A Year with the Saints – 12 August


The Divine Office is one of the most excellent works in which we can be engaged, as the Divine Praises are celebrated in it. It is an employment fit for Angels, and therefore it ought to be recited not by constraint or custom, but by choice, and with the application of our whole soul. Saint Mary Magdalen de’ Pazzi

When this Saint heard the Office bell, she was glad to find herself summoned to praise God, and instantly laid aside whatever she was doing; and while she was reciting the Office, her face showed the attention and devotion of her mind. Saint Augustine, during its recitation, banished every other thought and gave up his whole soul to it. Father Suarez says of himself that on taking up the breviary, every other thought vanished from his mind; and during the whole time of Office nothing, however important it might be, distracted him.

Father Alvarez never recited it in the streets, nor while walking, but always in a retired place, usually kneeling in the middle of his own room, and at the regular hours. He did it with great calmness, with much reverence, and slowly. He would stop from time to time to dwell upon those pious sentiments which the Lord communicated to him, the greatness of which appeared in his exhortations and in the depth of his soul.

The venerable Father Daponte, when saying the “Let us fall prostrate before God,” prostrated himself at full length upon the ground, with the same feeling of devotion and veneration that he would have had in the visible presence of God. During all the time of the Office, he kept up the greatest attention and recollection, and never interrupted it for any cause, nor answered anyone who asked him a question.

Father Faber, in order to be attentive at Office, often imagined his guardian Angel on one side, marking all the words said well, and on the other side a demon recording all distractions of mind. At the beginning of every Psalm he said: “Heavenly Father, give me Thy Spirit.” Then he bade his mind remain attentive through that Psalm. Saint Francis Xavier said, with fervor, before each Hour, “Veni, sancte Spiritus.” Saint Bonaventure imagined himself reciting it amid multitudes of Angels, joining in their choir. Saint Vincent de Paul did the same, and when he recited it privately he assumed the most humble and recollected posture that he could, by kneeling with uncovered head, until the last three years of his life when, on account of his great infirmity, he was obliged to remain sitting. But when he said it in choir, his elevation of mind was so great that he seemed as if unconscious of all things, and wholly wrapt in God. All these, and many others, said their Office with great devotion, and, at the same time, with no ordinary consolation and fruit. Some of them were so filled with celestial delights and sweetness, that they showed exterior signs of it. It is told of Saint Augustine that he was often bathed in tears; of Saint Ignatius, that he shed so many tears that he nearly lost his sight; of Saint Julian the Monk, that he had thus spoiled his breviary, and made it nearly illegible; of two young monks whom Saint Macarius saw, that at each verse a flame darted from the mouth of one, and, as it were, a lighted torch from that of the other; of Saint Francis Xavier, that his great fervor made his heart palpitate so violently that he suffered frequent fainting fits; of Saint Mary Magdalen de’ Pazzi, that she had many ecstasies; of Saint Catherine of Bologna, that she often remained immovable, with uplifted face and eyes fixed on the crucifix, and that her absorption was so great that she would not feel it if anyone pulled her habit; neither would she perceive any faults in the recitation, nor anything that happened in the chapel, nor who passed in or out; and she said that it was not possible to remember that one was in the midst of Angels and singing praises with them, and at the same time to keep the heart on earthly things. Saint Philip Neri, on account of the great union with God which he experienced while saying the Office, was always obliged to recite with another, for he could scarcely know how to bring it to an end alone.

MLA Citation