Friday, June 29, 2012

Breviary History #4

A continuation of a series on 20th century liturgical books that aimed to open up the Divine Office of the laity. By guest blogger Jim McCauley

Liturgical Readings, 1943

St. John’s Abbey was not the only American Benedictine Abbey with an interest in the Liturgical Movement. Another was St. Meinrad’s Archabbey in St. Meinrad, Indiana. Abbot Ignatius Esser (Abbott 1930-1955) also saw the need to open up the riches of the Breviary. However, Abbot Esser saw a lacunae in the Short Breviary – the rich Sunday homilies found in the Office of Matins were missing. As anyone who knows the pre-1960 Roman Breviary knows, the Sunday Office once had a third nocturn that contained the gospel of that Sunday, and then a patristic homily that explained the gospel. The other thing was that many of these readings were simply very difficult for those who were weak in Latin to understand. Abbott Esser had the readings translated into English. The Book was titled Liturgical Readings: The Lessons of the Temporal Cycle and the Principal Feasts of the Sanctoral Cycle According to the Monastic Breviary (1943). The untitled preface states:

“The present translation is dedicated to those men and women who are desirous of reading and meditating upon the words of the Fathers of the Church, but who have been hindered from so doing by an insufficient knowledge of Latin. In this translation the Latin idioms have been rather closely adhered to for the purpose of comparative study.”

The book was a success, and was kept in print through at least 1954. The book is especially valuable as it provides the readings for the octaves suppressed in 1955 –Epiphany, Ascension, Corpus Christi, Sacred Heart, Assumption, All Saints, and Immaculate Conception, as well as Pentecost, suppressed in 1969. Unfortunately, this book is rare today. Perhaps the publishers at the Baronius Press will use this as the basis for a supplemental volume to their new three volume Roman Breviary.

The images we have here is one of the front cover and another of the inside title page.


  1. Daria, want to thank you for giving Jim the opportunity to share brief history of the breviary. I for one am enjoying his posts. I was aware of the Short Breviary never realized the history leading up to its publication as well as the companion volume of liturgical readings. Hoping Jim planning on reviewing what really happened with the 1975 Book of Prayer and as to why it was suppressed and pulled from the market.


  2. James I. McAuleyJuly 5, 2012 at 10:39 PM


    I will get there. I am digressing a little by moving fast forward on my next post, but I plan to do an article on the Pian Psalter next. I do plan to cover the 1975 debacle for the Short Breviary (Book of Prayer). In a nutshell, it was pulled over royalties.

  3. Might be a little off topic, but do you have better intel than I seem to be able to get on when Baronius Press will have the new 3-book Extraordinary Form set available for sale? It is frustrating that month after month they still say "out of Stack", Don't call us, email or ask when, just sit tight and wait.

    Seems odd, in my line of work I'm expected to provided estimates on when work/tasks will be complete. They can't call their publisher/printer and ask when will the first box of books ship to us? So they in turn can take orders and ship to their customers?

    I'm anxious to begin reading/praying the EF using what people say is a great new edition. I've been a Catholic Book Publishing 4-volumne OT person for a number of years. The EF seems to be what the local Benedictine Monastary uses, so since I'm becoming an Oblate, I'd like to pray in English the same Psalms & Readings that they are praying in Latin. Plus the diversity from the OF will be good.