So last evening I went to my Director to renew the Oath which I took at this time last year . . . an Oath which is, I hasten to make clear, of no particular significance whatever : it simply makes it possible for a layman to confess to sins relating to his failings in relation to his saying of the Divine Office without Confessors becoming confused about how they can be considered as sinful if one is under no obligation to say it anyway !
And what did I discover when examing the last year ? Well, primarily that – apart from a few odd occasions when I had fulfilled the external obligation but perhaps allowed my mind to work externally at the same time – I had managed for I think the first time since I started saying the Office in the early 1970s to get through the year without sinful omission or failing.
I’d obviously had a few days when timings had been less than ideal; and I’d obviously also had a couple of days without the Office, caused by my illness in the summer, when I didn’t have the Office with me, and was in any event unconscious for most of it . . . but those were legitimate reasons for my ommissions, and constituted no sinfulness.
That doesn’t mean, of course, that I was consistently focussed on my Office; but it does mean that I found an actual external obligation which I had specifically taken for the year did have a positive benefit in persuading my mind to take things seriously at times when they otherwise might not have done . . . which must be a benefit.
I don’t suggest, of course, that this way of doing things means that everyone ought therefore to (a) start saying the Office, and (b) take this Oath : but you may want to consider whether there is any aspect of your own life where having the self-adopted external obligation may help you to focus on, and therefore to remain faithful to, that aspect . . . to your own benefit.