Leading the Divine Office with young people

Divine Office

Theme
General
Age Range
14+
Type
Prayers
Number of Participants
4+
Timescale
20-30 minutes

Quick Overview:

A beautiful and ancient prayer involving song, psalms, reading and intercession. A great way to help young people delve deeply into the liturgical cycle of the Church and develop their relationship with God.

Requires:

Copies of the Divine Office. It can be purchased from Catholic bookshops, or Universalis has copies of the Divine Office and has an app which updates for every day.

Prep:

  • If you are doing this on chairs, split the total number of chairs in half and have the chairs on each half turn and face the other half. If you’re just sat on the floor again, have the people doing it split in half and sat together on opposite sides of the room.
  • If you are using books ensure that the different book marks are on the correct pages you need.
  • An important part of leading the Divine Office is knowing the flow of prayer yourself. If you don’t already, here is an explanation and here is a video of it happening being chanted; it doesn’t have to be chanted – it can be spoken too.

Run through:

Explaining the basics

  • What is it: The Divine Office is an ancient prayer of the Church involving song, psalms, reading and intercession. Through praying it, we constantly centre our day back upon God and gain a greater appreciation for scripture, the community of the Church and God’s influence in all parts of our day. It is done all around the world so that at all times praise is being sung to God.
  • Explain the role of the leader: Explain the bits the leader will be reading, that they don’t have to read at the same time e.g. The antiphon at the start of a psalm, the first intersession, the concluding prayer, short responsory.
  • Splitting the group: Explain that the group will be split in two and each side will take it in turns to read (or chant!) a loud each verse.
  • How we read the psalms: Assuming you’re saying (i.e. not chanting) the psalms, it’s helpful to teach the young people that we say the words without emphasis and read slowly. By explaining that this allows us to focus on the words without the distraction of conflicting speeds and word emphasises, young people are not put off by the seeming ‘plondliness’ the prayer may at first appear to them.

Growing the prayer organically with your group (using Lauds and Vespers as example)

  • Start Small: To help ease young people into the flow of the prayer, start with just the song at the start, the three psalms/canticles spoken, the reading and the concluding prayer. At this point, it helps to just stick with the four week psalter and introduce the proper of seasons and saints later. The prayer at this point will probably take about 5-10 minutes which for groups with no prior experience will be long enough they begin to deepen their faith and understanding, but short enough they are not confused by the different aspects or left bored.
  • Add intersessions: Once the group gets used to the flow of the prayer and is comfortable spending a short time in prayer together, begin to expand the length of the prayer by introducing intersessions. As well as the written intersessions, it’s really nice to allow the young people to ask for their own needs as this gives the group the ability to pray for one another.
  • Add the Short Responsory, Benedictus/Magnificat and Invitatory Psalm: When you feel the group has gotten used to the simpler form of the four week psalter, introduce these last components. When chanting the Benedictus/Magnificat, it helps if you have everyone chant the whole thing together as this allows the group to always follow you.
  • Add the Proper of Saints and Proper of Seasons: Once your group is comfortable with the basic form of the prayer and hopping around the book (if you’re using books), introduce this aspect of the prayer to deepen their faith, appreciation and respect for the different seasons of the Church.
  • Add Chant: Depending on you and your group, you may like to learn to chant the psalms, as this adds another beautiful dimension to your prayer. A great resource can be found here that teaches several tunes to sing the psalms and the canticles.

Active participation

  • To help the young become more active and involved in the prayer, start to delegate jobs for them to do during the prayer. You can have someone in charge of doing the reading, another for the intercessions, another for the short responsory. When you feel that the group has become very proficient in praying the Divine Office, you may like to step back from being the leader and have young people lead the prayer with you just joining in.

Video resources