ALTHOUGH we are representatives of the Church we must not forget that when in union with our Lord we deliberately set ourself to do His work of worship, we are doing an act not only good in itself and profitable to all the members of the Body Mystical, but also one full of advantage to ourselves. In other words, we have in the fruit of the Office a special share which is wholly ours. This we can dispose of as we please. From this comes the advantage of having some special intention for which we say either the whole or part of the Office. And, indeed, no better prayer can be used for the special intentions we may have at heart; for it is the highest of all prayers and is said in the very best circumstances for receiving a favourable answer. Spiritual writers, such as St. Bernard and St. Bonaventure, recommend us not to neglect this practice of making intentions ; for long and frequent prayers expose us to the danger of negligence, and therefore the practice serves to guard our attention.
What intentions should we use ? There are, first, the four intentions of our Lord's Prayer in Heaven and in the Blessed Sacrament : adoration, thanksgiving, atonement, and supplication. We may sometimes say our Office or part of it as a distinct act of adoration to the Eternal God. Prostrated before His throne and abasing ourself in His sight, we confess that He is all and we are nothing ; that all we are and have is from Him ; that He alone is worthy of all honour, all glory, and all worship, for He hath made us and not we ourselves. Then there are many occasions when our heart is full of gratitude for some favour which God has given us. Second to the Mass there is no act of thanksgiving so pleasing to Him as the Office. And have we not much to be grateful for ? Our vocation, our sacraments, our graces, our crosses, our joys, our successes, our sorrows, our hopes, our losses; all these are distinct subjects for thanksgiving. What better act of thanksgiving, for instance, than to say Lauds with this intention ? Or does the remembrance of former sinfulness oppress us ; or are we weighed down with the thought of our own daily unfaithfulness to grace, or of our coldness and want of love in God's service ; or are we moved by the shock that comes from some fall more serious than usual ? There is an atoning power in the Office said in union with our Lord that is sure to win grace, forgiveness, peace, and purity. Or do we hear of some great scandal and sin, of stars falling from heaven [Cf. Apoc. viii. 10.], the interests of our Lord disregarded and injured in various parts of the Church ? We have a perfect means of making atonement to His dear glory by means of Office. Or are we in want, or do we pray for others ? Is it a conversion that we ask, saying as Esther said to the king : If it please thee give me my life for which I ask and my people for whom I beseech [Esther vii. 3.]. Or is it our daily occupation, whatever it may be, that makes us anxious and full of care ? Or do we wish to pour forth our prayers for our friends and relations, our community and superiors ? We have no better means of helping them than by saying our Office for these particular intentions ; for we say it with Jesus, and He is heard for His reverence [Heb. v. 7.]. There is, therefore, no better way than to say our Office, whatever our intentions may be, in union with the Glorious and Eucharistic Life of our Lord and with reference to the ends for which He prays. Thus will our Office be linked on to the Mass and will get its light and life from that adorable Sacrifice, the centre itself of all light and life [The English mystic, Walter Hilton, died 1396 (?), says of the Office: "This prayer is always heard by Jesus. It yieldeth grace unto Jesus and receiveth grace again from Him. It maketh the soul familiar, and, as it were, companion unto Jesus and all the Angels in heaven. Use it whosoever can ; the work is good and grace-bestowing in itself. . . . This prayer is a rich offering filled with all the fatness of devotion, received by Angels and presented before the face of Jesus."— The Scale of Perfection (ed. 1870), p. 244.].
We can say the Office in union with the spirit of the feast which the Church celebrates, to adore God in that particular mystery or saint; to thank Him for all the graces given through that mystery or saint, or to that saint making him to be what he is ; or offering that mystery or the holiness of the saint in the spirit of atonement, or urging the mystery or the patronage of the saint as an extra plea for our petition. And how our ever-dear and blessed Lady enters into all this can easily be seen. Under all circumstances, when saying her Office we must place our hand in her's and, together with her, approach the Throne of Grace.
It is useful to write in our Office books some general intentions which we should observe, unless any special reason makes us change our plan. As there are seven hours in the Office and seven days in the week, we may make use of these tables, either for a day or for a week, for the Office as a whole, or for each separate hour. The following lists may be altered and changed to suit each one's devotion.
I.— GENERAL INTENTIONS.
(i) The Blessed Trinity : or the Incarnation ; (2) The Holy Angels : or our Guardian Angel; (3) The Apostles : or our Patron ; (4) St. Joseph : or the Souls in Purgatory; (5) The Blessed Sacrament: or the Clergy ; (6) The Passion : or all sinners ; (7) Our Blessed Lady : or all religious.
II.—TO HONOUR THE ATTRIBUTES OF GOD.
(i) His wisdom ; (2) His omnipotence ; (3) His goodness ; (4) His providence ; (5) His mercy; (6) His justice ; (7) His patience.
III.— IN HONOUR OF THE HOLY GHOST.
(i) For the gift of wisdom ; (2) For the gift of understanding ; (3) For the gift of counsel; (4) For the gift of knowledge; (5) For the gift of fortitude ; (6) For the gift of piety ; (7) For the gift of fear of the Lord.
IV.— OUR LORD'S LIFE.
(i) Our Lord's Nativity; (2) His hidden Life ; (3) His public Ministry ; (4) His Passion ; (5) His Death ; (6) His resurrection ; (7) His Ascension.
V.— THE PASSION.
" At Matins bound, at Prime reviled, Condemned to death at Terce, Nailed to the Cross at Sext, At None His blessed Side they pierced, They take Him down at Vesper tide, In grave at Compline lay, Who henceforth bids His Church observe These seven-fold hours alway."
VI.— OUR LADY, MIRROR OF JUSTICE.
(i) For knowledge of Mary ; (2) For more love of Mary; (3) For more confidence in Mary ; (4) For more union with Mary ; (5) For more joy in Mary; (6) For a larger share in her compassion ; (7) For true devotion to Mary.
VII.— FOR THE CHURCH.
(i) Our Holy Father the Pope ; (2) The cardinals ; (3) The bishops; (4) Our diocese ; (5) The clergy ; (6) missioners ; (7) religious.
VIII.— THE CHURCH'S INTERESTS.
(i) For good pastors ; (2) For the persecuted ; (3) For unbelievers; (4) For bad Catholics ; (5) For the conversion of sinners; (6) For foreign missions; (7) For our schools and children.
IX.— FOR THE HOLY SOULS.
(i) For the most desolate soul; (2) For the soul nearest to its release; (3) For the souls suffering through our sins ; (4) For the souls of our parents, friends and benefactors;
(5) For the soul that has to remain longest in purgatory ;
(6) For the soul most devout to the Passion; (j) For the soul most devout to our Lady.
X.— FOR THE VIRTUES.
(i) Humility ; (2) Liberality ; (3) Chastity ; (4) Mildness ; (5) Charity ; (6) Brotherly love ; (7) Diligence.
XI.— AGAINST SINS OF
(i) Pride; (2) Covetousness ; (3) Lust ; (4) Anger; (5) Hatred ; (6) Envy; (7) Sloth.
XII.— FOR OUR WORK.
(i) That it may be to God's Glory; (2) That it may be done thoroughly ; (3) That it may be blest; (4) That it may benefit others ; (5) That it may keep us humble ; (6) That it may be done in the spirit of penance ; (7) That it may be done in the Divine Presence.
Other tables we can make use of are the following taken mostly from FF. Mayer and Drexel, S.J.
I.(1) On Sunday, or Matins any day —(i.) For the whole church ; or (ii.) the clergy ; or (iii.) our own community.
(2) On Monday or at Prime —(i.) For the conversion of infidels; or (ii.) forgiveness of sins; or (iii.) a generous, cheerful spirit.
(3) On Tuesday or at Terce —(i). For the conversion of unbelievers; or (ii.) true mortification ; or (iii.) grace of the Holy Ghost.
(4) On Wednesday or at Sext —(i.) For all in mortal sin ; or (ii.) the spread of Christ's kingdom; or (iii.) grace to be faithful.
(5) On Thursday or at None —(i.) For the perseverance of good ; or (2) grace to be heavenly-minded ; or (iii.) increase of faith in the Blessed Sacrament.
(6) On Friday or at Vespers —(i.) For parents, relations, benefactors, friends and enemies ; or (ii.) grace of prayer ; or (iii.) love of the cross.
(7) On Saturday or at Compline — (i.) For the faithful departed ; or (ii.) for peace ; or (iii.) for perfect charity.
II.Matins may be said in commemoration of (i) the Nativity ; (2) the Betrayal in the Garden ; (3) the Last Judgment [i Thess. v. 2.].
Lauds in commemoration of the Resurrection.
Prime in commemoration of the Leading to Pilate.
Terce in commemoration of (i) the Crowning with Thorns ; (2) the Scourging ; (3) the Coming of the Holy Ghost.
Sext in commemoration of (i) the Fall of Man [Gen. iii. 8.] ; (2) the Crucifixion ; (3) The Calling of the Gentiles [Acts x. 9.].
None in commemoration of (i) the Death of Christ; (2) the Binding of Satan.
Vespers in commemoration of (i) the Burial of our Lord ; (2) the Giving of the Holy Ghost [John. xx. 19, 23.].
Compline in commemoration of (i) the Institution of the Eucharist; (2) Eternal Rest in Paradise.
III.Matins, in honour of Our Lord before the high priest : for the conversion of those in mortal sin.
Lauds, in honour of Our Lord in prison : for all enemies and persecutors.
Prime, in honour of the Scourging : for pardon of one's own sins; for the virtue most needed.
Terce, in honour of the Crowning with Thorns : for all Christian states and rulers.
Sext, in honour of the Crucifixion : for all afflicted and in sorrow.
None, in honour of the Death of our Lord : for all in their last agony.
Vespers, in honour of the Mother of Sorrows : for all that have died to-day.
Compline, in honour of all Saints : for final preseverance.
But as " all your service is of our blessed Lady ; therefore it is good that ye intend specially therein her praising and worship, and that God be thanked and praised for all the gifts and benefits that He hath given to her and by her to all mankind "[Myroure, p. 61.].
So we can say our hours in honour of her Seven Joys : (i) The Annunciation ; (2) the Nativity ; (3) the Adoration of the Magi; (4) the Finding after the Three Days' Loss; (5) the Resurrection; (6) the Ascension; (7) the Assumption.
Or at times her Seven Dolours will appeal to our devotion, and we can say our hours in honour of (i) Simeon's prophecy ; (2) the Flight into Egypt; (3) the Three Day's Loss ; (4) the Meeting on the Way to Calvary; (5) the Crucifixion ; (6) the Taking Down from the Cross ; (7) the Entombment.
Or at other times her Seven-fold Glory attracts us and we say the hours in honour of (i) her Stainless Conception ; (2) the Annunciation ; (3) her Maiden-Motherhood ; (4) the Thirty Year's Life at Nazareth ; (5) our Lord's first Miracle ; (6) her Sanctification at Pentecost; (7) her Coronation in Heaven.
It is a good practice to have a series of these intentions drawn up by week or by day, so that as each time comes round we have something new to honour, something new to ask. But we must be most careful not to let them degenerate into mechanical aids and allow ourselves to think that once having written them down, all is done. We are intelligent beings and not machines; and we must act by reason and not by clockwork. Helps of the kind we have suggested are only useful when used intelligently; otherwise they become superstitious, and hinder the influence of God upon the soul.
I will conclude this chapter by some more words from the Myroure of Our Lady: " It is also profitable that you intend in saying of this holy service the fulfilling of your bond and duty inasmuch as you are bound thereto by your rule and by your holy profession" [p. 6r.]. This injunction need not lead to scruples. We always say our Office because it is our duty. The mere fact of saying it is the fulfilment of a duty ; so the taking up the book to read it out of and the very act of recitation imply that we are doing it to fulfil our obligation [Scruples on this head can be easily removed by the question—Why did I say my Office ? Out of mere pleasure or duty, or because I have to say it ?].
Our pious author goes on : " And as the prayer of these holy hours is rather sped and heard of our Lord than other prayers, as I said before, therefore it is good that, in the saying or singing thereof, ye intend to get the forgiveness of your own sins and such help and graces and virtues as you feel needful to you and also to the health and profit of all that you are bound or have devotion to pray for. And the more specially and often that you offer up these intentions to God with meek and fervent desire in Him, the better profit shall you have of that thing that you desire and pray for. Nevertheless you ought to dress your hearts after these intentions before you begin, for in time of this holy service you ought to stable your mind only on God and upon none other things, as I have said before " [pp. 61-62].
From - The Little Office of Our Lady; a treatise theoretical, practical, and exegetical - Taunton, Ethelred L. (Ethelred Luke), 1857-1907