Friday, May 30, 2014

Question on Breviary Unity

A reader from Pennsylvania writes:

  I am about 2/3 of the way through your book, and have been praying morning and night prayer for about a month.  Since you mention that there will be a revision of the breviary in the next few years, I searched that topic on the web, and came upon some posts that talked about the 1961 Roman Breviary from Baronius Press.
     I am currently homeschooling my 2 youngest children and they study Latin.  I have been to an EF Mass, but normally attend a Novus Ordo Mass.  Are the liturgical calendars between these 2 forms completely different?  I was wondering (and will pray about) whether I should get this 1961 breviary because it has the Latin, which will help me learn it, and it won't change in the future (I assume).  But I am confused about how we can be "united to the Church universal"  if we are praying different forms of the breviary.
     If you have any thoughts/suggestions about this, I would really appreciate it!  Thanks!!

Happy to answer the several questions you bring up. I'm publishing your letter as a post since some of my readers are more knowledgeable than I about the 1961 (EF) Breviary than I am, and I want them to have the chance to chime in. What I love about Coffee&Canticles readers is that they are able to discuss features of Ordinary Form vs. Extraordinary form in a way that sheds light (knowledge) without generating heat (in the form of acrimonious debates about which form is superior and whether Vatican II liturgical change was a huge mistake or a needed reform, etc.)

The revision I referred to in The Everyday Catholic's Guide to the Liturgy of the Hours is a new translation of the existing Ordinary Form breviary. Just as we received a new translation of the mass a couple years ago, the same thing is being done with the breviary, and mostly for the same reasons to conform more accurately to the official Latin texts. Also, this new breviary will include a more accurate translation of the psalms, and will eliminate the psalm prayers since these do not appear in the body of the psalter in the official Latin breviary nor in those of other countries. You can read more about it here.  

The Baronius Press breviary is a new (beautiful but pricey) edition of the 1961, EF breviary. A cheaper alternative would be to find old pre-Vatican II breviaries on ebay. Or, to use one of several online versions, which I hope an alert reader or two will post in comments. Probably it would be a good idea to try praying the traditional, EF breviary online for a while to see how you like it before making the investment in a new breviary. 

Are the two calendars "completely" different? I wouldn't say that. Both observe the same liturgical seasons. The spaces in between the seasons that the OF now calls "ordinary time" have different names in the EF, for example, "The xth Sunday after Pentecost" rather than "xth Sunday of ordinary time."  The big difference is with the feastdays of saints throughout the year. Both EF and OF match up on some of them, but not all. Plus, the EF includes many more saints in the general calendar as obligatory commemorations than the OF does. 

If the majority of masses (Sunday and/or daily) that you attend are EF, it would make sense to use the EF breviary, because I think you'd want to commemorate the same saint during lauds and vespers that you did at mass that day. For the same reason, I stick with the OF. 

One exception--the Office of Readings. Many of my traditional friends use the EF breviary for most of the hours, but do the Office of Readings from the EF, because they prefer the Office of Readings to its EF equivalent. 

Now--how can we be united to the prayer of the Universal Church if there are two different breviaries? Actually, there are more than two. The eastern rites have something different than us western rite folks, and many monastic orders use a monastic breviary that differs from the one that we lay people and parish priests use.   Also, the new Anglican ordinariate (for Catholics who have converted from the Anglican/Episcopal churches) have a breviary that retains elements of the Book of Common Prayer. And each religious order has its own "ordo" wherein on any given day, its members are commemorating one of their own saints or blesseds, and thus even though they use the OF breviary, might be using a different common, prayer, or reading than the one you and I are using that day. 

So how is there unity?  In the same way that we are  all united as we participate in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, despite a number of varying rites (Latin, Greek, Ruthenian, Ambrosian, etc.) and forms (ordinary Latin, extraordinary Latin).  It's the same sacrifice of Jesus, made once on calvary and renewed in every mass. So every variety of the Liturgy of the Hours (so long as the texts are approved by the church as liturgical prayer) is the public
 sacrifice of praise that Jesus offers eternally to his father, and we, as members of his body, get to offer through, with and in him. 

So, no, you don't have word for word unity across all Catholics every day.   That being said, there are many common elements across the OF and EF breviary. For example, today (Friday)  everyone is praying Psalm 51, which is the penitential psalm par excellence. The daily Invitatory of Psalm 95 is the same in both forms. Night Prayer for Saturday night is the same one that the EF uses every night of the week. There are probably other points of intersection as well. 

Realize that priests who use the EF breviary are required to pray it in Latin. The English text is there for study purposes, but they must say the Latin for it to "count" as their daily obligation. Not sure whether this would apply to laity who want to pray liturgically rather than as devotion. 

One more thing. You can pray the modern,  OF  breviary in Latin by using the ibreviary app. There's a place in the settings where you can select various languages an Latin is among them.

As a homeschooler, you might be interested in an excellent new book about praying the LOTH as a family.  It's called The Llittle Oratory.  The authors discuss different breviaries and all kinds of tips for introducing the rest of your family to liturgical prayer. 

I hope this helps, and maybe a few readers will have some more ideas for you once this post has been online for a few hours.


  1. See for the EF breviary. Basically, it goes through 150 psalms every week.

  2. To answer one quick point, the laity aren't obliged to pray anything. Therefore, they can pray the trad Divine Office in Latin, English, Swahili, whatever.

    I wholeheartedly agree with the recommendation above. If you want to pray the actual Extraordinary Form version, go with the 1960 option. I actually helped design another version on there, 1960-New Calendar.

    There are older versions that go back to the rubrics reductions of 1955, the Divino Afflatu reforms of Pius X, the version from Trent, the Divino Afflatu calendar on the Trent form, etc. Start small.

    If you're looking for a hand edition, entirely in English, check out Despite the name, it's basically the pre-1955 Roman Breviary in thee/thou English. The big advantages here over the Ex Form/1961 breviary is that Matins is there in full, as are many more octaves and saint days suppressed in 1955 and 1961.

  3. To read the EF breviary online is the place to be. One can read the prayers in English and Latin. Matins contains what is now known as the Office of Readings in the OF Breviary.

    For those with Android phones and tablets, the FSSP created an app called iMass which contains the EF Missal, EF Breviary and other great stuff! Visit the Google app store to download. It's free.

  4. The breviary I'm using right now is a Japanese "short" version which has a one week psalter which is to be repeated every week. It also has special material for some special days. As far as contents, it is out of step with other breviaries around the world, but the Bishops here have approved it, so apparently it's still considered praying the universal "Prayer of the Church." My local parish even uses this edition on Sunday mornings before Mass. So I guess it's a question of submission to authority rather than the actual contents of the Psalms and prayers.

    BTW, this breviary clearly says that if you are praying as an individual, then you can skip the hymns! So at least in Japan that question has been answered. :)

    1. Ha! Another contribution to the hymn controversy. Interesting. Years ago, Ave Maria Press had a shortned MP and EP breviary which just alternated between weeks I and II of the psalter, plus, like your Japanese one, some extras for the holy seasons and a common for Marian feasts. Not sure why that went out of print, and do not recall whether it was authorized by our bishops for liturgical use, because in those days (30 yrs ago) I was not sufficiently informed about the importance of such things to bother checking.

  5. Oh, by the way, unlike the old Divine Office which went through all the Psalms in one week, the one-week psalter in the Japanese short version only contains parts of the four-week psalter. For example, Monday Morning Prayer is from Week 3, and Monday Evening Prayer is from Week 4, etc. So you don't even come close to praying most of the 150 Psalms.

    I like it because I still struggle with the Japanese language after all these years, and this gives me a fighting chance. I still plow through all the Psalms on my own at a different time at my own pace (in English).

  6. I have the Liturgy of the Hours, the Liturgia Horarum (Latin LotH), and the Baronius Press Breviary. I've used all three. If I were the OP, I'd look at this version of the LotH that has Latin and English:

    It is only Lauds and Vespers and doesn't have saint's feasts (just the Proper of Seasons), but it is a great way to pray in Latin with English translations (including the hymns) while staying in sync with your OF Mass calendar.

    The Baronius Press Breviary, while beautifully bound, gloriously illustrated, and more rigorous in its spirituality, presents the layman with a huge time commitment that may leave them overwhelmed and exasperated. Beyond that, the EF calendar often gets bogged down in the sanctoral feasts where you're praying the same psalms over and over from the Commons. You often lose sight of the seasonal changes in the calendar.

    1. Rich, in the Ex Form, you normally don't take the psalms from the Common. You normally take them from the feria, the same as LOTH. You only use the Common psalms for I and II Class feasts.

      But you're correct about the time commitment, if you're going to do the whole thing. Silent reading will run you almost an hour total per day.

  7. Hmm, I just saw it is out of print. Sorry.

    I actually emailed FrZ about this issue of attending the OF Mass but wanting to pray the EF Breviary. He recommended I keep my Office form consistent with my Mass form (OF/EF). I have found this to be a good guide.

  8. Daria, Help! Please explain the OFand EF forms; Novus Ordo Mass. I am fairly new to LOTH and am using Christian Prayer by The Daughters of St. Paul, 1976. More often than not, I use the divine office website, esp for the Office of Readings Morning Prayer.
    Thanks, Elizabeth

    1. Ordinary From and Extraordinary Form (OF &EF) are terms coined by Pope Benedict XVI. Ordinary Form means the mass that most Catholic experience (also known as the Novus Ordo or the Pope Paul VI mass), which was promulgated in approximately 1970 (I'm going on memory and dont' feel like looking it up). Extraordinary Form refers to the mass in use just before Vatican II, in particular the 1962 missal, which I believe is the one approved for priests and laity who wish to have mass in this older form. I was applying EF and OF to the breviary as a shorthand for "pre Vatican II" and "post Vatican" II", since the Liturgy of the Hour was also revised in the 1970s in order to fit in with the revised liturgical calendar. The Daughters of St. Paul breviary that you use, as well as the Divine Office website, are the post-Vatican II or "ordinary form" versions. I hope this helps but if you have further questions, feel free to keep asking.

    2. Salvete, Wasn't this whole OF/EF debacle caused by Benedict, XVI? I thought after the Vatican II the liturgy was renewed and then established in one form to be used throughout the whole church. There were/are groups of Catholics who were insisting that Vat II was a mistake and they would not take part in the new liturgy. When Benedict became pope these very conservative groups were able to convince him to allow the 1962 rubrics for mass and the office to be reinstated and be used alongside the Vat II rubrics. So, in fact we do have two versions of the liturgy being used. I have been praying the Divine Office daily for 45 years in Latin and Italian. I have three sets of Breviarum Romanum on my book shelves. One from the '40, one from the '60 and the Liturgia Horarum. I look at the first two with nostalgia but I love the LH the most. It takes me about the same amount of time to pray any of the three but with the LH I spend most of my time praying and mediating on what I am reading. Isn't that what pray is all about? Valete ut valeo Buona Domenica a tutti.