Electric Prayer

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

September 2022 newsletter

Posted by universalis on 6 September 2022

Welcome back! This has been a properly summery summer, but now is the time to welcome you all back from it, both literally and metaphorically. Autumn is a time for new beginnings.

It is inspiring, at this time of year, to see how the saints guide us – not only as themselves but by being close together in the calendar. On the 5th of this month we had Mother Teresa and on the 9th we will have St Peter Claver, and they are in a way almost the same saint. They were both called not to the relief of general evils – destitution or slavery – but to the aid of actual individuals bearing the face of Christ.

To over-simplify: Mother Teresa was not told ‘Poverty must be relieved’ but ‘This man, here, must not die in a dustbin’. St Peter Claver was not told ‘Disapprove of slavery’ but ‘This man, just off a ship, naked, filthy, terrified: learn his language, clothe him, wash him, and find him the best possible master’. (At this point you should give up reading this email and go to the Office of Readings or Spiritual Reading page in Universalis for 9 September and read Claver’s narrative of the arrival of a slave ship.)

Most of us are too comfortable with generalities and abstractions. ‘The poor’ or ‘the sick’, or whatever – they are lumped together by erasing every characteristic of theirs except one. Think of the questions you don’t ask them. What colour of eyes do you have? Where have you come from and what has your life been like? Do people like you or dislike you? Will I? What is your name? All individuality is wiped out – a poor person becomes just ‘a poor’, a unit of poverty or sickness or whatever, a unit of condescendability.

This is immensely convenient, for us. First, it relieves us from having to engage with an actual person. Second, it relieves us from having to do anything ourselves, since ‘the poor’, being a mass of non-individuals, are best dealt with by institutions, not by us. Third, it keeps us safe. The Good Samaritan ran a terrible risk because the man attacked by robbers was not a crime statistic but a person who might have had needs beyond the recovery of his health. It is very hard to say to someone, ‘I have saved your life: now go away.’

How we respond to the example of the saints is of course a matter for each of us. But at bottom both Mother Teresa and St Peter Claver followed the same, simple call: ‘This needs doing: do it.’

Spoken audio

If you have a Universalis app then you have the option of not just reading the readings at Mass, and all the Hours each day, but listening to them as well. This is not synthetic audio. It is real recordings of real human voices, read with care and expression. You do need a subscription, but it isn’t an expensive one –  in many parts of the world one month’s subscription costs about as much as a single cup of coffee!

Listening adds a deeper dimension to your spiritual life. Autumn is the perfect time to embark on new enterprises, so I thoroughly recommend that you try it for a month and see. After all, you can cancel the subscription at any time. You can listen to a free sample before you subscribe. This page has all the details.

The reason for mentioning this today is that there has been a long-awaited advance over the summer:

Revised Standard Version: For the scripture readings in the Liturgy of the Hours, the RSV (Catholic Edition) ia available in the Universalis apps, as an add-on, if you prefer it to the Jerusalem Bible translation. Hitherto the spoken Hours have only used the Jerusalem Bible, so that was what you would hear even if you had signed up for the RSV. No longer! After an intensive summer campaign of recording and editing, all the RSV texts in Lauds, Vespers, the Office of Readings and the smaller Hours are available. If you have chosen the RSV you will hear the RSV.

Dom Laurence Kelly

The “Remembrance Cards” feature of the Universalis apps on iPhone and iPad (unfortunately not on other systems at the moment) lets you add reminders of the anniversaries of the dead and even pictures and short obituaries of them. They appear in “About Today” and other pages. As I was composing this newsletter, my own About Today page told me that the first of September was the 13th anniversary of the death of Dom Laurence Kelly OSB, monk of Downside. Father Laurence was first a housemaster and later the Chaplain of the whole school. He was a wise, learned, and holy man, and an incomparable confessor with an ability to ferret out what was really worrying one (however tactfully one hid it inside one’s confession) and, crucially, to turn it into an occasion of grace.

On 1995 Father Laurence gave the Holy Week discourses at Downside’s Easter Retreat. By coincidence or Providence, some recordings of them have turned up recently in the spring cleaning of an old computer. The discourses are well worth listening to at any time of year. Follow this link to listen to them.

The Creed in Slow Motion

The last newsletter had a slightly unusual format because it marked the publication, on 30 June, of my book The Creed in Slow Motion. That certainly got the book off to a good start! On the day of publication The Creed in Slow Motion got into the top 300 out of the million or so titles sold by Amazon in the UK – not a usual position for a religious book. (It was No.1 for quite some time in many of Amazon’s religious categories, and in their top 10 for even longer.)

The US publication date is October 18. So if you are in the USA, now is your chance to join in! If you want a taster, then each day from Tuesday September 6, the About Today page for anyone using the United States calendar in Universalis will include a link to a one-minute clip by the author bringing out the theme of one of the chapters. This applies to the apps, the programs, and the web site. In addition to all this, if you use Instagram, follow @universalis_com for a daily short video highlighting key phrases.

Australia and New Zealand: October 25.

Here is how to get the book anywhere in the world, either in printed form or as an e-book.

If you already have the book, the story is not over. Many of you have written to us with praise and positive comments. That is enormously encouraging, but now – tell everybody! Tell your friends, first of all, because friends listen to friends. And if you hang out online, you can do more. Post a rating or review on Amazon or on Goodreads, or mention it wherever else seems good to you. If you think this is a good book (which it is) and worth reading (and it is), then you owe it to other people to tell them about it so that they can benefit as well.

Reactions to the bookCover illustration

Here are some responses to the book from across the world, and (just as important) from across the whole spectrum of Christianity.

Australia: A fascinating interview with Christian Bergmann at Melbourne Catholic, a publication of the Archdiocese of Melbourne.

Australia, a Catholic religious educator: “I am really impressed. I will certainly be reading it more than once. I would like permission to use The Creed in Slow Motion as a teaching aid. I will also be encouraging those I to whom I speak to get the book.”

India: “The book I was waiting for. No exaggeration, such a soothing experience. The language is so simple… as if it is speaking to me directly. My prayer is that it should reach millions of people. Considering that I am teaching Systematic Theology in Seminary, this is very enlightening for me.”

USA, a Catholic religious educator: “Like a good meal, filling and delicious, to be savored as slowly consumed, and calling for second servings. Both inspiring and thought provoking. I am reading new chapters daily, but also re-reading others. It’s become part of my morning prayer routine. It would be very helpful for young people, say age 15 and up… I foresee it being a perennial rather than momentary book… any book worth reading is worth reading again, and again, and – The Creed in Slow Motion is such.”

USA, a Catholic priest: “I got the book today and made it part of my daily priestly prayer.”

USA, a lay Catholic: “I immediately sat down and read the introduction and the first chapter. I can tell I will not leave very long intervals between picking it up to continue reading. It is so chatty you could be sitting  beside me, and you are speaking the way I think, so I am not getting lost and having to go back all the time to understand you.  THANK YOU SO MUCH.”

USA, a Catholic musician: “What a gift The Creed is to our Catholic faith, and because of your book, I have a better understanding of it. I love the stories in-between the various sections…”

Estonia, a Lutheran pastor: “I heartily recommend the book to all intellectually-inclined seekers of truth everywhere. (Indeed, I have already ordered a few copies of it as presents to some friends that I think would benefit from them.) As someone who began to see some sense in the Christian faith while reading C.S. Lewis’s Mere Christianity as a teenager, I can appreciate the value such books can have in helping one along the road towards the Truth.”

UK, an Anglican priest: “A first-rate defence of the Christian faith which shows why the arguments about God and Christ really matter to all of us.”

UK, a Catholic school chaplain: “I have been listening with interest to the excerpts of your book… I am enjoying reading your reflections on the Creed. I used one of your thoughts in my homily on Trinity Sunday.”

UK, a learned Benedictine monk: “This is just the sort of thing that tired old monks need to rejuvenate their thinking.”

UK, a Catholic bookseller: “Delightfully written, highly insightful and inspiring. I love it!!”

Sierra Leone, a Pentecostal church member: “Honestly, buy it instantly. For a Christian it resonates very well. I don’t know how to describe this but you’ve captured the emotion and feelings into words.”

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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