Friday, July 6, 2012

USA Breviary revision news

Father Z. shares the latest news on the proposed revision of the Liturgy of the hours, which he received in the newsletter of the USCCB committee for Divine Worship.

In the comments, every expresses their wish lists for what a revised breviary ought to look like.

My own hopes:1. that the psalm prayers, if retained, be placed AFTER the conclusion of the psalm, as in AFTER the Glory Be an the repeated antiphon.
2. A better translation of the intercessions.
3. Scripture readings from something other than the New American Bible.
4. That artwork/graphics, if any, will be of better quality.
5. Better and clearer instructions in the ordinary that don't assume the beginner will be learning by watching senior members of a monastery or a seminary!
6. The traditional hymns from the Roman breviary (in Latin and English) rather than the many 70s-composed selections that we have now.
7. diacritical markings in the psalms to aid chanting.(underlines or italics on the words in each line where the note changes.)

What's on your wish-list for a revised breviary?


  1. The tricky thing about pointing the psalms for chanting is that different pointings are needed for different psalm tones. The tones are determined by the tone of the antiphon being used, and that changes with the season or feast. Fortunately, there are ways of pointing psalm texts that work with all of the traditional psalm tones. Users need to be willing to learn how to use such a system; it usually involves paying attention to only some of the markings for any given psalm tone and ignoring the rest.

  2. The easiest system I've seen is used in the old Sarum Psalter by G.H. Palmer. The psalm texts are printed with double line spacing so that a series of numbers, representing psalm tones, can be placed above syllables. If you're chanting the psalm in psalm tone II, you leave the reciting note on the syllable with a 2 above it in each half of the verse. Very easy to catch on to. Much easier than a system of accent marks and underlines.

    1. True. I've already learned to my dismay that different systems require different markings: I learned all the tones in the Mundelein psalter --same marks work for every tone, by the way--and thought I could go on and try the Revised Grail Psalm tones that you can get on a card to go with the Revised Grail psalter. What a disappointment, since I can't make head or tail of how the RGP markings go with these tones, which are much more complicated than Mundelein, which I now see must be the equivalent of "psalm tones for Dummies". I hope the RGP people will start posting audio files that show how their psalm tones are supposed to work with their psalter.
      The Sarum system sounds sensible. I'll have to look it up. Probably out of print, right?

    2. The Conception Abbey Psalm Tones are a breeze once you get started. In the Revised Grail Psalter (Singing Version), a line of a psalm text typically has three syllables with an accent mark. You need to ignore all but the final one in each line.

      The psalm tones have six "measures" to cover the maximum six lines in a psalm strophe (strophes are groups of one to six lines, sort of a paragraph). If there are fewer than six lines in a strophe, no problem...always start with the first measure of the psalm tone to sing the first line, the second to sing the second line, etc., and then skip to the last measure to sing the last line.

      The first note in each measure applies to most of the syllables in the line; the black note applies to the syllable right before the last accented one (remember, you're ignoring the other accents), and the last note (with the accent) in a measure applies to that last accented syllable in the line. While you're learning, it might help to mark the syllables that get the black note and the accented note: put a dot under the syllable that gets the black note, and underline the syllable that gets the accented note. You'll soon find the marking unnecessary.

      You're right that audio files would make learning this much faster. I learned the Saint Meinrad tones (which are almost as easy as the Conception Abbey ones) by praying the Office with the monks at Saint Meinrad Archabbey. Almost didn't need to see the tones printed out in order to pick them up quickly after a few psalms. They're designed to work naturally with the Grail strophic structure and not need rehearsal.

    3. Scott, this is very helpful. I tried tone 1 and 6 today according to your instructions, and now I see that this is doable after all. It was those other accents that threw me off: I was trying to find a way that all three markings fit in somehow with the tone. (I still wonder what the other ones are for). Thanks so much for the clarification.

    4. Glad to hear it worked! The method that uses all the accents is the Gelineau psalm tones. You can find a lot of those tones in the back of the Paulist Press edition of the (1963) Grail psalter titled The Psalms: A New Translation - Singing Edition.

      Monks at a monastery I know switched in 1967 from the Latin monastic breviary to English using the Grail and the Gelineau (they call them Jelly Roll) psalm tones, and this worked for a while but eventually got tedious with the accents...felt a little "thumpy": MERcy and PEACE have MET...JUSTice and TRUTH have emBRACED. So they devised their own simplified version of the traditional Gregorian psalm tones.

  3. I wonder how many years will pass before this revision comes out. 10 years?

    -Mike Demers

    1. I'm not holding by breath, but the part that Fr. Z. quoted shows that they have noted popular demand. I like to believe that this will make things happen a little sooner than they would have if no one had contacted them. I think we should all get on the USCCB website every few months, find the "Divine Worship Committee" page, and send a friendly inquiry about the progress of this project.

  4. I hope that they come out before my Breviaries fall apart completely... I don't want to have to tape them!

  5. I hope they will organize the books better. For a newcomer it is very confusing to have the Ordinary in the middle, Advent, Lent, etc., in the front and other special day stuff behind the Ordinary. why not put the Ordinary up front, where it is easy to find? I'm talking about the one volume editions, BTW. I haven't used the multi-volume editions (can't afford them).

    Actually, I think a good move would be to make one volume just the Ordinary (bind it REALLY well), then have other volumes for everything else.

    I hope they don't make it fee for use so the online places like Universalis can't afford it. Without Universalis I would never have found my way around the book.

    Second, third & fourth, the request for the old hymns. I was shocked to see Morning Has Broken as one in my one-volume book.

    Any ideas why, whether I select 'publish' or 'preview' my comment simply vanishes? Unless I select to post as anonymous?

    Elaine T.

  6. If they could render the psalms and canticles into four line stanzas rather than these train wreck arrangements they have now, that would resolve a lot of chanting issues. Also, some better adherence to English grammatical rules (i.e. Te Deum's "glorious company of apostles PRAISES you"-- not "praise you") would be appreciated. Of course, perhaps those issues will get resolved with more faithful translation from the Latin.

    Robert B.

    1. I think "glorious company of apostles praise you" reflects British usage: the collective singular. That's why my UK work colleagues say things like, "Microsoft are coming out with a new tablet," or "Arsenal are losing too many matches." I guess they had to pick a usage, and UK English won out.

      As for psalms and canticles, if they're strophic, I hope they also include the asterisk to make them usable with binary psalm tones like the traditional Gregorian ones. With the dagger for the flex, too.