Electric Prayer

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

February 2022 newsletter

Posted by universalis on 1 March 2022

Every year, Lent seems to arrive suddenly: almost as a surprise. This year, the benefit of a later Lent is that it is a lighter Lent (at least in the Northern Hemisphere), which reminds us that, sombre though Lent is liturgically, gloom is not really what Lent is about. Lent is about joy.

We have all twisted our joys out of shape, to various degrees. Joy is given us as a gift to be received and delighted in; but at various times and in various ways we treat it as a pleasure that we can take whenever we want it; or a right that we can demand if we are not given it; or an addiction we persist in even when there is no pleasure left in it. The penances and mortifications of Lent are the therapy that untwists our being and makes joy possible again. It is important to undergo that therapy. If we were mortal, it wouldn’t matter: but we aren’t. We are immortal, and how, if we have made joy impossible for ourselves, are we going to cope with an eternity that is full of nothing else?

When the Lord teaches us to wash our faces and oil our hair and look cheerful when we are fasting, it is not only to avoid the risk of hypocrisy or showing off: it is because the fasting, being a step towards healing, is a step towards freedom and joy.

It may seem odd to talk about joy when so many people are so preoccupied by worry about the immediate future, but that too can be made part of our Lent. Jean-Pierre de Caussade talks of “the sacrament of the present moment”. What he means is that the past cannot be lived in, and the future does not yet exist. Only the present has reality, and of all our experiences, the present is the closest we can get to the infinite reality and the eternal Present of heaven. Perhaps one could take an anxious hard-to-contemplate future as a reminder to obey the Lord and imitate the lilies of the field that never think about it.

Lenten exercises

There are people who decide one day to run a half-marathon and thereafter dutifully and reliably get up early every morning to go for long runs in the drizzle. And then again, there are the rest of us. (I make no apology for using sporting metaphors for the spiritual life: St Paul does it the whole time).

The truth is that most of us, faced with a training programme of Olympic proportions, will drop out on the first day, and most of us, faced with a spiritual programme worthy of the strictest convents, will never even get started. For normal people, the way to spiritual perfection is to take one small step towards it and not step back (and then, when that has been well digested, do it again). So what is this Lent’s small step to be?

As far as Universalis goes, a brief survey earlier this year showed that many people read only one page a day –  sometimes this is the Mass readings, sometimes it is Lauds (Morning Prayer). This is not to be despised, and doing one page every day is at least eighty-six million times better than doing nothing. But if you could add one more thing to your daily routine, think what a difference it would make. Here are two suggestions.

  1. Try our Spiritual Reading page. This is less of a scary commitment than additional formal prayer would be. Think of it as just something to read at a time when you might otherwise be reading Facebook or Twitter or whatever. (It is more than that, but you don’t want to scare yourself.) The Spiritual Reading page gives you pieces of the Church’s early wisdom which are otherwise buried towards the end of the Office of Readings – the longest Hour of the day. For instance, today (27 February), as I am writing this newsletter, we have a reflection on the Book of Job by St Gregory the Great, and as a bonus, a stunning passage from St Gregory of Narek, an Armenian saint of whom practically nobody has heard but who was made a Doctor of the Church by Pope Francis in 2015. His Book of Lamentations is not only a sample of a spiritual tradition very different from our own but also a foundation-stone of Armenian literature. The Church is truly universal.
  2. Listen. The Universalis apps have spoken versions available of the Mass readings and of the Hours, and you can read about them here. (Admittedly this requires a subscription, but it isn’t expensive and if you don’t get on with it then you can always cancel at Easter). Having the Hours available to listen to gives you access to spiritual nourishment in times and places where it would not have been possible before. Taking the dog for a walk, travelling to work, doing the ironing – opportunities abound. Try it!

New features in the apps

People have been asking us for the ability to copy and paste text from the Universalis apps. On Mac and Windows, you click and drag just as in any other program.

On the iPhone and iPad, you hold your finger down for a couple of seconds to highlight a word and then drag the highlights to cover everything you want to copy. This page has the full details.copy-word-cropped

On Android, the feature is still under development and your next update will make only some small changes in preparation for it.

The Creed in Slow Motion

This book has been slightly delayed and the new publication date is 30 June 2022. This page tells you about the book and now also includes the latest cover design. The book is well worth waiting for and there will be many reminders as the publication date approaches.


Thank you all for using Universalis. If you have trouble or questions, or suggestions, do write to us at universalis@universalis.com or use the Contact Us button in one of the apps.

Let us all keep one another in our prayers, as always.

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