Everything is Oll Korrect!

An eclectic bibliophile's journal…

Category: non-fiction

Notes on Praying the Divine Office

A few years ago I took an interest in beginning to pray the Divine Office to help bolster my prayer life. My goal was to add some structure to my prayers, so going through set prayers at regular intervals seemed like a good choice, but I quickly found that there are a lot of different options out there for learning how to say the Office in terms of websites, apps, and books, each with their own advantages and disadvantages. I’ve tried several of these, and though I’m still certainly no expert I thought I’d share my experience to offer a starting-point and make things easier for anyone interested in saying the Office themselves. I’m assuming that you know basically what the Office is but will start with a few important points you need to know. Then, I’ll go over some resources for actually praying the Office.

First, a few short notes. Typically, you’ll see the name “Divine Office” used to refer specifically to the pre-Vatican II form of the Office, while the newer form is more often called the “Liturgy of the Hours.” I like the newer name because it’s more descriptive, but I’ll follow the convention of using it only to refer to the newer form for simplicity.

The structure and concept of both the Office and the LotH are similar, and though I have a slight preference for the Office I like both and have found both very beneficial. The most important consideration here is which liturgical calendar you’re going to use. If you attend a Novus Ordo parish, you’ll probably want to use the LotH because it follows the new calendar. If you attend an FSSP, ICKSP, or SSPX parish you’ll probably want to use the Office because it follows the 1962 calendar, just as the associated Missal does. The large majority of feast days are the same between the two, but the names of each season and the dates of a handful of feasts are different, just enough that it’s certainly more convenient to use the Office/Liturgy that matches your parish. That’s especially true if you attend or watch livestreams of daily Masses, since the differing feasts are more noticeable than at Sunday liturgies.…

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2019 in Bibliophilia

It’s the end of the year, and now that the reminiscing and navel-gazing is over it’s time for the most important year-end festivity, looking at how many books I read. In 2018 I read thirty-six, compared to 2017’s forty-two. This year, I have twenty-nine books recorded in LibraryThing, but this excludes eight volumes of Toriyama Akira’s DragonballZ because they’re part of a box set and so, from LibraryThing’s perspective, are only one book. There’s also The Bowl of Tears and Solace, which isn’t in their catalogue at all last I checked. That brings us up to a more typical thirty-eight, two more than last year.

Since I’ve already mentioned DBZ, that, Ito Juni’s Frankenstein, and the second omnibus volume of Go Nagai’s Devilman make up all nine graphic novels I read this year.

I only read three books of poetry, all by Dante: RimeLa Vita Nuova (my second time reading this one), and a collection called Dante’s Lyric Poetry: Poems of Youth and of the ‘Vita Nuova’. Of those, La Vita Nuova is the best and I can recommend Mark Musa’s translation, but Dante’s Lyric Poetry is nice because it includes ample commentary. Speaking of Dante, I also read Marco Santagata’s fine biography Dante: The Story of his Life and Dante’s prose work on vernacular poetry, De Vulgari Eloquentia, which was more tedious and less interesting, and less focused on poetry, than I’d hoped. Another great poet, Homer, was represented in The Printed Homer: A 3,000 Year Publishing and Translation History of the Iliad and the Odyssey, by Philip Young. One last work of serious literature worth mentioning was Fables françaises du Moyen-Age.

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Confession Made Easy

There are two ways to make something “easy.” One is to provide a brief overview of a subject, the other is to cover every aspect of it so that the student has no questions left by the end. Fr. Fructosus Hockenmaier takes the latter approach in his 696-page Confession Made Easy.

Despite its intimidating length, Fr. Hockenmaier’s book does, in fact, make things easy by explaining the Sacrament of Confession in layman’s terms, and giving his book a practical focus. He begins by providing some reasons to attend Confession regularly, answers some common objections, cautioning against scrupulosity (which a book of this kind could easily engender), explaining the difference between mortal and venial sins, going through the Decalogue and Seven Deady Sins, and finally discussing how to approach the Sacrament itself. In the final part of the book he provides many prayers and devotions.

Now, Fr. Hockenmaier assumes that his reader is already Catholic, so he does not provide an apologia for the Sacrament, nor does he spend a lot of time discussing the theology of it. For example, some of the objections to frequent Confession he answers are simply excuses that people use for not going, such as not having time, having nothing to confess, or being too embarrassed by one’s sins. Of his explanations and advice, only a few illustrations are needed. From his discussion of Sixth and Ninth Commandments:

It is with this sin as with sin in general that the principle “Beware of the first step” is to be applied. For in matters of holy purity one most easily falls into mortal sin, from seeking the danger. No sin so quickly begets an intense habit as the sin of impurity, a habit which is often found to be incurable.

Confession Made Easy received its imprimatur in 1910, and one can tell that it’s an old-school Catholic book by the seriousness and clarity of passages like the above. One problem that many Catholics seem to have is not only recognising what things are sinful, but what are not. The vice of the 21st Century is indifference to or denial of sin, but there are those who run to the opposite extreme of scrupulosity, or sometimes just uncertainty. For example, while offering instruction in how to distinguish mortal and venial sin, Fr. Hockenmaier says this:

The same is to be said of persons who suffer from involuntary thoughts and illusions. What are illusions? They are representations to the mind, originating from bodily ills, especially nervous diseases, and such illusions are forced upon the minds of such persons, altogether against their will, now for a short time, now for a longer period. They should remember that no thoughts or illusions can be sins, when they do not invite such thoughts or illusions.

What about cases when we aren’t sure if something is sinful or not? In such cases, Fr. Hockenmaier repeats many times to consult with one’s confessor.

Such a long book represents a significant time investment, so is Confession Made Easy worth the effort of reading, or is a pamphlet as one often finds online or laid out near a church’s confessional sufficient? For those who are well catechised, having a good guide for an examination of conscience is probably enough. For those who did not have the fortune of a good religious education, though, or who simply want as thorough a guide as possible, Fr. Hockenmaier is excellent. Though not everyone needs it, Confession Made Easy accomplishes its task perfectly.…

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The Happy Game of Mahjong

It’s hard to remember, but I’m pretty sure I first learned about mahjong (not mahjong solitaire) in the same way I’ve learned about most things in my life, Japanese cartoons. It looked interesting so when I saw a mahjong set for sale at a Half Price Books years ago I went ahead and bought it, got a book on mahjong, and never learned how to play. I didn’t know anyone who played and the mahjong software selection is bad enough now and was even worse then.

My interest was rekindled a few months ago after playing gin rummy for a while and one of my Twitter friends mentioned that he’d learned the basics of mahjong by thinking of it as essentially a rummy game. After all, the premise is that you’re forming tiles into sets, either sequences (e.g., 1-2-3 of the same suit) or three or four of a kind to form a winning hand. I re-read my book, managed to find a decent mahjong iOS app to practice with, and even found a group in my area to play with IRL.

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