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

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May 2023 newsletter

Posted by universalis on 6 May 2023

Happy Eastertide!

The air all around is full of Alleluias, and in the Android and iPhone/iPad apps you even have an Alleluia button which, if you press it, plays you the word ‘Alleluia’ spoken by users of Universalis across the world.

The carpenter and the crown

On Saturday 6 May the people of the United Kingdom will be having a new servant anointed for them: a King. The location is the abbey church of St Peter in Westminster. The name reminds us that it is at the basilica of St Peter in Rome that the servant of the whole people of Christ is anointed: the Pope.

What makes this coincidence fruitful is that on Monday 1 May we celebrate the memorial of St Joseph the Worker. These dates taken together give a clearer perspective on the nature of work and of service.

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March 2023 newsletter

Posted by universalis on 11 March 2023

Happy Lent!

We are getting up to the middle of Lent now, so it seems a good time to be recommending some sources of spiritual nutrition to keep the momentum going. There are three in this newsletter: the Creed in Slow Motion videos, the longer passages in the Readings at Mass page, and the Spiritual Readings page in the apps and programs.

The Creed in Slow Motion

Father Sean Doggett in Grenada has recorded a series of videos which follow the themes of The Creed in Slow Motion. The videos are quite short, so it is not a burden to watch them, and they are presented with great charm and simplicity. Apart from their value in themselves you could find it useful to watch them with young people and use them as a starting-point for conversation. There are 53 videos, and you can either watch them one a day by following the link in our About Today page – about a thousand people a day are doing this – or look up the complete list here.

Longer passages

The First and Second Readings at Mass are decently short. They have to be, because anything else would unbalance an occasion which is centred not on scripture but on the encounter with the Lord in the most holy sacrament of the Eucharist.

On the other hand, if you are looking at the readings at home then you are studying, not participating in a sacrament, and the wider picture can be useful and interesting.

For instance, next Sunday is the watery Sunday of Lent: as the Gospel gives us the magnificent dialogue with the Samaritan Woman about water welling up to eternal life, so the first two readings quickly give us Moses striking water from the rock and St Paul talking about the Love of God being poured into our hearts.

But those readings are just highlights, because the whole passage from Exodus tells us where and why the Israelites were tormented by thirst, and what happened next, and the whole passage from Romans gives a rounded picture of our justification through Christ.

In the Universalis apps and programs, you can choose to see these longer passages. They are added to the very end of the Readings at Mass page, so you will still see the normal Mass readings in the normal place and won’t be distracted.

The “Show longer passages” option is in the Settings screen of the mobile apps, in Tools > Options in Windows, and in Universalis > Preferences > Translations on the Mac. Universalis won’t give you those longer passages on every single day (it is “borrowing” them from the scriptural readings in the Office of Readings) but you will see them more often than not, and they are well worth a try.

Spiritual Reading

The Office of Readings is often thought of as being something for specialists. Perhaps it is the slightly obscure name it has been given, or perhaps it is its length – it does sometimes seem to have the most tedious historical psalms! But the Second Readings in the Office of Readings are one of the glories of the Liturgy of the Hours (they are what first drew me into it) and it is a pity to miss them.

The Spiritual Reading page in Universalis gives you just the Second Readings and nothing else. Have a look at it when you have a moment. Sometimes there is only one Second Reading, so that for instance this Sunday it is (fittingly) St Augustine’s commentary on the gospel of the Samaritan Woman. But quite often there are more. On Wednesday we had not only Wednesday’s reading but also the reading for St John of God (a humbling one, that), and even one for St Felix, whom you may not have heard of otherwise because he is celebrated only in East Anglia. In a sense the Spiritual Reading page is richer than the proper Office of Readings because it gives you the chance to see all these readings wherever you are.

“Spiritual Reading” comes in the same Hours menu as the Readings at Mass and all the Hours. Give it a go.


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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February 2023 newsletter

Posted by universalis on 2 February 2023

How long is Christmas?

When you go into a church on the first day of February and see a crib still there long after we have all got rid of our trees, the question presents itself in concrete form.

Christmas is Christmas Day – of course.

Christmas is the Twelve Days of Christmas, from the birth of Jesus and his appearing to the shepherds up to the Epiphany, the coming of the Wise Men and the first appearance of the incarnate God to the Gentiles.

Christmas is more than that. The celebration of the Incarnation is not complete until Jesus is sent out on his mission on the feast of the Baptism of the Lord.

Christmas and the Epiphany and the Baptism are three facets of the same event, and it resonates throughout the liturgy of the period. But there is more to come.

Before Christmas there is a seven-day countdown, marked by the ancient ‘O Antiphons’ – and that is part of the bigger almost-four-week warm-up which starts on Advent Sunday. Cribs often start then. I remember seeing one in Hildesheim in Germany which was 20 feet long and told the whole story of salvation history, beginning with a Garden of Eden with giraffes in it.

After the triple Christmas-Epiphany-Baptism celebration, it still isn’t all over. The afterglow of Christmas still carries on. The Marian anthem at Compline is the Alma redemptoris mater, and the Crib is still to be seen in churches. This is because Jewish tradition does not bring the season of “a child has been born” to a close until forty days have passed. Forty days bring us to today, so today is final, definitive closure of the Christmas season as a whole: the feast of the Presentation in the Temple, with all its candles.

And that is that. Now we are back to normal. Or rather, we aren’t, because nothing is normal. The entire ten-week celebration has taken us once again through the transition from BC to AD, and it reminds us that we are in a ‘new normal’ which is not normal at all, because the Child has been born.

God is with us, and can never not be.

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December 2022 newsletter

Posted by universalis on 5 December 2022

Happy Advent!

At this time of year the Church’s calendar has what looks like a fit of unimaginativeness. All the rest of the year, days are marked as “Monday of the 21st week in Ordinary Time” and so on. Now, as we get near Christmas, the calendar solemnly informs us that December 17 is “17 December”, December 19 is “19 December”, and so on all the way to Christmas Eve. We feel a little cheated: we think we could have guessed that for ourselves.

Of course the designers of the calendar do nothing without a good reason, and even their accidents are not really accidents. You can see what they have been doing if you look up into the sky. Planets, when they get near the Sun, disappear, swallowed up in its glare; and in the same way Christmas swallows up the weekdays near it. What does the Wednesdayness of a Wednesday matter if it is four days before the celebration of the coming of our Saviour?

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November 2022 newsletter

Posted by universalis on 2 November 2022

As October is the month of the Rosary, so November is the month of the dead. Outside, the trees finish making next year’s buds and drop their leaves and take on the appearance of death. In the Church’s calendar the year comes to an end and so does the world itself, with readings dominated by the Apocalypse and the prophecies of Daniel.

At this season the Church bids us remember the dead. The day after All Saints we pray for the souls of all the departed, followed a week or so later (in many parts of the world) by those who gave our lives for us in war.

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October 2022 newsletter

Posted by universalis on 11 October 2022

The Rosary

Sometimes you step into a church for a moment of silent reflection, and as the noise of outside fades away and the silence takes over, from out of the shadows you start to hear a voice. It is saying something, you don’t know what, and after some moments that voice stops and other voices take over and still you don’t know what exactly they are saying. Then it is the first voice’s turn again and you realise: it is the Rosary.

It is like when you are on a ferry and touch a part of the structure and feel the pulse of the engines that are making the whole thing go. The Rosary is the engine-room of the Church.

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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.

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June 2022 newsletter: special book edition!

Posted by universalis on 30 June 2022

This is a slightly unusual newsletter because instead of giving various bits of news about the Universalis website and apps, it is devoted to one subject. The Creed in Slow Motion, by Martin Kochanski, is published today by Hodder & Stoughton. Being by the same author as the majority of the “About Today” pages in Universalis, it isn’t entirely unconnected with the normal subjects of this newsletter. And I would like to claim that this is an important book and worthy of your notice!

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May 2022 newsletter

Posted by universalis on 18 May 2022

Happy Eastertide!

One way and another, this is going to be rather a bookish newsletter.

New e-books are ready

Those of you who use e-books rather than apps know that each e-book lasts only for a fixed time, and when it has finished you have to get an e-book for the next period. In this way an e-book is like a printed book –  it covers only the period it is designed for, whereas an app lasts for ever.

Ready-made Liturgy of the Hours e-books are available through Amazon for the Kindle. Because of the size of the Liturgy of the Hours, the e-books cover half a year each. The current one goes from Advent 2021 to Pentecost 2022, and Pentecost is approaching rapidly. The next e-book from Amazon goes from Pentecost 2022 to just before Advent, and it is available now. You can find the catalogue here.

You can also create your own e-books for yourself, which is cheaper because you only ever need to pay once. It is also more flexible because you can choose your own local calendar and the exact Hours you want. If this is something you have been doing already, nothing has changed in the way you do it – but as a reminder, this page has the instructions.

The Mass in Close-Up

The Universalis apps and programs have a feature called “Daily Books” which lets you read a book, divided into daily slices, as part of any of the pages in Universalis. The daily slicing means that you are never tempted to read too much at once, but can focus deeply on one passage at a time and get the most out of it. You can get at the books through the File menu in the programs and through the circled-I menu in the toolbar of the apps. This page has all the details and instructions.

There is a new Daily Book out now: “The Mass in Close-Up” by Father Antony Jones, who for some 50 years was a parish priest in Wales. As his priestly ministry proceeded, Fr Antony became increasingly convinced that the more we understand the Mass, the Church’s greatest treasure, the more we will love it and benefit from it. His constant aim was to instruct his parishioners about the Mass and from the resulting talks and papers this book was born. “The Mass in Close-Up” is a detailed examination of the Mass, exploring every aspect of it, theologically, historically and spiritually. In Universalis it comes in 70 daily instalments and you can attach it to whichever page you want, although the Mass Readings page is probably the most logical choice.

The Creed in Slow Motion

The publication date in the UK is now definitely 30 June and advance copies are already going out to reviewers and the like.

The US publication date is 18 October, but I know that some of our American friends have been pre-ordering the UK edition from The Book Depository.

This page tells you all about the book and includes the final cover design.

From Wednesday 18 May the Universalis apps and programs, and the web site, will give you access to a short daily audio clip telling you about each chapter of the book. There isn’t time, in 60 seconds, to say very much, but I hope that what is said will interest and intrigue you. On the web site it is a yellow box about half way through the About Today page or at the bottom of the Morning Prayer and Evening Prayer pages. In the apps and programs the box is in the same sort of position but it is grey rather than yellow.

Try a few episodes and see if you enjoy it! And if you aren’t interested, the boxes are not too obtrusive and will disappear automatically at the end of June.

And another thing…

While you are waiting for a book by one member of the Kochanski family, another member’s book is already out! It is Resistance: the Underground War in Europe, 1939-45 by Halik Kochanski, who is my sister. It was published in March in the UK and the US publication date is 24 May. It is not family solidarity alone that makes me mention this book. It is a solid, authoritative and compassionate piece of work. Max Hastings, in the Sunday Times, calls it “The best book on the subject I have ever read.” The publisher’s page about the book is here.

App news

The Android apps now follow the iOS apps in letting you select text by holding down your finger on the screen. Handles then appear which you can use to highlight exactly the text you want to copy and paste into other apps (for instance, for emailing). The apps from Google Play already have this feature and the Amazon Appstore ones will follow soon.

Now is also a good time to remind you about another feature of the Android apps. If you are blind or are using a screen reader for some other purpose, there is a switch in the Settings screen of the Android app which makes the display more “visible” to TalkBack. The switch is labelled “Screen reader mode” and it is at the beginning of the “Advanced” section at the end of the Settings screen. A blind user asked me to mention this, and I am happy to do so. (The iOS app naturally works with VoiceOver and a separate mode is not needed).


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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March 2022 newsletter

Posted by universalis on 25 March 2022

Happy Annunciation!

That isn’t something people say. You didn’t wake up this morning expecting to hear it or planning to say it to everyone you met. Just as well, because you would be disappointed (on the one hand) and (on the other hand) come across as some kind of lunatic. But all the same it is true: the Annunciation is a great feast because it is the feast of the Incarnation. It is when our salvation started.

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