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The Official Prayer of the Church

 

Next to the Holy Mass, the Divine Office (or Breviary) is the most important prayer offered to God.  It is offered by the Church and in the name of the Church, conferring multifold graces and blessings on those who recite it worthily, attentively and devoutly.  Normally the domain of priests and religious, the Church has continued to recommend her official prayer to the faithful.  However, until now, the complexity of the rubrics and a lack of suitable translations has deterred many.

 

Now Accessible to the Layman

 

With the help of modern technology, it has become easier to overcome these problems.  The result is the Roman Breviary published by the Confraternity of Ss. Peter & Paul in both Latin and English.  No knowledge of the liturgy is required.  All you have to do is click on the feastday, and then on the Canonical Hour you want to say.  The rest is just like reading a book—everything is laid out for you in order according to the rubrics of the day.  No more flicking through the ribboned sections of a weighty volume.  No more apprehension that you are forgetting some obscure rubric.  It's all there spelled out, in order, every day.

 

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And if you do want to deepen your knowledge of the Breviary or the Confraternity, this website can help you with that too.  We already provide a short history of the Breviary, instructions on when to recite which Hours, a brief commentary on the psalms, and much more.  And for those who would really like to understand the rubrics in greater depth, we provide in our bookstore a detailed but simply written electronic manual entitled How to Say the Breviary.  We shall be expanding this website regularly with more information, so check back with us frequently.  And may God reward your prayers by bestowing on you all those spiritual favours that come from a devout reading of the Church's Divine Office.

 

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Link to our Features Page to see what a difference our online edition of the traditional Roman Breviary can make in your life.

 

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Link to the Office for the Feast of St. Pius X, our secondary patron.  You can browse through the various Hours of the Office and get a feel for what to expect.

 

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  18th Sunday after Pentecost

September 27, 2015

Correcting our Neighbour

Have you ever noticed that whenever Our Lord does something good, there’s always someone in the background ready to tear him down? If he heals a sick person, suddenly a Pharisee will appear to point out that it’s the Sabbath. Or take today, when he shows that he has power to forgive sins by healing a man with the palsy. Do the scribes acknowledge this power to forgive? Do they even give him credit for ending the suffering of another human being? No, they can find nothing better to do than murmur amongst themselves that “he blasphemeth.”

How many times do we act like these wicked scribes? How many times do we see nothing but the bad in other people? Are we so clean and free from sin ourselves, are we so perfect, that when someone is trying their best to do good, all we can do is point out whatever we can find to complain about them? Today’s Gospel story came to mind a few weeks ago, when I read the bulletin from a supposedly “traditional Catholic” chapel, in which mention was made of the county clerk in Kentucky, Kim Davis, who was sent to jail for refusing to issue marriage licenses to homosexual couples. Rather than taking the opportunity to commend the heroic act of Miss Davis in standing up for the laws of God, the “traditional Catholic” author instead researched Miss Davis’s personal history to dig up any “dirt” he could find in her past. Instead of seeing her defence of marriage as a God-given opportunity to speak about the meaning and beauty of the sacrament of marriage, the “traditional Catholic” author preferred to use it simply to condemn the person defending the sacrament because she was divorced. I suppose the underlying theology of this “traditional Catholic” author must be that if you have ever done anything wrong in your life, it renders you ineligible to perform any good act afterwards. It’s an interesting and unique twist on Catholic teaching, and one that you won’t find in any moral theology manuals. I wonder if he dismisses the writings of St. Augustine, Doctor of the Church, on the basis that he had been a bit of a reprobate in his youth? Normally we might excuse the ignorance of these “traditional Catholic” authors, and write them off as just armchair theologians who as usual have got it wrong. But in this case, when it comes from a “traditional Catholic” bishop, it’s a little harder to fathom.

The fact is we are all prone to a bit of finger-pointing. And it’s not always wrong to point out the errors of others, especially when their errors are made openly and are therefore already subject to public comment. Miss Davis’ personal life, however, is not anybody’s business but her own, and there exists no reason for declaring open season on the misdeeds of her past. If there is ever a good reason for revealing someone’s past or hidden sins, it can only be to provide for the greater common good. For example, if we know that a teacher in a school is a child molester, it would be our duty to bring this to the attention of the appropriate authorities. If they failed to act, we would probably then have the duty to warn the parents of the children in his class. But we had better have moral certitude that we are right. And our motivation must be to protect the common good and not simply to ruin someone’s reputation. The eighth commandment is a particularly difficult commandment to understand fully, and there are a lot of distinctions that can come into play. The safest way to act is by always having a pure motive whenever we feel we have to say something unpleasant about another person.

And let’s remember what Our Lord said: “Physician, heal thyself!”

Hypocrisy is a particularly disagreeable vice, and one alas, that traditional Catholics seem to have a disproportionate tendency to fall into. We have the true faith, we’ve read the catechism, we know right from wrong in this world where morality has been turned on its head. And so we sometimes see ourselves as the guardians of truth and virtue. In a sense we are. We are guardians if we simply remain faithful to those truths and virtues. However, we are not God’s policemen. We are more like doctors, or physicians. Physicians who must concentrate first and foremost on healing ourselves, as Our Lord says, not on wandering through the world seeking the faults of others so that we may criticize them and drag them through the mud. Our mission is to heal the souls of our neighbor, not to attack him.

I have been in traditional Catholic churches where newcomers, even an eighty-year-old veteran of World War II have been prevented by the ushers from going to Communion, simply because they were not wearing a jacket over their shirt and tie on a hot day. Where nuns stand at the door of the church to keep out and send home girls whose neckline or hemline are a centimeter beyond the rules they have established. What do these churches stand for? Is it zeal for the salvation of souls? I think not.

And it is easy to fall into these kind of obsessions, in the name of virtue. And yet, how much more Christ-like it would be to welcome those we perceive to be sinners (whether in reality they are or not) and gently guide them to a greater appreciation of those virtues we hold so dear. This kind of training often takes time and patience. But the results are worth the effort, and it is far more effective than criticizing and humiliating people.

Certainly there are lines to be drawn, and I’m not just speaking about how we dress in church. The way we act in public must always be called into question. Principally, however, by ourselves. And if we do not have the education, the experience, or simply the good sense to know when we are acting badly, then it is up to someone else to tell us. This is called fraternal correction. The word “fraternal” right there tells you that it must always be done with charity. Usually this means it must be done in private, not in front of friends, family, or the general public. Embarrassing people is never the best way to correct someone’s faults. The correction should be done by someone who has some kind of influence over the offender, a parent, a spouse, a teacher, a priest. And the whole purpose of the correction must be exactly that, to correct. Never simply to chastise, to ridicule, or to criticize. When we correct, it is to help someone overcome a fault in themselves that perhaps they have never noticed they have. Or to remind them that their behavior is unacceptable and must be curtailed. But always with the aim of helping that person become a better person, more charitable to his neighbor, and most importantly, more pleasing to God. And in daring to correct someone else, we must always remain aware that our own faults, especially those hidden faults that only we know, are just as grievous, if not more so, than those of our neighbor. The virtue of humility is the key to practicing fraternal correction.

That humility includes being ready to accept the fact that we might be wrong. Our understanding of truth and right moral behavior is so often flawed by our own ignorance. It could be ignorance of the principles that should be applied. Or it could be ignorance of the facts that apply in a particular case. We can’t apply good principles where they simply aren’t relevant. When traditional Catholics try to do this, the results are often ridiculous. Or worse, scandalous, and even dangerous. The Church before Vatican II gave us very good guidelines for our behavior in this regard, and unfortunately there are fewer and fewer Catholics left who remember those days. For example, the general discouragement of avoiding social relationships with non-Catholics was very much mitigated in countries like the United States where Catholics were in the minority. Dispensations for mixed marriage were much easier to get in protestant America than in Catholic Italy. This doesn’t imply a double standard, it merely reminds us that laws are there for our benefit, for the salvation of our souls, and not to be mindlessly followed regardless of the circumstances. It boils down to common sense.

Laws are guidelines. And human beings are complex beings with emotions, medical conditions, sleep patterns, the weather, and a host of other things influencing our behavior. When we’re tempted to find fault in anybody for any reason other than obvious and grievous public sin, the best thing to do is give the benefit of the doubt. We should have the attitude where we are more inclined to overlook the faults of our neighbor, rather than setting ourselves up as their judge, jury and executioner. We are often wrong, whether about their motivation, the mitigating circumstances, the correct application of a principle, or other multiple factors that bear on the case. And even when we’re right, what good do we really think will come from a reaction of feigned scandal and hypocritical zeal?

Last week we discussed the love we must have for God. This week it is the turn of our neighbor. We must love them as ourselves, applying the Golden Rule of doing unto them as we would have them do unto us. It’s a very good exercise to follow before daring to criticize the faults of another, to think what kind of criticism we would like to have leveled at us. Certainly not the pompous sanctimony of someone who enjoys uncovering our weaknesses and wants to use them as an excuse to show the world how much better he is. But rather the constructive criticism of someone who obviously has our best interests at heart, and is prepared to help us become a better person.

Again, remember what Christ said: “Physician, heal thyself.” Take the mote out of your own eye before complaining about the splinter in your neighbour’s eye. Hypocrisy, constant sanctimonious criticism of our fellow Catholics, and a very unpleasant tendency to see ourselves as “holier than thou” all this has become a serious blight on the reputation of those of our faith. Let us look to our own conscience on this matter, and try to heal any wounds we may have caused by a vicious tongue or pen.

Above all let us find our supreme example in the Blessed Virgin Mary. She is the Mirror of Justice, and we would do well to look into that Mirror of Justice, so that when we find fault, we behold it only in ourselves.

 Sermons from the Chaplain