On My Bookshelf: I Will Lie Down This Night

I’ve had this book in my household for years. Not on my bookshelf; I think it was a gift to my wife in the early years of our marriage. If two married Catholics had a difference of opinion on daily prayer, it is us. She prefers the Lectionary. I like the Office. This book was my futile attempt to sway her to the dark side of the Liturgy of the Hours, namely Compline. For some weeks, she was a trooper about it. She joined me, but I think a summer or so did little for her.

Compline has been a favorite Hour of mine since my first visit to a Trappist monastery. It’s quite simple in the darkness there. Psalms 4, 91, and 134 and the fewer prayers are practically memorized.

Melissa Musick Nussbaum takes the reader on a personal journey through the prayers of night. This is something of a small volume to savor, especially if you are a family person. The stories are those of a mother of children and a woman anchored in an extended family. You might think touchstone reflections are properly derived from monastic life. But I’ve long thought that Compline is a prime office for lay people, especially families with children.

Themes touched upon include sickness, sleeplessness, fear, and pilgrimage among others. Each chapter opens with a text from Night Prayer and concludes with a piece of poetry. The writing is lovely without being cloying.

Too bad the book is out of print. It has fine illustrations. Visual layout could have been improved. If you can find a copy, I recommend it. I recommend Compline even more, but if you try it, stick with it for a spell.

 

About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in Minnesota, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
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