It may be of no interest to anyone but me, but I started using The St. Helena Breviary last month.  I am, I guess, still an associate of the (Episcopal branch of the) Franciscans.  I have been for upwards of twenty years.  And for the last several years I have been using the pocket edition of Celebrating Common Prayer – an office book from English (Anglican) Franciscans.

For a variety of reasons (I don’t need to go into), over the last year I have been thinking (at least in part out of discussion with my spiritual director) that it might be more appropriate for me to connect with a Benedictine community, which may make using their breviary an odd choice.  Because I don’t actually know if the OSH is a Benedictine community.  It doesn’t seem to be mentioned on their web site.  (I do know, from their web site, that a priest from The Order of the Holy Cross, which is a Benedictine community, was their first Warden.  And I know that they worked jointly with the OHC in Liberia in the 60’s.)

Regardless, it’s not very likely I would associate with the OSH (in spite of really liking all I’ve read about them).  They may be moving in the foreseeable future.  But they are currently located in Georgia – which is further than I am likely to travel very often (for reasons of both time and expense).  And I want to connect with a community that I would be in direct, physical contact with at least annually.

Still, I like their book.  It is set up for four daily offices, rather than the traditional seven.  But I am unlikely to actually practice more than one (or possibly two) daily office(s):  Matins (Morning Prayer and possibly either Vespers or Compline – Evening Prayer or end of day prayer).  So that it not a problem for me. (I probably need some form of daily physical exercise more than I need even a second time of prayer – and the two are not exclusive.)

There is a richness in how the breviary is set up.  It starts with a standard pattern for each service which includes variations for each day of the week.  Then there are seasonal variations for each service.  And then there are variations for saints’ days (with a specific prayer for each saint on our calendar and a set of variations for each service depending upon the classification of the saint [essentially things like martyr, teacher, etc.]).

Then there is the fact that they have put together a service which has the best inclusive or common language approach I’ve seen.  It’s not perfect by any means.  But it even includes a special translation of the whole Psalter!

This morning we commemorated Florence Nightingale.  Who is actually no longer in our calendar of commemorations.  She was added provisionally some time ago.  But, if memory serves, she was dropped because, in spite of her undoubted heroic service to her God, she was (reputedly) cynical and burnt out before her death.  I have to admit that to me, having read about the lives of some of the men who are included in the calendar, it always seemed that she was being held to a higher standard than they were.  Perhaps because there was some resistance to the inclusion of women in the calendar?  So I was actually fine with celebrating and remembering her life today.

It’s also been true, since I started using this breviary, that the antiphons and readings have connected nicely for me.  Today, for example, the antiphon for the psalm was “Since there will never cease to be some in need on the earth, * I therefore command you, open your hand to the poor and needy neighbor in your land.”  And then psalm 101 begins “I will sing of mercy and justice; * to you O God, will I sing praises …”  And there was a moment, as I said all these words, where I found myself thinking they were quite appropriate for Florence Nightingale, nurse and social reformer.  They connected for me.

And for that matter, the gospel (Mark 10:17-31) about a man who ran up and knelt before him, addressing him as “good teacher” raised connections for me.  First, and more trivially, as I wondered what Jesus’ response meant.  When he says, “Why do you call me good?  No one is good but God alone,” does he mean to suggest an identification between himself and God?  I suspect Mark might want to make that identification.  But did Jesus?  Or did he feel that the man was buttering him up.  Might he be calling him on that?  Or am I missing something?

But more seriously, especially in light of those comments I read on Laurence and Clare, the “You lack one thing,” comment takes on a stewardship and search for God kind of ring.  For this man, like many of us, had many riches.  I think Francis and Clare took this passage quite literally, to the great enrichment of their lives.  And it resonates with Laurence bringing the sick and poor to the emperor and telling him “These are the riches of the Church.”

And then, it seems to me, Peter really is a suck up.  And he is reminded that, among all the good things that following that following Jesus brings to our lives, we can also expect to find persecutions of one kind or another.  There is a cost to discipleship.  There is also great reward in discipleship.  Expect both.  All in all, Clare thanked God for the blessing of her life of discipleship.

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