The following excerpt comes from the same source as my previous post, Year of Mercy, Mother of Mercy, namely, “The Divine Office, How to Say it Devoutly, How to Make it a Pleasure,” written by E.D.M. (Engant de Marie, Child of Mary), a nom de plume of Fr. Paul O’Sullivan, OP. As some might be able to tell, I’m a big proponent of the Divine Office and its recitation (even if I’m not the best at it!…), and I thought these were interesting reflections on the efficacy of the Office and the spirit with which we might approach the Office.
What St. Alphonsus Teaches (On the Divine Office)
1. A hundred private prayers can never have the efficacy of a single petition presented in the Divine Office; for the latter is offered in the name of the whole Church and in God’s own words.
2. Let us be persuaded that, after the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, there is no greater treasure than the Divine Office, from which we may every day draw rivers of graces.
3. Oh! if all priests and religious said the Office as they ought, it is certain that the Church would not be in the deplorable state in which we see it in certain places and at certain times.
4. If they said the Office as they ought, so many priests would not always be the same – always imperfect, prone to anger, greedy, attached to self-interest, and to vanities.
5. God promises to hear all our prayers how then does it happen that certain priests say a thousand wonderful prayers in the Divine Office, which they recite every day, and are never heard?
6. The Apostle says that no fruit can be expected from the prayer which is pronounced with the tongue without the attention of the mind.
7. Of this God complained one day to St. Bridget, saying that some priests lose so much time every day in conversing with friends on worldly affairs and afterwards when conversing with Him, in the recitation of the Office, they are so hurried that they dishonour Him more than they glorify Him.
8. Hence St. Augustine said that the barking of dogs is more pleasing to God than the chant of such priests.
9. Alas! may not the Lord complain of some priests, as He once did of the Jews <<Populus hic labiis me honorat: cor autem eorum longe est a me.>>
The Lord has said, by the prophet Malachy, that He curses the praises offered by priests who bless Him only with the tongue while their heart is occupied, not in giving Him honour and glory, but in attending to other things.
10. When a priest recites the Divine Praises, muttering or truncating the words, and with a mind dissipated and distracted with the affairs of the world and earthly pleasures, the devil stands at his right hand. His reward for such an Office will be his eternal condemnation, since his very prayer is imputed to him as a sin.
11. In beginning the Office be not, as some are in a hurry to finish it as soon as possible; would to God they were not the greater number! Oh, my God! we undertake the labour, we say the Office; and will we, in order to save the little additional time necessary for the devout recitation of it, give displeasure to You, and lose the graces and merits which we may gain by reciting the Office with the requisite attention?
12. If you wish to draw great fruit from the Office, be careful, in reciting the psalms, to renew your attention and affections from time to time, that your devotion, which gradually grows cold unless frequent efforts be made to inflame it, may not be entirely extinguished.
13. But he who says the Office barely with attention to the words, without any attention to the sense, or to God, will never say it with devotion, nor with much fruit, nor without many defects.
14. Endeavour then, not only at the beginning of the Office, but also at the commencement of each psalm, to renew your attention, that you may be able to feel in your heart, all the sentiments which are expressed in the words you read.
15. Many priests consider and call the obligation of the Divine Office a great burden, and I say that they who say it with irreverence, without devotion, and with an eagerness to finish it, have just reason to call the Office a heavy burden; for they have to toil every day in reciting it without relish and with great pain.
16. Dearly beloved priest, when you take the Breviary in your hand, imagine that an angel stands on one side to register your merits in the book of life, if you say the Office with devotion; and on the other, a devil, who, if you recite it with distraction, writes your faults in the book of death. With this thought, excite yourself to say the Office with the greatest possible devotion.
(Extracts from the Selva)