What advice would you give to a priest that had trouble staying loyal to the liturgy of the hours–especially if they have trouble finding them fruitful or just a checklist thing to do?
I’d have several pieces of advice:
1) We all go through periods of spiritual dryness in which particular activities do not seem fruitful to us and more like a checklist.
Do not worry about this. Accomplishing our duties even when they do not seem personally rewarding actually increases the merit of doing them, as it is persevering in spite of difficulty.
This represents the principle that God uses to bring good out of adversity, the supreme example of which is Christ’s redemption for the world from the Cross. However, the same principle is at work in our lives when we do what we should in spite of the difficulties. It applies to praying even when our emotions run in another direction, and it thus applies to praying the Liturgy of the Hours specifically.
2) In terms of making the Liturgy of the Hours feel more relevant, it can be helpful to remember that it is not done principally for the one praying it. It is principally for God and for his Church. This is why it is a work of liturgy (Greek, leitourgia = “a work done on behalf of the people”) rather than a private devotion.
It is thus in the same category as saying Mass, and it may be helpful to think of it in that way. Tell yourself, “I’m going to say the Liturgy of the Hours now, just like I say Mass–to praise God and pray on behalf of his people. This isn’t for me. It’s for love of God and love of neighbor. I’m doing it, no matter what my emotions may be, because I love them both.”
3) One reason that saying the Liturgy of the Hours may feel different than saying Mass is that it is often done alone.
This can be changed. One can start a small group to pray the hours together–a group consisting of priests, deacons, laity, or a mix of some of each of them. This even can be done via online meeting (e.g., Skype, Zoom).
Having a scheduled time or set of times where one will be meeting with other people can be very effective in helping one fulfill a schedule. It is easy to let things slip if they depend only on us, but if they are done with others, we are much better about accomplishing them.
If it’s not possible to have a group pray all of the different hours, it is possible to cover at least some of them this way (e.g., morning and evening prayer, and perhaps others.)
Also, involving a group of people can help bring out on an emotional level the fact that this isn’t just for us. It really does involve Christ’s Church in a broader way.
4) If one must say the Liturgy of the Hours alone, it may be helpful to employ an electronic aid, such as text-to-speech or a human voice recording.
If one has an electronic copy of the Liturgy, one may use a text-to-speech function to read the text aloud.
Alternately, one might use a recorded version of the Liturgy, such as Praystation Portable.
These may not be traditional solutions, but technology has now made them possible, and there is nothing illicit about using them.
I, personally, find both text-to-speech and voice recordings (audio books) very helpful when getting through texts, and there is no reason that the principle cannot be applied in this area for those who find it useful.
In fact, millions of people already listen to recordings of private devotions like the Rosary and the Divine Mercy Chaplet as prayer aids.
I hope this helps, and God bless you!
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