26 January 2018

Becoming All Fire

In the apothegmata (sayings) of the Desert Fathers and Mothers there is a famous story. It was rooted in the personal experience of these original Christian hermits but it resonated with a line from today's reading from Paul's second letter to Timothy:  [[For this reason, I remind you to stir into flame the gift of God that you have through the imposition of my hands.]] A young monk, Abba Lot, came to an elder, Abba Joseph, and affirmed that he had done all that he knew to do; everyday he did a little fasting, praying and meditating. He maintained hesychia (stillness) and purged his thoughts to the best of his ability. He wondered what else he should be doing. The story concludes, [[Standing up, the elder stretched out his hands to heaven, and his fingers became like ten lamps of fire; and he said to him, "If you are willing, you can become all flame!"]]

I suspect most of us have experienced the formal laying on of hands that occurs during the reception of some sacrament or other. If we are not ordained we would still have experienced this at confirmation and during the reception of the anointing of the sick. Some of us who were baptized as adults may have experienced this during our initiation into the Church. In every case the laying on of hands signifies the gift of the Holy Spirit and the mediation of a kind of vocational event, a call to discipleship in and of the love and presence of God in Christ. (The sacrament of anointing has been called a vocational sacrament to be sick in the Church, a call to proclaim the Gospel of God's wholeness and holiness in and through the weakness and even the relative brokenness of illness. cf. James Empereur, Prophetic Anointing) And of course there are all the other ways God lays hands on us as "his" love comforts, heals, and commissions us to God's  service. I wonder if we realize the invitation these occasions represent, the invitation not merely to be touched and enlightened in so many ways by the love and presence of God, but to be so wholly transformed by him so that we become "all flame"!

This is another way of describing the coming of the Reign of God among us. In today's readings the Kingdom of God is not so much a place as it is an event. Jesus described it this way: [[Go and tell John what you see and hear: the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the poor have good news brought to them.]] (Matt 11:4-5) And we know that beyond this, the coming of this mysterious event often involved the healing of those with inexplicable illnesses and forms of unfreedom or outright bondage, victims of the demonic in human hearts and the world at large. According to tomorrow's readings the seeds of  this event are planted deep within us, a potential harvest which is natural to us and whose fullness we cannot even imagine. With every encounter with Jesus, every encounter with the Word of God, every direct or mediated experience of the love of God, this human and vocational potential is summoned or drawn to fruition.

One of the privileged ways this encounter occurs just as it did in Jesus' time is through Jesus' parables. These are stories which quietly draw us more and more into the world Jesus calls home, the world of friendship with God, the countercultural world whose values and life we call prophetic. I have written about parables here before --- about their power to summon us out of this world, to empower us to leave our baggage behind and to embrace the newfound freedom of an enlarged and hallowed humanity. It is a world which, through the narrative power of the Word made flesh, transforms and commissions us to return to that same world we left and act as Christ-for-others --- in the world but not of it. Jesus says, "the Kingdom of God is like. . ." and our minds and hearts alert to the promise and  challenge of a reality we cannot explain, a mystery we cannot comprehend unless, until, and to the extent it takes complete hold of us.

This gradual but continual process of call, encounter, response, and missioning is the way the event we know as the Kingdom of God comes, first to us and then to others we meet and minister to, then to the whole of creation. And it is what the Gospel writers are calling us to today. May we each find ourselves grasped and shaken, comforted, healed and commissioned, disoriented and re-oriented by the Word of God that comes to us in Christ. And may we each come to know and believe the truth of our own potential and call --- that we are not merely meant to be touched here and there by the fire of God's love and presence, but that we are made, called, and commissioned to "become all flame" in and through that love. Amen.

25 January 2018

Conversion of Paul: Model for us All (Reprise)

 Today's reading from the Acts of the Apostles tells us of the conversion of Paul. There is no doubt this is one of the most important events in the history of the Church and certainly one of the most dramatic. Luke tells us of this event three times in this single work so it is hard to overestimate its importance. A couple of things in particular strike me about this reading this time around.

The first, and the one I will focus on in this blog post, is how radical the changes needed to be in Paul's life to really do justice to his experience of the risen Christ whom he had been persecuting, but also how conservative in the very best sense that experience also was. Tom Wright describes this dual dynamic or dialectic when he says, [[ But this seeing . . .confirmed everything Saul had been taught; it overturned everything he had been taught. The law and the prophets had come true; the law and the prophets had been torn to pieces and put back together in a totally new way. It was a new world; it was the old world made explicit. . . .it showed him that the God he had been right to serve, right to study, right to seek in prayer, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, had done what he always said he would, but done it in a shocking, scandalous, horrifying way. The God who had promised to come and rescue his people had done so in person. In the person of Jesus.]]

So often I am emailed by people who would like to be hermits or who, similarly, would like to put up a sign calling their home "____ hermitage" so people "realize this is not a normal home any more," but who have not themselves made the necessary transition to an essentially eremitical life. As I have noted before, they may or may not live alone, but they add in a little prayer, a bit of silence, a little lectio, and then continue living essentially the same lives they have always lived --- just tweaked a bit. After a day's work outside the hermitage they refer to their time at home alone in the evenings as "their eremitical time" and wonder why I or others -- including their chancery personnel -- reject the idea that they are yet really hermits.

Many people live the same kind of "Christian" lives. Their spirituality is compartmentalized and in the main their lives are untouched by the reality of the risen Christ. They pray and worship on Sundays, they say grace before meals, and perhaps before bed or on arising, but on the whole, their lives are mainly unchanged and perhaps untouched by the completely world shaking reality of the risen Christ. Sometimes we have the sense that elements of the institutional church suffer in somewhat the same way. Parts of their lives, parts of their interpretation of the Tradition they rightly hold precious have not been touched by an experience of the risen Christ and the result is an unfortunate compartmentalization in their approach to reality and a narrowness of vision with all that entails. But given the example we have from St Paul and the Acts of the Apostles, this will not do --- not for anyone claiming the name "Christian".

Following his experience on the road to Damascus, Paul took the next few years, withdrew to a desert region, and began completely reframing the tradition he deeply loved in light of his extended experience of the risen Christ. He completed this reframing as he engaged each of the churches he founded or preached to in their own unique pastoral circumstances and with regard to their own unique problems. In other words, an experience of world-shattering revelation (what Lohfink refers to as a long "process of discovery") through prayer, reflection, and genuinely pastoral presence and ministry became an experience of radical conversion. It was, in some ways, what happens when a vat of dough is affected by yeast. No part of the dough is or can be left untouched. Similarly it is rather like what happens when one puts a picture together from all the puzzle pieces one has at hand --- but finds some have been left out. Each time a new piece is discovered and added the picture must be reformed and the place of each and all the pieces must be adjusted and reconsidered. (This is especially true with puzzles whose pieces are all the same shape and can be combined in a myriad of ways --- each of these creating a different picture as a whole.)

In such a process none of the older pieces are rendered obsolete or superfluous, but neither can they be seen any longer in their old light or from an older perspective. When one meets the risen Christ, all of the old pieces of the Tradition must be regarded from this new perspective and for Paul that required a rethinking of issues like Law, the nature of resurrection specifically and salvation more generally, the relation of Israel and the Church, Creation and Covenant and what God is attempting to effect by these, the nature of election and who God has called to this and why, the relationship of evil and grace and how ministry is truly effected --- whether by separation and ritual purity or immersion and a holiness which is contagious, the nature of the Messiah, and so forth. In other words, the old doctrinal statements and understandings are not simply swept aside as unimportant, but neither are they left unaffected nor can they be treated adequately apart from the charismatic experience of the risen Christ. Neither are the changes called for merely cosmetic then; they are radical --- reaching right to the roots. We are not merely to be thrown from whatever hobby-horse we have been riding for so long --- no matter how worthwhile. Instead there must also be a soul-deep healing or reconciliation, a bone-deep re-envisioning of all the old certainties after an experience of dazzling illumination or revelation. We, our faith, and lives which reflect and incarnate that faith must be wholly remade from the roots. Nothing else will do.

Paul is the Apostle we must look to here, the one with the courage to change everything without losing anything essential, the one whose experience of the scandalously crucified and risen Christ shaped entirely the way he would honor and represent the Tradition handed onto him, the one who refused to compartmentalize his faith and experience but instead allowed everything to become a new creation in Christ. The simple fact is that should our church fail in this it will cease to truly be the Church Christ called into being. Like Paul's own conversion, the RADICAL integration of our EXPERIENCE of the risen Christ at this point in time with the Tradition and with the concrete needs and yearnings of our time --- or our failure to do so --- will be one of the most significant events in the history of the church. We will either return to largely being the religion/institution of the Pharisees or become the gospel reality, the Kingdom Jesus meant us and our world to be. Every group, every individual must play a part; none is unimportant or can be allowed to remain voiceless (much less be silenced!!) or the Gospel of Jesus Christ will fail to be proclaimed and the coming of the Kingdom which is the thoroughgoing interpenetration of heaven and earth leading to complete transformation will be hampered yet again.

19 January 2018

Miserando atque Eligendo: A Mercy that does Justice as it Creates a Future (Reprise)

Quite often this blog is a way in which I work out theological positions, especially in terms of the nature and charism of eremitical life, the relation of Gospel and Law (often canon law!!), or of mercy and justice. In reflecting on Friday's readings from 1 Sam and Mark I was reminded of Pope Francis' jubilee year of Mercy and of his coat of arms and motto: Miserando atque Eligendo. In 1 Sam David shows mercy to Saul despite Saul's commitment to killing him and is deemed by Saul to be worthy of Kingship by virtue of this act. An act of mercy is presented as having the power to change Saul's heart as nothing else does. The lection from Mark deals with the calling of the twelve. Together they represent a single pastoral impulse, a single imperative, the impulse and imperative also marking the entirety of Francis' Episcopacy and Pontificate and this Jubilee year of mercy as well: Miserando atque eligendo.

Francis translates the first word of his motto as a gerund, "Mercifying". He sees his episcopacy as being about the mercification of the church and world; the motto as a whole means "To Mercify (to embrace wretchedness) and to Call". This can even be translated as, "I will mercify (that is, make the world whole by embracing its wretchedness in the power of God's love) and (or "and even further") call (or choose) others" who will be commissioned in the same way. Francis speaks of the meaning of his motto in his new book, The Name of God is Mercy . He writes, "So mercifying and choosing (calling) describes the vision of Jesus who gives the gift of mercy and chooses, and takes unto himself."  (Kindle location 226) This is simply the way Francis chose to be a Bishop in Christ's Church; it is certainly the face God turned to the world in Jesus and it is the face of the shepherd we have come to associate with the Papacy. It is the way the Church is called to address and transform our world, the way she is called to literally "embrace wretchedness" and create peace and purpose. Mercifying and calling. It is the Way into the future God wills for everyone and everything.

Paul too saw that mercy was the way God creates a future. He writes in his letter to the Romans, [[Or do you hold his priceless kindness, forbearance, and patience in low esteem, unaware that the kindness of God would lead you to repentance?]] In other words it is the kindness or mercy of God, God's forbearance and patience that will create a way forward --- if in fact we take that mercy seriously. What I saw as I read that line from Paul was that Divine mercy is always about creating a way forward when our own actions close off any way of progress at all. God's mercy draws us out of any past we have locked ourselves into and into his own life of "absolute futurity". Let me explain. Often times I have written here that God's mercy IS God's justice. Justice is always about creating and ensuring a future -- both for those wronged, for society as a whole, and for the ones who have wronged another. Justification itself means establishing a person in right relationship with God and the rest of reality; it indicates that person's freedom from enmeshment in the past and her participation in futurity, that is in God's own life. Mercy, which (as I now see clearly) always includes a call to discipleship, is the way God creates and draws us into the future. What is often called "Divine wrath" is just the opposite --- though it can open us to the mercy which will turn things around.

Divine Wrath, Letting the Consequences of our Sin Run:

Wrath, despite the anthropomorphic limitations of language involved, is not Divine anger or a failure or refusal of God to love us. Rather, it is what happens when God respects our freedom and lets the consequences of our choices and behavior run --- the consequences which cut us off from the love and community of others, the consequences which make us ill or insure our life goes off the rails, so to speak, the consequences which ripple outward and affect everyone within the ambit of our lives. Similarly, it is God's letting run the consequences of sin which  lead us to even greater acts of sin as we defend or attempt to defend ourselves against them, try futilely to control matters, and keep our hands on the reins which seem to imply we control our lives and destinies. But how can a God of Love possibly allow the consequences of sin run and still be merciful? I have one story which helps me illustrate this.

I wrote recently of the death of my major theology professor, John Dwyer. In the middle of a moral theology class focusing on the topic of human freedom and responsibility John said that if he saw one of us doing something stupid he would not prevent us. He quickly noted that if we were impaired in some way he would intervene but otherwise, no. Several of us majors were appalled. John was a friend and mentor. Now, we regularly spent time at his house dining with him and his wife Odile and talking theology into the late hours. (It was Odile who introduced me to French Roast coffee and always made sure there was some ready!) Though we students were not much into doing seriously stupid things, we recognized the possibility of falling into such a situation! So when John made this statement we looked quickly at one another with questioning, confused, looks and gestures. A couple of us whispered to each other, "But he LOVES us! How can he say that?" John took in our reaction in a single glance or two, gave a somewhat bemused smile, and explained, "I will always be here for you. I will be here if you need advice, if you need a listening ear. . . and if you should do something stupid I will always be here for you afterwards to help you recover in whatever way I can, but I will not prevent you from doing the act itself."

We didn't get it at all at the time, but now I know John was describing for us an entire complex of theological truths about human freedom, Divine mercy, Divine wrath, theodicy, and discipleship as well: Without impinging on our freedom God says no to our stupidities and even our sin, but he always says yes to us and his yes to us, his mercy, eventually will also win out over sin. John would be there for us in somewhat the same the merciful God of Jesus Christ is there for us. Part of all of this was the way the prospect or truth of being "turned over" to our own freedom and the consequences of our actions also opens us to mercy. To be threatened with being left to ourselves in this way if we misused our freedom --- even with the promise that John would be there for us before, after, and otherwise --- made us think very carefully about doing something truly stupid. John's statement struck us like a splash of astringent but it was also a merciful act which included an implicit call to a future free of serious stupidities, blessed with faithfulness, and marked by genuine freedom. It promised us the continuing and effective reality of John's love and guiding presence, but the prospect of his very definite "no!" to our "sin" was a spur to embrace more fully the love and call to adulthood he offered us.

How much more does the prospect of "Divine wrath" (or the experience of that "wrath" itself) open us to the reality of Divine mercy?! Thus, Divine wrath is subordinate to and can serve Divine mercy; it can lead to a wretchedness which opens us to something more, something other. It can open us to the Love-in-Act that summons and saves. At the same time it is mercy that has the power to redeem situations of wrath, situations of enmeshment in and entrapment by the consequences of one's sin. It is through mercy that God does justice, through mercy that God sets things to rights and opens a future to that which was once a dead end.

Miserando atque Eligendo, The Way of Divine Mercy:

What is critical, especially in light of Friday's readings and Francis' motto it seems to me, is that we understand mercy not only as the gratuitous forgiveness of sin or the graced and unconditional love of the sinner, but that we also see that mercy, by its very nature, further includes a call which leads to embracing a new life. The most striking image of this in the NT is the mercy the Risen Christ shows to Peter. Each time  Peter answers Christ's question, "Do you love me?" he is told, "Feed my Lambs" or "Feed my Sheep." Jesus does not merely say, "You are forgiven"; in fact, he never says, "You are forgiven" in so many words. Instead he conveys forgiveness with a call to a new and undeserved future.

This happens again and again in the NT. It happens in the parable of the merciful Father (prodigal son) and it happens whenever Jesus says something like, "Rise and walk" or "Go, your faith has made you whole," etc. (Go does not merely mean, "Go on away from here" or "Go on living as you were"; it is, along with other commands like "Rise", "Walk" "Come",etc., a form of commissioning which means. "Go now and mercify the world as God has done for you.") Jesus' healing and forgiving touch always involves a call opening the future to the one in need. Mercy, as a single pastoral  impulse, embraces our fruitless and pointless wretchedness even as it calls us to God's  own creative and meaningful blessedness.

The problem of balancing mercy and justice is a false problem when we are speaking of God. I have written about this before in Is it Necessary to Balance Divine Mercy With Justice? and Moving From Fear to Love: Letting Go of the God Who Punishes Evil. What was missing from "Is it necessary. . .?" was the element of call --- though I believe it was implicit since both miserando and eligendo are essential to the love of God which summons us to wholeness. Still, it took Francis' comments on his motto (something he witnesses to with tremendous vividness in every gesture, action, and homily) along with the readings from this Friday to help me see explicitly that the mercification or mercifying of our world means both forgiving and calling people into God's own future. We must not trivialize or sentimentalize mercy (or the nature of genuine forgiveness) by omitting the element of a call.

When we consider that today theologians write about God as Absolute Futurity (cf Ted Peters' works, God, the World's Future, and Anticipating Omega), the association of mercy with the call to futurity makes complete sense and it certainly distances us from the notion of Divine mercy as something weak which must be balanced by justice. Mercy, again, is the way God does justice --- the way he causes our world to be transfigured as it is shot through with eschatological Life and purpose. We may choose an authentic future in God's love or a wounded, futureless reality characterized by enmeshment and isolation in sin, but whichever we choose it is always mercy that sets things right --- if only we will accept it and the call it includes!! Of course it is similarly an authentic future we are called on to offer one another -- just as David offered to Saul and Jesus offered those he healed or those he otherwise called and sent out as his own Apostles. Miserando atque Eligendo!! May we adopt this as the motto of our own lives just as Francis has done, and may we make it our own "modus operandi" for doing justice in our world as Jesus himself did.

08 January 2018

Living the New Year With Christmas Joy

As we say goodbye to the Christmas season, one of my favorite Christmas songs sung by Father Cyprian Consiglio, OSB (Prior, New Camaldoli Hermitage) Cam and Brother James, OSB Cam (in this video he is still a postulant).

And, on this day of Jesus' baptism, as we look forward to the journey we make with him during the rest of this liturgical year we anticipate both the joy and the pain of Jesus' exhaustive gift of self as Emmanuel. With Brother James, Father Cyprian expresses this so well in a song he composed, "Every Stone Shall Cry"

My very best wishes to all who read here, and especially my thanks to those who have supported this ministry with their questions, thoughts, well-wishes, and prayer. A very happy New Year to you; may God bless you with abundant life, and may you live each day with a full measure of Christmas Joy!

Sister Laurel, Er Dio, Diocese of Oakland
(Oblate, OSB Cam.)

06 January 2018

On Praying the Liturgy of the Hours

[[Dear Sister, Merry Christmas and Happy New Year! I pray you are well. I was wondering if you could say a word on how to discern which edition of the Divine Office one should use as a solitary. Of course, there is the official Roman Liturgy of the Hours, but most monastic houses use a different version of the Divine Office (I love the way the Trappist Genesee Abbey arranges their Office...straight out of the Psalter). Of particular interest for me is the traditional Monastic Diurnal for Benedictines.

I know a solitary should pray in union with the Church, but the Church seems to allow for many options. I have even come across a canonical hermit who only prays Morning and Evening prayer from the Liturgy of the Hours (she does other private devotions). Another prays exclusively the traditional Little Office of the Blessed Virgin as her official prayer (she too has other devotions). What insights or advice would you give on picking a form of the Divine Office. Thanks.]]

 Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to you as well! Thanks for writing again.

First a couple of things about canonical hermits and the Divine Office (Liturgy of the Hours). There is no requirement that a hermit say Office, nor, if she does, that she must say seven of the hours, four hours, two, etc. In my opinion it makes little sense not to pray at least a major portion of this prayer of the Church if one is consecrated to be a person of assiduous prayer who therefore lives this in the name of the Church. But that does not change the fact that if a hermit's prayer life is a good one and she prays regularly, though not the Liturgy of the Hours, a diocese is free to profess and (eventually) consecrate her. This is because the hermit's prayer is established or discerned by the diocese to be substantial and whenever and in whatever way she prays, she does so in some union with the Church. She is, in fact, a symbol of the Church at prayer --- the most significant and primary ecclesial role I think hermits and other contemplatives fulfill since before the Church is anything else (teaching church, preaching church, governing Church, etc) she is called to be and must be a praying Church.

At the same time, despite such immense freedom as is typical of eremitical life, it seems to me that a hermit should discern carefully with her director whether or not she will pray the LOH (Liturgy of the Hours) and how much of that she will pray. Similarly, it seems to me that the hermit's bishop (and whomever else have a hand in discerning and supervising this vocation) will need to evaluate the hermit's prayer life generally and decisions re the LOH more specifically. For instance, a person coming to a diocese requesting admission to profession and consecration as a diocesan hermit may never have been in religious life, may thus never have learned to pray any version of the Office, and as a result may never have developed an appreciation for its subtle way of structuring and informing the religious' prayer, perceptions, and internal and external rhythms in living a religious life. In such a situation the diocese may either demand a person learn to pray at least the major hours of the LOH and practice doing so regularly for some time (at least a couple of years) before they will consider admitting her even to temporary profession under canon 603, or the diocese may discern the candidate's prayer life is strong and vital despite not knowing how to pray the Office and allow her to forego this praxis as a condition of living eremitical life in the name of the Church.

Today, as you said yourself, there are many ways to pray a regular Morning Prayer, Evening Prayer, and Night Prayer. I continue to believe that some form of this regular praxis is essential in the life of any religious and certainly any canonical hermit. Assiduous prayer is hardly possible if the foundation of regular formal prayer is missing. I also believe that whichever of these versions of Office available the person chooses to use, they should capture something of the same daily, weekly, and seasonal tone, sense, and rhythm of the official Roman LOH.

For instance, MP through NP usually moves from a sense of birth or newness to a sense of completion and surrender to sleep (death) in God's hands with gratitude and praise being a constant ground throughout. The same rhythm is reprised as the Office moves from Sunday (Resurrection) through Friday/Saturday (crucifixion, death and descent). (Living and praying this rhythm is far more important I think than moving straight through the OT's150 psalms each week, etc.) The same general rhythm and sense informs the Church's Liturgy of the Hours as she moves through the Liturgical year. It seems to me that one jettisons praying any version of the Office at all at their peril, especially if they wish to claim to be praying in union with the Church. For the hermit or hermit candidate the LOH is important as a daily touchstone for all other prayer in this way, but also because it is essentially a communal prayer underscoring the (rare but real) communal nature of all eremitical solitude.

Meanwhile, most of the major versions of LOH I know of do capture these senses and rhythms. They do this by using some of the same psalms, readings, and canticles or by substituting those which are closely aligned in spirit and content with the Roman LOH. So, how does a person choose? What advice might I give? If one has never prayed Office before I would recommend starting with a single volume like Christian Prayer and get really familiar with it --- meaning pray it regularly, and get instruction or other assistance as needed --- especially to help her accommodate the liturgical and theological rhythms and senses it expresses and embodies.

(For those not seeking to become hermits and especially canonical hermits, one might try beginning with a publication like Give us this Day. This is an excellent resource for busy lay persons who nonetheless desire to pray MP and EP and to reflect on the day's Mass readings as well! I think Magnificat is quite similar.) Something like this is all one may ever need.  If one is a Benedictine Oblate one might well want to use the same texts as the monastery with which one is affiliated. (I tend to use a combination of the Roman LOH with its four week cycle of psalms and the Camaldolese Office book ---  a two week cycle ---because the latter is geared for singing.) A lot of Oblates I know sort of "swear by" the Monastic Diurnal and that is fine. (I can't speak to this version per se because I have never used it; there are blogs which discuss it, however.) Whatever one chooses it is important to be praying as one is able and feels called to pray. You love a particular approach (Trappists of Genesee) so probably that is a version you feel called to.

I personally love the Roman hour of Compline with the Nunc Dimittis" or the "Canticle of Simeon" ("Now Lord, you may dismiss your servant in peace according to your Word. . .") --- another reason I like the Camaldolese Office book which includes a largely invariable Night Prayer with a sung version of this and the usual psalms (#4, 90) along with the Responsory ("Into Your Hands Lord, I commend my Spirit. . . ."). This means that whatever I use for MP and EP (etc.) I would ordinarily use the Camaldolese book for Compline. But there are times I cannot sing Office or may not even feel well enough to pray an entire hour. At these times I might use either the Roman LOH (or a part of it, like a single psalm, appropriate antiphons, and the canticle) --- Give us This Day is a helpful option here --- to maintain the basic rhythm of the day and a vital touchstone to the Church which is the context for my life.)

It is important to remember that unity does  not necessarily imply uniformity nor does uniformity necessarily imply or even occasion unity; similarly Catholicity which is inspired and ensured by the Spirit is certainly broader and more profound than simple uniformity.  Again, I do think that whatever version one chooses one should establish a habit of praying that version regularly and then feel free (within whatever limits are set by one's Rule, etc.) to vary one's praxis if this is needed or truly desirable. By the way, one caveat I should mention: some may choose an antiquarian version of the Office because they reject the changes made in light of Vatican II. This is not, to my mind, an adequate reason for choosing something besides the current Roman LOH. It means one is specifically choosing NOT to pray in union with the Church and not choosing Catholicity but instead a form of (perhaps) rebellious idiosyncrasy.

I hope this is helpful.