QUAERITUR: What form of the Office should a lay person use?

From a reader:

I am hoping to acquire a set of books for saying the office. Looking at the Latin options, there seems to be the Liturgiam Horarium, and the Brevarium Romanum (PPXII and Monastic Use). Which of these three would be the best for a lay person? I’m leaning toward the PPXII Breviary but wanted an opinion. Why is this one one volume and the Monastic Use four volumes?


There are several factors to consider.

If you have the intention at some point to recite any of the hours with others in a parish, get the edition they use: probably the English Liturgy of the Hours, perhaps the one volume that has the major hours.

If you are usually attending Holy Mass in the Ordinary Forum, get the newer books, the Liturgia Horarum or Liturgy of the Hours.

If you are usually attending the traditional form, the Extraordinary Form, use the Breviarium Romanum.

It is good to be on the same page, as it were, with how you hear Mass.

There are also some simple options, such as  the Little Hours of the Blessed Virgin Mary, which some people could find useful.

However, if your Latin is not strong, then use English. 

Also, there are some editions of the Breviarium Romanum with the "Pius XII psalms" which were in one volume.  Very nice books, very convenient…. but I don’t especially like that version of the psalms.  There are also editions with the rubrics as they were at the time of the start of the Council in two volumes, with the older psalms.  Some older editions of the Breviarum Romanum were divided into four volumes, entitled according to the terrestrial season ("Winter", "Spring", etc.).  Many of these older sets will have the older, traditional psalm translation but could pre-date changes to the rubrics in force at the time of the Council.

There are also monastic diurnals in one volume.

Finally, lay people, unless they are professed religious or consecrated virgins, don’t have the obligation to pray the office.  You can do as you please in this regard without any constraints.  Use this book or that book, Latin or whatever language you want, say it or don’t say it as you please.

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  1. EoinOBolguidhir says:

    I am happy to recommend to any layman Rev. Peter Stravinskas’s translation of the two main offices of the day, appropriately entitled, “Lauds and Vespers.” It is printed Latin dexter and English versus, so that you can use and improve even the most limited Latin, such as mine. Also, it’s format is very easy for beginning users. The English text is not approved, but for a layman using it for private recitation, that is no obstacle. It contains the texts for Ordinary time and the Proper of the Seasons, but does not contain the Proper of the Saints, not any proper offices. The text is the Revised Standard Catholic Version, which reads beautifully. Using both this and the USCCB LOTH, is a great education in the deficiencies of Dynamic Equivalence as a modus operandi for translation. Cut and paste the link here: http://www.amazon.com/Lauds-Vespers-Latin-English-per-Annum/dp/1889334324

    I wonder if Father Z. is familiar with the book and has any thoughts.

    If you are intending to dip your toes in the water of the older forms of the Office, then an inexpensive way to do it would be to buy the Marquess of Bute’s transaltion of the Brevarium Romanum from 1908, reprinted by Lulu. The edition is made available by Fr. Gregory Bellarmine, who is a Mancunian monk and traditionalist priest of irregular canonical status with the schmismatic Society of Saint John of the Cross. However, this should not affect the orthodoxy of Bute’s translation, which is of the pre-Pius X breviary in English only. It is very reasonable priced at $15 a piece for four (or is it five?) volumes. Cut and paste the link found here: http://www.lulu.com/browse/search.php?fSearchFamily=-1&fSearchData%5Bauthor%5D=Reprinted+by+V.+Rev.+Fr.+Gregory+Bellarmine%2C+SSJC%2B&fSearchData%5BaccountId%5D=846895&showingSubPanels=advancedSearchPanel_title_creator&showStorefrontLink=

  2. dmwallace says:

    If you are a fan of the monastic office, I would suggest the bi-lingual Monastic Diurnal recently published by St. Michael’s Abbey Press in Farnborough, UK. http://www.theabbeyshop.com/product_info.php?cPath=21_29&products_id=745. It costs £40. I have seen it available in bookstores in the United States. It uses the Vulgate psalter. The English translations are poetic, but often not very accurate. As a diurnal, this one-volume breviary contains all hours except Matins.

    As one layman to the next, if you would like to pray habitually any version of the pre-Conciliar Divine Office–especially in Latin–I recommend, first, setting yourself to reading the psalter, in English, as it is laid out in the 1-week cycle of the Pius X schema (used from 1911 until 1971). http://www.kellerbook.com/SCHEMA~1.HTM has a good history of the various psalter arrangements with schematic charts. I would recommend finding the Pius X schema (as this is what is used in the extraordinary form office) and read/pray the psalms from the Douay-Rheims translation (since it translates the Vulgate) for a few weeks. This will get you familiar with a psalms as you transition into Latin.

  3. Rellis says:

    All of this interest in the Office in the past five years is very encouraging. It’s a sign that we’re consolidating our victory in the Mass front, and have opened a new campaign in the next most important part of the liturgy.

    I would encourage the inquirer and others to subscribe to the Yahoo Group on the Roman Breviary: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/TheRomanBreviaryGroup/

    To briefly sum up the (many) options:

    In the Extraordinary Form:

    1. Any of the Latin-only breviaries in use at the time. These are amply available on eBay, etc.

    2. The Anglican Breviary, which has the 1954 set of feasts and rubrics. This is what I use, with modifications. It can be found at http://www.anglicanbreviary.net

    3. The re-print of the 1961 Breviarum Romanum: http://www.breviariumromanum.com/home_en.html

    4. Divinum Officium (Laszlo’s site): http://divinumofficium.com/

    5. Buying an older edition of the Latin-English breviaries on eBay (either Benziner or Collegeville Press–I have and like the latter)

    6. Any of the little offices that Father Z mentions above

    7. Waiting on the Latin-English reprint of Collegeville Press/1964 from Baronius Press, which has been much-delayed

    8. An online version of the 1955 reduced rubrics version: http://www.breviary.net

    Ordinary Form (fair warning–the English is old-ICEL and atrocious)

    1. The English 4 volume “Liturgy of the Hours.”

    2. The U.K. version called “Divine Office.”

    3. The second editio typica of the four-volume “Liturgia Horarum.”

    4. The one-volume English versions of the LOTH (Christian Prayer, Shorter Christian Prayer)

    5. The excellent Universalis website and app: http://www.universalis.com

    6. The Latin online text which can be found here: http://www.almudi.org/Portals/0/docs/Breviario/fuentes/breviario.html

    As a supplement to these (depending your preference), you will want to have this:

    1. The Ordinary Form liturgical calendar: http://www.universalis.com

    2. The Extraordinary Form liturgical calendar: http://www.latin-mass-society.org/ordo/ordo2010.pdf

    3. The Ordinary Form Martyrology (read at Lauds):

    4. The Extraordinary Form Martyrology (read at Prime): http://www.breviary.net/martyrology/mart.htm

    5. The two-year cycle of Biblical readings for the Office of Readings: http://www.jefferybebeau.com/liturgydocs/2OR.pdf

    6. Pre-Pius X votive offices (set for days of the week): http://www.archive.org/stream/romanbreviaryref01cathuoft#page/857/mode/1up

    7. Breviary and LOTH hymns (very useful to avoid the awful fake hymns in the LOTH): http://www.preces-latinae.org/thesaurus/Hymni.html

  4. Ellen says:

    I use the very short office in Magnificat magazine. I’m working my way up to a longer version.

  5. luiz says:

    I use to pray the 1962 breviary with an old palmtop. I download the pdf’s of the hours (Laudes, Sextam, Vesperas, Completorium) and then upload them to the Palm. It is easier and less expensive than printing them all the time. I want to buy the breviary (the book), but I find it too expensive.

    For two or three years I’ve said the hours using the Liturgy of the Hours in Portuguese. I has helped me a lot, because I now know the psalms, making it easier to pray in latin.

    Where I live there is no TLM. However, we attend an ukrainian-catholic Divine Liturgy twice a month. We have already had three TLM and, Dei gratia, will have a regular one in the future.

    The prayers of the old breviary are the reason why I now use it, instead of using the Liturgy of the Hours. I also want to study latin and the way I’ve found to commit myself to this goal was praying according to the old books. I can understand a bit of latin – and the fact that Portuguese is said to be “the last flower of Latium, wild and beautiful” (Olavo Bilac, poet) – helps a lot.

  6. Scott W. says:

    I use the very short office in Magnificat magazine.

    I do as well. Excellent source for daily prayer.

  7. Orate Fratres says:

    I love the Monastic Office. Since I mostly attend the EF Mass, I find the two very complementary, especially since the calendars are very close to each other. Also, the side by side Latin-English format is a great help too! Not to mention that it’s small size!

    If you live in the US, you can purchase a copy of the Monastic Diurnal online here:


    You can also buy a copy here (although at a higher price) as well:


    Also, this is an excellent tutorial site on how to pray the Monastic Office:


    A brief review can be found here as well:


  8. Baronius Press is re-printing a three volume set that is due out sometime soon.

    I’m glad we lay people aren’t obligated to have to pray the office every day. With three kids under two I’m lucky if I can find time to brush my hair!!

  9. Henry Edwards says:

    I am happy to recommend to any layman Rev. Peter Stravinskas’s translation of the two main offices of the day, appropriately entitled, “Lauds and Vespers.”

    I heartily agree with this and the subsequent remarks about it in the initial post above. I use the 4-volume Liturgia Horarum for the complete office in Latin daily, but still find the Stravinskas volume valuable for its excellent English translations that are much superior to those in either the American LOH or the British DO, not only the RSV translations of the psalms but (especially) the excellent translations of the antiphons, collects, and intercessions. Also, it is the only English translation of the LH (to my knowledge) that includes English translations of the great old Latin hymns that are specified daily and seasonally for Lauds and Vespers; both the American and British substitute a grab bag of mediocre songs (in lieu of the authentic hymns).

  10. Oneros says:

    The Baronius will probably be the “standard” solution for traditionalists once it comes out…but it’s taking forever. I’m glad they replaced the Pius XII psalms (which are in the original collegeville edition) with the traditional vulgate Psalms. It also looks like it has good informational notes.

    However, until then, if you’re not doing the Latin, the I do recommend either the Anglican Breviary or the 1951 “Roman Breviary in English” that was published by Benziger (though perhaps it is expensive/hard to find).

    They contain things that were cut in the pre-reform reforms of the Office like the Preces at the Little Hours, the Suffrages of the Saints and Holy Cross, and the full lessons from Matins which were cut in 1960 (though that mainly just meant somewhat longer hagiographies, and constant use of Gospel homilies from the Commons, which could get repetitive; though feasts with proper Gospels had their own homily…which disappeared from the 1960 edition).

  11. ArtND76 says:

    For those who may be interested, here are some of my experiences with the Liturgy of the Hours from a layman’s perspective (I am married and I earn my living as an engineer).

    I was taught the barest of essentials of praying the office by spiritual directors who were former seminarians (who might have been too conservative for the seminaries they attended, but I digress).

    For a number of years I prayed the morning prayer in English using the single volume from Catholic Publishing. When I married, I tried to involve my wife. She was completely overwhelmed by the complexity and constant page flipping required when learning in the single volume.

    Due to what else was happening in my life at the time I found the Psalms, in particular, to be depressing, so I stopped.

    Shortly thereafter, I started daily bible study followed by prayer, going sequentially through books of the bible. After doing this for about 3 years, I found that in prayer I had more questions about how to look at or interpret many of the passages that I was praying about. I was also looking for a more orderly study that covered a year.

    I noticed in the back of the single volume LOTH were readings from the early church fathers. Here, I thought, would be guidance that would conform to what the Church officially teaches. However, I was listening to a televised Notre Dame mass where Bishop D’Arcy was the homilist – and he referred to a reading from the office of readings that I knew was not in my single volume copy of the LOTH. So I asked a priest friend about this, and he told us about the 4 volume set.

    I immediately got a copy of the English 4 volume set. I was so inspired by several of the non-biblical readings that I just had to share them with my wife, and she was similarly inspired. We started reading out loud to each other at night. How we both wished we had discovered this sooner, and knowing that these are required readings for clergy, both wondered and still wonder how it is that many of the homilies we hear do not seem to have these for inspiration.

    In fact, I have continued to read and pray the office of readings daily in order to be truly taught by the church instead of by priests and/or catechists who sometimes hit the mark and other times leave us wondering where their homilies came from.

    In summary, I use the English 4 volume set as a source of trustworthy spiritual meditations during my daily prayer time.

  12. Grabski says:

    I’d recommend “Shorter Catholic Prayer” by Catholic Book Publishing. It has the four week psalter, morning and evening prayer, as well as a daily Compline for one week.

  13. aladextra says:

    There is a wonderful little book called “A Short Breviary” which is out of print but was produced by the monks of Saint John’s Abbey until the council. It is much simplified for the layman, and has an excellent translation. There are many editions. The earlier editions use hieratic English and the newer versions a dignified English without the thees and thous. You have to watch for them on ebay, but I love my little book. It is of course according to the Extraordinary Form. Do not confuse with the new version the monks produced a few years ago (which I definitely do not recommend).

  14. Sid says:

    For what it’s worth:

    1. I usually attend the MEF yet always use the Divine Office in the OF. I haven’t see any spiritual damage by doing this. But what do I know?

    2. Here’s what I do: Because the ICEL translation is so wanting:

    a. I sometimes use the 4 vol Latin

    b. For the hymns at Lauds and Vespers in English, the Mundelein Psalter can’t be beat.

    c. For the Psalms and Canticles of each Office, I use reliable translations, such as the RSV (Ignatius Bible) for a literal translation and the NJB for the dynamic.

    d. For the 2nd readings in the Office of Readings I use the two year cycle from A Word in Season, an 8 vol. work from Augustinian Press http://www.augustinianpress.org/word-season-abjr-8d1p.html
    For the 2nd reading for most saints, I use the UK Divine Office.

    e. for the rest, when I don’t use the Latin vols, I use the UK Divine Office.

    — and this means that were you to see me praying the Office, you’d see me surrounded by books! When away from home, I use the UK Office

    3. I also endorse for the Universalis website http://www.universalis.com/index.htm.

  15. Rellis says:

    A similar question comes up about mixing and matching. There’s been a lot of discussion on this over at the Yahoo Roman Breviary Group.

    There are two main camps on the free-flow question:

    1. Integralists. These people believe that the Mass should conform to the Office (OF/EF), that the Office should be approved (1970/1961), and that no experimentalism should be allowed, even for laity.

    In case you were wondering, I’m in camp two:

    2. Devotionalists. As laity, we recognize that we have no obligations here, except perhaps a base obligation not to be disrespectful. So, we tend to mix and match. We might do the Office of Readings to start the day, and old Compline to end it. We might go to an OF, and entirely use the old Breviary (or vice versa). We might use the new sanctoral calendar in the old breviary.

    In case anyone is interested, here is what I do:

    1. Breviary: Anglican Breviary
    2. Language: English, but proper in Latin
    3. Rubrics: pre-1955, but will use 1955 or 1961 in a time crunch (sometimes even the Sacrosanctam concilium redactions)
    4. Proper of Season: Extraordinary Form
    5. Proper of Saints: Ordinary Form, plus my own local calendar for my family
    6. Timing: Prime and Terce before Noon; Sext and None in the Afternoon; Vespers and Compline in the Evening; Matins and Lauds at Night
    7. Community: I pray it alone
    8. Hour I am most likely to skip: None
    9. Hour I am least likely to skip: Compline

    What have others done in this regard?

  16. Jono says:

    For those who use the Ordinary Form, but do not like the exclusion of most of the proper hymns, I can recommend the Mundelein Psalter. It provides plainchant notation for the two-week cycle of hymns “per annum” for Lauds and Vespers. The Latin is provided, with a facing English text. All the other proper, seasonal, and common hymns also have Latin and English text provided, though not all of the proper hymns have music provided. The primary drawback to the English text is that it is usually written to fit the meter and with a conern for style, so some of the sense of the Latin can be lost. Even so, they are far better than what is found in the 4 volume LOTH, Christian Prayer, etc.

    Aside from providing the proper hymn, the text is identical to what you would find in the LOTH (though limiting the hours provided to Lauds, Vespers, and Compline). Psalm tones are provided for the psalms.

  17. jrotond2 says:

    What have others done in this regard? Rellis, I like your questions and I’ll oblige:

    1. Breviary: Breviarium Romanum pre-Pius X
    2. Language: Latin
    3. Rubrics: As of 1910 with modifications (e.g. Sundays take precedence over Doubles) and additions for newer saints
    4. Proper of Season: Extraordinary Form
    5. Proper of Saints: As of 1962
    6. Timing: Lauds first thing very early, Prime in the morning before leaving for work, Terce, Sext, & None near to their proper times while I can take a 5 minute break at work, Vespers in the evening as soon as the kids go to bed, Compline around 9pm and then Matins for the next day immediately before retiring to sleep
    7. Community: Confraternity of St. Benedict and solo recitation (at home I often pray the Hours aloud or even sing them (e.g. Sunday Vespers) when there is no gathering at church to do so. Also, sometimes I pray Vespers with friends at their home or mine at social gatherings.
    8. Hour I am most likely to skip: This is a long established discipline for me so I can’t recall the last time I skipped one but often I am tired and push myself through Compline and Matins
    9. Hour I am least likely to skip: Lauds and Prime as I am a morning person

    By the way, when the Office is being prayed at church under the auspices of the Confraternity of St. Benedict, we strictly follow the 1962 Breviarium Romanum. I only use the 1910 Breviarium for personal use.

  18. becket1 says:


    The Breviarium Romanum uses the Extraordinary Form calendar. The LOTH uses the Ordinary Form calendar. Is there a Breviarium Romanum that also has English side by side with Latin, like the 1962 Missal.

  19. Geoffrey says:

    There is also a new edition of the Liturgy of the Hours in English that was produced for the Church in Africa last year. It uses the old ICEL and The African Bible (New American Bible) texts, but it uses the NEW revised Grail Psalms, which are absolutely magnificent. It also has all of the latest saints added to the calendar (St. Padre Pio, etc.), and the Gospel Canticle antiphons for the 3-year cycle.

    The 4-volume set is only $100 (a lot cheaper than the USA editions)! It is a bit of a challenge to track them down for purchasing, but well worth it.


  20. allenmurphy says:

    Lauds from the old office or morning prayer from the liturgy of the hours should be said in the morning- The old habit in the old office of doing matins and lauds the evening before is no longer done- However Matins can be anticipated as early as 2 pm the previous day. Compline would still remain the final office of the day. Allen Murphy sfo

  21. For those who want an economical ($8.20) edition of the Night Office (Compline) completely in Gregorian chant for the whole year according to the newer Liturgy of the Hours, consider this: http://stores.lulu.com/store.php?fAcctID=51788559

  22. Sid says:

    Geoffrey @3:30pm.

    How did you get the African edition? I tried the link provide by New Liturgical,

    and my security told me it was an attack page and thus wouldn’t open it.

  23. Sid says:

    I agree with Allen Murray @ 340pm. Lauds is in the morning, best at sunrise, as the last verses of the Benedictus suggest.

  24. A Sinner 2 says:

    “The old habit in the old office of doing matins and lauds the evening before is no longer done-”

    It’s done by me. That’s usually when I pray them.

    Can you clarify? Do you mean this practice is no longer authorized by the Church?

  25. Rellis says:

    In the 1961 rubrics, it’s permitted to do anticipatory Matins and Lauds. It allowed for the separation of Matins and Lauds, with Lauds done first thing in the morning.

    Only in the 1970 (LOTH) era is anticipated Lauds prohibited. Even in the LOTH, though, anticipated Matins (Office of Readings) is allowed for serious reasons.

  26. Geoffrey says:


    I contacted the Daughters of Saint Paul in the USA who gave me the email address of their sisters in Africa, who publish these volumes. I don’t know what is wrong with their website, but I had to do everything via email. Very friendly sisters.

  27. spock says:

    I pray the one volume “Christian Prayer” Breviary in English which is suppose to be exactly the same for Morning/Evening/Night Prayer as most OF priests use. The new 3 volume set from Baronius Press looks good to me because the samples on their site show it isn’t in “The King’s English” (Thee, Thy, Thou, etc.). Would anyone know of any 1962 missals that also use contemporary English as well ?

    Many Thanks,

  28. PghCath says:

    While I currently use the one volume “Christian Prayer,” I would like to start praying in Latin. From the foregoing posts, Fr. Stravinskas’ book sounds like a good option. A few Amazon reviews suggest, however, that it’s not a great option for those looking to improve their Latin as the English translations, while pleasing, often diverge from the Latin in tense, mood, etc. Any thoughts on that? Many thanks.

  29. Sid says:

    Thanks, Geoffrey. I’ll start looking for the USA Daughters of St. Paul website.

  30. Rob F. says:


    In the Liturgy of the Hours, Matins (Office of Reading) can be anticipated or otherwise moved for any reason whatsoever. The only restriction I’m aware of is that if it precedes Lauds (Morning Prayer), you need to say the invitatory with it.

  31. cicada380 says:

    I learned to love to pray the Office when I tried out religious life in a traditional order. Although religious life was not for me, I took so much from it. One of those was a love of the Office. With life as it is now – work and home – I don’t have the time for the whole Office. However, right now I use the very short form in the magazine Magnificat. I realize that at the time and place that God has me now in my life, the full Office is not appropriate. The Office is a beautiful way to be integrated into the life of the Church, and for those lay persons who can pray it without interfering with the duties of their state of life – I would highly recommend it.

  32. lampada says:

    “Finally, lay people, unless they are professed religious or consecrated virgins, don’t have the obligation to pray the office. You can do as you please in this regard without any constraints. Use this book or that book, Latin or whatever language you want, say it or don’t say it as you please.”

    Two quick comments:

    1. I take it that you mean “lay” as in “non-ordained” as those who are not ordained in the consecrated state are in a state which is neither lay nor hierarchical. This is why the Church is particularly concerned to get away from the terminology of “lay” religious. See, for instance, Vita Consecrata in the section where it touches on religious brothers, formerly known as “lay brothers” because they were not ordained.

    2. Those in the consecrated state and in “states of perfection” who recite the Office/LOTH in accordance with their constitutions and in conformity with other requirements(religious, members of certain Secular Institutes and Societies of Apostolic Life, and some Diocesan Hermits) pray in the name of the Church according to Pope Paul VI in his motu proprio Sacram Liturgiam (1964. Consecrated virgins, who are in the consecrated state but are not obliged to recite the Office/LOTH, do not pray in the name of the Church but with the Church.

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