Liturgy of the Hours

Mr. Kosloski’s post below is an excellent primer on Praying the Prayer of the Church, The Liturgy of the Hours.  Thanks to Mr.  Kosloski for the informative piece.


A Beginner’s Guide to Praying the Liturgy of the Hours

A Beginner’s Guide to Praying the Liturgy of the Hours

I have said before, praying with a physical breviary can be challenging especially if no one is there to show you how. However, after an initial introduction to praying the Liturgy of the Hours, it becomes quite easy and is like clockwork.


Today, I will walk you through the most common prayer book lay people can pick up to pray the principal hours of the divine office: Christian Prayer. It contains: Morning, Evening & Night Prayer, with an abbreviated section for the Office of Readings and Daytime Prayer. If you only have enough time to pray one or more of those prayers, I suggest picking-up Christian Prayer.

First of all, as with any breviary, there are the all-important “ribbons.” These are extremely important and allow you to mark the correct parts of the divine office.


To begin setting the ribbons, take one of them and open to page 686 where the “Ordinary” and “Invitatory” are located. The “Ordinary” is the basic “instruction manual” for the Liturgy of the Hours and acts as a reference point if you ever get stuck.


Here we see how the common phrase “Say the Black, Do the Red” comes in handy. All the words printed in the color red are your instructions and all the words printed in black are the prayers you actually pray. There are plenty of instructions and options, so read it all very carefully. I suggest reading through the entire “Ordinary” before going any further.

The “Ordinary” also has prayers that are repeated each day such as the “Magnificat” and “Benedictus.” You pray these at Evening and Morning Prayer and are typically memorized in the monastery. Until you have them memorized, you can always turn to the “Ordinary” to find them.

After you have read the “Ordinary,” you can leave your first ribbon where it says “Invitatory.” This is composed of an antiphon and Psalm 95 and is typically prayed before Morning Prayer (or the Office of Readings). If you are praying the Invitatory on your own, you will say the correct antiphon once, pray Psalm 95 and then recite the same antiphon at the end. When with others, you will recite the antiphon after every stanza.

Before we go any further, a note about Christian Prayer. Unlike the full version of the divine office, the antiphons are only printed once at the beginning of each Psalm. That means after praying a Psalm, you will have to flip the page backwards to recite the correct antiphon. This is important to remember and will be repeated in Morning Prayer, Evening Prayer, etc.

The second ribbon will be located in the front of the breviary in a section called the “Proper of Seasons.” This section of the breviary has all the prayers according to the “seasons” of the Church: Advent, Christmas, Lent, Easter & Ordinary Time.


Typically it has special antiphons and prayers for the hours prayed on Sundays throughout the year. During seasons such as Lent, there are specific readings and prayers for each day.

For now, you can place the ribbon on page 344. You will see that it says, “Fourth Week of Lent” and “Monday, Morning Prayer” at the top of the page. In order to figure out what week it is, go to and click on their calendar. Alternatively, you can order your own wall liturgical calendar that says what day it is.

This is an important part of the breviary as when you reach the next Sunday, it says what “Psalter” you are currently in:


You will see that it reads “Psalter, Week IV” below “Fourth Sunday of Lent.” This indicates where to put your third ribbon.


This third ribbon is located in the middle of the breviary and for our purposes is located on page 937. You will see that it reads, “Monday, Week IV” and is where we want to be. If you ever get confused on which “Psalter” you are supposed to be in, go back to the “Proper of Seasons” and the correct Sunday will tell you.

The fourth ribbon should be located at the current day for “Night Prayer.” Which is much easier to understand, as it only has a single cycle that is repeated each week. For today, it is located on page 1041.


The fifth ribbon can be placed in the “Proper of Saints,” which contains the special prayers and antiphons for specific saint days. All you need to know is the calendar date to know where to put the ribbon. Today it is located on March 7th, the Memorial of Perpetua and Felicity.


Once you have all of the ribbons in place, you can start praying every day and go through it one page at a time. If you ever get lost or confused, go to the “Ordinary” and it will tell you what to do.

If you don’t know where to set your ribbons, you can alternatively go to and they have the page numbers provided for you.

At first it can be quite confusing, but after several weeks of praying it goes much smoother. After several years of praying, it is like riding a bike. If you have any trouble, I am more than happy to help as well.

Praying in this manner, while more difficult than opening up an app, is very beneficial. In an age where everything is available at the touch of our finger, it is healthy to learn the “art” of praying the divine office.

Next week, I will open up the four volume set and we will take another look at praying the Liturgy of the Hours.

Improving Prayer Life – by Philip Kosloski

How 15 Minutes of Prayer Can Change Your Life Forever

I will be honest and say that setting aside time every day for a full hour of prayer is difficult. During seminary it was easy and a basic fact of life. Even a few years ago I didn’t have a problem finding an hour of quiet prayer. However, when multiple children are thrown into the mix an hour is hard to grasp.


The Angelus (L’Angelus) by Jean-François Millet

That is why I was intrigued by a new book entitled The 15-Minute Prayer Solution: How One Percent of Your Day Can Transform Your Life by Gary Jansen. It may seem like a “cop-out” to only pray for 15 minutes a day, but when you lead a busy life or are starting out in the spiritual life, 15 minutes is perfect. We can all find 15 minutes.

But is that it? Do we simply kneel down for 15 minutes? What do we do during that time?

In his book, Jansen provides detailed instructions on how to pray for 15 minutes based on ancient practices, many of which were inspired by St. Ignatius of Loyola.

Daily Exercises

First of all, Jansen exhorts us to set-aside time every day for prayer. This is a pre-requisite of the spiritual life and is something we must do if we want to progress in our relationship with God. Some of us may be intimidated with that task, but it really shouldn’t be a problem. We don’t have to start by devoting ourselves to a full hour of prayer. Instead, we can begin by giving God one percent of our day. Jansen explains:

“Did you know that there are 1,440 minutes in a day? It’s true. I did the math. Did you also know that one percent of all that time is fourteen minutes and twenty-four seconds? What would happen if you made a conscious decision, every day, to exercise your soul by giving roughly fifteen minutes of your time over to God? Just one tiny percent of your life. Would your life change? Mine did.” (The 15-Minute Prayer Solution, 3)

The key is to set-aside time every day. As the saying goes, “slow and steady wins the race.” Steady, consistent prayer has a much greater effect on our prayer life than intense bursts that fizzle over time.

Mustard Seeds

Connected to this thought of giving God one percent of our day is the idea of faith the size of a “mustard seed.” Jesus said to His disciples:

“The kingdom of heaven is like a grain of mustard seed which a man took and sowed in his field; it is the smallest of all seeds, but when it has grown it is the greatest of shrubs and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and make nests in its branches.” Matthew 13:31-32

“For truly, I say to you, if you have faith as a grain of mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from hence to yonder place,’ and it will move; and nothing will be impossible to you.” Matthew 17:20

Praying for 15 minutes a day may seem like a short amount of time, but when it is done in faith the effects can last a lifetime. Not only that, the goal is that 15 minutes of prayer will lead to praying “without ceasing.” We must start small, have faith the size of a mustard seed, and let God do the rest.

The Jesus Prayer, Lectio Divina, & The Examen

Jansen does not dwell too much on theory before he starts explaining what to do during those 15 minutes. He gives many different ways to pray that can all be accomplished during that time frame. For the most part Jansen focuses on ancient ways of praying that aim at quieting the soul. The first type of prayer he describes is the famous “Jesus Prayer,” made popular by the Russian book The Way of a Pilgrim. It is a very simple prayer that involves saying the words, “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, the sinner,” by slowly breathing in and out. The breathing is an essential part of the prayer and helps calm a person’s mind and allows them to focus on God.

After saying the “Jesus Prayer,” Jansen suggests meditating on a short passage of scripture and engaging in what is called Lectio Divina (“Divine Reading”). This type of praying with scripture focuses on immersing oneself inside the scripture passage and listening for God’s voice.

Another option is the “Examen” prayer. This type of prayer aims at finding God in the various people, things and events of the day. Often the “Examen” is done at the end of day where we meditate on how God brought different people into our lives and thanking Him for His divine providence. It is a great way to remind ourselves that God is present in all things and nothing happens “by chance.”

Seven Days of Exercises

The book itself is not very long (which makes sense) and at the end of it is a simple guide to praying for seven days. It includes seven days of Lectio Divina and is a great way to get started, especially for those of us who don’t know where to begin. This is probably one of the most helpful parts of the book and allows you to practice what you learned.

To conclude, I heartily recommend getting a copy of The 15-Minute Prayer Solution: How One Percent of Your Day Can Transform Your LifeJansen has a writing style that is accessible to anyone. He writes about deep theological truths in a way that a person who has zero years of religious education can understand. Much of what he writes is from experience and he gives many short stories to explain how prayer has affected his own life.

I will be honest, much of what Jansen writes may challenge you and your idea of prayer. He focuses much more on relational types of prayer than formula-based prayers. In other words, while he draws from the rich tradition of the Catholic Church Jansen focuses more on calming your soul to listen to the Holy Spirit than reciting different prayers to get what you want.

I know that I have benefited from Jansen’s book and will return to it on a daily basis.

Why Satan Hates the Brown Scapular – by Philip Kosloski

Please read the great article by Philip Kosloski below on the power of the Brown Scapular, which should be one of your weapons you use in your daily spiritual combat.


Why Satan Hates the Brown Scapular

July 16th is the feast day of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, so it is fitting to examine a mighty spiritual weapon connected with this devotion to the Blessed Mother: the Brown Scapular. There are many “promises” to the wearers of this scapular, but we must always keep in mind that the Brown Scapular is NOT a lucky “charm” that grants someone access to eternal life no matter what kind of life they live.


First of all, here is a quick history of the Brown Scapular:

[K]nown as the Brown Scapular, this is the best known, most celebrated, and most widespread of the small scapulars. It is spoken of as “the Scapular”, and the “feast of the Scapular” is that of Our Lady of Mount Carmel on 16 July. It is probably the oldest scapular and served as the prototype of the others. According to a pious tradition the Blessed Virgin appeared to St. Simon Stock at Cambridge, England, on Sunday, 16 July, 1251. In answer to his appeal for help for his oppressed order, she appeared to him with a scapular in her hand and said: “Take, beloved son this scapular of thy order as a badge of my confraternity and for thee and all Carmelites a special sign of grace; whoever dies in this garment, will not suffer everlasting fire. It is the sign of salvation, a safeguard in dangers, a pledge of peace and of the covenant“….And, even though there is here no direct reference to the members of the scapular confraternity, indirectly the promise is extended to all who from devotion to the Mother of God should wear her habit or badge, like true Christians, until death, and be thus as it were affiliated to the Carmelite Order. (Catholic Encyclopedia, emphasis added)

Our Lady grants to the wearers of this scapular particular “privileges:”

For this privilege declares nothing else than that all those who out of true veneration and love for the Blessed Virgin constantly wear the scapular in a spirit of fidelity and confiding faith, after they have been placed by the Church itself with this habit or badge under the special protection of the Mother of God, shall enjoy this special protection in the matter and crisis which most concerns them for time and eternity. Whoever, therefore, even though he be now a sinner, wears the badge of the Mother of God throughout life as her faithful servant, not presumptuously relying on the scapular as on a miraculous amulet, but trustfully confiding in the power and goodness of Mary, may securely hope that Mary will through her powerful and motherly intercession procure for him all the necessary graces for true conversion and for perseverance in good. Such is the meaning and importance of the first privilege of the Carmelite Scapular, which is wont to be expressed in the words: “whoever wears the scapular until death, will be preserved from hell”. (Catholic Encyclopedia, emphasis added)

A “habit” in more ways than one

St. John Paul II exhorted those who wear the Brown Scapular to take part in the special graces involved with wearing it:

Therefore two truths are evoked by the sign of the Scapular: on the one hand, the constant protection of the Blessed Virgin, not only on life’s journey, but also at the moment of passing into the fullness of eternal glory; on the other, the awareness that devotion to her cannot be limited to prayers and tributes in her honour on certain occasions, but must become a “habit”, that is, a permanent orientation of one’s own Christian conduct, woven of prayer and interior life, through frequent reception of the sacraments and the concrete practice of the spiritual and corporal works of mercy. In this way the Scapular becomes a sign of the “covenant” and reciprocal communion between Mary and the faithful: indeed, it concretely translates the gift of his Mother, which Jesus gave on the Cross to John and, through him, to all of us, and the entrustment of the beloved Apostle and of us to her, who became our spiritual Mother. (Message to Carmelite Community)

Suffice to say, the Brown Scapular is a powerful aid to those who devoutly wear it and call upon Our Lady’s help in time of need. There are numerous stories that attest to the miraculous nature of the Brown Scapular. In particular, there is one story that show how much Satan hates the Brown Scapular:

You will understand why the devil works against those who promote the Scapular when you hear the story of Venerable Francis Ypes. One day his Scapular fell off. As he replaced it, the devil howled, “Take off the habit which snatches so many souls from us!” Then and there Francis made the devil admit that there are three things which the demons are most afraid of: the Holy Name of Jesus, the Holy Name of Mary, and the Holy Scapular of Carmel. To that list we could add: the Holy Rosary.

The great St. Peter Claver was another of God‟s heroes who used the Scapular to good advantage. Every month a shipment of 1000 slaves would arrive at Cartegena, Colombia, South America. St. Peter used to insure the salvation of his converts. First, he organized catechists to give them instructions. Then, he saw to it that they were baptized and clothed with the Scapular. Some ecclesiastics accused the Saint of indiscreet zeal, but St. Peter was confident that Mary would watch over each of his more than 300,000 converts! (Garment of Grace, emphasis added)

However, we must not believe that simply wearing the Brown Scapular without a strong commitment to following God will someone protect us from all harm and the eternal fires of Hell. Here is a short story that shows how if we wear the Brown Scapular and are refuse to lead a holy life, we will not be found wearing it when we die:

During the Spanish civil war in the 1930‟s, seven Communists were sentenced to death because of their crimes. A Carmelite priest tried to prepare the men for death; they refused. As a last resort, he brought the men cigarettes, food and wine, assuring them that he would not talk religion. In a short while, they were all friendly, so he asked them for one small favor: “Will you permit me to place a Scapular on each of you?” Six agreed; one refused. Soon all Scapular wearers went to confession. The seventh continued to refuse. Only to please them, he put on a Scapular, he would do nothing more. Morning came, and as the moment of execution drew near, the seventh man made it clear that he was not going to ask for the priest. Although wearing the Scapular, he was determined to go to his death an enemy of God. Finally, the command was given, the firing squad did its deadly work, and seven lifeless bodies lay sprawled in the dust. Mysteriously, a Scapular was found approximately 50 paces from the bodies. Six men died WITH Mary‟s Scapular; the seventh died WITHOUT the Scapular. Blessed Claude gives us the solution to the mystery of the missing Scapular: “You ask, ‘What if I desire to die in my sins?’ I answer, ‘Then you will die in your sins, BUT YOU WILL NOT DIE IN YOUR SCAPULAR.’” Blessed Claude tells the story of a man who tried to drown himself three times. He was rescued against his will. At last he realized that he was wearing his Scapular. Determined to take his life, he tore the Scapular from his neck and leaped into the water. Without Mary‟s protective garment he accomplished his wish, and died in his sins. (Garment of Grace, emphasis added)

So yes, the Brown Scapular is a powerful weapon against Satan and can help us along the road to holiness, but it is not “magic” and if we refuse to lead a life divorced from sin, the Scapular will not be found on us when we die.

We must devoutly wear it, and choose to serve God and the Blessed Virgin Mary. The Brown Scapular can amplify our spiritual life and help us in our time of greatest need.

[As a practical note, the Brown Scapular must be 100% brown (or black) wool. There is no particular requirement in terms of the image or words on the scapular, just that the fabric be wool. If you are looking to buy a scapular, try out these handmade scapulars, made by Carmelite nuns. If you need to be enrolled into the Brown Scapular, any priest has the authority to do it. Here are the enrollment prayers. After enrollment, there is no need for additional blessings for future replacement scapulars.]

Don’t Forget About Your Guardian Angel!

Philip Kosloski presents below some needed theology on how we can use our guardian angels to discern God’s will for us.  A big thanks to Philip for this reminder.


Can Our Guardian Angel Help Discern God’s Will?

Discerning the will of God can often be a hard and laborious undertaking. However, one source for inspiration that we often overlook is our guardian angel.

The English word “angel” comes from the Latin angelus, meaning “messenger of God.” The Latin stems from Greek ἄγγελος ángelos, which is a translation of the Hebrew mal’ākh, meaning “messenger.”

This name we give to these celestial beings refers to their principal role. They are “messengers” of God’s divine plan and have continually relayed to men His holy and glorious will. From the very beginning of the Bible to the very end, angels are present and are commissioned to communicate God’s will to the His children.

It makes sense then how our guardian angels are meant to play a vital role in our personal lives. Their mission is to communicate to us God’s divine plan, yet we often never turn to them. It is interesting to think how often we pray special novenas and prayers to particular saints in Heaven, but never think of asking our guardian angel, who is right beside us!

In a very real sense our guardian angel is just waiting for us to ask his assistance and to reveal God’s plan.

So the next time you are discerning God’s will (especially your vocation), ask your guardian angel for help. Your angel is waiting patiently to relay a message of hope to you. All we need to do is ask.