Feel the Lenten spirit at Cathedral vespers

CHARLESTON—Connect with ancient church tradition and improve your prayer life with special sung prayer services being offered during Lent at the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist.

The vespers services, part of the traditional Liturgy of the Hours, will be offered at 4 p.m. each Sunday, including Palm Sunday.

The service will include psalms sung by the entire congregation as well as short readings, said Scott Turkington, Cathedral organist and choirmaster. Each service concludes by reciting the Magnificat, also known as the Song of Mary or Canticle of Mary, from Luke 1:46-55.

“It’s a very participatory prayer service, and it’s short, only about 30 minutes,” Turkington said. “Vespers is also a quiet service, a way to collect your thoughts and start the new cycle of the week. It also connects you with the many saints who prayed Vespers every day down through the centuries.”

All cathedrals are encouraged to offer sung evening prayer every Sunday of the year, said Msgr. Steven Brovey, Cathedral rector.

“This is really a start to bringing this beautiful tradition to this cathedral, and allow people to experience one of the most beautiful prayer forms we have as Catholics,” Msgr. Brovey said. “Bishops, priests and deacons, as well as consecrated men and women are obligated to pray these prayers every day, and the Liturgy of the Hours is also the universal prayer of the church. This is a chance to bring this tradition to ordinary Catholics, and help them see that the psalms are really our prayer book. The psalms link us back to Christ himself.”

Msgr. Brovey said he hopes to also hold evening prayer on Sundays during Advent, and would like to eventually be able to offer it every week.

At each service, a cantor will lead the singing of the psalms and a celebrant will lead the rest of the service.  Bishop Robert E. Guglielmone will be the celebrant at two of the services.

Turkington said public vespers services have been offered at cathedrals around the world for more than 1,500 years. At Westminster Cathedral in England, for instance, sung vespers is offered every evening of the year, including Christmas.

Attending vespers services might help people become more connected to their Catholic heritage and learn a new way of talking to God, Msgr. Brovey said.

“A lot of people say I want to pray, but I don’t know how to pray, and a beautiful place to start is to look at the psalms,” Msgr. Brovey said. “These prayers can help people offer their hearts to Christ.”