Divine Office is “Participation in the Priestly Office of Christ,” Says Ordinariate Bishop

“This is the liturgy of the baptismal priesthood offering this prayer for, and with, the entire Church — for and with the entire world really — for the sanctification of the world,” says Bishop Steven Lopes of the Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter.

Choral Evensong is celebrated (pre-pandemic) at the Cathedral of Our Lady of Walsingham in Houston, Texas.
Choral Evensong is celebrated (pre-pandemic) at the Cathedral of Our Lady of Walsingham in Houston, Texas. (photo: The Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter)

The COVID-19 pandemic year coincided with the jubilee celebration for the Catholic Church’s Ordinariates of the Anglican tradition established 10 years ago by Benedict XVI. But at the close of the 10th anniversary year, these Catholic dioceses have proven the durability of Benedict XVI’s vision for realized ecumenism by announcing the imminent publication of Divine Worship: Daily Office, its form of the Liturgy of the Hours or Divine Office. 

Bishop Steven Lopes, bishop of the Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter, which covers North America, discussed with the Register the new divine office for the Ordinariate and how it completes the Ordinariate’s liturgical books. But he also provided insights into the rich theology of the Liturgy of the Hours, and why all Catholics should really embrace it for a full liturgical life in the home and the parish as envisioned by the Second Vatican Council.

Bishop Lopes further shared how the resiliency of the Ordinariate, established by Benedict XVI on Nov. 4, 2009, with Anglicanorum coetibus and strengthened by Pope Francis, is now encouraging more Christian communities to seek full communion with the Catholic Church through the Ordinariate. 


Bishop Lopes, the Ordinariate has wrapped up its 10th anniversary year since Benedict XVI founded its apostolic constitution Anglicanorum coetibus. How does this anniversary year look in review, and what lies ahead?

Obviously in a lot of ways, the whole COVID pandemic blew apart a lot of our plans to organize these regional pilgrimages to the Cathedral and the Shrine. But nevertheless, before the shutdown, we did have some good regional celebrations, especially with local dioceses with whom we have really good relationships. So it doesn't mean that the 10th anniversary was for nothing, but it allowed us this kind of concentrated period to consider our life, our mission. And we did it really within the context of the whole Church having to evaluate those things of how do we emerge from the pandemic, the shut down, and all these kinds of things. 

Our people obviously believe in the mission and in the work that we're doing. We have not experienced, for example, the kind of financial fall off that a number of other dioceses have had. We're up about 15% over this time last year. For us, there is momentum coming out of this year. I certainly felt that at the clergy assembly [in October]. You know, when you have to think creatively about how to preach the Gospel and deliver the sacraments to people that creative thinking will have a very profound and positive effect.


One exciting development is the Ordinariate’s form of the divine office in North America, Divine Worship: Daily Office, is finally here and weeks away from its publication by Newman House Press. Can you share a bit about that, and the impact you hope the daily office book has on the faithful?

Yes, the Office book, I had hopes to have it published and out already during the Ordinariate clergy assembly. But one of the consequences of the pandemic shutdown is that the printing industry itself is rather backed up, so projects were put on hold and they're trying to clear the backlog and whatnot now. So I'm hopeful that by Advent [2020], we'll actually have the volume. But we distributed to the priests an excerpt, and spent really a lot of the clergy assembly on it, looking at it and praying it. I'm excited about it. This accounts for the daily offices of Morning Prayer and Evening Prayer, or Mattins [Lauds] and Evensong [Vespers]. And there's a section in there for Daytime Prayer and Compline as a separate office.

There's a robust section of hymns, restoring the traditional Office hymns and making those available again, and then other prayers and collects. So it is a great resource to have. It will be a single volume as is very common to our experience. It's used with the Bible for the readings. So the Office book would have the complete lectionary in it, so, you know what psalms and what selections from the Scriptures to take for Morning and Evening Prayer. 

And remember, we published Divine Worship: Pastoral Care of the Sick and Dying earlier in the year. So with the publication of the Office book, this completes the liturgical framework for the Ordinariate.


How does the Daily Office spiritually form and drive forward the faithful, both clergy and laity, in the life of discipleship and evangelization?

Well, remember one of the particular insights that arose in the Anglican tradition is that the Office is the prayer of the parish. It's the prayer of the whole parish: the clergy, but also the lay faithful. And so this tradition that Morning and Evening Prayer would be prayed publicly in church is a regular feature of that parish life, and should become again a regular feature of Ordinariate life. So I can say that Monday, we have our high school program Holy House Academy meeting here on campus at the cathedral. And I know that at five o'clock, at the end of the school day, the kids all go over to the church for Evensong and the high school choir prepares that. So it really is one of those things where the call of the Second Vatican Council, and its constitution on the sacred liturgy Sacrosanctum concilium, that the entire Church rediscover the divine office as the privileged prayer of the whole Church, is in many ways already anticipated in the Anglican tradition. And certainly, therefore is treasure that the Ordinariates bring to bear in a particular way in Catholic life.


As you mentioned, Sacrosanctum concilium really does put a great emphasis on trying to expand the richness of the Liturgy of the Hours, the Divine Office, to the whole Church and that it’s not just for clergy and religious. But even 50 years later, a lot of lay Catholics haven't tapped into that. For most, it's not even part of their parish experience.

Which is really too bad. I mean, the Council talks about this as participation in the priestly office of Christ. And that priestly office is in one which we all share by virtue of baptism. This is the liturgy of the baptismal priesthood offering this prayer for, and with, the entire Church — for and with the entire world, really — for the sanctification of the world. It's not a devotional prayer per se, although there's great richness in the Scriptures, and there's great richness in the Psalms. It is liturgical prayer. It is intercessory prayer. It is giving voice, using these privileged and inspired texts of the Psalms, giving voice to the whole of the human condition.


For Catholics who are not part of the Ordinariate and are part of other Latin Rite dioceses, do you think there are particular insights or perspectives that the Ordinariate brings to the Daily Office that could enrich them in their own lives and parishes?

Our form of the Divine Office draws on much lengthier readings from Sacred Scripture. So you're simply being exposed to much more of the Bible as you pray this Office. But there's a deep, deep similarity [to the ordinary form of the Liturgy of the Hours]. I mean, someone who prays the Liturgy of the Hours regularly, and someone who prays the Ordinariate Office regularly, they're going to speak the same language of prayer. But one of our emphases is on these longer readings, so that there is much more of a biblical dynamism that is being brought in that shapes the rest of your prayer.


Many Catholics, when they think of Catholic liturgical life, they think of the Mass. So how does praying the Divine Office of the Liturgy of the Hours relate to the celebration of the Holy Eucharist? How do you help people connect the two to each other?

Those are the three main liturgical moments; the Church's liturgy unfolds in Mass and the Office. So a full liturgical life is Morning Prayer, Evening Prayer, and Mass somewhere between. And there is an interrelatedness, not only in terms of the liturgical season and of the prayer itself, but of the biblical texts: so what you're hearing in the Office, what's being proclaimed at the Gospel at Mass and then all of it being drawn together in the Sacrifice of the Eucharist, is really the heart of it. The beating heart of the Church is the Mass and the Office. And what this does is that it reminds us that the Office is not the property of a religious class or of a privileged few, but it is properly speaking the prayer of the whole Church. 

Again, the way that the Second Vatican Council speaks about this is lyrical. It's in terms of a song describing the Office, describing the liturgy, as a song that Christ sings in praise of the Father, the song that echoes through the Halls of Heaven, the song that he associates with his Bride the Church, joining him in singing this song of praise. It’s just a beautiful image of what liturgical prayer should be.


So Divine Worship: Daily Office marks a major milestone for the liturgical project begun by Anglicanorum coetibus. What are you looking forward to in the coming years? What’s ahead for the Ordinariate’s evangelizing and ecumenical Catholic mission?

Having spent so many of these first years in the Ordinariate doing the work “under the hood” — getting the structures and some of the procedures down and all of these other kinds of things — it was very necessary in order to demonstrate [the Ordinariate’s] long-term durability and stability. That has a real effect in encouraging other communities to seek full communion [with the Catholic Church]. So where you had that rush at the beginning, and then that kind of quiet down, we got to the work of taking these communities and really establishing them as Catholic parishes truly and properly. Now the rumbling is there again. So I will be receiving two new communities into full communion in early December. And there’s all-around renewed interest in the Ordinariate’s life and mission.


When you were working on Anglicanorum coetibus in the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith under Benedict XVI 10 years ago, did you ever imagine the Ordinariate would look like this?

I don't know what we imagined it would have looked like! I mean, yes in the sense that, the Ordinariate was always meant to be a diocesan structure, it was always meant to be a permanent structure in the life of the Church. And then if it's going to be that, then it has to be a diocese, because that's what we do. That's how we organize ourselves in the Catholic Church: it is a community, a portion of the People of God, united around a bishop with a sacramental order and faith. So yes to that, but how and where, I mean, just look at the map. The chancellor has a map in his office with pins in it for all the Ordinariate communities. And it's a fascinating thing to see where this has already taken hold because of the Anglo-Catholic foundations that it builds upon, and whole areas yet that we have yet to explore.


Looking back on this year – what has meant the most in the anniversary year that coincided with COVID?

I think we’re just at the beginning to start naming those graces. There are a lot of graces to be named out of the year. Frankly, I think we're still a little too close to it all to really kind of have named them all and there’s more still emerging and that’s an exciting thing. But in terms of the life of the Ordinariate, there's a lot of enthusiasm and forward progress. There's a lot of communities starting to put down roots and try to find a more permanent parish home rather than the temporary spaces they're occupying. And there are new communities coming in. That kind of energy is altogether positive. And it's altogether indicative that the evangelizing message of the Gospel, a full commitment to the liturgical and sacramental life of the Church in its fullness and richness, and a winsome explanation of the Catholic faith, is actually still very powerful.