As far as finding interested people and getting one of our priests to agree to help those of us who've only ever said the office un-officially or silently learn the proper way to saying it as a group, things have been going swimmingly. However, we've been advised we need to have the head of the "liturgy and spirituality commission" present the idea to the parish council for approval -- a bottleneck designed to keep overly small groups from hogging constantly over-booked rooms around the parish.
I'm on the council, as is one of the other people involved in putting the group together, so I don't really imagine we'll have any trouble, but I went ahead and wrote up a "one sheet" (as we call such things in marketing-speak) to be handed out to everyone in order to try to minimize problems and do a little education.
Lest anyone should find such a brief summary useful, it follows below.
We're planning on having people get the Shorter Christian Prayer, basically because it's easy, contains Lauds and Vespers (which are the only one's we're likely to be doing in parish at the moment) and most importantly: cheap.
Begin a lay-run group which says the Liturgy of the Hours one or more days per week, probably Vespers said in the evening just after the end of the workday.
- Provide an opportunity for lay-led liturgical prayer.
- Familiarize parishioners with the ancient prayer of the Church which Vatican II has especially commended to the laity as well as priests and religious.
- Raise up to the Lord the intentions of the parish.
- The Liturgy of the Hours is the official prayer of the Church, said daily by all priests, deacons and religious. It is focused around praying the 150 psalms (on a four-week cycle).
- The origins of the LotH are very ancient: praying the psalms was an essential element of temple worship at the time of Jesus and the Apostles, and accounts as early as the 3rd Century AD describe both priests and laity pausing when getting up, at mid-day, and in the evening to pray the psalms.
- Vatican II significantly shortened and simplified the LotH, and specifically encouraged parishes and the laity to make it a part of their regular prayer life.
- Vespers (Evening Prayer) consists of two psalms, a short reading, a Canticle from the New Testament, and Intercessions/Prayers of the Faithful with the option of also including a hymn. It takes 10-15 minutes to say.
What the Church Says:
From the General Instruction on the Liturgy of the Hours:
“This liturgy of the hours or divine office, enriched by readings, is principally a prayer of praise and petition. Indeed, it is the prayer of the Church with Christ and to Christ.” (GILH, 1:2)
“Wherever possible, other groups of the faithful should celebrate the liturgy of the hours communally in church. This especially applies to parishes.” (GILH, 1:21)
“Lay groups gathering for prayer, apostolic work, or any other reason are encouraged to fulfill the Church's duty, by celebrating part of the liturgy of the hours. The laity must learn above all how in the liturgy they are adoring God the Father in spirit and in truth; they should bear in mind that through public worship and prayer they reach all humanity and can contribute significantly to the salvation of the whole world.” (GILH, 2:27)