A joke: What do lay people who pray the Divine Office do when they aren’t praying the Divine Office? They’re mentioning to others that they pray the Divine Office.
Why did I post this? I saw a comment on another blog where someone was complaining about the Divine Mercy devotion. Apparently some pushy “church lady” type came through the pews of the church and forced a Divine Mercy pamphlet upon the commenter while he (or she) was trying to pray the Divine Office. Of course, church lady types are annoying, but it seems to me that people who complain about this phenomenon are often actually bragging about how they do something holier/better/more traditional/more Catholic than what the church lady was proposing that they do. The commenter didn’t need to mention that they were praying the Divine Office; they could have just said that they were praying, period. Also, the pushiness of church lady types doesn’t have anything to do with the topic of the thread, which was the Divine Mercy devotion itself. The church lady might just as easily have tried to give the person a pamphlet about the Rosary or something else.
Lay recitation of the Divine Office didn’t feature in the Catholicism I was raised in, nor in my mother’s, nor in my grandmother’s (as far as I can tell). Novenas, the Rosary, and religious medals, yes; Divine Office, no. During the few times in which I have participated in the Divine Office, it has struck me as a foreign experience that I’d just as soon not have to repeat. I was once on a pilgrimage bus to a shrine about two-and-a-half hours from where I live. Most of the pilgrimage participants were 50 or older, it seemed, and likely most were cradle Catholics with an experience of Catholic folkways similar to my own. One of the younger, more ardent and traditional pilgrimage organizers—a convert, note—tried to get the people on the bus to pray the Divine Office together. It was a failed endeavor in my own estimation (for what that’s worth), and might have proven a bit of an annoyance to some of the folks in the bus. If so (and if I’m not merely projecting), I don’t really blame them. The purpose of the pilgrimage was not to induce a change in the methods of prayer these people used. It was simply to get them to pray.
I offer that all in way of a quasi-justification for my “unfair” joke above. Of all the problems in the Church right now, the self-regard (unconscious or not) of lay Divine Office devotees is a pretty low-level problem. But so is the pushiness of Divine Mercy devotees, and so are lots of things we find time to comment on.