Back in 2009, the first of February fell on a Sunday. As I returned to the sacristy after celebrating the Mass of whatever Sunday in Ordinary Time it was, one of the old friars began to chide me for not somehow commemorating the feast of St. Brigid. Of course he had no case; though she is one of the secondary patrons of Ireland, and her day is a liturgical feast in the dioceses therein, Brigid appears neither on the general Roman calendar nor on the calendar for the United States. The complaint of my elderly confrere was an example of many Irish sighs I heard and felt over my time at the parish. A once-robust Irish-American stronghold had slipped into a far more assimilated and multicultural reality, and one often felt the stings of grief and denial.
I was thinking of this last night as I prepared for Mass this morning, and it was then that I remembered that I had only recently recovered my Commonwealth English breviary after a loan of several years. My own adventure with the Liturgy of the Hours began back in the spring of 1993 when I was (alleged to be) studying philosophy in Ireland and I picked up the one-volume Daily Prayer (Dublin: Talbot, 1974) one day at Galway Cathedral, where I often went for confession. We had a daily Mass at the university, each night at 10 pm. When I think of that I have to laugh; at this point it's almost impossible for me to imagine a lifestyle in which a 10 pm daily Mass would make any sense! The Daily Prayer is analogous to the one-volume Christian Prayer we have here in the States. I was pretty lost with it at the beginning, back in those days. I didn't really manage to get started with the Hours until I returned home for my senior year of college and started to use the Shorter Christian Prayer. Based on my own experience, that's how I recommend getting started with the Hours: start with the simplest breviary and then move up as comfort and mastery arrive.
In any case, realizing that I had recovered this breviary from my past, and thinking of my old confrere last night, I couldn't help looking up the collect for St. Brigid:
you inspired in Saint Brigid such whole-hearted dedication to your work
that she is known as Mary of the Gael;
through her intercession bless our country;
may we follow the example of her life
and be united with her and the Virgin Mary in your presence
We make our prayer through our Lord...