We are taught in Scripture to pray always, and we see that Jesus himself set aside particular times to pray.
The Divine Office
Following the practice of the Jews, the apostles met to pray the Psalms at particular hours, and this was taken up by the early Church. Eventually this led to a set cycle of hours, or fixed times for praying the Psalms. This prayer, which is called the Liturgy of the Hours, or Divine Office, is intended to overflow into the rest of daily life, enabling us to “consecrate to God the whole cycle of the day and the night” (General Instruction of the Liturgy of the Hours, 10). We pray at five different hours of the day.
The Church considers two of these hours, Lauds (Morning Prayer) and Vespers (Evening Prayer), to be the two “hinges” of the Liturgy of the Hours. Each hour has its own particular character ordered to the time of day; thus Lauds focuses on praise, while Vespers is chiefly a prayer of thanksgiving. In the course of a four-week cycle, all 150 Psalms are prayed. We pray this prayer of the Church not for ourselves only, but for the entire Church and for those who cannot or do not pray for themselves, united with the Pope, priests, religious and all the faithful around the world. “In the liturgy of the hours, the Church, hearing God speaking to his people and recalling the mystery of salvation, praises him without ceasing by song and prayer and intercedes for the salvation of the whole world” (Code of Canon Law, 1173 ). The Church promotes the practice of inviting the faithful “to celebrate the principal hours in common, especially on Sundays and holy days” (GILH 23).
John Paul II’s teachings on the Divine Office
“I would like to encourage everyone to pray with the same words Jesus used, words that for thousands of years have been part of the prayer of Israel and the Church.” —John Paul II
As an expression of his love for the Church’s treasury and source of life – the Liturgy in which Christ is made present- John Paul II wrote and taught extensively on the Eucharist and the Divine Office. It is the Sisters’ daily joy to participate in this universal prayer of the Church in union with the Pope, priests, religious and all the faithful around the world.
The Venerable John Paul II spent the last four years of his life giving catechetical instructions on the Psalms prayed daily and world-wide in the Morning Prayer (Lauds) and Evening Prayer (Vespers) portions of the Divine Office (also called the Liturgy of the Hours).
It was his hope that the new evangelization would bring an increase in prayerful participation and appreciation of the Liturgy of the Hours – not only among priests, religious and consecrated men and women – but among all the faithful as they are able.
Excerpts from John Paul II’s teaching:
“In the Apostolic Letter Novo millennio ineunte I expressed the hope that the Church would become more and more distinguished in the ‘art of prayer,’ learning it ever anew from the lips of the Divine Master (cf. n. 32). This effort must be expressed above all in the liturgy, the source and summit of ecclesial life. Consequently, it is important to devote greater pastoral care to promoting the Liturgy of the Hours as a prayer of the whole People of God.”
“In the Psalms, the human being fully discovers himself.”
“The Fathers (of the Church) were firmly convinced that the Psalms speak of Christ. The risen Jesus, in fact, applied the Psalms to himself when he said to the disciples: ‘Everything written about me in the law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled’
“The Fathers add that in the Psalms Christ is spoken to or it is even Christ who speaks. In saying this, they were thinking not only of the individual person of Christ, but of the ‘Christus totus,’ the total Christ, composed of Christ the Head and his members.” “Christians were thus able to read the Book of Psalms in the light of the whole mystery of Christ.”
“This same perspective also brings out the ecclesial dimension, which is particularly highlighted when the Psalms are sung chorally.” “By praying the Psalms as a community, the Christian mind remembered and understood that it is impossible to turn to the Father who dwells in heaven without an authentic communion of life with one’s brothers and sisters who live on earth.”
“…In singing the Psalms, the Christian feels a sort of harmony between the Spirit present in the Scriptures and the Spirit who dwells within him through the grace of Baptism. More than praying in his own words, he echoes those ‘sighs too deep for words’ mentioned by St. Paul (cf. Rom 8.26), with which the Lord’s Spirit urges believers to join in Jesus’ characteristic invocation: ‘Abba! Father!’
(Rom 8.15; Gal 4.6)”
The contemplative dimensions and monastic practices of our Dominican life include:
- Holy Sacrifice of the Mass
- The Liturgy of the Hours (The Divine Office)
- Eucharistic Holy Hour as a community
- Recitation of the holy Rosary
- Dedication to daily personal prayer
- Cloister appropriate to our life
All aspects of our daily life and apostolate overflow from a contemplative and joyful spirituality traditionally Dominican and firmly grounded in communal Eucharistic adoration and Marian devotion.
“The Sisters claim as a distinctive element of their religious consecration the Marian grace of spousal receptivity.” (from our Constitutions)
Study—Church Documents on Religious Life
As Dominican Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist, we seek to live our religious life as daughters of the Church.
As such, we draw inspiration for the living of our religious vows from the teachings of the Church, including some of the documents below.
Starting Afresh From Christ
Novo Millennio Ineunte: At the Beginning of the New Millennium
Perfectae Caritatis: Decree on the Adaptation and Renewal of Religious Life
Essential Elements in the Church’s Teaching on Religious Life Fraternal Life in Community