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.