One of the joys of travelling for me is taking advantage of the many (seemingly hidden) convents, monasteries, cloisters, and the like where I can pray the Liturgy of the Hours in community. I used to travel frequently for business, and one of the perks was exploring the richness of prayer by visiting communities such as the Holy Spirit Sisters in St. Louis, the Georgetown Visitation Monastery, the Dominican House of Studies near the national basilica, and more. These wonderful houses of prayer often lie hidden–but fortunately a quick GoogleMaps search quickly turns them up 🙂
This past week I had the pleasure of visiting the cloistered Dominican Nuns of the Monastery of the Blessed Sacrament in Farmington Hills, Michigan for Saturday evening vespers.
The nuns did a lovely job making sung evening prayer accessible to the random visitor. The few sisters on the outside of the cloister greeted myself, my husband, and our 6 month old son (as well as the one other visitor) and made sure we had the right books to participate. During the prayers, one even checked back a few times to make sure our bookmarks were in the right place. It wasn’t a suffocating amount of attention, but just enough to make sure we could participate vocally as much as desired without being confused by the particular details of chant tones, prayers, etc. that individual communities often develop.
And then, the best surprise–preaching! Now, I’m not sure if they always preach at evening prayer or just on the eve of Sundays/solemnities, but one of the nuns gave a homily of about 10 minutes. Since she was behind the cloister, we could not see her…but her gentle, reflective style of preaching was spiritually moving to listen to. It was a mediative style that wove the Gospel reading of the next day, with the evening psalms, with touches of Pope Francis’ encyclical Lumen Fidei woven in.
While there are many reasons to promote the communal praying of the Liturgy of the Hours in parish life, I think the opportunity for preaching from the community to come forth is quite a compelling one.