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Liturgy of the Hours Seminar

Gary D. Penkala

Praying the Divine Office The hymn of praise that is sung through all the ages in the heavenly places and was brought by the High Priest, Christ Jesus, into this land of exile has been continued by the Church with constant fidelity over many centuries, in a rich variety of forms. The Liturgy of the Hours gradually developed into the prayer of the local Church, a prayer offered at regular intervals … as a kind of necessary complement by which the fullness of divine worship contained in the Eucharistic sacrifice would overflow to reach all the hours of daily life [Laudis canticum, Pope Paul VI 1970].

The Liturgy of the Hours is alive and vibrant at Saint James Catholic Church in Charles Town WV. For eight years the congregation has regularly prayed Morning Prayer and Evening Prayer on Wednesdays, as part of an all-day Eucharistic Adoration and Holy Hour. Vespers (Evening Prayer) is frequently part of special celebrations, like visits from the bishop, diaconate ordinations, and New Year's Eve vigils. Men's and women's groups frequently pray Compline (Night Prayer) to close their meetings. Mission trips and weekend retreats always pray the Liturgy of the Hours as part of the programs. The children's camps that fill the summer months bring youth together in church for Morning Prayer on days when Mass times are outside the camp schedule.

With so many people interested in the Divine Office, the parish recently offered an intensive Liturgy of the Hours Seminar and Pilgrimage, led by parish administrator Deacon David Galvin, parish musician, Gary Penkala, and adjunct liturgist, Jonathan Mann. What follows is an outline of the seminar and the pilgrimage, which may be useful to other parishes considering such a event.

A handbook was assembled, containing the schedule, Laudis canticum (the Apostolic Constitution by Pope Paul VI promulgating the revised Liturgy of the Hours), General Instruction of the Liturgy of the Hours (issued by the Congregtaion for Divine Worship in 1971), and notes on the first four conferences.



  • 6:30 pm- Evening Prayer [Vespers] in the Blessed Sacrament Chapel
  • 7:00 pm- Conference I: "It Is Good for Us to Be Here" (Rev. Mr. David Galvin) in the Choir Rehearsal Room
  • 8:30 pm- Night Prayer [Compline] in the Blessed Sacrament Chapel

Deacon Galvin, Parish Administrator, spoke on the purpose and the value of the Hours, quoting extensively from Bl. Columba Marmion. He offered examples of Christ himself praying the "Hours," at the Transfiguration, in the Garden of Gethsemane, and on the Cross at Calvary. There is much evidence in the Acts of the Apostles (e.g. 10:9, 3:1, 16:25) of the early Church praying at set times throughout the day.

The one-volume book Christian Prayer is available at the church and was used for the Office. Musical elements in Evening Prayer were the Hymn, the Responsory, the Magnificat and the Lord's Prayer. Psalmody this evening was recited side-to-side, the chairs in the chapel being set in choir formation (i.e. facing each other). For Night Prayer, the participants sang the Kyrie, the Hymn, the Nunc dimittis, and the Marian antiphon, Salve Regina.


  • 6:30 pm- Evening Prayer [Vespers] in the Blessed Sacrament Chapel
  • 7:00 pm- Conference II: Structure of the Hours & Geography of the Book (Mr. Gary Penkala) in the Parish Library
  • 8:30 pm- Night Prayer [Compline] in the Blessed Sacrament Chapel

Mr. Penkala, Pastoral Associate for Liturgy and Music, presented an outline of the seven Hours:

  1. Office of Readings [Matins -or- Vigils]
  2. Morning Prayer [Lauds]
  3. Daytime Prayer
    • Mid-morning Prayer [Terce]
    • Mid-day Prayer [Sext]
    • Mid-afternoon Prayer [None]
  4. Evening Prayer [Vespers]
  5. Night Prayer [Compline]

The simplest Hour, Daytime Prayer, was seen as the basic building block, consisting of:

  1. Introductory Verse
  2. Hymn
  3. Psalmody
  4. Reading
  5. Response
  6. Concluding Prayer
  7. Closing

Other Hours are simply expansions of this basic format, adding Gospel Canticles, Intercessions, longer Readings, etc. The layout of the one-volume book, Christian Prayer was explored.

To experience the various methods of praying the Hours, Evening Prayer was solemnly chanted tonight, using musical material from Universal Music for Evening Prayer. Psalmody was chanted alternately by cantor and congregation, accompanied by a continuo-style organ. For Night Prayer, the participants sang the Kyrie, the Hymn, the Nunc dimittis, and the Marian antiphon, Salve Regina.


  • 6:30 pm- Evening Prayer [Vespers] in the Main Church
  • 7:00 pm- Holy Sacrifice of the Mass
  • 8:00 pm- Conference III: Liturgical Year – the Road Map (Mr. Gary Penkala) in the North Transept
  • 8:30 pm- Night Prayer [Compline] in the Blessed Sacrament Chapel

The two great cycles of the Liturgical Year were discussed: the Temporal Cycle (Advent, Christmastide, Lent, Eastertide, Ordinary Time) and the Sanctoral Cycle (memorials, feasts and solemnities of the Lord, the BVM and the saints). The Table of Precedence (included in the handbook) was explained. We addressed one of the most confusing elements for a beginner: "How do we know what to celebrate each day?" While there are various Guides available (including a weekly in-house guide prepared at the church), the participants really wanted to know the Why of feasts and seasons. Examples of where in Christian Prayer to find the elements for several memorials, feasts and solemnities were given.

Seminar attendees participated in the regularly-scheduled Evening Prayer, which is part of Holy Hour, preceding Benediction. Solemnly chanted between cantor and congregation, we used music from Universal Music for Evening Prayer again. For Night Prayer, the participants sang the Kyrie, the Hymn, the Nunc dimittis, and the Marian antiphon, Salve Regina.


  • 6:30 pm- Evening Prayer [Vespers] in the Blessed Sacrament Chapel
  • 7:00 pm- Conference IV: Music of the Hours (Mr. Jonathan Mann) in the Parish Library
  • 8:15 pm- Compline (in the older Latin format) at the Priory of the Annunciation, Charles Town WV

Canons Regular of the New Jerusalem Jonathan Mann, a fine pianist, organist and liturgist, assists with the liturgy for our weekly Wednesday night Holy Hour. He opened his conference speaking about Hebrew poetry, as we find in the Psalms and Canticles. Several authentic Office hymns, in their Latin form, were presented (Conditor alme siderum, Lucis Creator optime and Ad cenam Agni providi. The Magnificat antiphons for the last days of Advent, called the "O Antiphons," were discussed, including the reverse acrostic created by the first letter of each Messianic title. The conference concluded by looking at the four traditional Marian antiphons that close Compline.

The Priory of the Annunciation in Charles Town is the home of the Canons Regular of the New Jerusalem. The Very Rev. Dom Daniel Augustine Oppenheimer CRNJ welcomed the group to the Priory chapel and all joined in chanting Compline according to the 1962 rubrics and texts.


The seminar concluded with two full days of pilgrimage, visiting three more monasteries in Virginia and Pennsylvania.


  • 6:00 am- Depart Saint James Church, Charles Town WV
  • 7:00 am- Morning Prayer & Holy Mass at Holy Cross Abbey in Berryville VA [Cistercian]
  • 11:45 am- Sext [Mid-day Prayer] at Saint Emma Monastery in Greensburg PA [Benedictine]
  • 12:00 pm- Lunch
  • 1:00 pm- Conference V: The Lives of Saints Benedict and Walburga in Stained Glass (Sister Petra OSB)
  • 2:00 pm- Leisure time: Lectio Divina, visit Chapel & Gift Shop, roam monastery grounds
  • 3:30 pm- Conference VI: The Prayer of Our Very Lives (Mother Mary Ann Noll OSB)
  • 5:00 pm- Vespers [Evening Prayer]
  • 5:30 pm- Dinner
  • 7:15 pm- Vigils [Office of Readings, expanded]
  • 8:30 pm- Grand Silence

The Benedictine Monastery of Saint Emma was founded by German nuns in 1931. The nuns chant the Divine Office in a modified Benedictine format, using simplified Gregorian psalm tones.


  • 5:25 am- Lauds [Morning Prayer]
  • 7:00 am- Holy Mass
  • 8:00 am- Breakfast
  • 8:45 am- Terce [Mid-morning Prayer]
  • 9:30 am- Trip to DeLallo's Italian Market (Jeanette PA) for picnic lunch items
  • 11:30 am- Midday Prayer [Sext] at Saint Vincent Archabbey in Latrobe PA [Benedictine]
  • 12:00 pm- Picnic Lunch
  • 1:00 pm- Conference VII: The Rule of Saint Benedict (Fr. Killian Loch OSB)
  • 2:00 pm- Tour of Saint Vincent Campus [Monastery, College & Seminary]
  • 3:30 pm- Conference VIII: Faith and Reason (Br. Albert Gahr OSB)
  • 5:00 pm- Evening Prayer [Vespers]
  • 5:45 pm- Dinner
  • 7:00 pm- Depart Latrobe PA for Charles Town WV

Saint Vincent Archabbey was established by Boniface Wimmer OSB in 1846, the first Benedictine Monastery in the United States. He traveled from Germany and was given land in Latrobe PA by the diocese of Pittsburgh, in return for staffing the parish of Saint Vincent, which was on the property, and establishing a seminary. Today, Saint Vincent's is comprised of that original parish, a monastery, and a college. Because the abbey retained the name of the original parish (Saint Vincent de Paul), Saint Vincent's is the only Benedictine monastery in the world not named for a monk.

The Hours were prayed in the Saint Gregory Chapel, part of Leander Hall, since the parish uses the grand basilica for weddings and the anticipated Mass on Saturdays. The monks chant the Hours to a mixture of Saint Meinrad psalm tones and original Saint Vincent tones, using a modified Benedictine format.

May the praise of God re-echo in the Church of our day with great grandeur and beauty. May it join the praise sung by saints and angels in the courts of heaven. May the days of our earthly exile be filled more and more with that praise which throughout the ages is given "to the One who sits upon the throne and to the Lamb" [Laudis canticum, Pope Paul VI 1970].

CanticaNOVA Publications / PO Box 1388 / Charles Town, WV 25414-7388
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