QUAERITUR: English translation of Breviary to fulfill duty of saying the Office

From a seminarian:

Just wondering if the new Latin / English Breviaries put out by Baronius Press fulfill the canonical objection of priests?

Particularly, can a priest say the English translation and fulfill his obligation? I am currently a seminarian and find that the English translation of this Breviary is much more literal than the 1970’s ICEL translation.

Can. 276 requires that clerics fulfill their Office “in accordance with their own approved liturgical books”.  If the translation in the Baronius edition has ecclesiastical approbation, then it is acceptable. If the translation is not approved, then praying the Latin whilst glancing at the English would be acceptable.

However, as I look at the Decree in the front of Vol 1 of the Baronius edition in question, a Decree issued by Bp. Bruskewitz, I read:

In accordance with Canons 826 §3 and 827 § 3, permission is hereby granted for the English translation and the editorial material to be published for private use, not for liturgical use.

Recitation of the Office by those bound to it is a liturgical act.  So, I am of a mind that a cleric does not fulfill his Office by saying just the English.  He does so by using the Latin.

Also, on p. xxii of an introductory note in the Baronius edition I read:

It should be stressed that the English translation is primarily provided as a guide to help those with little or no Latin understand the text of the Office.  While we hope that by providing a bilingual version of the Breviary we will make it more accessible to those who wish to use this form of the Hours, it is the Latin text which is the approved form of the Church’s prayer.

So, my answer is “No, using the English does not fulfill a clerics obligation.”

Lay people who are not religious or consecrated virgins bound to say the Office can do exactly as it pleases them.

By the way, as a seminarian I would not let ANYONE else know that you are using that book regularly.  Take your cue from Matthew 6:6 and be like the man who prays in his room with the door closed.

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  1. Universae Ecclesiae also noted:

    Breviarium Romanum
    32. Art. 9 § 3 of the Motu Proprio Summorum Pontificum gives clerics the faculty to use the Breviarium Romanum in effect in 1962, which is to be prayed entirely and in the Latin language.

  2. Geoffrey says:

    I have always been curious if one who is bound to the recitation of the Divine Office, and did so according to the Extraordinary Form, could safely omit the hour of Prime since it was specifically abolished by Vatican II?

  3. marknelza says:

    So is the three volume Divine Office set published entirely in English by HarperCollins Publishers acceptable for use.

  4. Fr. Augustine Thompson O.P. says:

    The very best way that a seminarian, religious brother, or anyone hoping eventually to be ordained a priest to learn Latin is for him to scrupulously recite, looking up all unfamiliar words, the Divine Office or the Liturgia Horarum daily. It always seemed odd to me that anyone who was interested in the Extraordinary Form would even think about reading the Office in English. If one cannot read the Latin Office for defect of Latin, I wonder if one should be planning to say Mass (in either form) in Latin.

    I am very glad that a wise priest gave me this advice before I entered religious life–after three years of reading the Liturgia Horarum in Latin I not only could translate virtually any Latin text presented to me, I also had achieved good fluid pronunciation when reading Latin aloud. Neither had been the result of Latin classes all through high school and undergraduate school.

  5. Fr. Augustine Thompson O.P. says:

    32. Art. 9 § 3 of the Motu Proprio Summorum Pontificum, quoted above would seem to indicate that Prime cannot be omitted. Nor does it envision the practice of cycling the little hours over a 3 or 4 week period — another concession that came after the Council.

  6. Supertradmum says:

    What about all the seminarians who are daily saying the Office only in English? How can they switch to Latin when this has not been encouraged? I would like to see some feedback from the sems who read this blog on this point.

  7. Ralph says:

    “By the way, as a seminarian I would not let ANYONE else know that you are using that book regularly. Take your cue from Matthew 6:6 and be like the man who prays in his room with the door closed.”

    This statement, although wise and prudent, makes me sad. A poor Latin Right seminarian needs to be careful not to be caught praying in Latin!!. When will the madness end?? I wish we lay people could do more for these men.

  8. LarryPGH says:

    Fr Z,

    Your assertion here, that ICEL’s English translation of the Liturgia Horarum does not suffice to fulfill a cleric’s obligation, has me scratching my head. [Your assertion that I am talking about the Liturgia Horarum has me scratching my head.] From the General Instruction of the Liturgy of the Hours (p. vi): [But… this doesn’t apply to anything I was asked or I am talking about.]

    (T)he Bishops’ Committee on the Liturgy submitted the Liturgy of the Hours to the National Conference of Catholic Bishops for its approval. A mail ballot was conducted in 1974 … The necessary majority was achieved, and on 21 October 1974 John Cardinal Krol, then president of the Conference, notified James Cardinal Knox, prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship, of the acta of the Conference. Confirmation was received on 6 December 1974 (Prot. N. 2253/74).

    Shouldn’t this mean that the ICEL version meets the requirements of c. 276 for clerics in the United States? [This is about the Breviarium Romanum, friend. But let us not forget that Sacrosanctum Concilium says that clerics must say their office in Latin.]

  9. Supertradmum says:

    Ralph, we can support those seminaries which allow and teach Latin and not support those which do not. The lay people are the ones who make the money to support the sems and the seminaries. We have the power to do something. I would start in the Serra Clubs and make more men aware of these problems, and work to correct the disobedience of teachers and administrators in such seminaries. Latin should be required of all seminarians, but it still is not in America. I know several seminarians, one of whom has just been ordained transitional deacon, who have never had to take a Latin class in all their undergraduate and graduate training in the States, as they are bi-lingual English and Spanish and opted out of Latin because they passed the Spanish exam. They cannot read or understand any Latin. They are all near ordination. Some of these men are American born citizens.

  10. Dave N. says:

    Much of what I was going to say was already covered by Fr. Augustine Thompson O.P. and Supertradmum. Requiring competence in Latin for ordination is vital to the renewal of the Church in the West and long, long overdue. Requiring clergy to recite the office in Latin would be of immense help in this effort.

    Here are some things you can do: 1) Educate yourself. Know what the specific requirements are for gaining an M.Div. from your arch/diocesean seminary. Thankfully, this information is now readily available via the Internet. 2.) Now that you are informed about the requirements, add a vary nice note to accompany your bishop’s appeal contribution that indicates your support for Latin in seminary (if it’s already required) or alternatively, your expectation that changes in regard to Latin requirements are forthcoming shortly (if it’s not).

  11. Dan O says:

    I would be interested in a canon lawyer’s perspective of what private use versus liturgical use might entail. To a casual reader, a cleric privately reciting the Office (alone in his room or silently before the Blessed Sacrament) might read Bishop Bruskewitz’s forward as permission to use the English translation. I guess one might also ask Bishop Bruskewitz himself for an interpretation.

  12. ppb says:

    LarryPGH: Fr. Z isn’t talking about the Liturgy of the Hours here. The original question is about the Baronius Press edition of the Office, which is a reprint of the pre-conciliar 1960 Breviarium Romanum with a side-by-side English translation, and his answer is about that form of the Office, which is regulated by the quote from Universae Ecclesiae given above. The points you make above are true for the Liturgy of the Hours but not the 1960 BR.

  13. ljc says:

    As a seminarian (undergrad) I am starting by reciting compline in latin occasionally, since I pretty much have the english memorized it’s easier to decipher the Latin. I figure I can work my way up to the longer hours. Its sad to read that seminarians still have to hide their traditional reading material. Thankfully not all seminaries are stuck in the 60’s. Frankly I think my superiors would not mind at all to see me reading the traditional breviary, but I guess each seminarian needs to know his own situation.
    Fr. Thompson – Thanks for the advice! I’m going to start trying that technique right away.

  14. capchoirgirl says:

    WHEW. I was a little freaked here…I know SOME liturgical Latin but not nearly enough to understand the office. As a Lay Dominican I’m supposed to say at least lauds and vespers (I try to get in matins and compline, too), and if I had to say them in Latin, I’d need new books and some Latin lessons. :)

  15. thepapalbull says:

    Unfortunately, I cannot find the reference; however, I believe it is permissible to substitute a BR office for the corresponding LOH office, and vice versa. I have found this very helpful on days when time does not allow for the much longer BR matins. On these days the Office of Readings comes in handy. While certainly not ideal, it does help one to keep all the offices in a pinch.

  16. Jon says:

    Here’s a wrench in the works.

    I own a Benziger edition of the 1961 Office copyrighted 1964. The title page reads:

    “At a plenary meeting of the American Bishops
    in Washington, D.C., on April 2, 1964,
    their Excellencies,
    among other actions taken, approved the
    ‘Roman Breviary in English,’
    for the recitation of the Divine Office
    in the vernacular.
    The decrees of the American Bishops
    were confirmed by the postconciliar Commission
    for the
    Execution of the Constitution of the Sacred Liturgy
    dated at Vatican City, May 1, 1964.”

    I presume that this decree was never abrogated. Wouldn’t this edition then suffice for any American priest wishing to pray the BR in the vernacular to fulfill his obligation? Wouldn’t it also suffice for the use of a layman praying alone who wishes to “pray with the Church?”

    As an aside for layfolk who are Oblates and Third Order members, I believe monasteries and religious orders have a great deal of latitude in determining what form of the Office they pray. Many determine their own schema of the Psalter. I also know of houses that pray St. Michael’s edition of the Monastic Diurnal, the Marquess of Bute’s translation, and even a new Anglican Ordinariate convent of nuns that prays the Lancelot Andrewes Monastic Breviary. As long as the edition has the approval of the superior, I believe it’s legitimate.

    I’ll be gladly corrected if mistaken.

  17. LarryPGH says:

    Aah… thanks, Fr Z and ppb! I thought the question was whether the recitation of the Hours, using anything other than the Latin, was what was in play, here!

    Of course, Fr Z’s mention of SC, with respect to Latin (#101, I presume), is reasonable. Is there any other writing out there (at this level of authority) that addresses this reference, or expands on it in a way that adds to what #101 tells us? (Other than the fact that GILotH seems to assume that something is out there that allows for the vernacular as a normative way of praying the Office?)

  18. Dan says:

    I think it is terrible advice to encourage seminarians to hide things from their brothers and their formators.

  19. Josephus Muris Saliensis says:

    @Jon is quite right. I, and a few friends who are lay members of a religious order, have used the Benzinger “Bede Babo OSB” breviary for some time in English. Our superior maintains that this fulfils the obligation of those who are under such discipline. The psalm translations (by Dr Christine Mohrmann) are very beautiful, though have the oddity of being translated from the Pius XII psalter (and are MUCH better in English!).

    I can think of no means by which the American bishops’ concession would have been revoked. As the text of this book is part of the canon of liturgical texts in force in 1962, I think it can safely be held that this is in accordance with Summorum Pontificum’s legislation of the 1962 texts. It would seem inconsistent to argue that the later publication date of the translation prohibits it, especially in the light of the references to the use of the vernacular for readings in the Mass in SP and Universae Ecclesiae.

    This does, obviously, only apply to clerics in the United States, so is of no use to my friends here in Britain.

  20. FrCharles says:

    @tpb After SP I often used to substitute the little hours from the BR, while I said the rest of my prayers from the LH, either with the friars in English or in Latin for those that we didn’t say in common. (I admit, this was partly an issue of portability…my 1962 Breviarium Romano-Seraphicum is much more portable than my Latin LH!) My read of Universae Ecclesiae suggested to me that such mixing and matching on a single liturgical day wasn’t quite right.

    @Dan Given the impieties and errors of many entrusted with the ministry of formation, it isn’t terrible advice that seminarians should be quiet about certain things, though indeed it’s is very sad to have to give it.

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  22. kate_rub says:

    Actually the various approvals given for vernacular translations in the US in the early 1960s were indeed revoked. You can read about what happened and the reasons (including royalties revenue) over at the excellent Kellerbook twenteith century short breviaries website. And that state of play was confirmed by
    Universiae Ecclesiae.

    I’d note that the requirement to say the traditional Offices in Latin also applies to any layperson who wishes to pray the Office liturgically (in accordance with the Catechism, CCC 1174-5 and CL 1174; rather than simply devotionally (though they are obviously not required to pray it in its entirety).

  23. Supertradmum says:

    Dan, the vast majority of seminarians must be submarine level in several countries concerning not only their proclivities towards Latin and the TLM, but on their honest acceptance of the Teaching Magisterium of the Church. This can result in a sort of deceptive or at least, not open approach to life, but to be frank, it is the only way at this time, in the States particularly, to get through the process and be ordained. I know many priests, besides Father Z, who give the same advice to young men and older men going into seminary training in the Midwest, for example. We need more traditional priests, but the administrations of many seminarians are not of this opinion.

  24. Kate,

    Although I myself pray devotionally all hours of the Liturgia Horarum in Latin, I wonder where in CCC 1174-1175 one sees a requirement for either lay or clerical to use Latin for liturgical use.

    And in regard to liturgical prayer by priests, I wonder whether anyone can give an informed estimate as to how many clergy currently accept their obligation to pray the LOH in its entirety, whether in Latin or the vernacular.

  25. Dan says:

    Fr. Charles and Supertradmum, it seems to me that it is a very dangerous game to play. What if there is something in a seminarian that does need some level of correction, but he simply dismisses it by saying, “The problem is with my formators, and not with me”?

    Perhaps my view of the situation is colored by the fact that the seminary with which I am familiar seems to do well with teaching men what the Church believes.

    I can’t help, however, but think of the words of the Gospel of John: “For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come toward the light, so that his works might not be exposed. But whoever lives the truth comes to the light, so that his works may be clearly seen as done in God.”

    It seems as if it is one thing when we approve of the things that a seminarian is hiding, but another if we do not.

  26. Supertradmum says:

    Dan, when one is in enemy territory, one keeps a low profile, or one will get shot.
    You are making a huge assumption that liberal and even agnostic teachers and administrators want solid, normal, strong men in the priesthood. Some do not. You are making an assumption that liberals and even gays are not being allowed into the seminary. They are. You are also making an assumption that the enemy is not within the Church, as even the Pope mentioned last year–and as Our Blessed Mother warned us at Fatima–when Mary said many priests would apostatize. Some of those priests are in formation. I have met them in the States.

  27. Supertradmum,

    Those wayward priests you refer to . . . Would you guess that they say the Divine Office in Latin, in the vernacular, or not at all. (I recall a bishop saying that, when he calls in a priest who’s gotten in “trouble”, the first question he asks him is, “When, Father, did you stop praying your Office?”)

  28. kate_rub says:

    Henry – The requirements for something to constitute liturgical prayer are set out in canon 834 para 2, and are appropriate delegation (and post Vatican II this includes the laity in the case of the Office in my view) and use of approved actions, viz books, texts etc. So in the case of the 1962 Office that means in Latin using the approved 1962 rubrics.

    One can argue about how much deviation from the second requirement goes to liceity as opposed to validity [validity? Of the Office?] I guess, but given that proper delegation in this canon clearly goes to validity, on the face of it the use of properly approved texts does too, which is what I think Fr Z is arguing.

    I don’t want to verbal him, but I’m guessing that Fr Z suggests it doesn’t matter in the case of the laity because, in line with a previous post, he is suggesting that the laity are not capable of praying the Office liturgically, at least when saying it privately without a cleric present. [Lord, how I tire of people reading all manner of nonsense into what I write.] I disagree for the reasons I’ve set out here:

  29. Kate,

    So far as I see, the requirement of using Latin for praying the older form of the Divine Office liturgically has not been disputed.

    My question was where you saw in CCC or CL any such requirement for the newer form (as I had interpreted your earlier post to suggest).

  30. Dan says:

    Supertradmum, I think you have made my point exactly. Pick whatever you think is an example of a good, conservative, traditional seminary, and imagine a “liberal” or a gay seminarian following the same advice Fr. Z is giving – hiding his true self and biding his time until ordination.

    Now imagine a seminarian who self-identifies as traditional and has some issues that he needs to work on through the course of his formation. If he begins to habitually hide part of himself from the faculty and his brother seminarians, it is much easier to begin hiding other things as well. Just because a man prays in Latin does not mean that he is ready to be a priest. We don’t need traditional priests, we need holy priests – and the two are not necessarily identical.

    Obviously I cannot speak for all seminaries everywhere, but my experience of those in the Midwest is not that they are places hostile to the teachings of the Church. Quite the opposite. They are places where men are growing in holiness, in pastoral charity, and in zeal for souls.

  31. kate_rub says:

    Apologies Henry – I took this discussion to be restricted to the traditional Office and my comments reflected that.

    In reference to Fr Z’s query about ‘validity’ of the Office, I mean in the sense of it constituting liturgical prayer as opposed to just being devotional. The canon I cited above is about the requirements for something to be considered liturgical prayer, which, being the public prayer of the Church, is surely ontologically different to an Office said purely as a devotion.

    Indeed canon 834 specifically says “The Church carries out its office of its sanctifying in a special way in the sacred liturgy…This worship takes place when it is offered in the name of the Church, by persons lawfully deputed and through actions approved by ecclesiastical authority.”

    And Father, if I’ve misunderstood your reasons for saying language doesn’t matter in the case of the laity, I apologise. But I was basing my comments on an earlier post in which you cited a conference speaker saying that the laity don’t pray liturgically and seemed ultimately to be agreeing with him: https://wdtprs.com/2010/06/quaeritur-do-laypeople-pray-liturgically-when-praying-the-office/#comments

    In that earlier post for example you note the case of an emergency baptism, and, as I read it at least, argue that the simple form is not liturgical as such. Personally I’d argue that any set form of words and gestures recognised by the Church in relation to a sacrament is liturgical even if it isn’t done in solemn form. Kind of analogous to the Office said in choir vs the Office said privately in fact…

    But perhaps we are all in heated agreement here really!

    Though if we are, may I ask why it is that you argue the language of the traditional Office doesn’t matter in the case of a layperson saying it?

  32. Panterina says:


    You might have missed this, but here is a link to an earlier post by Father Z., advising when it’s prudent for a seminarian to keep a low profile:

  33. Dan says:


    Thank you. Upon further reflection, I am really only familiar with one seminary – where I think hiding would be very detrimental to a man’s formation. Perhaps there are other places that are so bad that such a thing would be necessary. Based on my limited American Midwestern experience, I have a hard time imagining this, but the internet is expansive enough to bring together folks from all over.

  34. MPSchneiderLC says:

    I think it depends on your seminary. My superiors have full knowledge I am trying to find the Liturgia Horarum. In my community this is relatively common. Theoretically since I am in final vows, I could recite the extraordinary form except vespers for solemnities (which are in community) but looking at the two, more readings and repeating the psalms not quite as frequently seems better.
    By the way, if someone wants to translate latin for either version I recomend “The Dictionary of Ecclesial Latin” by Leo (forgot his last name but he is a seminary professor).

  35. Jan B. says:

    @ Henry Edwards,

    “Although I myself pray devotionally all hours of the Liturgia Horarum in Latin”

    Oh, that helps to explain it! I mean, the grace and wisdom of your comments I’ve enjoyed and learned so much from over the years.

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