QUAERITUR: How to do vespers in a parish?

I have been getting more and more news of parishes implementing some form of the Office or Liturgy of Hours for the people to sing.

I want to put this out there for informed readers with some knowledge to comment on (I am swamped with work at the moment):

Some friends and I (all laymen who pray the traditional Breviary privately) have discussed the idea of doing Vespers or Compline together some days during the week, since we’re all saying the Office anyway.

However, rather than just doing "group private recitation"…we were wondering about actual Public celebration of the Office (solemn or spoken).

Our pastor has expressed total willingness to let us use the church during those times, since nothing else is going on, and even to alert people in the bulletin, but he himself is not comfortable leading it. (One of the deacons may be, however…)

We’re working on memorizing the "Ordinary" chant parts, especially for Compline.

So, basically, my question is, what ministers are actually required for public celebration of the Office (solemn or otherwise)? Must the celebrant be a priest? Must the celebrant be a cleric? According to the internal rubrics of the Old Rite, must it be a cleric in major orders? Can the roles of hebdomadary and cantor be filled by lay substitutes (as the role of acolyte/altar server can)?

Since celebration of the Divine Office requires no particular sacramental powers, it would be nice if lay volunteers could actually lead it (in cassock-and-surplice like an altar server, at least). But I’m not sure if anything more than spoken "group private recitation" is possible…

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23 Responses to QUAERITUR: How to do vespers in a parish?

  1. dmwallace says:

    Consider that religious sisters and nuns are laywomen. They celebrate the Divine Office (Liturgy of the Hours, etc.) in its fullness. The rubrics have concessions for groups of non-clerics who are praying the Office as a group. I would urge you to acquire copies of the FSSP’s Ad Completorium: Compline according to the Breviarium Romanum of 1960. You can buy it online: http://store.fraternitypublications.com/ad-completorium-compline-according-to-the-breviarium-romanum-of-1.html. According to the website: The booklet “Contains full Latin text (with translation) and music for Compline, including variations for all the liturgical seasons with complete rubrical instructions. Approved for liturgical use.”

  2. Oneros says:

    “Consider that religious sisters and nuns are laywomen.”

    Strictly speaking, yes, but not exactly. “Choir nuns” have a pseudo-clerical standing when compared to, say, “lay sisters”. Hence the distinction between “choir nuns” and “lay sisters”. They’re technically all lay, but when it comes to the question of Public Prayer…choir nuns are generally considered public pray-ers like the clergy. Carthusian nuns were even given maniple and stole, in what was essentially ordination as deaconesses, in order that they might read the Gospel incipit at Matins in choir, etc…

  3. gloriainexcelsis says:

    I don’t know about a group getting together to recite (or sing) the Office; but St. Stephen’s (FSSP) Sacramento offers parishioners the opportunity to participate in some of the Hours. I have a copy of Ad Completorium, but there are parish-printed booklets available as well. Lauds is sung after the 7am Mass, Monday through Friday, for all who wish to stay, with booklets available. Vespers is sung every Sunday at 3pm. Some of the schola and altar servers stay, having been at Church since before the 10:30am High Mass, and take up positions on either side of the altar, singing antiphonally with two priests. There is a Vespers booklet, too, for parishioners to join in. Compline is sung following 6:30pm Mass on Thursdays. These are wonderful perks in our parish – something else for which to be grateful. Personally, I recite the Little Office of the Blessed Virgin Mary daily and love it.

  4. The Cathedral Basilica of Saint Louis has daily Morning and Evening Prayer according to the current English version of the Liturgy of the Hours, said in the Blessed Sacrament Chapel. The few times I’ve prayed there, my nose was in the breviary and so I don’t remember how it is celebrated, although I think I remember at least an acolyte in cassock and surplice. Sisters are usually present, as are helpful laymen who point out where we are in the text of the Office.

    Here is one of my photos of the chapel: http://www.flickr.com/photos/msabeln/2180009546/in/set-72157603176587437/

  5. jrotond2 says:

    What an awesome “movement” in the church if the Divine Office is really catching on. If I may, I would like to point the readers to a new group here based out of Mater Ecclesiae http://www.sbconfraternity.org. There is a lot of good information to be found there which may address some of the questions.

    As for the particular question here, this is exactly what we are doing now at Mater Ecclesiae, some of the time when Fr. Pasley can’t be present. The Divine Office can be said by anyone, but only clerics may lead any formal liturgical ceremony associated with it. Hence, singing and reciting the Offices with a layman leading and another layman being the cantor is perfectly fine; it is, in essence, no different than a group of laypeople praying the Rosary publicly in the chapel. What we can’t do is don cassocks and surplices, light candles and incense, etc. without at least a deacon present.

    There are provisions for the Office without ordained clergy(e.g. say “Domine, exaudi orationem meam” instead of “Dominus vobiscum”; “Domine” instead of “Domne” before lessons; the “Confiteor” is said altogether omitted “et tibi (et te), Pater”, etc.” This is all in the rubrics.

  6. DeProfundis says:

    Although this isn’t specific to the “traditional” or latin breviary, we chant Vespers weekly using the wonderful Mundelein Psalter (http://www.ltp.org/p-1536-the-mundelein-psalter.aspx). This is a very easy way for the laity to be introduced to both the breviary and chant as it is simple and has a short learning curve. I frequently recite some of the Hours from the Brevarium Romanum but have not found many others in my area who do to recite it together. Perhaps those who are thinking of introducing reciting or chanting the Liturgy of the Hours in their parish might think about starting with the English chanted using the Mundelein Psalter and work up to the latin.

  7. Oneros says:

    “The Divine Office can be said by anyone, but only clerics may lead any formal liturgical ceremony associated with it.”

    What constitutes a formal liturgical celebration seems to be the question, however. What is/is not limited to clerics?

    And what grade of cleric? Could, say, an FSSP seminarian home for the some who has received First Tonsure or some of the Minor Orders for the internal purposes of the Old Rite…celebrate the Old Office (at least according to the old rubrics)?

  8. Athanasius says:

    In order to say the vespers of the Traditional Roman Breviary in a manner other than private recitation, (that is if one is going to say the Church’s public liturgy which vespers are a part of) there must be a celebrant, and the celebrant must be a priest. “Vespers may be solemn or not solemn. On week days which are not great feasts the celebrant uses no cope, the altar is not incensed, there are practically no ceremonies. On Sundays and feasts the Vespers should be solemn, that is, with cope, incense, and acolytes to assist the celebrant who must be a priest.” (Fortescue, Ceremonies of the Roman Rite (1958), Vespers a general introduction, pg. 213)

  9. Toronto_Sacristan says:

    Ministers required for “public/solemn” celebration of the Divine Office (similar as to ministers required for solemn mass with the exception of cantors) needed would be a priest and in his absence a deacon, thurifer, cross-bearer, 2 acolytes, master of ceremonies, cantors ranging from 2 to 6 depending on the degree of the solemnity.

    The celebrant should always be a priest or deacon and if another cleric is present in higher orders he should take precedence; for example a priest over a deacon as regards public/solemn recitation off the office.

    According to the rubrics of the Old Rite, (as far as I know) it must be a cleric in major as still is the case with the current form of the Divine Office as regards public/solemn recitation. The roles of hebdomadary and cantor may be filled by lay substitutes, if needed in solemn and non-solemn recitation of the divine office.

    Non-Solemn public recitation may be sung or recited on any day of the year, with or without ordained clerics present with the following exceptions:

    1. There are no ministers or servers in the Sanctuary, no candles are lit, nor is incense employed.

    2. Clergymen do not wear any vestments nor surplices; surplices are worn, however, if the Blessed Sacrament is exposed.

    3. The role of the Celebrant above is assumed by the Officiant in Non-Solemn recitation of the divine office. The Officiant may be an ordained cleric or a layman since there is no liturgical ceremony.

    4. Layman DO NOT use vestments; i.e. cassocks & surplices, copes, etc…

    5. The Cantors take on the same role as at a Solemn recitation of the divine office without the use of copes

    6. When chanting or reciting the Magnificat, for example in the case of Vespers there is no pause between the last verse and the “Gloria Patri”; the whole canticle is sung continuously.

    7. If the Officiant is not an ordained cleric, he says “Domine exaudi orationem meam” in place of “Dominus vobiscum” at the applicable times.

    Hope that is of some help…Good Luck!

  10. Oneros says:

    “In order to say the vespers of the Traditional Roman Breviary in a manner other than private recitation, (that is if one is going to say the Church’s public liturgy which vespers are a part of) there must be a celebrant, and the celebrant must be a priest.”

    Or, apparently, a deacon. Furthermore, the part about “the celebrant must be a priest” or deacon…seems only true for Solemn Vespers. For non-solemn Vespers, apparently not. Am I getting this correctly?

  11. ANevskyUSA says:

    If you are using the old rite, Adrian Fortesque’s “The Ceremonies of the Roman Rite Described” (Current edition published by St. Michael’s Abbey Press http://www.farnboroughabbey.org/press/ceremonies.php) is a good resource on what ritual actions to perform and when. However, Fortesque presumes that there is a priest celebrating. If you are lucky enough to have a copy of the old 1-volume English translation of the 1960 Roman Breviary published by Benziger Brothers, it has in it the bits that are different when there is no priest (in general, someone will say the priest parts, but replace the “Dominus vobiscum-et cum spiritu tuo” with “Domine exaudi orationem meam-et clamor meus ad te veniat”). If you cannot find one of these breviaries, the Anglican Breviary (http://www.anglicanbreviary.net/) contains the same information.

  12. roamincatholic says:

    Interesting how no-one has linked to the General Instruction yet…

    http://www.ewtn.com/library/CURIA/CDWGILH.HTM

    Though recommended, it is NOT necessary for a clergy to be present, even for a formal parish service– however, I would discourage this as a practice… especially given that the clergy are required to pray the Divine Office, it makes more sense to me that they should, when given the opportunity, celebrate it with their parishioners.

    What would be entirely inappropriate, IMHO, is for clergy to attend, but not lead the celebration, “in deference” to a lay person.

    Being unable to afford a full set of the Mundelein Psalter, which as was mentioned, is AMAZING, between myself and our director of music, we are putting together a weekly sung vespers booklet for Wednesday nights during Lent. Hopefully in the coming year, there will be some availability in the Parish calendar to also celebrate Sunday Vespers, as well.

    We also combine Exposition and Benediction with the Hour, for more details and rubrics, you can find in Elliott’s Ceremonies of the Modern Roman Rite.

  13. Oneros says:

    The General Instruction is for the LOTH, though. Not the Traditional Roman Breviary.

  14. According to Fortescue the hebdomadarius, or celebrant of the Office, must always be a priest. This seems to preclude any solemn celebration of the Office by either laymen or deacons, i.e. no vestments, incense and ceremonial (though I believe I’ve seen something somewhere about a deacon being able to preside over celebration of the Office, but perhaps it was in the context of the New Rite).

    However, laymen may still sing the Office rather than merely recite it. I would highly recommend that, if people are up to the task (the psalms are easy to sing but the antiphons can be tricky if you aren’t into chant; all the music can be found for free here: http://www.sanctamissa.org/en/music/gregorian-chant/choir/liber-usualis-1961.html).

  15. jrotond2 says:

    I think it helps to keep this in mind:

    Any time an Office is prayed by lay-members only present, such a gathering is, by definition, private recitation. Lay-members could very well chant the Office at home, let alone at a church; it’s all under the umbrella of private recitation. This question is entirely outside of the purview of Fortescue, except wherein the very texts are changed to reflect the absence of ordained clergy. Anyone who is in minor orders, would likewise follow the texts prescribed for a layman. One has to be a deacon or higher to lead the Office in any liturgical ceremony and/or context.

    John

  16. roamincatholic says:

    ahh– excuse me– I missed the part in the original post about “Traditional Roman Breviary”.

    Just curious, I believe I heard something about how the old breviary doesn’t count for a clergy’s obligation to pray the LOTH… any substance to that rumor?

  17. To my Pastor, if you’re reading this discussion thread….

    Please, please, please? Huh? Please? Huh? May we? May we?

  18. Father J says:

    The other posts seem to have taken care of the general rules as they exist for the singing of solemn Vespers, more or less.

    I can only tell you what you DON’T want in a parochial setting. What you don’t want is for everyone to sit on one “side” of the choir, leaving, say, only two seminarians on the other “side” of the choir. Then, you DON’T want some (certainly well-intentioned) layman on the non-two-seminarian side of the choir to fill each asterisk-appointed pause within a psalm with an inarticulate, throaty, and tonally descending “Uhhhhh…”

    Doing that runs the very real risk of having the other side of the choir being unable – for some reason or other, I have no idea… – to pick up their next verse of the psalm at the proper time.

    It might even result in the other side of the choir having – perhaps – to mop the refectory a few extra times that week.

    I’m just saying, is all.

  19. Oneros says:

    “I believe I heard something about how the old breviary doesn’t count for a clergy’s obligation to pray the LOTH… any substance to that rumor?”

    No. SP gives priests the option of choosing either.

  20. RR says:

    I’m a little surprised that the hours are not a more regular part of parish life, given priests’ obligation to pray the hours daily. The office is a great resource of the faith, to be able to pray the same rite that Catholics all over the world are praying with you.

  21. Fr Martin Fox says:

    My advice is to pray the hour in its entirety, even if it’s somewhat pedestrian at first.

    So often, when using the LOTH in a parish, what happens is “adaptation” because “it’s too much,” “let’s make it easy for folks”–so you drop a psalm, you use texts from the hymnal that only have a family resemblance to the assigned psalm or the Magnificat…then, when you say later on, let’s move up to the proper form, the response will be (wait for it) “but we’ve always done it this way–this is what we’re used to!”

    RR:

    I pray the hours “on the go” and my days are often unpredictable; so, for example, it would be very hard to schedule regular hours for when I’m going to lead particular hours–certainly the early hours could work, but not the later hours. Also, insofar as it’s meant to be a sung office, that involves more preparation. Finally, the materials that would help folks in the pew take part are not ready-to-hand the way missallettes are–at least, I don’t know of any; it would be nice if the missallettes actually included what was needed for praying the office, but that would likely make them much thicker and more expensive. Yes, we can get mini-breviaries for folks, however they don’t provide much help for chanting the psalms.

  22. Athanasius says:

    So often, when using the LOTH in a parish, what happens is “adaptation” because “it’s too much,” “let’s make it easy for folks”—so you drop a psalm, you use texts from the hymnal that only have a family resemblance to the assigned psalm or the Magnificat…then, when you say later on, let’s move up to the proper form, the response will be (wait for it) “but we’ve always done it this way—this is what we’re used to!”

    How can it be too much? The LOTH is already so little! Maybe praying the Benedictine breviary for so many years has rubbed off on me, but if Lauds in the LOTH were done side by side with the Monastic breviary, the LOTH would be done while the Benedictine was still in the Psalms.

  23. Athanasius says:

    According to Fortescue the hebdomadarius, or celebrant of the Office, must always be a priest. This seems to preclude any solemn celebration of the Office by either laymen or deacons, i.e. no vestments, incense and ceremonial (though I believe I’ve seen something somewhere about a deacon being able to preside over celebration of the Office, but perhaps it was in the context of the New Rite).

    Fortescue and as far as I’m aware the 62 rubrics, say that it must be a priest, it cannot be a deacon. There might have been an indult, usually indults like that were given to the US and England, such as the indult to allow a layman assume roles of clerical orders such as the Subdeacon, which normally you must be at least tonsured to do. To be a vested minister in cope at solemn ceremonies however you still need to be at least tonsured on the old rubrics, unless there was an indult for that too. I doubt it however, because before the Council vespers was never really big here, partly due to the Irish effect. It was more a European thing, sadly.