From the grand sanctuary of the Archdiocese of Seoul’s Myeongdong Cathedral, a group of eight priests are leading a revival of the faith based in prayer. Appointed by Archbishop Soon-Taick Chung in 2022, these priests have been leading the call to the Liturgy of the Hours, praying the morning, noon, and evening prayer – with a break for adoration – along with the faithful.
Dubbed the “Prayer Priests,” their devotion and passion for the Catholic faith are an example that has been rubbing off on the Catholic community of Seoul, South Korea.
Fr. Laurentius Seung Rok Yoo, the director of the Prayer Priests, said, “It is meaningful for the faithful and priests to recite the Liturgy of the Hours, the basic prayer of the Church, together at the cathedral.”
Each day, the Liturgy of the Hours rings through the cathedral at 7:40 a.m., 11:45 a.m., and 5:30 p.m.
At 10 a.m., the Prayer Priests walk around the nave to meet with the faithful, and at 11 a.m., they adore the Eucharist together.
During the Liturgy of the Hours, the sound of prayer rises from the Prayer Priests, positioned on either side of the altar, as well as from the faithful in the pews. Unaided by modern audio devices, the sound naturally reaches each corner of the cathedral, creating the sense of holiness.
Spreading an atmosphere of prayer is exactly what the Archdiocese of Seoul intended when it began with the Prayer Priests in September 2022. In the wake of COVID-19, the faithful have been slow to return to church, and Archbishop Chung believes that the traditional practice of praying at fixed times throughout the day is just what is needed to draw them back:
“It is very meaningful that the Prayer Priests pray the Liturgy of the Hours, which can be considered the prayer of our Church, with the faithful at the cathedral with all their heart,” Archbishop Chung remarked in a press release from the Archdiocese of Seoul. “In addition to prayer, adoration of the Eucharist for 30 minutes or an hour every day is also one of the missions of a Prayer Priest.”
The archbishop went on to note that this rigorous prayer schedule is not unique to Myeongdong Cathedral, as many other parishes within the archdiocese are holding a Holy Hour or Adoration. He described it as a “prayer movement” that is promoted through the prayers of priests.
“The Liturgy of the Hours is not the exclusive domain of clergy and religious, but the prayer of the entire Church, and we would like to encourage the faithful to participate in the prayer at this point when we seek to realize a synodal church,” Archbishop Chung commented.
Fr. Yoo said he regards his position as a Prayer Priest to be “a mission in which the proclamation of the word and the life of prayer are emphasized a little more.”
He noted that the Prayer Priests are symbolic of the unity of the faithful and the solidarity that comes from communal prayer. In this spirit, Fr. Yoo spends an hour after morning and afternoon prayer meeting with the gathered worshipers. He considers it very important that a priest is present to welcome the faithful, especially at the archdiocesan cathedral.
Along with the Liturgy of the Hours and Adoration, the Archdiocese of Seoul plans to carry out various pastoral activities to help more of the faithful lead a healthy religious life. While Archbishop Chung did not reveal other planned activities, he hailed the efforts of the Prayer Priests, while expressing his hope that those who participate “have a spiritual experience.”
He described it as a “small step toward ‘church walking together.'”
“The faithful will pray the Liturgy of the Hours together with the cathedral prayer priests, creating new opportunities in their religious lives,” Archbishop Chung concluded.