Electric Prayer

The Liturgy of the Hours, the Mass, and other things.

July 2018 newsletter

Posted by universalis on 17 July 2018

The calendar clicks steadily on through Ordinary Time like the mileometer on a bicycle, but if you look closely enough at them, the weeks do each have their own character.

This week, in the Office of Readings, is the week of Elijah, while the Second Readings come from On the Mysteries, by St Ambrose. Addressed to the newly baptized, these readings go into depth on the symbolism of every part of the rite these people have just been through, and its connection to the salvation history of the Old Testament. Later in the week the focus moves on to the Eucharist. What adds freshness is that St Ambrose had only been baptized himself some thirteen years before writing this treatise. The story of how a catechumen, not yet baptized, was chosen against his will to be Bishop, baptized one week and consecrated the next, demands a lot more than a quick sentence in a newsletter. Even this About Today page in Universalis only scratches the surface.

Audio progress • Long passages • Invitatory Psalm • Hybrid Hours • Daytime psalms • How to update

Audio progress

All the First Readings in the Office of Readings have now been recorded. You can listen to them if you already have a subscription to the spoken audio of the other Hours. If you have that subscription, you will find a Play button in the Office of Readings page in the same way as you do in the other Hours.

The recording project continues.

Long passages: a new option

The readings at Mass are limited in length by time and the patience of congregations, and this, although it is sensible, can sometimes be frustrating. The Epistles of St Paul (to take one example) can lose something by being turned into edited highlights rather than connected pieces of careful argument. One can engage with an argument, but all one can do with highlights is admire them. It is not the same thing.

Accordingly we have added a new optional feature to Universalis. At the end of the Readings at Mass page, if we have a longer passage somewhere in the Office of Readings that corresponds to a Mass reading that day, we show you that longer passage, so you can study the passage as a whole, in private, and come to a better understanding of the Mass reading. (Because of the way the Office of Readings is constructed, there won’t always be such a longer passage, but there quite often will be one).

You can turn this feature on and off in the Settings page (for the apps) or the Translations page (for the programs).

The Invitatory Psalm

The Invitatory Psalm has an antiphon. Depending on various things, such as whether you are reciting the Office on your own, that antiphon can be used at the start and end of the psalm, or between each verse like the Responsorial Psalm at Mass. Universalis used to have notes telling you this, which were a bit distracting when you found yourself looking at them every day. Now it has a setting that lets you tell it which pattern of antiphons you want to see.

To the right of the heading that says “Introduction (with Invitatory)” there is a menu button. Press it, and you will see the available choices.

Dawn of the Hybrids

The rubrics of the Liturgy of the Hours allow for the possibility of combining the Office of Readings with some other Hour. The idea is that the Office of Readings has no particular attachment to a time of day but it will add substance to whatever daily Hour it is attached to. “Office of Readings plus Lauds” is the commonest combination, but all the others are possible as well.

If you wanted to do this, it used to be necessary in Universalis to start with the Office of Readings, then change pages at a given point. No longer.

To the right of the “Office of Readings” heading in the apps and programs, you will find a menu button. Press that button, and you will see a choice of combinations. Each of them will give you an Office of Readings fused with whichever Hour you have chosen, exactly according to the rules. As always with Universalis, the complications are all taken care of and you can settle down to undistracted prayer and meditation.

Daytime intricacies

The daytime Hours are tricky because some people recite only one of them and others recite more than one, and certain things depend on precisely which daytime Hours one is planning to recite each day: the choice of psalms, for one.

Universalis does its best to take you through this on autopilot. If you recite several Hours in a day, it learns which ones you are reciting and makes its choices accordingly. If you recite one and the same daytime Hour each day, it learns that too, and offers the appropriate psalms.

That leaves two awkward cases. The first is when you only recite one Hour in a day but each day it may be a different one, perhaps because the time you have available is different from one day to the next. The second is when, although you have your own well-established pattern of daytime Hours, from time to time you get together with friends and colleagues and recite (for example) Midday Prayer as if it were the only Hour in the day.

In both these cases, the automatic system can get confused. To avoid the confusion there is now a new feature. You will find, next to the “Mid-Morning Prayer” (“Midday Prayer”, etc) heading at the start of the Hour, a menu button which – in non-technical language – lets you disengage the autopilot and fly by hand.

If this is all Greek to you, ignore it. But if it rings a bell, please have a look at this blog entry, which gives the full details.


To get the new features and hear the new audio, you need to have an up-to-date version of Universalis or Catholic Calendar. Updates ought to happen automatically but sometimes (especially on Android) they don’t. We have instructions for updating manually here.

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