QUAERITUR: a seminarian praying the older, traditional Office, conflict with the newer calendar

From a seminarian:

I am a transitional Deacon…

I ask you not to include my name if you choose to use this email in any way, as I am at ____ and unfortunately things related to the Extraordinary Form are still very touchy and political here.

I have a love for the Breviarium Romanum because of the Psalter, the prayers, and its structure. That being said, it is difficult to juggle two different calendars and I am tempted to question whether or not I will have the time to pray it in pastoral life. That being said, I know that time is normally not the issue but rather discipline and desire are what allows one to pray the Breviary digne, attente ac devote, with God’s help.

I appreciate the Liturgia Horarum for the simple fact that the calendar is the same as the one used at Mass, the complimentary psalmody and the ability to pray Sunday Compline every night. However, I really dislike the four week psalter, the structure of the readings for the Office of Readings and the flattening of all hours to 3 psalms with a hymn at the beginning.

I would love to pray the Breviarium Romanun exclusively but need some advice/encouragement with respect to my concerns and hesitations.

First, priests in parishes long before the changes were made to the office were able to pray the office.  How well?  I am not sure… that depended on the priest and his life’s habits.  Therefore, establish your habits of prayer of the breviary now.

The older form of the office is longer.  It is also in Latin.  I think it is great that men want to pray the office in Latin, but I also think it is important to understand what you are praying.  If you don’t have a strong use of Latin, you might want to think about this again, as praiseworthy as your desires are to pray the Breviarium Romanum.

I sure do understand the problem of the conflict with the calendars.  The office form of Mass and the older form of the Office go hand and hand.  Some of my best private reflections have come from the interplay of the Mass and the Office.  That connection is, to my mind, less strong between the newer form of Mass and the Liturgia Horarum.  I do like the opportunity to read a longer selection of a reading in the Office of Readings.  However, there is a subtle genius to the way the readings were broken up in Matins.  It was perhaps easier to absorb something, with the help of the responsories.  This is especially true when they were sung… which isn’t happening in most places.  And probably won’t be either, unless you join some traditionalist monastery.

Perhaps at this point in your life, as a transitional deacon, you might try the following rather hard course.

Since you should be practicing Mass anyway, try practicing the older form of Mass.  On those days when you practice the older form, also try reading the older Office.  Of course you are probably going to have to be going to Holy Mass each day in the newer form wherever you are anyway.  But the recitation of the older Office will fulfill your obligation on those days when you are saying it.  I offer this suggestion so that you can get familiar with your options in this regard.  Also, you ought to be learning to say the older form of Mass!  This is our Roman Rite!

This will take more of your time during the day, but it will help you get your feet wet in this while still a deacon.

And say a prayer for me while you are at it.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. Fr. Kelly says:

    Laszlo Kiss’s Site Divinumofficium.com is very helpful. I pray my office using it most days.
    You can pull up just the Latin or the Latin with English or the Latin with Magyar (Hungarian) if you would like.
    He also has about 7 options for rubrics. (Including the old office with the new calendar!) Since, as far as I know, only the 1960 rubrics are usable for one bound to the office, that is what I use.
    The different calendar is an issue, but not an overwhelming one, it seems to me. For me the one week vs 4 week psalter is a bigger advantage. On occasion, (eg. Pius V) I find myself celebrating a saint twice, but on the whole it has not been too big an issue.


  2. TundraMN says:

    Please correct me if I’m mistaken, but I believe that in the General Instruction for the Liturgy of the Hours it states that all who pray the Liturgy of the Hours should use the newest format unless one has the permission to pray the old Office from their ordinary. I don’t think there are any qualms about praying it in the new format but in Latin. I am in no way opposed to praying the Liturgy of the Hours in the old format, but I’m not sure it’s licit. Please elighten me! =^)

  3. TrueLiturgy says:

    Father, how does the Liturgia Horarum compare to what is written in Chapter 4 of Sacrosanctum Concilium? I can only guess since I do not know the Breviarium Romanum at all. I know that a Bishop could technically require everyone in his diocese to say the Liturgia Horarum in Latin based on my reading of SC.

    Others also, please explain :-)

  4. Jana says:

    I learnt Latin as teenager-girl, because I wished to read the breviary (a heritage from a priest). I learnt Latin while reading the breviary. Afterwards, I studied Latin at university. But the breviary was the start. I still read the breviary (the old one), at least partly – and I am married and have children. If I can, priests could also.

  5. JamesA says:

    I am a beginning seminarian and switch back and forth between the old and new rites for Compline.
    If I am ordained, will I be able to mix and match like this ? Can I say some hours in one form and some in another (for the sake of time, when necessary) on the same day and still fulfill my daily obligation ?
    Your advice would be appreciated.

  6. Fr. Kelly says:

    TundraMN “Please correct me if I’m mistaken, but I believe that in the General Instruction for the Liturgy of the Hours it states that all who pray the Liturgy of the Hours should use the newest format unless one has the permission to pray the old Office from their ordinary.”

    That directive remains in force, but the Holy Father, in Summorum Pontificum gave this permission to all clerics who are bound to the office.

    § 3. Fas est clericis in sacris constitutis uti etiam Breviario Romano a B. Ioanne XXIII anno 1962 promulgato.
    § 3 Clerics ordained “in sacris constitutis” may use the Roman Breviary promulgated by Bl. John XXIII in 1962. (Summorum Pontificum 9, 3)

    This is why it is not just any older version that we can use, but the one that follows the rubrics of 1960 (Published in the books of 1962.)

  7. Fr. Kelly says:

    JamesA “Can I say some hours in one form and some in another (for the sake of time, when necessary) on the same day and still fulfill my daily obligation ?
    Your advice would be appreciated.”

    I know of no law forbidding the switching back and forth, but if you are asking my advice, I would not recommend it as a regular practice since there is a kind of a continuity in the liturgical day which ought not to be lost.

    As someone pointed out earlier, the office, old or new, is not too big a burden on us. Let’s not stint on the time. A wise spiritual director once said to a group of priests: If you are too busy to pray the breviary, then you are too busy.

  8. andreslopez says:

    Wow! This is a great opportunity for me. I am also a seminarian (from a non-English speaking country) and i usually follow this blog.

    I received accidentally from my superior a roman breviary when i was studying the second year of philosophy. I started to study it, first “the Latin psaltery” with the hymns and eventually the structure of the whole divine office and the rubrics, and i fell in love with it.

    I started to pray the office with it. Not all of it, because as i am part of an Apostolic life Society, I pray some of the canonical hours with the community. So what i did was to pray all the hours that i could with the breviary by myself I started to study the 1962 Roman Missal and i love it to. I started to study with much more interest the old roman calendar and i felt into the same difficulties.

    Anyhow, at some point i read again the “motu proprio Sumorum Pontificum” and i realized that the Holy Father allowed all the clerics “in sacris” to pray the divine office with the Roman Breviary. This is not a problem to our deacon because he is a cleric “in sacris” but when i read that i found myself in a big trouble because i was not a cleric at all, i was just a philosophy student who was a “candidate” for the holy orders and a member of an apostolic life society. I asked a lot of people if i could pray with the breviary and none of them could tell me a thing. Well that was really a “crisis” for me because at that point i had been praying with the breviary for almost a year and i did not want to quit on it. Well, what i did was to ask my superior a permit to pray with it, i was a little nervous but he gave me the “permit”. Some people told me that i did not need that permit that i was allowed to pray with it because of my status as a member of an apostolic life society and my obligation to pray the office, that was “similar” than the obligations of the Clerics “in sacris” so that rule applied also for me. But, i was not very sure of it and it did not give me any peace at all. When i got my permit from my very very holy superior, i got a lot of peace and i have been praying with it since that.

    But i wonder if i did not have the express permit witch i have, could i pray with it?

  9. catholicmidwest says:

    Andreslopez, are you Miles Jesu by any chance?

  10. Cath says:

    Last Sunday Fr. Z. did one of his articles on the translation and the ICEL version of the Collect just really struck me as inadequate so I went online and found a site that I can pray the LOH in the older form for a small fee. It is side by side Latin and English (which helps me learn Latin a little more). I love it. It is longer and a bit more difficult to squeeze in, but well worth it. Thanks for putting the Vespers for the Ascension up Fr.Z, great to listen while I read along.

  11. TJerome says:

    God Bless and keep this wonderful young seminarian. He is a treasure.

  12. The Cobbler says:

    I’ve actually been wondering for a while — if a layperson is devoted to the traditional form of the Mass, what Office is he to look for as the traditional form equivalent of the Liturgy of the Hours, and for that matter is he allowed to follow that (the older form hours)? It seems like it should be obvious, but there seems to be several translations of several versions over the past half century instead of the straight EF/NO divide we have with the Missal (setting aside larger varieties of difference in practice, which oughtn’t exist). Maybe the answer I’m looking at/for is in this post already and I’m missing it because it was taken for granted as opposed to being properly part of the thing in question?

  13. Sixupman says:

    Surely the intent of the ‘new’ Calendar was to reinforce the rupture between the Old Mass and ‘New’ and complete the disorientation of the laity. Further, it precluded the laity continuing to utilise their ‘Old’ Missals. On the foregoing basis, were the changes honestly promulgated? If not so, then perhaps The Holy Ghost had no part of the process. It may have been good for the publishers and printers – but no one else.

    On a similar basis, why the dispensing with the Leonine Prayers at the end of Mass? What benefit has that been for Mother Church and the laity – none!

  14. Athanasius says:

    Another option might be to become a Benedictine Oblate and use the old Monastic office, which is longer with Matins and Lauds, but shorter with the little hours and vespers. Compline is the same every day and can be memorized easily.

  15. andreslopez says:

    I am not from Miles Iesu. Actually i am part of a recently approved Apostolic life Society from Mexico. And i am also very young! I am about to finish the 4th year of philosophy.

    I prefer the Roman Breviery rather than the Liturgia horarum for several reasons:

    1. 1 week Psaltery.

    That means you pray more with the RB than with the LH.

    One objection for this could be that if you pray more you work less, and if your work is apostolic work for the “salvation of souls” it is also “divine cult” so you do not have to worry to pray more rather to work more and pray enough.

    I disagree with this. I have measure the time that it takes me to pray vespers, lauds either with RB or with the LH and is pretty much the same. I guess that the extra time of the 2 more psalms of the RB is consumed in the LH by the intercessions. The minor hours takes me only 6 minutes to pray them. And this 6 minutes in 4 minor hours (prime, terce, sext, none ) represent only 30 minutes of the day. And this 30 minutes are eventually distributed between your work. So i do not think that the argument applies. It is used usually by people who do not pray with the Old Breviary. I totally agree that apostolic work is also “divine cult” but ONLY when is united and offered in the sacred liturgy witch is above all the holy mass and the divine office. So this is another good reason to use the RB, as it makes you pray more and in more occasions during day (Because with the LH you have to pray only one minor hour) it reminds you that as a Christian all your life should be Divine Cult, all your life should be Divine Ofice.

    What represent a huge change (in time) is the Matins if we compare them with the Oficium lectionis. I mean 3 psalms versus 9 psalms is totally different. Anyway this not a big deal either because, practically, what you have to do is not to take “half hour” of your apostolic work but to wake up half hour earlier.

    There is also another great advantage of the 1 week psaltery and it is that you have different psalms for all the minor hours. In the LH there is only one triad of psalms and if you want to pray the other minor hours you have to use the complementary psalms that are always the same for every hour. I do not like that very much.

    Another advantage in this psalter is that you have also 3 psalms during compline while in the LH you have only one and sometimes 2. This keeps the equilibrium in the minor hours. All of them have 3 psalms.

    2. Matins
    The second thing is Matins. I will just say that Matins are beautiful. The first time I prayed them was in the night of the December 7th of 2008, and that means that I prayed the office of the Immaculate Conception. I mean I do not have anything against the Oficium Lectionis, actually I love the lectures of it, I even read them even when I prayed Matins but Matins are just a beautiful prayer. Long enough to take you to divine contemplation. That sometimes it can be very hard because of its extension.

    This is true specially when you are tired and distracted, but at this point it applies the same recommendations of the Catechism of the Catholic Church. Prayer is a fight and you will have difficulties. Just face them and do not give up. Persevere and keep praying.

    3. Prime. This is something that in the LH it is just missing. I know of the theological reasons for taking it away. I will not discuss them but I would just say that I like to pray this hour.

    4. Compline
    Since i started to pray the old compline i realized that this night prayer was a really beutiful moment to glorified the Lord throw the divine ofice. Compline it is not only a prayer “before going to sleep” is a prayer that sanctifies your hole night. I think that the LH it is just very short to communicate you that.

    5. Latin
    This does not need and explanation.

    6. The problem of the Hymns
    I do not know about the English Hymns, but some of the Spanish hymns are just not good enough. They were added to the LH in the 70’s and some of them are just very superficial and…well I do not like them very much. The old hymns have centuries and I mean some of them were made by St. Thomas Aquinas!!!

    7. Other Reasons, but I think this is enough.

  16. Henry Edwards says:

    andreslopez: The problem of the Hymns . . . The old hymns have centuries and I mean some of them were made by St. Thomas Aquinas.

    The pros and cons of Liturgia Horarum versus Breviarium Romanum can be debated endlessly, and like a high school debater I can argue either side with force and vigor. But, a couple of points about the hymns.

    First, many of the hymns in the divine office are much older than Aquinas, whose 13th century is relatively recent compared with the 4th or 6th century of Ambrose or Gregory.

    However, the hymns are not a principal difference between the LH and BR in Latin. The LH retains most of the classic Latin hymns in the BR.

    Of course one will get no clue of this in any vernacular version of the LH that I am aware of. The British and U.S. English translations of the LH basically do not include any liturgical hymns per se. Instead, they substitute what may (charitably, in some instances) be called “religious songs”. One hint of the difference is that, if the last verse is not a doxology, then it’s probably not a liturgical hymn from any old or new breviary.

    Most people who pray the LH in English probably don’t know that a specific Latin hymn is specified for each office; it’s just “pick one from the back of the book”. It seems to me that, without the proper hymns, most of the seasonal progression of the divine office is lost. Because the hymn (especially up front in the LH) typically sets the theme for each office even more than the antiphons, etc.

    All of this is just one reason I think clerics simply must learn Latin if they are to have any sort of full access to the liturgical ethos of the Church. As a layman who was past 60 when he began to study liturgical Latin, and must still keep my “Dictionary of Ecclesiastical Latin” (Stelten) close at hand, I was reminded of this by today’s second reading from Pope Leo’s “Sermon 2 on the Ascension”. Leo’s Latin is so eloquent and expressive that — it seems to me after comparing the English translations in both the British Divine Office and the U.S. Liturgy of the Hours – no single translation can capture the beauty, content, and depth of the Latin original.

  17. andreslopez says:

    About the English Hymns:
    I did not know that the conferences of Bishops where allowed to do that. In the Spanish LH the hymns are distributed according to the liturgical year and you are not allowed to switch them. You can use the “himnarium latinum” but if you pray the vernacular you have to use the proper Hymn for that moment.

    I agree with you in saying that this debate can be endless. I would just say that i like both forms, but when i pray privately i use the old form, when i pray with other people like my family or friends i use the new form.

    About clerics learning Latin, i totally agree with you. I have been studying it for a while and even with that when i pray the office there are things that i just do not get in a first reading. At the beginning i was not very satisfied for that, i thought that i should have a perfect understanding of the texts that i was praying. And as i am able to do a translation i thought that if i was going to pray with the old form i had to pray very slowly in order to translate it all. What happened? It was impossible. I did not have the time to do that!

    I learned two things: The first one was that the office glorified God regardless of my perfect understanding of it because in somehow it was HIS WORK IN ME.

    The second one: As i already knew the psalms in Spanish they did not represent a big deal for me. The problem was in the Hymns and in the lectures of the Matins. With the hymns it did not represent a big problem because of the repetitions that gives you eventually the opportunity to understand them better and to look out for any vocabulary unknown. With the lectures of Matins, i just decided to be patient and to read them and if during the day i had some time to re-read them that would be o.k. So i learned here something that helped me to understand a thing about the readings in the EF of the Latin Mass. Lectures are not only for our “illumination (enlightenment?)” are an act of cult by itself.

    What happened? With time i have been getting a deeper understanding of it witch is really amazing because i always get surprised by the Office.

    Well i will just say one more thing on this post. I do not know in the USA but in Mexico it is just very hard to get a Roman Breviary, and to get a 1962 RB it is even harder. They are just very expensive. That is a shame. I got mine from my brother. It is the “nova et vetera” edition witch is such a beautiful edition but it is just very expensive for a seminarian, at least in Mexico.

  18. TundraMN says:

    Thank you, Father Kelly. That helps me a lot.

  19. Fr. Kelly says:

    You are very welcome, TundraMN.

    Fr. Kelly

  20. Fr. A.M. says:

    I’ve been praying the 1962 Breviarium Romanum for sometime now, as a layman then as a religious. As I get older I find myself growing more and more attached to the beautiful prayers that it contains – a real ‘love’ develops for the ‘praise of God’. Even if you don’t have a huge amount of Latin, you can still pray it, in unity with the whole Church / take it from there and over time, study the psalms (studying even a little Latin is naturally a help). But ‘understand’ with the heart and not just with the head. A use of a bi-lingual edition of the 1962 B.Rom. can be a help, especially to increase your understanding of the text. It think it is wonderful that many lay people and clerics/religious are re-discovering the traditional breviary.

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