Alert: Give Us This Day is a really fantastic product! You’ll want to know about it. Fr. Anthony Ruff, OSB, from Pray Tell spoke with the editor of the new product, Mary Stommes.
Pray Tell: LitPress is launching Give Us This Day this August. What is it? A daily devotional, a pocket missal, a Mass guide, or what?
Mary Stommes: The shortest and most accurate answer is that Give Us This Day is “Daily prayer for today’s Catholic.” In some ways, it is easier to say what Give Us This Day is not—or what it is more than. It is not just a Mass guide, and it is more than a daily devotional. Each month’s issue contains the following daily content: prayers for morning and evening, Mass texts, a reflection, a Gospel witness. There is additional weekly and monthly content best described by taking a look inside the pages on our web site. Give Us This Day has the feel of a personal missal, but it is not your mother’s St. Andrew’s Missal (though I have my mother’s missal and am fond of it).
PT: I see all the Mass readings and prayers for Sunday and weekday. But I know someone who worked on the new Order of Mass chants, and they’re not included. Why not?
MS: You will have to introduce me to this Order-of-Mass-chants person. I would tell her that Give Us This Day, while including the Order of Mass and Lectionary texts for each day, is primarily for personal prayer. This is not to say it will not be used in prayer groups, etc., or that people will not use it as a Mass guide for convenience. But most readers, alas, will not be all that interested in chant. (Maybe it would be best not to tell this to the “Order-of-Mass-chants” person.)
PT: Who is Give Us This Day for? Would-be monks, hard-core Catholics, Catholics on the fringe, or who?
MS: All of the above. And more. There is a longing deep and wide for daily spiritual sustenance. We are a hungry people. We want to pray but often do so with fits and starts. We long for “substantive simplicity,” if that makes sense. And we long for communion, with God and with each other. This deep desire, I think, is our response to God’s desires for us. Lots of words to say that Give Us This Day is for those trying day-by-day to respond to God’s love for us in Christ.
PT: Aren’t there lots of daily prayer resources out there? Surely you are asked, “Why another?”
MS: Yes. And yes. There are lots of other resources available, and people do often ask, “Why Give Us This Day?” I respond by describing daily, weekly, and monthly content. It soon becomes clear that Give Us This Day, while similar to other familiar resources, is very different. Day-by-day, people will hear a wide range of voices from our Catholic Tradition. St. Augustine and Flannery O’Connor, St. Therese of Lisieux and Fr. Michael Casey—the list is practically endless—all these voices have something important to say to us today, something that leads us into the communion we desire.
What emerges in these parts of the whole—the monthly essays and prayers, the weekly “Within the Word” feature, the daily content—is the intimate link between Scripture, liturgy, and life. Scripture and liturgy are life-giving and life-changing. They draw us in and send us out. The more voices we hear affirming and proclaiming that, the better it will be for us as a Church.
PT: One psalm at daily morning and evening prayer, I see. So that won’t count for my Office when I’m on the road, according to the old moral theology. How do you see the daily prayer being used?
MS: You will have to consult your abbot about what counts for your Office when you are on the road. But you are right to point out that Give Us This Day’s prayer in the morning and evening is not the official Liturgy of the Hours. It is intentional. We were on the road a lot this past year (you aren’t the only one on the road) doing focus group work. We heard over and again: “Keep this manageable. If it is too much, I will gradually stop using one feature. Then another. And then perhaps another—until finally I will just stop using it altogether.” Not a good result. So, psalms and Scripture in the morning and evening are brief. They are “doable” and “prayable” for the average person, as is every other feature in Give Us This Day.
PT: I heard on campus that you don’t have a Saint of the day. Is this true?
MS: I notice you capitalize Saint. If this means that we don’t have a canonized Saint of the day, then your informant was correct. But we do have a saintly witness every day (except Sundays). We call this feature “Blessed Among Us,” and it is written and edited by Robert Ellsberg. Day-by-day, readers will find inspiration in the life and words of a great cloud of witnesses: Saints John Vianney and Mary McKillop, Blesseds Solanus Casey and Mother Teresa, to be sure. But also Dorothy Day and Henri Nouwen. In response to seeing contemporary Gospel witnesses in Give Us This Day, a focus group respondent said, “I can do this too!” A pretty good outcome—to recognize who we are called to be through baptism.
PT: I grew up with “Hail, Holy Queen” after the family rosary, Stations of the Cross during Lent. Are traditional prayers and devotions pretty much out of it?
MS: I grew up with the Memorare after the rosary (and Stations of the Cross during Lent). Traditional prayers and devotions are far from “out of it.” There is something powerful in this treasury of Catholic prayers and devotions, something deeply satisfying. Each month Give Us This Day will feature a devotional or traditional prayer that fits the season, along with an accompanying reflection. It’s a feature that reflects the “personality” of Give Us This Day—the blend of old and new. (A pre-publication secret: “Hail, Holy Queen” will appear before the Memorare, but in time we will both be taken back to our family rosaries.)
PT: Okay, so your Catholic cred is good. Is this thing only for Catholics? What happened to ecumenism??
MS: Allow me an aside, which maybe is not at all an aside. I am a better Catholic, and I certainly love Scripture more, because of a dear Protestant friend. Lorraine, I think, will love Give Us This Day, and not simply because I am the editor. She will love it because it is deeply rooted in Scripture—and leads people to Jesus, Word of the Father. Having said that, Give Us This Day is distinctly Catholic: daily Mass texts from the Roman Missal and Lectionary, the Order of Mass. I think we can be distinctly Catholic without being exclusively Catholic. Readers of Give Us This Day will be primarily—but not only—Catholic.
PT: Wow, what a roster of advisors and contributors– Ron Rolheiser, Jim Martin, Kathleen Norris, Bishop Morneau, Irene Nowell, Robert Ellsberg, Timothy Radcliffe. I take it you couldn’t get the Pope. How did you get all these people?
MS: To be honest, the widespread support—not only from our editorial advisors but from hosts of other busy writers—came as a bit of a surprise to me as well. It is not, I am convinced, about us “getting them.” Rather, it is the mission and vision of Give Us This Day that draws people in. (About the Pope: we did not ask. But month-by-month we will hear from popes past and present.)
PT: I see blank pages in the layout, not a lot of ornaments or doo-dads. What’s the concept?
MS: The concept is simple: not to let anything in the way of content and design “get in the way” of prayer. Rather, it should lead the way. When people are praying the morning and evening canticles, a facing page of text can get in the way: thus the carpet pages. When we have to search to find where various elements begin each day, it becomes work: thus the ease of easily identifiable heads that begin at the top of the page. Too many words can get in the way, as can “ornaments and doo-dads”: thus the white space that lets us breathe, pause, pray. A focus group participant who spent his life in textbook publishing said at the end of the session, “My compliments to the designer. This is wonderful.” The greater compliment was yet to come when a young man, holding a prototype of Give Us This Day in his hand, said: “This falls away as I enter into prayer.” That’s the concept.
PT: 40 or 45 bucks a year. Do you think that’s that kinda pricey, or a great deal?
MS: Yes. And yes. The price for a one-year subscription is not pocket change. But I would quickly add that Give Us This Day is a pretty good deal. At the introductory price, a one-year sub comes to just over $3 a month (and a free Our Father print from the Saint John’s Bible). This amounts to about 11 cents a day, a pretty great value.
PT: Your sales department will like my last question. How do I get a sample copy? How do I subscribe?
MS: I like this question because it is the last! And it is easy to answer:
- Go to our web site here: Give Us This Day
- Click on “Subscribe Now!” or “Request Free Sample”