Electric Prayer

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

September 2018 newsletter

Posted by universalis on 18 September 2018

There wasn’t a newsletter in August, because so many people were away, but now everyone is back, so are the newsletters. Autumn is about to get into its stride, with the Office of Readings taking us through two weeks of Ezekiel, backed by St Augustine’s magnificent sermon On Pastors.

About Today

We have put a new feature into into the About Today page. Low down on the page, just before the liturgical colours, there is now a brief description of the author of the day’s Second Reading. Just at the moment this isn’t all that exciting because it is Augustine followed by Augustine followed by Augustine, and most of us know who St Augustine is, but in a couple of weeks’ time the sources of the Second Readings will start to range more widely again. By the time the spotlight turns to Baldwin of Canterbury, Theodore of Mopsuestia or the Blessed Guerric, even the best-educated could do with a bit of help. The stories are deliberately kept short but they will still add a new dimension to your understanding of the reading.

There are also the beginnings of another new feature in About Today, though it is one you will have to write yourselves. Before explaining this mysterious utterance, let’s look at the current grand “work in progress”, the spoken audio of the Liturgy of the Hours.

Spoken audio

To remind you: you can subscribe to a spoken English audio version of all the Hours in the Liturgy of the Hours. This is the same subscription that started just with Lauds (Morning Prayer) last year. It is a monthly subscription, and it averages out at roughly ten cents, or ten pence, per day. The rate hasn’t gone up since the beginning, but the coverage has grown, until now every Hour is included.

In theory we all think of ourselves as people who can structure our time well enough to sit down and read each Hour thoroughly, contemplatively, and at about the right time of day; but real life doesn’t always turn out like that. This is where the audio helps. People who listen to the recorded Hours have written to tell me how much difference it makes to be able to hear them when walking or driving, even on their exercise bikes. They are a great benefit in the sanctification of time.

In all this, the Office of Readings has been the true epic among the Hours, because there are hundreds of Second Readings and each of them is quite long. The story behind this is that we have had some invaluable help. The biggest contribution, in terms of the number of readings, has been from a Rosminian Brother who recorded the major Hours for a blind confrère. Knowing by whom the readings were recorded, for whom, and why gives Brother Robin’s recorded readings a special personality. In terms of numbers, our own recordings come next. Finally, a new and refreshing voice has just appeared. Jennifer Smith, an opera singer who now lives in France, is very kindly recording some Second Readings for us. Her very first recording is one you can hear now if you turn to the 29th of April 2019, the feast of St Catherine of Siena. More are being added the whole time.

(Updates to the Office of Readings audio file are issued every couple of months, and the app tells you when they become available).

The other thing to be said to anyone who has a car equipped with a sound system that uses Apple’s CarPlay is that the Universalis app now works with CarPlay, so that the day’s Hours appear on your car’s screen just like any other collection of music or podcasts.


Sometimes a limerick says it best. This one comes from a novel by Dorothy L. Sayers.

There was an old man of Khartoum
Who kept two black sheep in his room
“They remind me,” he said,
“Of some friends who are dead;
But I cannot remember of whom.”

As time goes on we accumulate more and more of the dead who need to be prayed for or remembered, or who we hope are praying for us. It is a slow process when we are young, but it accelerates. Each time (especially the first few), we think, “I will never forget this friend, I will pray for her always”, but somehow time drifts, and memories fade, and in the end we forget what time of year they died; or even in which decade. One could try and console oneself with the thought that this will make for more joyful surprises when we get to heaven, but really it is sad not to keep oneself in the communion of saints now, today, always.

A necrology is a term used by dioceses and monastic communities for a list of their deceased members to be commemorated and prayed for when their anniversary comes round. Now you can make a personal necrology of your own.

The feature is still in its early stages and at present available on iOS only – that is, the iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch – and not yet on Android, Mac, or Windows. This is because it is easier to engineer a new feature in one place and then transfer it elsewhere. But it really is ‘not yet’, not ‘not at all’, and I hope that hearing about it will make you happy that you have something to look forward to, even if you aren’t in a position to try it just yet.

Basically, the necrology is about creating your own list of deceased contacts by adding a “Died” date to people in your Contacts list. You will then be told about them in “Today’s Anniversaries”, “This Week’s Anniversaries” and “Next Week’s Anniversaries” articles in About Today, plus (if you include additional notes or a photograph) an article about that specific person later on in the same page, along the lines of the articles we already have about the saints. In addition to all this, a list of today’s anniversaries also appears at the end of the Prayers and Intercessions at Vespers (Evening Prayer) each night.

Having tried it out while developing and testing it, I can testify that this feature has great and unexpected power. I suppose that this is because nobody who dies is lost to the mind entirely; we will meet each of them at least once a year.

Do try this feature if you have a device that will support it, and let me know what you think. Look in the Settings screen of the app, under “Anniversaries”.


As always, to get the newest features and the most correct texts, 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.

One Response to “September 2018 newsletter”

  1. Anonymous said

    From burkepj@ gmail.com
    I’m already a member but looking for a link to pay the monthly extra for to listen to the hours. Perhaps thelink is there but I just can’t find it. Thanks
    PJ Burke

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