Every morning of every day all around the world every Catholic bishop, priest, deacon, and religious is required to pray the Liturgy of the Hours, for their own spiritual enrichment as well as in union with the entire Church. This daily ritual begins with the praying of the Invitatory.
The following is a one-act play in which we experience the meditation of a local bishop wishing only the best for the men who serve beside him.
The Set: Mostly bare stage except:
1) To the far stage right: a simple bed with a tall head board toward the audience—the bed canted slightly so that a person getting out on the side away from the audience is blocked from view by the head board; a night stand with a clock and lamp on the audience side of the bed; next to the bed towards center stage within arms reach is a self-standing clothes rack with a bishops clericals and cross.
2) At Center stage: an altar with candles, a tabernacle, a suspended crucifix, and a Prie Dieu, situated so that when bishop knees, is positioned in silhouette to the audience.
Actors: Thirteen men, one as a bishop, and the other twelve as priests. The priests are dressed in clericals in an array of tidiness, some respectful, others slovenly, etc.
Initial staging: Curtains closed; stage completely dark; the twelve priests are standing behind curtain far stage left each holding an article that represents a distraction to their calling to the priesthood; the bishop is in bed in nightclothes (out of sight of audience, hidden by bed headboard).
Beginning of play: House lights go completely dark, curtain opens to a dark stage.
Clock alarm sounds and resounds.
Eventually the bishop turns night stand light on. All that the audience sees is the bishop’s hand. Light should be only bright enough to barely illumine the far right of stage.
Bishop then stops alarm and slowly sits up on side of bed away from audience. Audience should only see his back. He reaches over to clothes rack for clerical shirt and puts it on. He then stands up out of view of audience, reaches for pants and puts them on. He reaches for pectoral cross and puts it on. Then crosses to night stand and turns off lamp. Stage and house are once again dark.
Slowly a sharp but dim light comes on focused on the center altar.
The bishop crosses to the light carrying a black breviary and with a match slowly lights the candles until with the aid of a spot light the altar area alone is lit. He then kneels before altar so that his left side faces the audience, putting him in silhouette. After a period of silence he crosses himself and begins the Invitatory.
Bishop: “Lord, open my lips…and my mouth shall proclaim Thy praise.”
He bows his head slightly as he recites: “Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit; as it was in the beginning, is now, and will be forever. Amen.
Bishop: “Cry out with joy to the Lord, all the earth; serve the Lord with gladness.”
He looks down at the breviary and reads aloud, a tone of tired sadness…
“Psalm 95…A call to praise God…Encourage each other daily while it is still today.”
He pauses in silence and then looks stage left.
A spot light slowly rises on stage left revealing the priests standing around frozen in various poses of attention, some facing others in apparent conversation, others alone.
The bishop rises and steps a few paces toward the twelve priests. When he begins speaking to them, the priests come into action, their conversations muted, etc.
Bishop: “Come, let us sing to the Lord and shout with joy to the Rock who saves us…”
Some of the priests stop what they are doing and listen.
Bishop: “Let us approach him with praise and thanksgiving and sing joyful songs to the Lord.”
Six of the priests leave behind their distractions and cross to the bishop. They greet each other, receive the bishop’s blessing, walk to the altar, and together kneel.
Bishop and six priests: “Cry out with joy to the Lord, all the earth; serve the Lord with gladness.”
The bishop rises again and addresses the remaining six priests stage left.
Bishop: “The Lord is God, the mighty God, the great king over all the gods…”
The remaining priests continue looking at their distractions or talking softly, but two slowly lay their distractions down.
Bishop: “…He holds in his hands the depths of the earth and the highest mountains as well. He made the sea; it belongs to him, the dry land, too, for it was formed by his hands.”
The two priests walk to bishop, greet him, receive his blessing, and then together they kneel with the others at the altar.
Bishop and eight priests: “Cry out with joy to the Lord, all the earth; serve the Lord with gladness.”
The bishop rises and beckons silently to the remaining four priests who in various ways, some belligerent, others reluctantly, turn from him.
Bishop to the eight: “Come, then, let us bow down and worship, bending the knee before the Lord, our maker. (He kneels again and faces the altar) For he is our God and we are his people, the flock he shepherds.”
Bishop and the eight: “Cry out with joy to the Lord, all the earth; serve the Lord with gladness.”
The bishop once again rises and crosses several steps toward the remaining four priests, and beckons to them…
Bishop: “Today, listen to the voice of the Lord: do not grow stubborn, as your fathers did in the wilderness…”
The four remaining priests pause; three slowly look down at their distractions and then to the bishop; the fourth looks down and away.
Bishop: “…when at Meriba and Massah they challenged me and provoked me, although they had seen all of … my … works.”
The bishop drops his face, reflectively, looking at own hands. The three priests drop their distractions, cross to the bishop, and grasp his hands in greeting. After receiving his blessing, the three join the eight and kneel. The bishop remains facing the one remaining priest. Together the bishop and the eleven speak…
Bishop and the eleven: “Cry out with joy to the Lord, all the earth; serve the Lord with gladness.”
Bishop alone, beckoning to the one remaining priest: “Forty years I endured that generation. I said, “They are a people whose hearts go astray and they do not know my ways…”
The remaining priest glances at his distraction, then to the bishop, and then back finally to his distraction.
The bishop continues to beckon: “So I swore in my anger… ‘they shall not enter into my rest.’”
The priest looks up at the bishop, but then turns his back on him and faces off stage left. The bishop sadly turns and joins the eleven and together they speak…
Bishop and the eleven “Cry out with joy to the Lord, all the earth; serve the Lord with gladness.”
All bowing slightly: “Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit…
Bishop rises and looks toward the priest standing left still facing off left…
“as it was in the beginning, is now, and will be for ever…Amen.”
The stage lights go down leaving only the flickering lights of the candles.
Bishop and the eleven priests: “Cry out with joy to the Lord, all the earth; serve the Lord with gladness.”
The curtains close.Featured photo from: http://www.matthewfsheehan.net/index.cfm?event=ProductDetails&CategoryID=771&ProductID=10991