About the Liturgy of the Hours

The Divine Office aka Liturgy of the Hours aka  the Breviary is a collection of daily psalms, prayers, and scripture readings that has been part of the Church's liturgical prayer life almost from it's very beginnings. It is prayed at morning, midday, evening, night, plus one other "floating hour" that can be done at any time. Many people only pray one or two of the liturgical hours each day rather than all five. The two principle hours are Morning Prayer and Evening Prayer, and these are what the Church recommends to lay people above all the others. (Don't let the term "hours" scare you. It only takes a few minutes to recite each one.)

The prayers of the Divine Office rotate in a four week cycle throughout the year, with additional variations for the liturgical seasons and/or feast days.   

Although long perceived to be the territory of religious and clergy, the Divine Office is strongly recommended by the Church to us lay people. 

I have been praying the Divine Office for many years.   The purpose of this blog is to encourage and teach people to pray it, and to share some of the spiritual treasures I find in its pages every day. 


Do you want to know more about the Divine Office?

Did you buy a breviary but gave up trying to figure out how to use it?

Are you praying the Divine Office but not sure you're doing it right?

Are you finding it difficult and/or interesting to figure out what we should be thinking as we pray each psalm?

Do want a forum  to share the thoughts and inspirations that come to you as you pray the Divine Office?

You've come to the right place. Go back to the homepage, try other tabs, read posts, and ask questions whenever you like.

58 comments:

  1. I'd like to hear your thoughts regarding LOTH versus other devotional practices, especially the Rosary. As a convert from Protestantism it seems like 99% of what I hear recommended is the rosary. Most of the sources that supported by journey (EWTN,Relevant Radio, blogs) emphasize the rosary. All the old timers at my parish mostly talk about the rosry. However I really feel more of a connection with LOTH. Just this morning I resolved that I was going to force myself to give the rosary a long term trial by skipping Morning Prayer and praying the rosary insead. Then I read the Popes comments on LOTH. Coincidence? I sometimes feel like an oddball because of this.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Rob, your question and comments are SO good that I want to devote a blog post to it, probably in the next few days. My quick reply is that historically, the rosary developed as a kind of informal, substitute LOTH for the illiterate: it's 150 Hail Marys(the rosary used today is really 1/3 of a full medieval rosary) standing in for the 150 psalms. It's a powerful prayer and a great exercise in meditation. I say the rosary almost daily, and I'd hate to see you give up either the rosary or the LOTH in order to accomodate one of them. I often pray my rosary while I'm driving: consider trying that if you find yourself travelling for at least 15 minutes daily. There's a scriptural rosary CD you can play which give a verse of scripture to go with each Hail Mary. http://www.amazon.com/Mother-Mercy-Scriptural-Rosary-Vinny/dp/1884479367 That being said, the LOTH is liturgy, like the Mass, and as such is a higher form of prayer than the rosary. On the other hand, the LOTH has not been user-friendly for the laity until 1971, so that is why most Catholics are unaware of it.

    ReplyDelete
  3. I look forward to your blog post about this. My first comments were a real ramble and I still missed a couple of things that I think about. On the one hand I read JP2 writing that the rosary is his favorite prayer and devoting an Apostolic Letter to it. Most Marian apparitions promote the rosary. On the other hand is the Vatican 2 document, the cathechism, and B16's recent comments about the high position the LOTH has. I know that one of the major changes in thinking I've had to overcome from Protestantism is seeing things as both/and instead of either/or. However, I have a limited amount of time, and sometime struggle to squeeze in just one of these forms of prayer.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Daria is right....it's not either a rosary or the litury of the hours. For me,its both.

    ReplyDelete
  5. I was wondering if the color ribbons should be used specifically for certain sections. Or it is purely an individual preference? Thanks.

    ReplyDelete
  6. There's no significance to the colors that I've ever heard of. I like to keep them from criss-crossing, so I use the one nearest the front of the book for the proper of seasons, the next one for the Psalter, the next one for night prayer, the next for the feasts, and the last one for the commons.

    ReplyDelete
  7. I never have managed to figure out how to the books other than as bookends on my shelf. However, I found a website, Universalis, that provides the whole set of prayers and readings each day. In asmuch as I can open the site and do the readings from the screen each day I use it.
    BTW. I do the LAUDS following my dailey scripural rosary. They go together nicely. Being retired allows me the time for both. If I were still working, I would have to do the rosary during the morning commute.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Universalis is wonderful, Walt. So is ibreviary, which I keep a widget for here on this site and use on my Kindle. Divineoffice.org is another wonderful online breviary which also offers audio podcasts to the hours. I use all of these quite often. If you ever want to learn to use those bookends, check my How-to page, or just ask any questions you want. Those books come in handy around here when the power is out or when I'm traveling and have not computer access.

      Delete
  8. Hey there, love the Blog. I've got a quick question to throw your way about praying the hours.

    At what time specifically do I pray the different Hours? Are there certain cutoff points where I couldn't pray for example the evening prayer but have to move on to the Night prayer? Or is the placement of the prayers more of a loose guideline like maybe I could pray the evening prayer at 10 pm?

    Thanks and God Bless,
    Ryan

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Glad you like the blog. Your question is one that gets ask ed a lot.
      Clergy, who are obliged to say all the hours each day, are permitted, if need be, to pray them at whatever time they can get to them, so that means there is no time at which it is "too late" if you have the obligation. On the other hand, the Church also says that since the point of the LOTH is to sanctify the various hours of day, they should normally be said at the appropriatetness whenever possible. There are not set cutoff times. The sense I get is that you should pick times that fit with your state in life. Traditionally, Evening prayer is done within striking distance of sunset, and/or as the working day draws to a close. So,roughly between 430 and 730. But the General Instruction emphasizes adapting the hours to one's situation in life, especially for lay people. So if you go to bed fairly late, then 10pm may be just right for your evening prayer. And night prayer is supposed to be done close to bed time, so if a person didn't turn in until the small hours of the morning,they would still say night prayer. I have one reader that works a night shift and says night prayer at 8 in the morning. In conclusion,this is a "both/and" situation. It makes sense to stick to the appropriate times of day since the prayers often reference dawn, sunset, etc. But there is no precise cutoff, and adaptation to one's needs is encouraged.

      Delete
    2. Thank you very much :) I won't feel guilty praying a few prayers back to back if I run late then :P.

      Delete
    3. Also, don't feel guilt if you are very tired or very busy and just need to skip it now and then!

      Delete
    4. Hehe, will do :) thanks.

      Delete
  9. Thanks for this site, Daria. I am currently using the abbreviated Magnificat version of morning prayer and night. I am going to get the downloadable version.

    I like your blog.

    Blessings,
    Sharon

    ReplyDelete
  10. Welcome to Coffee&Canticles! Magnificat is a great way to enter in to praying the psalms, however, the psalms they choose are not always from the correct office of the day (I'm not sure why that is.) If you want to pray the psalms that are in harmony with the whole church each day, I urge you to try a real breviary. There are several good online ones, so it's not hard to do. Feel free to ask any questions here if anything about the breviary doesn't make sense to you.

    ReplyDelete
  11. lovely work Daria, just came across the site through Dr. Ferrier :)
    Wanted to share a couple of resources for anyone who is interested in making a move to Latin eventually - Vatican Radio has beautiful (free) podcasts for every day's morning, evening, and night prayer: http://www.radiovaticana.org/en1/on_demand.asp?gr=ltg
    and Baronius Press is just now accepting advance orders for their new Latin/English Breviary set: http://www.newliturgicalmovement.org/2012/03/review-roman-breviary-in-english-and.html
    Again, great blog, God's blessing on your efforts!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Anne,
      Meant to reply to you sooner, then got distracted. Those are two entirely different ways to move into Latin: Vatican Radio podcasts are the current version of the Liturgy of the Hours, but I believe Barionius Press is the pre-Vatican II breviary. Either of which, I suppose, is exciting to those who are good at Latin. And that ain't me,sweetheart, not by a longshot.

      Delete
  12. hi i want to know what to pray during EUCHARISTIC ADORATION! PLS WRITE DOWN. THANK YOU!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Adoration is your own private time with Jesus. You may use any prayers that you wish, such as the rosary, meditating on a passage of the Bible, or simply speaking to the Lord from your heart. In fact, you do not have to pray with words at all. Simply rest in God's presence.
      There is a good book that makes many suggestions on how to spend adoraton time. It's called 21 Ways to Worship by Vinny Flynn. The publisher is Ignatius Press.

      Delete
  13. HELP! Can anyone provide me with the ribbon placements for the single edition of the LOTH for April 5-8, 2013?

    I will be out of town, no internet access.

    If you can help, thanks. okjabc@gmail.com

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Okay, I'm back. Friday, 4/5: go to page 446 for Friday in the octave of Easter. It will tell you to go to Easter Sunday, p. 427 for the psalms and antiphons, then come back to 446 for the rest. Evening Prayer instructions on p. 447.
      Continue on Saturday, 4/6, on page 449.Sunday, p 451, etc.
      For Monday and the rest of the following week, use Monday of week II in the psalter for the psalms, then turn back to p. 457 for the reading onward.
      This pattern will hold for the entire Easter season. You'll use the psalter each day for the psalms, then turn to the front of the book (proper of seaosns) for everything else.
      Good luck.

      Delete
  14. Hi! Just saw this today. Will get back to you later tonight with your answers.

    ReplyDelete
  15. Hello,
    As a "coming back" Catholic, may I recommend that should people find themselves intimidated to take on the LOTH, they may want to start with the "Little Office" dedicated to the Virgin Mary. It's a wonderful tool and is constructed for the active lay members in the church to continue to truly honor "the church, our mother." It contains instructions and both the major and minor with the theme focused on Our Blessed Virgin Mary.

    The actual title is: The Office of the Blessed Virgin Mary, which may be found wherever religious books are sold.

    - Peace!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That's certainly a good option for beginners.For those who spend lots of their day online or are attached to a mobile device, ibreviary.com has the Little Office of the Blessed Virgin Mary as well as the regular Liturgy of the Hours.

      Delete
  16. Has anyone experimented with online or local groups for recitation of LOTH? I am a home worker with a lot of flexibility and am lucky enough to have a nearby parish where Morning Prayer is recited by a few people before Mass every weekday - but how about the other hours? I have seen Rosary groups via Skype but never LOTH groups. No monasteries nearby, sadly. Glad to hear of any experiences.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. This is a good question/topic. I'll bring it up in my next weekly Q&A post.

      Delete
    2. Thank you, look forward to reading more!

      Delete
  17. Here in Chicago, Daytime Prayer and Evening Prayer are recited in Holy Name Cathedral before the 12:10pm and 5:15pm Masses respectively, Monday through Friday. The Evening Prayer group is quite large sometimes. They're led by two leaders, one standing on each side of the front pews. The psalms are said alternating sides, strophe by strophe. They use (and provide copies to borrow) Christian Prayer published by the Daughters of St. Paul.

    The Canons Regular of St. John Cantius chant the LotH publicly in church daily at St. John Cantius Parish:
    http://cantius.org/
    Copies of Shorter Christian Prayer (published by Catholic Book Publishing) are provided for borrowing.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I keep hearing lots of good things about that order and that parish in particular. You belong to one of the best parishes in the country, judging by all the great things one sees about them on the internet.

      Delete
    2. In the interest of full disclosure, I should say I'm a member of the Church of the Ascension (Episcopal/Anglo-Catholic) in Chicago, where our LotH (Daily Morning and Evening Prayer from our Book of Common Prayer) are prayed in the church every day (M-F 6:40 a.m. and 6 p.m.; Sat 9:40 a.m. and 6 p.m.; Sun 7:30 a.m. and 4 p.m.). I'm the leader on Wednesday evenings. But I do admire St. John Cantius, have visited there several times for Sunday Vespers, and have chanted with their schola in an Extraordinary Form Requiem for a friend's mother. My parish is at http://www.ascensionchicago.org and St. John Cantius is at http://www.cantius.org.

      Delete
  18. Why is there no April in the Proper of Saints of Volume III of the LOTH? Skips from March right to May. How come? Thanks!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Because Volume III is only for the part of the liturgical year known as ordinary time. No matter what year it is, every day of April is either in Lent or in the Easter season, and so is covered by volume II.

      Delete
    2. Ah. Thanks!

      Delete
  19. Hey, there's classical poetry in one of the Appendixes of the LOTH! Wow!

    ReplyDelete
  20. I think I know why the Ordinary is placed where it is in the LOTH. We use the Ordinary a lot, and if it were at the very front or the very back, the book would be out of balance in the hand.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Good point! Also, the psalter is in the middle. If it were in the front the frist few pages would soon become damaged and start falling out. Sticking it in the middle gives it protection on both sides.

      Delete
    2. I agree: the pages you use most should be in the middle for binding longevity. I'm an Episcopalian, and our Holy Eucharist rites are around p. 350 out of 1000 pages. A former fellow parishioner did a mini-rant about this for some reason in a class or meeting: "Whose idea was it to put the service we use every Sunday morning on p. 355?" Um, someone who was thinking about how poorly the books would wear if we opened them every Sunday to page 1. Also, our Daily Office material is early in the book and the psalter is late in the book, so in parishes like ours where all of this is used throughout the week, the wear is pretty even. And the pages that get worn out first are in the middle so there's some protection.

      Delete
  21. Where can we find a breviary in Latin which is the most up to date?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You can buy them in Rome, but I"m not sure anyone sells them here. I'll look around the internet for you and let you know.

      Delete
    2. Well, here you go, but it's hugely expensive.
      http://www.amazon.com/dp/1936045265

      However, if you use the ibreviary app, you can switch to any number of languages, including Latin!

      Delete
  22. I just finished reading your book (The Everyday Catholic's Guide to the Liturgy of the Hours) and it was great. However, as I begin to 'dip my toes into the water', I'm already confused ... why is the invitatory psalm for July 24 different between the Universalis website and the Divine Office website? And if that was explained in book, please accept my apology for asking it here; but please let me know which page(s) it was discussed on. Steve

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Steve,
      Glad you liked the book.
      If you check page 49- 50 again you'll see where I mention that there are three other choices for the Invitatory Psalm. I don't use Universalis, but I"m guessing that they must have used one of these others on the 24th.
      But don't apologize! You can't possibly have everything down by heart at this point. In fact, there are one or two things that I go back to my book to look up now and then because I have not memorized them either.

      Delete
  23. Hi great blog. Please I have been trying to find the breviary in Isilo format to no avail. Has someone got it?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'm sorry to say that I do not know of any Isilo format breviary in English. I did find an Opus Dei website that offered it in Spanish and Latin. I'll ask readers on my regular post this week to see if anyone else knows.

      Delete
  24. I don't really understand why the Canticle of Simeon is included every single day in Compline. It seems to me that his canticle is too specific to serve well as something to meditate on just before going to sleep. What does his experience of having finally seen the Redeemer have to do with nighttime?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Anna, Sorry I didn't see this comment sooner--I usually respond much faster than this! The thing to remember about compline is that it's not just about physical bedtime and sleep, but it also anticipates our final end, when we will hopefully "sleep in His peace." The message of Simeon's canticle is "now I can die happy because I've come to know the only thing that really matters--my Savior." With that in mind, we can thing hopefully about death as a gateway to heaven, as well as realizing that however well or badly our day went, we can go to sleep knowing that we have the one thing that counts--Jesus. I think that is why we do this canticle every night.

      Delete
  25. Hello Daria, just discovered the site, and pleased I can ask someone a question or six. I've got Christian Prayer, with the St Joseph Guide, but I get confused by the Guide on certain days. Take Nov 18th. The Guide says:
    MP (1441)(1392) Ant) 718
    Q1., Does the rubric on pp 1392 & 1441 after Ant 1 mean that Sunday Wk 1 Psalms and Canticles are what are always said on such occasions, or do I go to the appropriate day in the cycle? It seems to imply we say Wk 1 Sunday a lot!!
    Q2 Leaving aside the obvious choice between St Rose or Sts Peter and Paul, what does the antiphon reference apply to? Which antiphon from p 718 is replacing which antiphon on the day?

    Many thanks for the site, I'll be a regular reader from now on.
    Tony Solomon

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Tony, I think you will find that page 37 of Christian Prayer answers most of your questions. Briefly, you only really have to use Sunday week I psalmody for feasts and solemnities, not memorials, which is what those two NOvember celebrations are. The ref. to p 718 refers only to the psalms, not the antiphons. YOu would use the antiphons listed in the common of virgins of whatever common you use. I'm glad you like the blog. Ask questions on my weekly q&A post, which is usually on Wednesday or Thursday. Also considering buying my book, since it is a handy guide for all kinds of questions like this.

      Delete
  26. Daria,

    Great blog!!! Just ran into it. I started LOTH two weeks ago. I love the Psalms and prayers. ISSUE: The church I attend uses the Saint Paul's Issue and I am using the Saint Joseph's Large Print, I have a vision problem. Perhaps I am overthinking it, but I am getting so lost. I visit the Divine Office and several other source but seem not to be able to figure it out. Is there a website you can refer me to? One that will break it down in an EASY format how to find where I am and what page I am supposed to be? Thank you for your time.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year. If you only just started the LOTH a few weeks ago, don't worry! It gets easier to figure out as you go along. I recommend my book, The Everyday Catholic's Guide to the Liturgy of the Hours, since it has lots of information for beginners. I think the easiest online breviary to use is ibreviary.com, although sometimes it pops up in Italian, so you have to click the place to change the language. If you have your own breviary and the St. Joseph's yearly guide, you should be able to find your way around it. The St. Paul's breviary has different page numbers so that is why you are confused. You might want to click on the tab above that says "Breviary Bootcamp" because it gives some general principles for finding your place in the book. Feel free to ask me specific questions about any area where you have problems.

      Delete
    2. Daria,

      Thank you for the quick response. I purchased your book via my Apple App. I have not yet started reading it yet though:) I am looking forward to it. I did use my guide for today. It referred me to page 1426 Common of Pastors. They did not use that so I quickly went to page 748 for Week 1 Thursday to see if they went with that. Sadly I ended up getting lost as they did not use either of those two options. Frustrated. I would love to use what they are using but Saint Paul's Issue does not have a large print edition.

      Delete
  27. Daria,

    Great Blog and great book. LOVED IT! I pray the LOTH on my own as there is not a church near me. Do you know of any website that does the prayers LIVE daily? Thank you for all you do.

    ReplyDelete
  28. Daria,

    I'm from a small Eurasian cathoIic community in Malaysia and I have planned for our community to pray the evening prayers beginning with the solemnity of St Joseph and I have already keyed into powerpoint slides for everyone to view and respond. My question: other than alternating when praying the psalms, are there any other prayerful postures ie when to stand, sit or kneel whilst praying vespers? Know a bit - certainly not a whole lot - trying to kickstart this habit in order to get our community excited about coming together to pray at our local chapel. Really enjoyed reading your explanation about why we pray certain psalms etc.. will certainly be sharing all this with the folks in my community!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'm inspired by the thought of your group praying vespers together in a faraway and mostly non-christian land!
      Here's the usual actions/gestures for a community recitation of vespers:
      1. Everyone stand at the beginning for the opening (Make the sign of the cross while saying,"O God, come to my assistance, etc.) and remain standing for the hymn.
      2. Everyone sits down for the psalms. Whenever you say "Glory Be to the Father and the Son and the HOly Spirit" it is customary to briefly bow .
      3. Remain sitting for the readind and responsory. However, the reader may stand while he does the reading.
      4. Stand for the Magnificat (because this is the Gospel)All make the sign of the cross during "My sould proclaims the greatness of the Lord"
      5. Remain standing for the Intercessions, the Our Father, and the concluding prayer. Make the sign of the cross during "May the Lord bless us, protect us from every evil, etc."

      Delete
    2. Daria - thanks for your valuable input. Yes, Malaysia is mainly islamic and if it were not for St. Francis Xavier, our Catholic community would be non-existent! By the way, we are constantly lifting up our prayers for the crew and passengers of flight MH370 - one of our own, a Chief Steward was on board (he stood in for a friend who was taken ill at the last minute.) These are really difficult times and we can only PRAY!
      Oh, yes, another question can we "customise" our Vespers i.e, sing any Lenten hymns from our hymnal half way through our prayers? Our community loves to sing!
      I thank God I found your website just when I had decided to kickstart Vespers in our community!
      May God Bless You, your family and the work you do !

      Teresa

      Delete
    3. Forgive me for not seeing this comment sooner. I am sorry to learn that a member of your community was on flight mh370. I will pray for him and his family to be held in God's hand and receive consolation. If you like to sing, your group might like to learn to chant the psalms and the magnificat. This would be the ideal way to add more singing to vespers. Certainly you could conclude with an extra hymn, but I"ve never heard of a hymn being sung in the middle so I couldn't say whether this would be appropriate. But a nice musical setting or chant of the Magnificat should supply your need to sing.

      Delete
  29. Who is the composer of the Divine Office Intercessions, the Concluding Prayers and the Antiphons? Are they the same year to year? Who selected the readings for the Office of Readings? Thank you and God bless you!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Let's see...the intercessions were composed (I think) by a VaticanII committee headed by Cardinal Annibale Bugnini. The concluding prayers: some of them are old and have been in older versions of the Divine Office before Vatican II, others were newly composed. During advent, Christmas, and lent and Eastertide the concluding prayers are identical to the opening prayer (collect) at mass. Antiphons: many of these come right out of the psalms and other parts of the bible. Others were composed, some in the early centuries of the church, some later, by the various monastic orders who originally put the Divine Office together. The readings, same thing. Some were already in older versions of the breviary, some were selected at Vatican II by the same committee that revised the breviary. The antiphons are the same year to year, except for the antiphon before the gospel canticles on SUday--these rotate according to whether we are in year A B or C of the Sunday readings.

      Delete