Sunday, August 30, 2015

Liturgical Prayer Out Loud or Silently?


The question comes up periodically: must  I pray the Liturgy of the Hour out loud, or at least in a whisper, or at least moving my lips in order for it to be "valid" as liturgical prayer?

Nothing in the General Instruction on the Liturgy of the Hours spells this one out. And we get varying answers when we consult different priests. (and the variations I have gotten have nothing to do with said priests' personal orthodoxy, by the way. Priests of all persuasions have told me various things, although none have ever quoted me anything "official" as a source for their opinions.)

Some time ago a reader of this blog (a priest, in fact) showed me an official answer to this question. It appeared in a comment to a blog post, but I don't know that I ever put it in the body of a post. So here it is.

Sacred Congregation for Divine Worship Note Liturgiae Horarum Interpretationes (Not 9 (1973) 150)
Query: When a person recites the liturgy of the hours do the readings have to be pronounced or simply read?
Reply: It is enough to simply read them. The conciliar Constitution on the Liturgy says nothing about an obligation to oral recitation when a person says the office alone, although there was a difference of opinion on this among the conciliar Fathers. They decreed a reform of the breviary not for the purpose of shortening the time of prayer but of giving all who celebrate the liturgy of the hours a better time for prayer…Sometimes a surer guarantee for this objective of the liturgy of the hours in individual recitation may be to omit the oral recitation of each word, especially in the case of the readings.
Found on page 1098 of Documents on the Liturgy 1963-1979. Conciliar, Papal and Curial Texts. The Liturgical Press, 1982

I will add here that the priest who so nicely informed me of this also stated his understanding that if you are using the EF breviary (1961) said that if you are following the older discipline, that you do have to move your lips--that the old rules are still in force for the old breviary. If someone out there knows a lot about the EF breviary and its rubrics, and would like to elaborate on that, feel free to do so. 


Plus, any other questions about the Liturgy of the Hours are welcome. Ryan Ellis, maybe?

17 comments:

  1. I understand that the old breviary must also be said in Latin to be liturgically licit.

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    1. From what I've seen on traditionalist message boards, it's never been clear whether it was possible for laymen to pray the Office liturgically, in Latin or otherwise. Perhaps it wasn't that much of a concern because prior to V2 so few layman would have been able to do it. Anyone bound to say the Office must say it in Latin if they choose to use the EF Breviary.

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    3. I've heard the same things and I agree with you.

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  4. I would say that whether we pray the hours out loud, whispered or simply by reading, what really counts is that our minds and hearts are seeking to be lifted to the Lord in praise, listening receptiveness to him and prayer for others. Any other considerations, and I don't intend unkindness, amount to a kind of Pharisaism, which I feel sure that the official RCC seeks to avoid.

    At the same time, bearing this essential aspect in mind, it is helpful to pray it out loud, if at all possible in the company of others too, because it is then involving more of the body in the worship. When in the company of others we realise more of the Communion of Saints in what we do as well.

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    1. Alan, the reason it is question at all is that we're talking about Liturgy--the official public prayer of the church. It's in the same category as the mass. So although it would be legalistic to ask such questions about, say, the rosary, one might well want to know about rubrics for the Liturgy of the Hours in a spirit of obedience to the church's discipline.

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    2. This may be true for the desire to vocalize official public prayer, but the Church also extends vocal requirements for indulgences (specifically the prayers for the Pope's intentions.) Canon 934: "If prayer in general for the intention of the Supreme Pontiff is required, mental prayer only does not suffice." I am also someone genuinely trying to understand rather than critique, but this seems like legalism to me. If one is trying to gain an indulgence and prays for the Pope's intentions, why is it strictly necessary to say the prayers out loud? (or else it doesn't "work"?)

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    3. Christina, I believe that although people use the term "mental prayer" to mean "saying words inside your head w/o moving your lips", that this is not the meaning it has in Catholic spirituality. As I understand it, "mental prayer" means prayer that does not make use of composed formulas, but rather is interior conversation with God, meditation, or just to wordlessly gaze upon the face of Christ, such as we might do during adoration. Going with this definition, I think Canon 934 wants us to use specific prayers for the pope, such as Our Fathers, glory be's, etc. as opposed to just wordlessly holding the pope up to the Lord. Not that this is a bad thing, but yes, it makes it certain for everyone to fulfill the conditions for the indulgence without any doubt. This being the case, it makes no difference whether you said an Our Father for the pope's intentions using your lips or just thinking the words inside your head. Both of these are indeed vocal prayer. I hope that makes sense. If I'm wrong I guess I've blown lots of indulgences.

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  5. Hello Daria,

    I have a question about Compline (Night Prayer). In the GILH it says,

    "On the other days psalms are chosen that are full of confidence in the Lord; it is permissible to use the Sunday psalms instead, especially for the convenience of those who may wish to pray night prayer from memory."

    Now, does this mean that we could/should pray, on any night so chosen, all of the Psalms from "After Evening Prayer I & II", i.e., 4,134 and 91 or do we choose one or the other?

    Kinda wish the GILH was a little clearer on certain instructions for the Office but maybe you have some insight on this question. Thank you and may God Bless your work here.

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    1. Dan am sorry it has taken me so long to respond here (although you got some pretty good answers), but my computer is still out being repaired and it's hard for me to work on a tablet or the desktop which is often in use by other family members. You are right that the GILH is not perfect clear about which Sunday to use as a "default" compline. Somewhere along the line I had gathered that this meant using either Sunday I or Sunday II. Personally, when I don't have a breviary with me (or fall into bed and only then remember that I hadn't done compline, I use Sunday II and psalm 91. As you will note from John's comment, there is a monastic office that is different from the LOTH that we laity and parish clergy use. I don't really know much about it since there are no monasteries near me where I could go and learn more. I do know that there is also a "default" set of psalms for daytime prayer as well, so that monks can pray the three briefer daytime hours, by heart, from wherever they are working , which could be out on the farm and thus too far to get to chapel on time.

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    2. Thanks, Daria, and no need to apologize. I'll just go with all three of the Sunday Compline prayers for during the week. I have a fixed set of rote prayers that I say every night either before or after Compline and I'm just trying to incorporate everything (separating the Office and my own prayers, of course) into a solid 15 minutes or so right before bed. Thanks to all and pax vobiscum.

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  6. Dan, I will defer to Daria for the official answer, but many Benedictine monasteries pray Psalms 4, 91 and 134 every night at Compline, my Benedictine breviary has only those 3 psalms for Compline each night. Also that same breviary has a 3 reading Compline rotation, the readings from Tuesday and two other nights in the Roman Compline.

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  7. Thanks, John. I want to start praying the same ones every night with the hope that I can memorize at least parts of them.

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  8. St Benedict specified 4, 91, and 134 as the psalms for Compline in the 6th century, and he was probably affirming a tradition already present. The Roman office later added the first verses of Psalm 31, and that was how it stayed until 1911 when Pius X reorganized the Psalter. The traditional psalms were still used for all Sundays and excepted Feasts.

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