Thursday, June 10, 2010

Good: I've Lost My Breviary

I've lost my breviary, I just can't find it, I had to say Vespers, Compline from the old breviary. I've got a English/Latin version, I used to use bits of it before I went off to the seminary, I used to love it.

For some reason I have never loved the post-concilliar Office I have been saying for the last thirty years, I admit I struggle with it and I am not sure why.
I certainly find those intercessions so irritating, especially in the English version, I don't like the choice of hymns, I hate having to go a find and then select hymns when they are proper to the season. I think what I dislike most is the brevity of the modern Office, three psalms and it is done! There is only one psalm at compline. I have a lay friend who calls it the "Little Office of Paul VI".
It is the "littleness" of it that is unsatifying, the psalter is said over four weeks rather than one,  in a way it feels rather restless, the very opposite of the older form but being able to immerse yourself in the lengthy psalms, actually feels more like prayer.
So, for the moment don't even mention it to St Anthony.


gemoftheocean said...

Well, Tony and I ar really tight. He tells me to tell you that he intended you to find the old breviary. So you will have no worries on his account.

Crux Fidelis said...

Fr Ray: It's the only Breviary I have known. I find it quite irritating around Holy Week/Eastertide - all that turning back and forth. I should be ashamed to admit this but I'm usually rather glad when we go back to Ordinary time.

Are you sure you didn't lose it on purpose?

Fr Ray Blake said...

Yes, that is irritating too!

Hippolytus said...

.... the intercessions tend to irritate me too....the ones in the American version are better (by 'better' I mean nothing more sophisticated than 'less annoying'!).........but then you have the inferior Canticle translations in the American Breviary.

Sr Mary F said...

All a bit 1960's, isn't it.

Paul, Flitwick said...

I think thats a little unfair on the little office ;-)

I've got a copy of the little office and lauds has got 4 psalms plus a lengthy canticle and the whole thing is generally much longer than the LOTH.

The difference is that little varys from day to day, which is ideal for a layman with a daily Thameslink commute as its a small light book (and ideal for a layman who dosent have time to recite it all each day)

Plus its the only part of the extraordiary form that is also part of the ordinary form as Pope Paul VI made clear in Sacrosanctum Concillium (98) and Ecclesiae Sanctae (20) that reciting it remains part of the public worship of the church (and Bugnini forgot to reform it).

So it is unchanged since that notorious liberal Pius X chopped out psalsms 66, 149 and 150 from lauds in 1910 (which I easily rectified with a bit of cutting and pasting at the back of my Carmel Books 1997 reprint of the 1914 version!).

Richard Duncan said...

One advantage of the old Breviary is that it doesn't commit the solecism of regarding Lauds as "morning" prayer, and as a result, retains the beautiful office of Prime.

Another is that Compline is incomparably richer.

Finally, you get the whole Psalter, and not just the bits that Bugnini and his "elite minds" thought that were fit for public consumption.

Angelo said...

There was an "experimental" breviary issued just after Vatican II. It wan nicknamed "plastic prayer" because it consisted of a paperback psalter with booklets containing the Office of Readings for different seasons - held together in a small plastic folder.

Cardinal Heenan was anxious to get a "proper" breviary published quickly - after discovering that some priests had given up praying the Office following the introduction of "plastic prayer".

As he wasn't prepared to wait for a joint breviary with the Americans, he gave the job of translating and editing the new breviary from the Latin to a priest in Rome - who already had two other jobs to do.

This priest then delegated the work of translating the Intercessions from the Latin to a group of seminarians.

But rather than translating, they just composed entirely new Intercessions!

Fr Ray Blake said...

One reason not to be thankful to the Ven English College!

Sharon said...

The current brviary is the only one I know and I like it.

Matthaeus said...

I recall I have one of those experimental breviaries somewhere. I bought it years ago in a junk shop (for not very much) as a curiosity.

Funny little thing in a blue plasic wallet with lots of loose cards and pages, which I found hard to make head nor tail of.

Being a layman, I do not possess a full Breviary, and as a busy layman rarely have time to say full Hours. I do have posess an old Diurnal, which I occasionally use (especially if I am unable to get to Mass on certain big feasts. I am also lucky enough to attend Blackfen parish, and so get access to such things as EF Solemn Vespers from time to time (many thanks to Fr. Tim and the Schola for last Saturday) It would be nice to see some of the other Hours celebrated on occasions: perhaps Compline after evening Mass on Holy Days?

John said...

But why would prayer, decreed by the Holy Father, be such a burden, if priest, indeed, all lay people, are subject to the obedience of the local ordinary and, therefore, to the pope? And why would one even bother with the songs, unless they're sung. More reasons to join the Franciscans, Redemptorists, etc. A lot of discontent here; knee-jerkism. Food for thought.
Good night from Boston.

Adulio said...

Somehow I don't think St. Anthony would have been impressed with the modern Roman office

Patrick Sheridan said...

Matthaeus, more Hours in church would be a great boon but please no more evening Mass - it destroys the liturgical day and is an abomination. If people can't get to Mass at the correct time, too bad, but the church ought to at least provide some sung Office...

Fr Seán Coyle said...

The old breviary was still in use when I was ordained in December 1967. I used the Collegeville, which had Latin and English side by side, like tha old missals that lay people used. You had to get the permission of your bishop or major superior to pray the breviary in the vernacular.

The 'Plastic Breviary', as you call it, was published, as I recall, in Ottawa.

I have always liked the new breviary and it gives a framework to my day. I often pray the three small hours and start the day with morning prayer. The prayers in the version published in the Australia/England/Ireland/Scotland version are far better translations than those in the American breviary.

After Vatican II we were strongly encouraged to pray the breviary at the proper times instead of the common practice of 'getting it all in' at one session. I heard of one priest who used to do two days at one go: before and after midnight.

I think that the old breviary also required moving around a bit. They had many ribbons, as I recall. When you get into the rhythm of things what is initially a nuisance ceases to be such.

Paul Knight said...

I wouldn't touch the LOTH with a bargepoll. The reformers, even well before the council, among other things were obsessed with brevity, removing from the liturgy anything remotely resembling repetition (ignoring in the process that many of these "repetitions" were deeply symbolic). We even see this in the psalter of Pius X, which eventually so began to vex me I stopped praying it and reverted back to praying the traditional monastic office which I find much more edifying.

Dominic Mary said...

Whilst I'm hardly objecting to the Breviary, most of your objections to The Divine Office fall away if you use Liturgia Horarum, as you get reasonable intercessions, set hymns, and generally less 'messing about'.
I'd rather go back to the Breviary; but unless you can more-or-less guarantee to be able to go to Mass according to the same kalendar, the constant disparity between the two is (I find) irksome - which is why I use LH, at least until I can afford to retire and make sure of an EF mass every day !

Crux Fidelis said...

Fr Seàn's remarks about 'getting it all in' remind me of the pre Novus Ordo (should that be pre Novum Ordinem?) practice of saying all three Christmas Masses one after the other. Surely another abuse?

Richard Duncan said...

Over and above the disadvantages I mentioned earlier, there are two significant problems with the reformed office

The first is that there is a tendency in practice to blur the distinction between liturgical and private prayer. In Bugnini's account of the reform of the office, the need to make it a spiritually "satisfying" experience seems to be the main motive force. My own experience is that this creates a dreadful scruple when, as is often the case, the words make little conscious impression on the mind or heart.

The second is the effective detachment of the Office of Readings from any particular time of the day. Bugnini describes this reform as "pastorally" motivated, but doesn't acknowledge the fact that what we end up with is an hour which is directed towards the personal sanctification of the person saying the office rather than an "objective" sanctification of a specific part of the day or night. In this respect, even the cut down Mattins of the 1962 recension of the Breviary is far superior.

Angelo said...

Patricius 2.03am: "Evening Mass ... is an abomination. If people can't get to Mass at the correct time, too bad."

I'm sorry but I cannot agree with you.

1. I have always preferred to go to Mass on a Sunday morning. I am fortunate (like you) that I am able to do so. But not everyone is so fortunate.

2.Many people in the UK (eg shop workers) are now compelled to work on a Sunday morning. With no evening Mass they would never be able to go to Mass. Do you really want to deprive your fellow Catholics of ever going to Mass on a Sunday?

3. As the Last Supper took place in the evening, a strong case could be made for saying that evening is the "correct" time for Mass rather than the morning.

Paul Knight said...


Evening masses have ensured the virtual elimination of the sung hours from the churches. Vespers is the proper evening sacrifice. Get rid of evening masses and go back to singing the hours in the churches.

Matthaeus said...

I forgot the eagle-eyed Patricius would be watching my comments, and feel I may need to make some clarification. Also, thanks Angelo for already making some of these points.

I agree that morning is the proper time for Mass whenever possible, and, as I implied, would like to see a return to Vespers as the 'normal' Sunday evening service.

When I suggested Compline after evening Mass, I was, in fact, thinking of Holy Days of Obligation that (properly!) fall during the week. Like most people, I am obliged to work for a living, and, like many, have to leave for work early in the morning, and so am very grateful for evening Masses on these occasions (being adamantly against Holy Days of obligation being transferred to Sundays, which I regard as an abuse of the liturgical calendar, and keen to see not only the EF, but all celebrations of these feasts restord to their proper days), and, by extension some other major feasts which are not of obligation, but which I like to celebrate by attending Mass.

A particularly nice idea on these occasions would be Mass after work, a break of perhaps an hour after Mass for a celebratory drink or some something to eat (not enough people feast on Feasts these days!), then returning to the church for Compline before going home.

I must also agree with Angelo that the Sunday evening Mass does have its place. Sadly today's secular society means that many have to work on Sunday mornings (would this were not the case), and it is surely better to enable someone to meet both their duties of worshipping Our Lord and providing an income to support themself and their family, than to be to pedantic about the times of services.

Perhaps we need to focus more on campainging for the Government to restore the status of Sunday as a day of rest.

Paul, Flitwick said...

I think both people have a point.

Evening masses are for people who cannot go to Mass in the morning and should therefore not be lightly dismissed.

However this has been abused in particular by people attending Saturday evening vigil Masses for reasons of pure convenience rather than need.

However, evening Mass has largely done for evening devotions such as vespers, stations of the cross and benediction which is an awful loss. Even Cramner was keen for the laity to partake in the Office.

Perhaps the solution is to change the rules.

1. Sunday Evening service should be either Vespers II + benediction, rosary + benediction or stations of the cross + benediction, dependent on the season. On Saturday evening only vespers I + Benediction is permitted.

2. Mass starting after 3PM is forbidden. However, where there is a genuine need for an evening mass it is permitted, but only if it follows on without a break from the one of the above services (the get out is also needed as if its abrogated altogether then you could say goodbye to many sunday EF masses)

3. No Mass before 00.00 on Sunday can use the prayers proper to Sunday and any mass before 00.00 on Sunday will not fufill the Sunday obligation. (except on Christmas Eve and Holy Saturday where mass may take place from 9PM (6PM is the priest is over 65 or has health problems)

4. If you are constrained by work or other good reason from attending any scheduled Mass on Sunday then your Sunday obligation would be met by attending evening vespers, rosary or stations of the cross with benediction on Saturday or Sunday evening. A spiritual communion is able to be made at benediction.

5. If you are able to attend Mass on Sunday morning but choose for reasons of convenience to do so on Sunday evening then your obligation is only fulfilled if you also attend the whole service including vespers/rosary/stations of the cross and benediction before evening Mass. If you have a good reason for not being able to attend Sunday morning Mass (eg at work) then you still fulfill the obligation even if you arrive too late for V/R/S+Benediction. Not wishing to attend an OF mass does not constitute a "good reason".

6. If you cannot attend Sunday Morning Mass but can attend V/R/S+B on either Saturday or Sunday evening, in the event that V/R/S+B on Sunday also has Mass following directly on then Saturday V+B will not fulfill the obligation. If you cannot attend any Sunday service at all for good reason then Saturday V/S/R+B will fulfill the obligation.

7. You are only required to observe the above where the timetable of your own parish services preclude your attendance. However it is indeed praiseworthy to attend Sunday Mass at another parish if the timings of Mass at your own parish preclude your attendence there.

8. In 7 above "parish" is not neccesarily the geographic parish you live in but the parish you habitually attend. However if Mass is available at a time you can attend within 20 minutes walk of your house (or place of work if at work that day) then you should attend.

9. If the vespers, rosary or stations of the cross does not incorporate benediction then it will not fulfill the obligation and no evening mass may take place after it. It is noted however that those who cannot without good reason attend any Mass are in any case absolved from the obligation.

10. If you are unsure of any of the above then advice can be given in confidence in Confession, the regular (monthly) attendance at which is highly recommended.

Tim said...

I am very much attracted by the idea of saying the Little Office (of the BVM) as it sounds so convenient to use. But I think I might lose a sense of the rhythm of the liturgical seasons and other feast days if my daily prayers are always devotions to Our Lady. How do users find the Little Office at this season of Corpus Christi and the Sacred Heart?

Angelo said...

Paul Knight

"Evening masses have ensured the virtual elimination of the sung hours from the churches."

1. This is simply not true - at least in England & Wales.

2. In England & Wales before Vatican II, the normal evening service on a Sunday was Rosary, Sermon and Benediction. The Divine Office was not normally sung in most parish churches.

3. From the introduction of Sunday Evening Masses by Pius XII in the 1950's until the late 1960's (ie some years after the end of Vatican II), most parishes had Rosary, Sermon & Benediction as well as Evening Mass. In my local parish, I regularly served at two Masses on a Sunday morning and then served at Benediction in the early evening.

4. Rosary, Sermon & Benediction was phased out from most parishes not because of some decree issued by the Bishops - but simply because people were not attending. People voted with their feet.

Paul, Flitwick. said...


If I did it 8 times a day every day, I think you are right that it would get a bit repetitive. However being on the just after 7 oclock to train to Brighton every morning for a full days work in London plus a family at home makes the office something that can be fitted in as and when.

Sometimes I walk to a local catholic church that stays open all day to say sext at lunchtime. Occasionally I become very pious and do matins and lauds on the train and prime on the shorter tube ride. (the day the work to rule ended and my train was restored was one such day that this was offered in thanksgiving :-).

However the point is that its a small light book so easy to carry in your bag, and needs little thinking about what is the right set of prayers so you can easily carry it with you and pick it up and use it as and when. It is an ideal pocket office.

Also because bugnini didnt reform it the main offices are long enough for you to decouple from the thoughts on your mind before you started which I find the new one isn't.

I'm also learning a fair bit of Latin from it as it has both english and latin!

Another thing is that before the reformatino, many catholics in England recited the little office (its simplicity made it amenable to learning by heart in those days before widespread literacy.). People would go to a church and recite it on their own or in pairs. So by going to an open church and reciting it you are carrying on (or restoring?) an ancient tradition and rolling back the reformation just a little!

Mark said...

Echoing what Richard says, Compline is actually what made me switch over from the 'new' Office to the Breviarium Romanum.

Father: why don't you just use your old Breviary, regardless of whether you find the new one?

For once I almost agree with Patricius: evening Masses ought to be replaced with Vespers. Just think how the Anglicans used to have evensong all the time - marvellous. Of course, I am thinking only for weekdays, the Vigil Mass of Saturday is pastorally responsible, for all the reasons Angelo cites: I remember how hard it was when I worked shifts.

Dominic Mary: excellent point about the discontinuity of having two kalendars. Given that I go to the EF normally, that helped make my mind up for me, but equally had I not had that opportunity I would have sticked with the latin Liturgia Horarum I was using before then.

Paul from Flitwick: interesting ideas re the "rules"!

Angelo said...


I must plead ignorance about how the Church of England used to do things in the past, but the local Anglican Church (with a reasonable sized congregation by Anglican standards) only has sung Evensong on a Sunday evening.

They recite (but do not sing) their Office during the week.

I believe that their congregation for Sunday Evensong is tiny - never more than single figures & never outnumbering the choir who are paid a retainer.

Pre-Vatican II, it was unusual to hear singing in most Catholic Churches - except for High Mass (or Sung Mass where a parish had less than three priests) or Benediction.

There were exceptions of course - particularly in parishes that were run by Religious Congregations.

Joe of St. Thérèse said...

Little Office of Paul VI, LOL! funny

Why not have Mass after Vespers, or directly before Vespers? to satisfy the evening folk? We can improvise, we're Catholic afterall :)...As a student I love evening Mass

Anonymous said...

Thank-you for your thoughts Father on 'The Divine Office'. I like, though, the readings (especially from the Fathers and saints of the Church), but the rest is poor in comparison to the BR (1962)/ though we should respect it as the Divine Office of the Church, and that others pray it devoutly. There were certainly 'bad' methods that were used to say BR - though speaking from a more theological viewpoint, we can consecrate our morning's work equally by praying Lauds later in the day if we have not had time to pray it early in the morning / does not God see all of time, past, present and future ? Priests should - and are strongly urged by the Church - to keep the acual times of the office. This is quite possible with BR 1962 and was even recommended by a number of liturgists, spiritual writers and moral theologians BEFORE Vatican II (have a look at the rubrics of BR 1962 on this and Pius Parsch's book on the breviary), to sanctify the day and to obtain more spiritual fruit in reciting the breviary. Maybe St. Anthony will let someone else find your breviary Father ? Fr. A

Jan Baker said...

The collects are different! The readings for Matins are different (which they renamed, right?) It's not even a breviary, it's the 'liturgy of the hours,' yes? but the worst thing is the emasculated collects and Council-dominated readings.

The old breviary is way better, just like the old mass. I pray the collegeville translation, which isn't the best,and my copy (for which I payed almost 400 US) is so worn and tattered. How I wish they would give us a new printing of the old breviary in one of its better English translations!

Anonymous said...

Let's hope that baronius Press will release their bi-lingual English/Latin breviary soon.

Fr. A.

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