Posted by: fvbcdm | November 24, 2015

Feast of Saint Andrew Dung Lac and Companions (24 November 2015)

I am planning to write a letter to the Reader’s Digest.  A subscription to it is given to me every year by a dear friend of mine; he and his wife have been giving it to me for twenty- four years!

One of the regular features is a sort of vocabulary game called “Word Power.” It tests your knowledge of the meanings of words, and can be very useful in broadening one’s vocabulary. It gives a word, and then four possible meanings of that word. The reader is supposed to choose the right meaning. A few pages after that, it gives the correct answer.

In this December’s issue which just came, one of the words in the “Word Power” game is “vespers.” Now, those of us in religious life and many others as well know that vespers is the evening prayer of the Liturgy of the Hours, a part of the prayer life of the Catholic Church and a number of other Christian bodies. We Catholics who are deacons, priests, and bishops as well as religious like monks and nuns and active brothers and sisters, pray the Liturgy of the Hours every day for the entire Church and human family. Nowadays, people often use the term “evening prayer” rather than the more traditional “vespers,” but the two mean the same thing.

When I checked to see the answer given by the Reader’s Digest to the question of what “vespers” means, I found this: “Worship service held in late day or evening. The monks held vespers at sunset.” That irritated me. It irritated me because the magazine gives the impression that vespers, or evening prayer, is something from the past: it doesn’t say the monks HOLD vespers, but HELD vespers. And besides that, it speaks of MONKS. What about all the bishops, priests, deacons and religious who are not monks? And then, what about the many lay people who, more and more, are making the Liturgy of the Hours their principal system of prayer in their daily lives. Thus vespers or evening prayer IS (not “was”) recited or sung daily by thousands of people throughout the world — and many of them are not monks.  (A monk, by the way, is a male religious who is a member of a monastery. I am a Dominican friar and priest; I am not a monk. And yet the Liturgy of the Hours, in addition to daily Mass, is my main means of prayer, and has been for all of us Dominicans since our Order was founded by Saint Dominic in the early 1200s.)

So, let me correct the Reader’s Digest by changing their explanation of the word “vespers” a little: many thousands of Christians — clergy, religious, and laity — hold vespers publicly or recite it privately each day at about sunset. It forms one of the two main parts of the Liturgy of the Hours, the other one being its counterpart in the morning, called “lauds” or “morning prayer.”

By the way, I can’t recommend the Liturgy of the Hours to you too highly. If you really want to pray in union with the universal Church, the best thing you can do is attend Mass, daily if possible. And the next best is to recite the Liturgy of the Hours. Thank you for seeking God’s truth.  God bless you.  Father Victor Brown, O.P.

Note:  This message was composed some years ago.



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