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“Ask a Priest: Can a layperson pray the Liturgy of the Hours?”
Q: I feel God is calling me besides daily Mass to pray the Liturgy of the Hours. I have prayed them before when I was single, and now married I feel God wants me to do that again. I was once a religious in an abusive order, but got a papal dispensation. I was afraid to pray at all. My cell phone and all its Catholic apps helped me. The Liturgy of the Hours moves me to deep prayer (I began it on my phone app and later ordered the whole set of volumes). Can I as a layperson pray the Liturgy of the Hours? Can I pray it with inspirational Catholic Christian music, or should it be in silence said or sung? I know these must be strange questions but I want to make sure I am not offending God in anyway. –P.B.
Answered by Fr. Edward McIlmail, LC
A: By all means, pray the Liturgy of the Hours! The Divine Office, as it is also called, or simply the breviary, “is the public and common prayer of the Church, is the prayer of Christ with his body, the Church. Through the Liturgy of the Hours the mystery of Christ, which we celebrate in the Eucharist, sanctifies and transforms the whole of each day. It is composed mainly of psalms, other biblical texts, and readings from the Fathers and spiritual masters” (Compendium of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, 243).
Priests and deacons are required to pray the Liturgy of the Hours, but consecrated people and laypeople can also pray it.
You should also use whatever helps you to pray better. If praying the LOTH on a smartphone works for you, that is fine. Many priests and deacons now pray the Divine Office on their Kindles or other similar devices.
Since you are under no obligation to pray the LOTH, you should feel free to pray it whenever and however you wish. You need not pray every hour every day. Nor do you have to pray a full hour all the way to end.
You should feel free to pray the Liturgy of the Hours in whatever way it helps your relationship with God. If background music helps, it helps. You can decide if and when the music becomes more of a distraction. (Monastic orders are known for singing the LOTH in common, but in this case the music is integral to the celebration.) The Liturgy of the Hours can be prayed silently too. You might consider pursuing meditative prayer. A book that could help in this regard is A Guide to Christian Meditation, by Fr. John Bartunek, LC.
Given your difficult experience with a religious congregation, you might want to stay in touch with a spiritual director. Judging by the tone of your question, my guess is that you don’t have to worry about offending the Almighty. You are a beloved daughter of a heavenly Father who loves to hear from you. Count on my own prayers for you.