Monday, June 18, 2012

Breviary History #2 -Helping the Laity


Guest post by James I. McCauley


 Virgil Michael O.S.B. and the League of the Divine Office, 1930s

Pope St. Pius X reformed the Divine Office, but how would that reform be effected, and who would bring this reform to the laity as Pius clearly wished? In England, a great deal of work was going on in the 1920 with the nuns of Stanbrook Abbey and Dom Fernand Cabrol, O.S.B. of St. Michael’s Abbey. In the United States there was Benedictine monk, Dom Virgil Michel, O.S.B. (1888-1938) of St. John’s Abbey in Collegeville, Minnesota. Dom Michel understood that the laity should pray the office, and yet he understood that the Breviary, as it stood, was not necessarily practical for most lay folks to use.

A few quotes from Dom Michel’s 1937 book, The Liturgy Of The Church:

“The Entire divine office, its daily recitation, rests upon the principle of the duty of the creature to give praise to its Creator. It is this principle that gives us the correct basis for the very existence of the divine office. All of us owe homage and glory to God . . .
The prayer of praise is therefore in a special sense a sacrifice which the member of Christ, as possessing a general priestly character, must offer up to God.”

Another point is that Dom Michel understood the importance of the vernacular. While there are those who can easily read, and prefer Latin, the majority of Catholics today do not, and that was a factor that Dom Vergil’s push for a vernacular breviary to open up the riches of the Divine Office to the laity. Dom Michel and his friend Msgr. William Busch (died 1971), both saw the Society of Approved Workmen praying the Office in 1932 and likewise, the Campion Propaganda Committee around the same time period. Busch in particular pushed the practice of the laity praying the breviary.

As a result, by 1936, St. John’s Abbey was promulgating The League of the Divine Office, a voluntary organization of lay people who agree to recite some part of the divine office every day. In my possession is an original brochure handed out by the Abbey regarding this League. Please note in the image that the full daily offices for Prime and Compline are provided as separate booklets. And note the Short Breviary – topic of the next article! In any event, the League is something that should be revived today. Any priest who runs a parish can take the scans of this brochure and pick up and carry on the good work of Virgil Michael and William Busch.


4 comments:

  1. "In my possession is an original brochure handed out by the Abbey regarding this League. Please note in the image that the full daily offices for Prime and Compline are provided as separate booklets. And note the Short Breviary – topic of the next article!"

    Sorry, I don't see any image of this, just the book THe Liturgy of the Church. ?

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    Replies
    1. Looking through the images that the guest blogger sent me, and didnt see anything resembling a booklet. But I did add a picture of the short breviary (s).

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    2. James I. McAuleyJuly 6, 2012 at 9:21 AM

      Brian,

      Sorry for the late reply. I misplaced the brochure, so I do not have it available at the moment. However, the gist is this. In a parish, a group of people agree to say the office. Ideally, they will say one hour in a Church once a week together, and when the brochure came out in the 1930s, this hour was either Prime (suppressed in the Ordinary Form, henceforth "OF") or Vespers (Evening Prayer in the OF). The Group was encouraged to divide amongst themselves the day hours, so that on individual said Lauds (Morning Prayer in the OF), another Terce (mid morning prayer in the OF, and so on. Everyone was encouraged to say saying Prime and Compline (Night Prayer in the OF)on their own every day. In other words, you should say at least one hour a day, at a minimum and once a week say one hour in common. The League was popular at several midwestern Catholic Colleges where the Short Breviary was made available. The League collapsed in the Liturgical chaos of the 1960s and 1970s, but there is no reason that ii cannot be revived today.

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