- Background, Pius X, early 20th century
guest post by James I. McCauley
This blog has been dedicated to bringing souls to Christ by encouraging them to read the prayer of the Church, that is, the Liturgy of the Hours. However, the Liturgy of the Hours has a long backstory and I would like to share some of it with you. Please note these articles are not meant to be scholarly, but are meant to be overviews. You are welcome to make comments and ask questions, but I have one rule – be charitable and therefore do not tell me that this office is better than that office, and so on. “The important thing to do,” as my good friend Father Allan Weber, O.F.M has always said, “is to pray.”
Our story begins in the reign of Pius X (Pope 1903-1914). On November 22, 1903 he issued his motu proprio Tra Le Sollecitudini on the restoration of Church music. Within the document the great and holy pontiff stated:
“It being our ardent desire to see the true Christian spirit restored in every aspect and preserved by all of the faithful, we deem it necessary to provide before everything else for the sanctity and dignity of the temple, in which the faithful assemble for the object of acquiring this spirit from its indispensable font, which is the active participation in the holy mysteries and in the public and solemn prayer of the Church.”
Among the many reasons Pius X reformed the Roman Breviary with the Apostolic Constitution Divino Afflatu on November 1, 1911, was to bring the above into effect. This reform of the Roman Breviary provided the general layout of the psalter until the promulgation of the Liturgy of the Hours in 1971. The reforms of Pius X had the positive effect of reducing the burden on those obligated to recite the psalter by reducing the amount of verses the priest had to say by over a thousand verse lines per week! Would you like to read from this Apostolic Constitution? Then pull out Volume IV of the Liturgy of Hours and go to page 1336 for a wonderful excerpt from this Constitution, which is the Reading for the Feast of Pius X on August 21. Simply splendid!
Now, how are we going to get the laity to actively participate in the Prayer of the Church? That is the topic of the next article.