The Divine Office

The Divine Office
         It’s Beauty and Significance

       --by Fr. Bill Healy, O.C.D.


Paragraph five of the Rule states that the liturgical life as a perennial participation in the Pascal Mystery nourishes the Secular Carmelite in his daily pledge to follow Christ 

Crucified and Risen toward an ever more perfect union with God by making the pains and joys of his life an offering of praise and glory to God.  The Secular Carmelite’s life will express itself chiefly in the Eucharistic Sacrifice and in the recitation of the Church’s Divine Office.  He will, as far as possible, assist at daily Mass and will daily recite morning and 

evening prayers, lauds and vespers, that is, from the breviary.  If possible, he will also recite night prayer, compline, before retiring.  In order to appreciate the significance of this obligation imposed on each of the members of the Secular Order, our brothers and sisters should know the reasons behind this recitation.  Only then, can they fully appreciate the dignity of the beauty expressed in this responsibility.

First of all, the members of the Secular Order must pray for the universal Church, for all peoples of all nations regardless of race, color or creed.  The Psalms are a form of universal prayers.  They are the prayers of the Christian and the non-Christian alike.  And while the individual Secular Order member is praying, he is in effect saying, I wish to pray for all people, to exempt no one from my charity or my interest.  I pray dear Lord, for the Church at large, for the glory of the Order of Carmel and for all the people You in Your Divine Providence have placed in my special care.

Secondly, the Psalms are the prayers of Jesus Christ.  Our Lord and Master learned how to recite the Psalms from his dear Mother, Mary Immaculate.  So when the Secular Order member prays the Psalms, this act recalls the model and guide of all prayer, Christ Jesus, the Lord.  The individual prays with Christ, and through Christ for all peoples because each baptized person is called a Christian.  A Christian is not just a follower of Christ but a duplicate copy, as far as possible, of Jesus Christ Himself with the individual’s temperament, personality and character.  So when the Secular Order member recites the Office he is expressing the identical thoughts Jesus Christ gave to the Heavenly Father in a different language; in a different time, it is true, but nevertheless, the very same ideals the very same thoughts, and the very same manifestations of the internal consecration of Jesus Christ, Our Lord and God.

Thirdly, consider the moods of the Psalms.  One day the Psalms may be expressing a happy mood, thanksgiving, praise and glory; the next day, they present a sad mood, the prophecy of the sufferings of Jesus Christ, the appeal for mercy coming from the depths of the prayer’s heart.  This mood may be quite different from the emotion of the one praying, so the prayer forgets himself or herself to offer this adoration, this praise, this thanksgiving or this petition for people who at that moment, are experiencing blessings in life, graces, joys and special gifts from God for which they may have forgotten, or do forget, to say thanks.  The one praying, I repeat, forgets himself or herself and asks God’s benediction on these people that they in turn may offer their thanks for graces received.  When the Psalm is unhappy (for want of a better term) the one praying asks God for strength to be given to others experiencing troubles, problems, temptations and cares; to enable them to carry their cross and to meet their difficulties because the worship of the prayer is offered for them, with and through and in Jesus Christ, the Lord.

Our Novice Master gave us different themes for the Office each day.  He told us that when we used these themes it would prevent us from taking the Office as a matter of routine.  He suggested Sunday be offered to the Blessed Trinity; Monday, offered for the poor souls in Purgatory; Tuesday, for the angels; Wednesday, in honor of St. Joseph; Thursday, in honor and gratitude for the Blessed Sacrament; Friday, in honor of the Passion of Jesus Christ, our Brother, and Saturday, of course was to be given to the Blessed Virgin.

So there is a reason and there is a purpose and there is a plan for everything that is found in our Rule regarding prayer.  It is up to the individual Carmelite to be mindful of the fact the he or she joins the choirs of angels, all the priests, all the religious in the Catholic Church, as well as the devoted members of Christ’s dear laity, in professing love and adoration to the Giver of Life, the Redeemer of Life and the Sanctifier; in other words, the Blessed Trinity.  It is the Father to whom we offer ourselves through Jesus Christ and it is by the help and assistance of the Holy Spirit we are enabled to carry on this beautiful function.  For as St. Paul so beautifully put it, we cannot so much as even express the name of Jesus Christ without the help and assistance of the Spirit.  So it is that the individual Carmelite is closely united to the Triune God in fulfilling man’s greatest purpose – adoration, glory and honor now and forever.  Amen.

Father William A. Healy, O.C.D. was provincial delegate to the Secular Order of the Eastern Jurisdiction from 1984-88.  Stationed at Saint Florian’s parish in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Father was appointed in 1988 to be the provincial delegate to the Secular Order in Ontario, Canada.

Bill was born June 16, 1920, in Minneapolis, Minnesota.  He was professed William of Our Lady of Perpetual Help September 27, 1940, and ordained a priest of the Washington province of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, on June 11, 1946.