the liturgy of the hours

I arrived at Saint John’s Abbey in Collegeville, Minnesota on Saturday, June 9th.  For reasons I cannot explain even to myself, I have wanted to come here for over 20 years.  My plan was simple: for the next eleven days I would worship whenever the monks worshipped.  Within 23 hours of arriving, I had already been to ‘church’ four times.

They call this “The Liturgy of the Hours” or “Divine Office” and the weekly schedule for worship at Saint John’s is as follows:

7:00 a.m.              Morning Prayer
Noon                     Midday Prayer
5:00 p.m.             Community Eucharist
7:00 p.m.             Evening Prayer

The schedule on Saturdays and Sundays is different, so you’ve got to be on your toes or you could miss something.  But there is a built-in assist: a carillon of bells tolls the time in 15-minute increments.  At 15 minutes after the hour you hear a single toll.  At 30 minutes after the hour, two tolls.  At 45 minutes, three tolls.  On the hour, you’ll hear four tolls of the bell, followed by a lower, deeper (obviously way bigger) bell that strikes the hour.  There is no need to wear a watch; wherever you are, you can keep track of the time by the sound of the bells.  To make it even more clear, 10 minutes before worship one of those big bells starts swinging and clanging away, making a heck of a racket, to be sure everybody knows it’s time to set aside whatever they are doing and attend to the one thing that is needful.

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