QUAERITUR: Latin Liturgy of the Hours – Vatican Press or Midwest Theological Forum?

From a clerical reader:

I was wondering about different editions of the same Liturgia Horarum; I want to get the most recent editio tipico (2000 not 1962) but which is the best edition?

I found two editions online but I cannot really find much as far as reviews on either one (OK, I found one on the more expensive version of MTF) MTF (http://www.theologicalforum.org/product.asp?ci=&pi=420)

Based on the website the following comparisons can be made:
MTF if $450 while LEV is $302.
MTF is 6 volumes while LEV is 4 (which seem really big to be carrying around).
LEV does not currently have all volumes available (a priest friend here who has this edition told me that is probably just online).
MTF uses double columns, LEV uses single.
MTF is made by Americans, LEV by Italians (e siamo stati in Italia sufficente tempo per dire che versione durarà più).
MTF will sell a leather case for their version, while the priests I know with the LEV don’t seem to have one.

Do you or any of your readers have experience with either edition? Do other editions exist?

I cannot comment much about the Midwest Theological Forum edition because I have never seen it. Unlike other publishers who actually want to sell books, MTF has never sent me review copies of anything and, therefore, I never propose their books. That said, I like the two columns.

Concerning the Vatican Press editions. First, they are the official editions. Also, they are cheaper. Some LH volumes have had binding problems. In the years I used the Italian books, which are bound in the same way as the Latin, they, like the Latin, separated at the cover. I think they are case bound.  Draw back to be sure.

In any event, I now say the older Office, the Breviarium Romanum. Baronius Press has put out a very nice three volume set which has Latin and English side by side. I recommend this for the cleric who wants to get into the Office in Latin, but who doesn’t have commanding skills in the language.  Since Latin isn’t a problem for me, I am not using that set on a daily basis, but it is beautifully made.

I have a set of breviaries given to me by a priest friend in NJ, the two volume reprint of the Dessain edition. They are a bit thick. They just don’t make breviaries like they used to, do they!  I have some old sets that are truly works of art.  There are also a couple fantastic single volume editions of the older office, but, alas, they have the version of the psalms that I just can’t stomach.  Too bad, since those books are wonderful.

I also use the online texts from divinumofficium, in particular when I am at my desk and also when I want to read the office and post the audio online for tired priests to use. I can also get that version on my iPhone.

Thus, I end my digression.  Draw your own conclusion.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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

    Dear Father,

    This post reminds me of something.

    I will soon be traveling overseas for a length of time. I have been looking for a 1962 Missal that is smallish. I would like this to be something that I could pack away rather easily into my travel Mass kit. Unfortunately, I have been unable to find anything suitable. Could you point me in the right direction?

    [Small 1962 Missal. Hmmm. In a pinch you could use a hand missal like the beautiful volume from Baronius Press. Otherwise, you might contact the nice people at Loome’s in Stillwater, MN, and ask about small editions. They’ll know what you are talking about. Some time ago, the Canons at St. John Cantius in Chicago had a small edition that was nearly perfect, but they don’t carry it any more. There were a couple little problems with it that perhaps they could have over come. I hope they will do it again.]

  2. RichR says:

    I’ve gotten a set of the LH (2000) on eBay before. It was the economical edition. They went for about $350. I found I didn’t pray it much, so I sold it.

    If I was the good padre, I’d strongly consider getting an iPad and just using iBreviary with the option to set the prayers in Latin. Why? The cost is about the same, but you get the benefit of an iPad. Also, the Ordo is built-in, so you aren’t having to maneuver through the sequencing of prayers (this is nice if you are not fluent in Latin) – all you have to do is pray down the page (screen). Finally, if you are tired one day and want to just pray the English version, you just flip a button and the screen changes to the current day with English. This way, you aren’t stuck with one set of books.

  3. “MTF will sell a leather case for their version, while the priests I know with the LEV don’t seem to have one.

    When I purchased the Liturgia Horarum (vinyl cover version) from PaxBook, I also bought the nice zippered black leather cover:


    which I regard as a definite must for these volumes retain good condition for years of daily usage (as mine have).

    And if you want to use a Latin-only version with an English crutch on the the side–like the LOH in English on a Kindle, then I think the single-column format of the LEV is preferable. Whereas if my Latin were sufficient to dispense with English entirely, then I might prefer the double-column format of the MTF.

  4. RichR says:

    Keep in mind, the dimensions of the MTF LH are rather bulky compared to the LEV. It’s almost like a large textbook.

  5. Can using divinumofficium.org satisfy a priest’s obligation to say the office?

  6. I assume the version of the psalms you “just can’t stomach” is the Bea (Pius XII) psalter. It’s a pity people don’t see the value of the Bea psalter. It’s a lot more intelligible than the Gallican in many passages. I’m frequently annoyed by whole verses that don’t make any sense in the Gallican psalter. Here’s an example from today’s Vespers:
    Gallican 138:16: Imperfectum meum viderunt oculi tui, et in libro tuo omnes scribentur. Dies formabuntur, et nemo in eis. Literal translation: “Your eyes saw my imperfect (thing), and everyone is written in your book. The days will be formed, and nobody (will be) in them.”
    I run across one or more of these incomprehensible verses every day. Here’s how it looks in the Bea psalter::
    Actus meos viderunt oculi tui, Et in libro tuo scripti sunt omnes; Dies sunt definiti, priusquam esset vel unus ex eis. Literal translation: “Your eyes saw my acts, and everyone is written in your book; the days are determined before a single one of them (comes to pass).”
    And for people who don’t like the language of the Bea psalter, there’s always the Neo Vulgate.

  7. torch621 says:

    Sadly, I have not much disposable income (saving for airfare for when I finally start getting PTO at my job; I need a vacation!), and I cannot spend a great deal on this. I’ll have to stick with the 4 volume English version until a less pricey Latin one becomes available, or until they correct it like the Missal.

    One can hope, right?

  8. MPSchneiderLC says:

    I think all these comments have been helpful. Maybe it is different for others but I don’t find I pray as well (or read for long periods) off a light-emitting screen. I think that it would be good if someone made somethink like Universalis but in Latin so you could download a monthat a time onto a kindle (I have copied hour by hour from iBreviary but that is a lot of work). There is a Spanish website that includes the liturgia horarum 2000 in latin(http://www.almudi.org/Portals/0/docs/Breviario/fuentes/breviario.html) but it seems impossible to download. I also found one version in iSilo but I think that just works on 5 year old palm devices.

    I guess the best option for the Editio Tipico 2000 (not on a screen) is LEV if it can be found.

  9. jfr1900 says:

    I use the 2000 LEV edition on a regular basis, the version with the cheaper plastic-style cover. Yes, getting a cover is an absolute must. I don’t know about the paxbook cover. But if you’re ever in Rome, you can get great ones in the shops around the Vatican (same for breviaries in English, French, etc., each custom-sized). That’s where I got my great leather cover. I can’t remember the name of the shop (Fr. Z might know). If looking at the front of St. Peter’s from the traffic circle, it was one of the big shops on the left. Near the entrance to various Vatican congregations (e.g., the Congregation for Divine Worship).

    I’ve traveled all over with breviaries bouncing around in backpacks. As long as it’s in a good cover, I don’t see that the breviary’s binding makes much difference. A good cover will protect it, period. I use the 1970 fancy leather Latin breviary on a regular basis, and the bindings on those can crack too–the big difference is that the 1970 breviary I use doesn’t have a cover.

    Also, there’s a small 2005 Latin breviary supplement for a few euros with the latest saints, etc. Worth getting.

    I recommend the almudi website breviary too. It uses the 2000 version, and I think has the 2005 updates. The quality is excellent. I think I’ve come across only one typo, even after using it a lot. One can download the whole thing for free if one uses an automatic web downloader. I used the free “Website Downloader for Windows.” I also bought the iSilo version of almudi for my PalmPilot. Once when travelling for multiple weeks back and forth across the ocean and in various countries, I just prayed off this PalmPilot version. Not the most elegant, but I didn’t have to carry around a multiple-pound breviary. I have a friend that downloaded almudi and transferred it to a Kindle. I don’t know how that’s done because I don’t have a Kindle, but evidently it’s possible.

    Lastly, to the question as to whether it’s valid to pray off an electronic screen, I ask why not. The point is to pray. One can do that if using a book, by reciting the psalms by heart, or off an electronic screen. I don’t propose the latter for public worship, but for a cleric’s or religious’s private fulfillment of his ecclesial work, I think it’s fine.

  10. MPSchneiderLC says:


    I would appreciate if you could ask your friend to either inform us how he coverted iSilo to Kindle or post the Kindle file somewhere and then give us all the link (I don’t think this would cause legal issues). I have a kindle but I have never had any other electronic devices between a basic cell phone and a laptop (the vow of poverty says I get one if I need it but not because it’s cool and fun).

    And I don’t mean to say screens don’t count, I just tried to pray on a computer screen and found I personally did not pray as well as with a book or the kindle.

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