LIBERA ME, Domine, Iesu Christe, ab omnibus iniquitatis meis et universis malis,
fac me tuis semper inhærere mandatis et a te numquam separari permittas. Amen.

Sunday, 29 August 2010

Making Our Choices

In the comments which followed on from a recent post – the post mainly about temptation, the comments rather more about the Divine Office – the splendid Mac happened to mention that she used the Monastic Diurnal published (and very beautifully, too) by Farnborough Abbey . . . which led my mind to wander through the ‘official’ habits of various friends.

Clergy must, obviously, use the standard books : which essentially means either the Latin or Vernacular Liturgy of the Hours (Ordinary Form) or the appropriate Breviary (Extraordinary Form). For the rest . . . which as Mac quite rightly points out includes all lay people, even if they take vows to say some or all of an Office . . . there is no particular obligation. One other friend and blogger, for instance, uses the English translation of the 1962 Breviary which was published by the Liturgical Press of S. John’s, Collegeville; and indeed I used to use it myself in days gone by.

I did wonder, though, whether there wasn’t an argument for us all adhering as closely as we could to the ‘clergy’ line ?

There is, after all, always the possibility – which Mac herself adopts, at least at times, with the full knowledge and consent of her Spiritual Director – of not saying all of the Office; and indeed there are single-volume versions available in both forms which exclude the Office of Readings / Matins, thus making it all much more practical and portable.

Let me make it clear : I’m not in any way criticising the use of other versions of the Office – I’m merely pondering the question of whether it might, in the context of the still greater unity of those saying the Office, be better for us all to focus on the smallest possible number of options.

As I mentioned, I used to use the Collegeville Breviary, simply for reasons of practicality : but when ‘The Divine Office’ came out whilst I was at University, I obtained a set, and used it thereafter – in other words, whilst an Anglican. This wasn’t primarily because I preferred it, but because – which may seem an odd remark from one who was Anglican – it seemed to keep me as close as I then could to the norms of the Catholic faith and life.

Much more recently, but still before I became a Catholic, I stepped back one more pace, so to speak, from the use of the vernacular version of the Ordinary Form to the use of the editio typica . . . and therefore, I suppose, at least conceptually, to the definitive Office of the Church.

That’s me, and I’m not suggesting that anyone else ought to feel obliged – or even, necessarily, persuaded – to do the same : I’m just pondering the general question of whether there is any such line of reasoning which applies to those of us who choose to say Office; and if so what it is.

I’ll be very glad to hear your thoughts.


  1. Thanks for the link and your kind words, DM.

    I have to say that I would prefer to say the Breviary in the Extraordinary Form rather than the Benedictine Monastic Diurnal, precisely for the reasons you state.

    I did pray the Divine Office for the first 15 years of my return to the Faith, but became increasingly unhappy with it because of the very poor translation of the psalms it uses - something I became more and more aware of, particularly when I became responsible for typing out the Rossini propers for the choir to use in our Extraordinary Form Sunday Mass.

    The only thing that stops me switching to the Extraordinary Form is my very sketchy Latin. I therefore await the Baronius Press Breviary with eager anticipation...

  2. I switched to the extraordinary form Breviary a long time ago, mostly because I found the post-Conciliar Liturgia Horarum lacking in its composition (Compline is an example). At the time I realised I did not understand all of the Latin, but I switched anyway because it dovetailed with my normal attendance at extraordinary form Masses.

    Nowadays I often use a Dominican diurnal (from 1955), but that is only because it happens to be the smallest Breviary I own.

    For a while I also used the Liturgia Horarum (in Latin), but then I fell into the trap of forever comparing and contrasting the two forms, and was often quite bitter.

    I think we should focus on a smaller number of options, but at the same time I think it is good that there be options which are not daunting to the laity. At the same time, I firmly disagree with Collins' monopoly for Missals and the Office, and think they should be told to sling their hooks.

  3. I had actually imagined that a man of your affiliation would by saying the old Dominican breviary. I have heard much praise of it. First, on the grounds that it is shorter than the Roman version; a learned priest told me that in the old days a number of priests became Dominican tertiaries partly because it would allow them to say this shorter office. More worthily, I'm also told that it is one of the richer offices, in terms of hymns, antiphons, etc.

    I see little need for everyone to say the same office. In the old days, there was a multiplicity of short breviaries used by the laity or by orders of nuns, and this wasn't found strange. We can all revert to the full Roman office if we need to pray in common.

    Personally, I'm used the the Roman office in Latin, though I'm not able to say the full office each day, and would be reluctant to use any other. When I can't do it, I either substitute the Little Office of Our Lady, or a number of Paters and Aves.

  4. I have only ever used the one volume Liturgy of the Hours to say Lauds, Vespers and Compline. I am happy with it, because I don't know any better? lol, and don't think I could manage to say the Divine Office because of the number of psalms to be said every day. Sometimes I say Readings but I go online to do that.


  5. I feel I ought to temper my comments about options: I think I was already thinking ahead about Collins. I'm really referring to all the various kinds of 'Morning & Evening Prayer', which as memory serves, simply bamboozle the seeker. I remember buying Office book and Office book, and not finding what I want.

    Also, I really ought not mislead regarding the Dominican diurnal. I do also appreciate its beauty. It's very rich, and has extra bits which surprise, in a pleasant way. I'm trying to use the Roman one, for reasons of where I'm heading, but the Dominican one a) is beautiful; b) was a gift from a friend; and c) is smaller.

    Substituting Aves is a good practice: wherefrom, after all, is the Rosary?

  6. Thank you all for this : it's fascinating, and will probably lead to more from me in due course.

    As to the Dominican Breviary, I am trying to get hold of a copy, but have not yet managed to do so - though would like it - although it still raises the one main problem I see in the Extraordinary Form Office for those of us whose lives often prevent us from attending Mass in that Form - namely the constant (and often irritating/distracting) variation between the Office one is saying and the Mass one is attending . . .

  7. DM: Re the Dominican Diurnal, all I know is that there is a shop near to S. Sabina which sells them mint.

  8. Mark; thank you - I was actually aware that the S. Sabina bookshop sold the whole range of Dominican propers . . . the only problem is trying to get them OPEN when you're not actually there (I haven't been able to get to Rome for a couple of years) . . . I understand from fr Simon that it's a nightmare even for people living there !
    fr Lawrence has offered to sort it, but won't be able to on this trip, so it looks as though I shall have to wait until October . . .

  9. Count yourself lucky, though; I've never been to Rome ever!

  10. There's a 2 volume edition of the Dominican Breviary of 1962 for sale on Abebooks for about £80. Strikes me as rather pricey, though perhaps justified if you're going to use if regularly.

    I did have a copy of the same which came from Hawkesyard Priory, when it closed down, but gave it away to a young lady who was interested at the time in becoming a Dominican sister - I wonder if it gets any use now.

  11. David:

    I'm just going to ignore your comment - la la la la, I can't hear you! Don't tempt me with Abe... :)