticles such as the Magnificat remind me of God’s faithfulness. Reading the various appointed Scriptures gives me an opportunity to read a wide swath of the Bible. This is exceedingly valuable when I have to preach: it reminds me of verses I might have forgotten about and gives me context for Scripture as a whole. Praying the office is not always exciting—I’ll be honest, some days, I don’t want to do it! But it has been my rock, a constant source of encouragement, inspiration, and hope during the times when things haven’t been going so well. I cling to it, and the words of these Canticles, Psalms, prayers, Scriptures, etc., stay with me throughout the day. If you’re not doing it, or you’re doing something that’s not working, try St. Bede’s or one of the other online options or apps! There are many options and settings, so no matter what your preferences, you’re bound to find something that works for you.

The Rev’d Melanie Rowell SCP, is chaplain at Holy Innocents' Lower School in Atlanta, Georgia and serves as Assisting Priest at St. Columba's Episcopal Church in Suwanee, Georgia. She serves as Secretary of the Provincial Council of the Society of Catholic Priests of North America.

The Sacrament of Reconciliation

In this blog post, The Rev’d Sinclair Ender, SCP, responds to these questions:

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How has the Sacrament of Reconciliation changed you, both as a confessor and as a penitent? Why do you think making use of this Sacrament is should be a part of a priest’s Rule of Life? What are the qualities of a good confessor?

For I acknowledge my transgressions: and my sin is ever before me. ~Psalm 51:3, KJV

As I reflect on the season of Easter, and the joy of life in the Resurrection of our Lord Jesus, it is not lost on me that we first made our journey through darkness and death before being able to claim new life in Christ.  It was through first keeping a holy Lent that we are now enjoying a holy Easter.  Reflecting on these two seasons of the Church year, I see the sacrament of the Reconciliation of a Penitent as modelling death to newness of life; it participates in the paschal mystery—the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

 I recall that during Lent, my own self-reflection on Psalm 51 and reading the “Exhortation in our Book of Common Prayer (pages 316-317) led me to think that it would be good for me to schedule an appointment with my priest-confessor.

 I love the sacramental act of penitence, where I go before God with one of His ministers, and lay bare that which is holding me back from right-relationship with God, others, and often enough, myself.  These are the things that I have to let die in myself, so as to find abundant life.  It is when I acknowledge my transgressions that I then receive the forgiveness of God—not as a general truth or vague experience, but personally, immediately, and actually.  After making a good confession, and having absolution pronounced, I’ve always experienced a sense of the newness of life in Christ.  Sacramental confession is great!

 As Anglicans and Episcopalians, we have no specific requirements in our doctrine or disciplines that one must make a personal confession.  Our Anglican saying of “all may, some should, none must” holds true.  All the same, those who do make use of this sacramental rite allow for the forgiveness of Jesus to take hold of them in a living way, which I have yet to experience by any other means. 

 So, if you find that there is something weighing you down or holding you back from fully experiencing the joy of this Easter Season, I invite you to “go and open your grief to a discreet and understanding priest, and confess your sins, that you may receive the benefit of absolution, and spiritual counsel and advice; to the removal of scruple and doubt, the assurance of pardon, and the strengthening of your faith” (BCP, 317).

The Rev’d Sinclair Ender, SCP, is curate of Trinity Episcopal Cathedral in Davenport, Iowa.

Living a Eucharist-centered Life

By The Very Rev’d Craig Loya, SCP

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At the cathedral where I serve as dean, the Holy Eucharist is celebrated several days every week, in addition to Sundays, and on every major Holy Day. The weekday liturgies are not particularly well attended. There are usually fewer than five people, and it’s not unusual for only the priest and the lay server to be present.

When I first arrived, a big part of me resented these liturgies. On more than one occasion, I was ready to discontinue the practice altogether. I am too busy to get everything done already, I thought, so how could I justify spending thirty minutes celebrating the Eucharist with just a few people? What an inefficient use of my limited time!

A woman who was just beginning the process to become a deacon when I arrived reminded me that the only reason she found our congregation is because, in a moment of personal crisis, when her brother was in the midst of a surgery that did not appear to be going well, she found that we had a noon mass, and joined us to pray. That experience, and the welcome she received, helped lead her to where she is today: a deacon serving the poor and forgotten in the name of Jesus every day.

Our most dedicated and reliable congregation attends on Fridays. These four or five people have attended, almost every Friday, for several years now. Before beginning the practice, none of them knew each other. Now, they have come to share their lives in the deepest ways with each other. Two recent widowers have lunch together after every single Friday mass, and they all keep close tabs on the ninety-seven year-old woman who attends, offering spiritual and concrete assistance for her and her family.

These people, along with my commitment to the SCP Rule of Life, are the main reason I never abandoned the practice altogether, and slowly, over the years, these celebrations have become a spiritual anchor for me, and a critical way that I seek to keep the SCP vow to of centering my spiritual life on the Eucharist.

As a disciple, the noon mass interrupts my day with all of its busyness and worries, and calls me back to gratitude, the fundamental spiritual posture for a disciple of Jesus. The Eucharist, the Great Thanksgiving, gradually shapes our souls to engage every moment, every task, every encounter, from a place of deep gratitude for all that God has given. The practice of almost daily Eucharist helps me focus on God’s grace, abundantly given, rather than on my own needs and shortcomings.

As a priest, the mass reminds me who I am and what I am for. When I have to stop my day to say mass, I am reminded that the God's mission doesn't depend on my efforts, and the Church is not, finally, about my successes or failures.  God's mission in the world depends entirely on the power of God's Holy Spirit, and my job as a priest is to offer myself, my labors, and the people in my care over fully to that mission in the world.

As a cathedral in the center of a city, the Eucharist is the heart that beats day in and day out for the life of our city and diocese. On numerous occasions, a random stranger has appeared at one of our noon masses, just like the woman who is now one of our deacons, telling us later that they stumbled upon our little place of prayer and quiet and just the critical moment. Whether all the people who walk hurriedly past our building every day on their way to their busy and important jobs know it or not, our daily masses help ground our neighborhood, our city, and our diocese in the current of God’s mercy and love that flows along gently just beneath the surface of our lives.

Returning to the noon mass, when I feel like it and when I don’t; when I’m too busy, or too bored, or too lazy; when I’m too anxious, or too satisfied with my own efforts; in good times and bad times, reminds me that, in all those moments, come what may, God is faithful to me, to the Church, and to the whole world Jesus died to save. So now, I thank God every day for the great gift of standing in God’s house, and swimming in that river of love.

The Very Rev’d Craig Loya, SCP, is dean and rector of Trinity Episcopal Cathedral in Omaha, Nebraska.

#TractSwarmSeven: Priestly Formation-Insight From the Trenches

At the recent SCP Annual Conference in Atlanta, we engaged in deep theological reflection on various facets of priestly formation. This discussion included the content and structure of seminary education, new models for academic preparation, and the spiritual formation of priests in habits of holiness.

Continuing the momentum of the conference, we are inviting current seminarians and recent graduates to offer their personal insights on the needs, challenges, and opportunities on any aspect of priestly formation. For those who attended the Atlanta conference, we would also greatly value your feedback on your experience of the conference as a seminarian or newly ordained clergy.  More seasoned clergy are also welcome to submit their blog postings reflecting on our conference theme too.

Posts:

 

#TractSwarmSix: Preaching the Context

We are living in unsettled and disturbing times marked by unrest, violence, and calls for justice for the marginalized. As clergy, we have an obligation to be a voice for Christian justice, peace and mercy. In a world where moral conscience is now largely left to individuals, how does our preaching address these issues?

Our SCP members have been preaching about justice within the context of Catholic spiritual and moral teaching. We invite our members to share recent sermons in this #TractSwarm series on Preaching the Context.

Posts:

Mtr. Lizette Larson-Miller – Proper 10C Sempersacramentalis
Fr. Anthony Hutchinson – Proper 7C Ellipticalglory
Fr. Bill Carroll – Proper 10C Emmanuel Shawnee

#TractSwarmFive: Fasting-A Catholic Tradition

For our Fifth #TractSwarm, we are asking for your thoughts on the practices of “fasting and self-denial.” Why is this important to the observance of a holy Lent? What are the purposes of focusing on these practices? How can we practice fasting beyond the obvious ways involving food? What is the relationship between fasting and feasting – particularly surrounding those Sundays “in Lent” but not “of Lent”?

#TractSwarmThree: On Prayerbook Revision

It is a most invaluable part of that blessed “liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free,” that in his worship different forms and usages may without offence be allowed, provided the substance of the Faith be kept entire; and that, in every Church, what cannot be clearly determined to belong to Doctrine must be referred to Discipline; and therefore, by common consent and authority, may be altered, abridged, enlarged, amended, or otherwise disposed of, as may seem most convenient for the edification of the people,” according to the various exigency of times and occasions.” ~ Preface to the BCP, page 9

On the Way of Indirect Achievement

As a former Benedictine monk I am probably a little biased, but I believe that we as Anglo-Catholics have a great deal to learn from the vision of Christian life set out in St Benedict’s Rule. No less august a supporter of this Society’s outlook than the Rt Rev’d Rowan Williams, former Archbishop of Canterbury, has commented on the Benedictine flavor (or perhaps more appropriately “flavour”) of the Anglican way.

Anchor and Visionary: Models for Church Leadership

Recently I was asked to prepare some remarks for a continuing education conference I attend every year called, “Gathering of Leaders.” One of the very great things about this conference is that while the year’s theme is decided by a governing board, the content of each “Gathering” is user driven. This year, I was asked to prepare remarks for a “Returnee’s Panel,” wherein I and two others who had attended several “Gatherings” would offer our thoughts to first-timers on why we keep coming back. While my talk was given without a manuscript, this is more or less a written adaptation of what I’d said.

Eating Fruit Where We Are: Or, How Saying the Mass Can Save the World

The hope of the SCP, as I understand it, is to cultivate priestly vocations deeply rooted in the Catholic habitus of Christ’s Church in the hopes of better sustaining the clergy of the Church and renewing the apostolic zeal to restore all things to God in our Lord Jesus Christ. For such a noble task to be successful, it’s important to know where we are. Proper cultivation requires careful attention to place. So, to get a handle on where we are, let’s consider two figures: the fire and the tree.

Liturgy Moments: A Creative Approach to Liturgical Catechesis

One of the greatest challenges that many of us clergy face in today’s twenty-first century society is time.  We no longer live in a society in which Sunday is honored as a day of rest, at least not here in the Mid-Atlantic area.  It is no longer unusual, in fact rather typical, now for people to work on Sundays.  Schoolchildren will often have athletic events, preparation classes for standardized tests and community service activities to do on Sundays.  Furthermore, with the rest of the week so packed with activities, Sundays become the overflow day.  These hectic schedules and over-programmed lives make our task as clergy much more difficult.  Oftentimes, we rejoice simply to see people show up on Sundays for our primary worship services.  The extra commitment required for formational activities seems nearly impossible.

 

Reclaiming Evangelism in the Episcopal Church

When I was a teenager in the Churches of Christ, I remember being trained on door-knocking. Most people are familiar with this method of evangelism, though most often it is simply described dismissively as a  joke, rarely seen as a faithful way of bringing the gospel to people. However, for the tradition in which I was raised was raised, as well as for others, it is an essential way of casting your evangelistic seed wide, like the parable of the sower.