St John Paul II on the Liturgy of the Hours


On today' s Memorial of St John Paul II, it seems fitting to offer several of his quotes on the Liturgy of the Hours. In more ways than one, his pontificate inspired the mission of the St Thomas More House of Prayer to pray and promote the Liturgy of the Hours as the public and communal prayer of the Catholic Church. While we labor to introduce as many as possible to the celebration of the Liturgy of the Hours, we continue to pray for a more generous response to the Holy Father's directives that greater pastoral care be given to promoting the Liturgy of the Hours as the prayer of the whole people of God. The renewal of the Church depends upon it.


The value of the Liturgy of the Hours is enormous. Through it all the faithful, but especially the clergy and religious, fulfill a role of prime importance: Christ's prayer goes on in the world... Through this prayer of Christ to which we give voice, our day is sanctified, our activities transformed, our actions made holy. We pray the same Psalms that Jesus prayed and come into personal contact with him - the person to whom all Scripture points, the goal to which all history is directed... As a community of prayer and praise, with the Liturgy of the Hours among the highest priorities of our day - each day - we can be sure that nothing will separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. Address at St Patrick's Cathedral, October 3, 1979

Yes, dear brothers and sisters, our Christian communities must become genuine "schools" of prayer, where the meeting with Christ is expressed not just in imploring help but also in thanksgiving, praise, adoration, contemplation, listening and ardent devotion, until the heart truly "falls in love"... It would be wrong to think that ordinary Christians can be content with a shallow prayer that is unable to fill their whole life. Especially in the face of the many trials to which today's world subjects faith, they would be not only mediocre Christians but "Christians at risk". They would run the insidious risk of seeing their faith progressively undermined, and would perhaps end up succumbing to the allure of "substitutes", accepting alternative religious proposals and even indulging in far-fetched superstitions. It is therefore essential that education in prayer should become in some way a key-point of all pastoral planning. I myself have decided to dedicate the forthcoming Wednesday catecheses to reflection upon the Psalms, beginning with the Psalms of Morning Prayer with which the public prayer of the Church invites us to consecrate and direct our day. How helpful it would be if not only in religious communities but also in parishes more were done to ensure an all-pervading climate of prayer. With proper discernment, this would require that popular piety be given its proper place, and that people be educated especially in liturgical prayer. Perhaps it is more thinkable than we usually presume for the average day of a Christian community to combine the many forms of pastoral life and witness in the world with the celebration of the Eucharist and even the recitation of Lauds and Vespers. The experience of many committed Christian groups, also those made up largely of lay people, is proof of this. Novo Millennio Ineuente, Solemnity of the Epiphany, 2001

Pastoral attention to the Liturgy through the introduction to the various celebrations must instill a taste for prayer. To do so, it will of course take into account the ability of individual believers and their different conditions of age and culture; but in doing so it will not be content with the “minimum”. The Church’s teaching must be able to “dare”. It is important to introduce the faithful to the celebration of the Liturgy of the Hours “which, as the public prayer of the Church, is a source of piety and nourishment for personal prayer”. It is an action that is neither individual nor “private, but is proper to the entire Body of the Church…. Thus, if the faithful are summoned for the Liturgy of the Hours and gather together, joining heart and voice, they make manifest the Church, which celebrates the mystery of Christ”. Priority attention to liturgical prayer does not vie with personal prayer but indeed implies and demands it, and harmonizes well with other forms of community prayer, especially when it is recognized and recommended by the ecclesiastic Authority. Spiritus Et Sponsa, December 4, 2003

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... It is an encouraging fact that many lay people in parishes and ecclesial associations have learned to appreciate it. Nevertheless, it remains a prayer that presupposes an appropriate catechetical and biblical formation, if it is to be fully savoured. To this end, we begin today a series of catecheses on the Psalms and Canticles found in the morning prayer of Lauds. In this way I would like to encourage and help everyone to pray with the same words that Jesus used, words that for thousands of years have been part of the prayer of Israel and the Church. General Audience, March 28, 2001
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