The Holy Father’s curious comment


In a story on CNA we read that the Holy Father gave an interview to La Vanguardia.

Inter alia, His Holiness said,

I pray every day the divine office every day with the Psalms of David. We do the 150 psalms in one week.

This leads me to wonder if Pope Francis is using the older, traditional Roman Breviary rather than the newer Liturgy of the Hours.  In the LotH you don’t get all 150 psalms in a week.  As a matter of fact, I am not sure you get all 150 at all.

Of course it is entirely possible that His Holiness just got it wrong.  I think there are a lot of clerics out there who diligently say their office with the new books and have the notion that they say all the psalms in a week.  The important thing is that they say their prayers. on way or another, with an approved version of the office.

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  1. dans0622 says:

    Looks like an error, considering this passage from one of the interviews (maybe the so-called “Big Interview”): “At this point the pope stands up and takes the breviary from his desk. It is in Latin, and is worn down by continued use. He opens it to the Office of the Readings of the Feria Sexta, that is Friday, of the 27th week. He reads a passage to me taken from the Commonitórium Primumof St. Vincent of Lerins: …”

  2. John V says:

    “As a matter of fact, I am not sure you get all 150 at all.”

    From the General Instruction of the Liturgy of the Hours:
    “130. Three psalms (78, 105, and 106) are reserved for the seasons of Advent, Christmas, Lent, and Easter, because they throw a special light on the Old Testament history of salvation as the forerunner of its fulfillment in the New.
    131. Three psalms (58, 83, and 109) have been omitted from the psalter cycle because of their curses; in the same way, some verses have been omitted from certain psalms, as noted at the head of each. The reason for the omission is a certain psychological difficulty, even though the psalms of imprecation are in fact used as prayer in the New Testament, for example, Rv 6:10, and in no sense to encourage the use of curses.”

  3. SpesUnica says:

    The end of Ps 58 is pretty harsh, true, but then should we omit other harsh parts of Scripture? I don’t like taking scissors to the Bible. If it can be taken the wrong way, then Father, you know one of the things to preach on that day! Problem solved. The readings we have from Joshua in the Office of Readings in these days (LotH) are harsh, too.

    I rather like Ps 83. It’s about the wicked seeing the error of their ways and coming to repentance! Though, perhaps it is too late when they finally see what has happened, as it will be on the Last Day.

    And again, a pity that Ps 109 is omitted, it is referenced in Acts: “let another his office take.”

  4. oblomov says:

    He entered the SJ as a novice in 1958, and has said he still uses his seminary breviary.

  5. The Bear says the Christian Prayer version and delights in “heads shall be shattered far and wide,” and “a two-edged sword shall be in their hand” and the part of about leading their nobles in fetters of iron. So they haven’t gotten rid of all the good stuff.

  6. Sid Cundiff in NC says:

    SpesUnica, your argument has some merit; consider the alternative argument. We have a fuller revelation in Our Lord, which tells us that our enemies are to be loved, and that we should pray for their conversion from evil. Thus some of what is in the Psalms doess not respect this fuller revelation, and it needs to be omitted.

    There is a rabbincal precedent for this. The rabbis centainly had high respect for Holy Writ. In the book of Job, Job’s wife tells him “bless God and die.” Historical-critical scholarship is nearly unanimous that the text originally said “curse God and die”, since the present reading makes no sense in the context. The rabbis, to prevent someone from being damned, changed the text, because some moron will claim “It says in the Bible that you can curse God.”

    Catholics are not fundamentalists with an inerrant view of Holy Writ.

  7. RichR says:

    The Catholic Church has always taught that Holy Scripture is inerrant. I’m not sure where your ideas come from.

    As far as the Roman Breviary vs Liturgy of the Hours, I’ve prayed both, and rarely so you get all 150 Psalms in a week because you get trapped in the Sanctoral quite often. That having been said, I prefer the Roman Breviary because of its rigor. It’s more work to pray the traditional breviary, but it is very “hard-identity Catholic” stuff. The LOTH would appeal more to an ecumenical crowd than a purely Catholic crowd.

  8. Sid Cundiff in NC says:

    I admit that I’m a rare bird; I prefer the Extraordinary Form of the Mass, and the Ordinary Form of the Office. If someone has the time to pray the Extraordinary Form of the Office, God bless. Most of us don’t. And from my experience, some traditionalists are so quick to condemn everything from V2, including the wise reform of the Office; when I quiz them they admit that they don’t pray the Office at all, or only one of the little hours. Their counter argument is that the Office be only for clerics in Relgious. V2 says the Office is for all Christians.

    Two fine books on the history of the Office: Robert Taft, The Liturgy of the Hours in East and West: The origins of the Divine Office and its Meaning Today; and Paul F. Bradshaw, Two Ways of Praying . Both argue that the EF Office is the result of a massive mistake in the Western Church. The tradition of the “Cathedral Office” (the Office in a parish) was simply lost in the Western Church, and Trent imposed the Monastic Office on Clerics. Yet Clerics are not monks, nor are laymen.

    The result of this mistake, says Taft, was “liturgical exhaustion, from overnutrition and consequent spiritual indigestion”. p. 308. Another serious problem was that clerics who took their duty seriously, would say the Office all at once, without consideration of when the hour is to be said. So also in the very fine Tenebrae — What are we doing praying Mattins at 11pm?

    The result? The Office became an unwanted stepchild in liturgy. And so it remains today.

    V2 also saw that to restore the “Cathedral Office would be a mistake. For that office used the same Psalms everyday, and hardly all 150 — the result of most people, easily 90%, being illiterate. So V2 reasonably divided the Psalms and Canticles into a four week cycle. V2 stressed that Lauds and Vespers are the most important, that hours are to be said at particular times of day, except the Office of Readings, and are to be said by all the people.

    There is too little out there on the theology and spirituality of the current hours; if anyone can recommend titles, I would be welcome.

    There is a two year cycle of readings for the Office of Readings. While the selections from Holy Writ were established, the 2nd reading was never set down. There is a four volume lectionary with Patristic readings which can be found at (nothing alas for saints and for commons). Folks, pray the two year cycle; when the two years have past, you have read pretty much the whole Bible

  9. anilwang says:

    Sid Cundiff in NC says: ” Thus some of what is in the Psalms doess not respect this fuller revelation, and it needs to be omitted. ”

    No. The God of the Old Testament is the same God as the God of the new. Every single word in the Bible is there for our benefit. There are no obsolete passages. If there is a difficulty it is with us, not the Psalm.

    There are at least two ways to interpret Ps. 58. The first is the cry of a desperate person that just wants evil to end and not be passed down to the next generation to continue its tyranny. I’m certain that more than a few Jews in World War II prayed this prayer. It wasn’t enough that the Nazis of the time died. Their Satanic ideology had to be eliminated from the next generation. Bless God that you (or I) have difficulty feeling the pain of this Psalm, but the cry of desperation is real in many parts of the world and we must not pretend it doesn’t exist because it makes us feel better. Since we have been blessed by *not* experiencing the desperation of Ps 58, we’re called to pray and act for those who are.

    The second way is to spiritualize it as Oregin did. Any Catholic who has a persistent sin knows that sometimes it’s impossible to stop sinning unless one ruthlessly cuts off even the remote occasions of those sins. It’s harsh but read today’s Mass readings from the Sermon of the Mount. The spiritualized understanding of Ps 58 is mirrored there exactly.

  10. Geoffrey says:

    When seeing this post, I immediately remembered back to that first interview in American magazine, where it was revealed that His Holiness prays the Liturgy of the Hours in Latin.

    However, do the Jesuits have their own proper office that uses a 1-week psalter? I seem to recall seeing a 2-week psalter somewhere, perhaps in the Ambrosian rite?

  11. Sid Cundiff in NC says:

    Rich R, since when are Catholics obliged to believe that Jonah lived in a whale? Quote me Denzinger on this.

    Their is nothing more “hard identity Catholic” than the reformed Office; it was deliberately made so that “purely Catholic crowd” could and would pray it. I see nothing ecumenical in it.

  12. Pnkn says:

    “He entered the SJ as a novice in 1958, and has said he still uses his seminary breviary.”

    So, this would mean that his comments about the EF apply to his clutching his old breviary ?
    “When I search more thoroughly – the Pope said – I find that it is rather a kind of fashion [in Czech: ‘móda’, Italian ‘moda’]. And if it is a fashion, therefore it is a matter that does not need that much attention. It is just necessary to show some patience and kindness to people who are addicted to a certain fashion. “

  13. TWF says:

    What version of the Office did the Jesuits pray in 1958? That would seem to answer the question.

    The Roman Breviary of 1960 is not “that” traditional in a lot of ways. Pope Pius did a LOT of cut and paste in 1910. The Latin version of the current LOTH, as opposed to the English version most of us are familiar with, restored many of the ancient Latin hymns that pre-Vatican II reformers had sliced and diced as well…
    If you want to pray a truly traditional, ancient office, you’re going to have to go the Benedictine monastic route…

  14. pseudomodo says:

    Sid Cundiff in NC,

    I think that George Orwell’s “Animal Farm” is true. I don’t believe, however that pigs and horses can talk, form trade unions or march in an army.

    Scripture is even more true and inerrant in every detail even when its writing style is couched in the genre of myth.

  15. Elizabeth D says:

    I looked up the Office of Readings for the 27th wk in Ordinary Time in the English language Liturgy of the Hours and it is the reading from St Vincent of Lerins. From what I can find the Latin Liturgia Horarum (new breviary corresponding to the Novus Ordo Missae) appears to have come out in 1971. Bergoglio was ordained a priest in 1969. Jesuits have a final post-ordination formation stage called tertianship so he may have still been considered in formation in 1971, though surely not “seminary”. Was there a transitional version?

  16. acardnal says:

    In addition to psalms 58, 83 and 109 being excluded from the LOTH, portions of other psalms have been omitted too. For example, verse 9 of psalm 137, where the Jews living in exile are called blessed if they can manage to kill a few Babylonian babies, was viewed as too harsh or vengeful.

  17. Sid Cundiff in NC says:

    pseudomodo, I agree completely with you, yet the Fundamentalists’ teaching on inerrancy excludes all myth. Our mutual view on inerrancy is a view that they would strongly oppose, even incinerate, if they had the chance. q.v. Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy in the Wikepedia, where a link to a .pdf file of the text can be found.

  18. Sid Cundiff in NC says:

    Does your god, anilwang, want prayers to him that support smashing infants’ heads against rocks (Ps 137, v.9)? Mine doesn’t. Wise of those who removed this verse from the Office.

  19. Sid Cundiff in NC says:

    Thanks, acardnal. You beat me to it.

  20. Rellis says:

    By definition it has to be a LOTH in Latin. There’s no other way to interpret it.

    I pray the full, pre-1955 Roman Breviary every day, mostly in English. I use the Anglican Breviary, which is an unfortunate title for what is nothing more than a pre-Bugnini, post-Pius X version of the Office.

    I use inserts to pray most of the ordinary in Latin, and I throw in some pre-Pius X elements as well (mostly having to do with the Sunday office).

    As a layman, I’m grateful that I’m not bound to just the LOTH or the 1961BR.

  21. Rellis says:

    It’s amazing to me how many priests there are who say they would do all TLM masses if they could, but are white knuckle terrified at the prospect of swapping the LOTH in favor of the 1961BR.

    It’s in the DNA: old breviary too long, bad mojo.

  22. Toan says:

    Sid Cundiff: A helpful excerpt from CUF: “Pope Leo XIII in his 1893 encyclical Providentissimus Deus explained:

    ‘[S]o far is it from being possible that any error can coexist with inspiration, that inspiration not only is essentially incompatible with error, but excludes and rejects it as absolutely and necessarily as it is impossible that God Himself, the supreme Truth, can utter that which is not true. This is the ancient and unchanging faith of the Church (II, D, 2, a).’

    Pope Pius XII reaffirmed the inerrancy of the Bible in his 1943 encyclical Divino Afflante Spiritu. He compared Scripture’s inerrancy to Christ’s sinlessness: ‘For as the substantial Word of God became like to men in all things, ‘except sin,’ so the words of God, expressed in human language, are made like to human speech in every respect, except error’ (no. 37).”

    I don’t mean to say we must take everything literally, as some fundamentalists would require, but rather that there must be at least one sense in which what is written is true and for our benefit. Smashing babies’ heads, for example. That sounds uncharitable, but in the light of the New Testament we know who the real enemies are. Thus, we pray, “And do thou, o Prince of the Heavenly Hosts, cast into Hell Satan and all the evil spirits…” In a sense, we’re asking for the evil spirits–Satan’s babies–to have their heads bashed.

    Maybe CS Lewis and I are off base in that interpretation…but I’m surely not off base in asserting that the Bible is inerrant.

  23. Priam1184 says:

    Ok for one last time: WHY DO PEOPLE TODAY ABSOLUTELY REFUSE TO UNDERSTAND WHAT THE CURSES IN PSALMS ARE REFERRING TO? Those curses in the eyes of the psalmist were rendered against the enemies of the people Isra’el, the people of God. Curses are issued against Edom, the Phillistines, Babylon, etc. These nations have LONG passed out of existence so those curses cannot be taken literally as their eternal meaning. They have to be understood as curses against our real and eternal enemies: the devil and his minions. I was listening to a presentation on prayer on the Norcia website where one of the monks gave an excellent explanation of this subject. He explained a quote of St. Benedict’s where he talked about smashing temptations while they were still small against “the rock of Christ.” And then he asked where St. Benedict got that from? From Psalm 137 (136 in the Vulgate Psalter), the “By the waters of Babylon” psalm, and from the lines that got censored in the Liturgy of the Hours: “O Babylon, destroyer, he is happy who repays you the ills you brought on us. He shall seize and shall dash your children on the rock.” Now if we are like Martin Luther and can only read the Scriptures hyper literally we freak out and think that God actually wants to smash the heads of little children against a rock. However, if we read the psalms the way the Fathers of the Church did then we come to the same conclusion that St. Benedict did and our lives are very much enriched and the path to holiness begins to open itself up for us.

  24. Mike says:

    What gives me the jitters about the current (i.e., post-Vatican II) Liturgy of the Hours is the same thing that mainly irritated me about the Novus Ordo Mass texts up to a few years ago, which is the smudges and scars it bears from the ICEL in the circa-1970-vintage Collects and Intercessions. Should the revision effort now under way cleanse those elements of banality, they’ll come much closer to resembling prayer than the distillation of a committee’s wispy hopes.

    That said, I suppose one could pray the current Liturgy of the Hours in the normative Latin, but I wonder how many in the English-speaking world (or anywhere else) actually do that?

  25. Sid Cundiff in NC says:

    Toan, words mean things. Inerrancy is a foundational tenit of Fundamentalism. For them “take everything literally” is indeed what they mean by “inerrancy”. We need a better word for our Catholic belief. Popes Leo XIII and Pius XII did not say that I have to believe that Jonah lived in a whale. Your view of smashing heads of infants is a stretcher. Not what Ps. 137 says. Ditto to Priam1184

  26. Sid Cundiff in NC says:

    I’m glad, Rellis, that you have your choice of a Breviary. And I am glad that I have mine — a Breviary that (1) is designed for laymen and clerics, not for monks (although it would work for them too), and (2) one that recovers the real tradition — that of the Cathedral Office.

  27. Marissa says:

    What truth changed in the mid-twentieth century that made certain psalms or lines in psalms wrong to say?

  28. JARay says:

    There exists, on the Internet, the traditional Roman Breviary 1960 version. It costs nothing to access and the man who set it up has since gone to join The Church Triumphant, Here it is:-
    It is set out in the traditional way with one half of the page in Latin and the other half in English.
    I have it set up on my PC and my Android.

  29. Sid Cundiff in NC says:

    Mike, you have a very valid point. A new translation of the OF Office is in the works; when I wrote those responsible, they wrote back that we’ll not see the new translation until the end of the decade. Bad news!

    Until then, consider for a codex the breviary put out the Pauline Sisters in Kenya. It is the most up-to-date edition in English, taken from the 2009 official Latin text. It uses the New Grail Psalter, an improvement over ICEL. see paulinesafrica[dot]org/catalogue/liturgy/liturgy-of-the-hours/

    For the iphone/smart phone, I use the Ibreviary, which when the collect is the same as at Mass (with the new Mass translation), they offer as an option the new prayer of the collect. See ibreviary[dot]org/en/ for the app.

  30. Sid Cundiff in NC says:

    Marissa, Our Lord’s truth to love our enemies. We also don’t think bashing infants heads against rocks is a good thing to do.

  31. Mike: “I suppose one could pray the current Liturgy of the Hours in the normative Latin, but I wonder how many in the English-speaking world (or anywhere else) actually do that?”

    I do, and surely am not so exceptional. Over the years I’ve prayed the Divine Office every which way, English and Latin, Anglican, Roman, and Benedictine breviaries, etc., and for me the LOH in Latin seems superior than any other version. Admittedly, in the current (obsolete) English translation–and lacking the Latin hymnody that is the pearl of the Office and gives the different days and seasons their special flavors, but was simply omitted from the English translation (and in the LOH is superior in many ways to the Roman Breviary hymnody)–it has an inferior flavor and texture, suffering just as much as (if not more than) the Mass in the 1973 ICEL translation (not to mention the banal English songs that were substituted for the classical Latin hymns). When the new English translation of the whole LOH is finally available, it arguably will be the best choice for most priests (as opposed to monks) and virtually all laymen. And a sufficient reason for “mature” Catholics to hang on for another decade or two (like a priest I know who stayed on a decade past retirement age just serve past the introduction of the new English translation of the Mass).

  32. Sid Cundiff in NC says:

    To pray the Psalms well one does well to know the Psalms. The best historical-critical commentaries are twofold, at least in my experience. The first is Hans-Joachim Kraus, Psalms, available in English translation in two volumes. Kraus often uses the Hebrew, so readers need to know the Hebrew alphabet. Kraus’s work is now almot 40 years old, yet he is still good.

    The second and even better work is Frank-Lothar Hossfeld and Erich Zenger, Psalms vol 2 and 3. This work awaits the 1st volume which is in progress. The commentary on the Psalms is exhaustive and quite insightful. The 2nd vol is from 2005

    A word in support of Mitchell DaHood’s commentary from almost 50 years ago — Widely condemned, and yet worth consulting after using Kraus and Hossfeld. DaHood was a master of Semitic languages. He was the first to make intelligible to me the 110th Psalm.

    If you’re looking for a good commentary in the margin of a text, The Jewish Study Bible’s Tanakh, 2004, is a good source.

  33. Sid Cundiff in NC says:

    Henry Edwards is quite right. The hymns in the English LOTH are quite bad, even in the otherwise good Kenya edition. Yet, I’m happy to report that someone has ridden to the rescue for those who don’t know Latin: Martin D. O’Keefe, S. J. , Exsultemus:Rejoicing with God in the Hymns of the Roman Breviary. Fine translations worthy of our own Fr. Z. Alas, the book is out of print, and expensive at Amazon and Abe books. I wish the publishers would get it back in print; I wish that the folks translating the new Breviary would adopt these hymns.

  34. Sid Cundiff in NC says:

    Happy to discover that there is a reasonably priced edition of O’Keefe’s translations at the Institute of Jesuit sources: jesuitsources[dot]com

  35. Sid Cundiff in NC says:

    I do wish there were an organization called “The Confraternity of the Divine Office”, laymen who pray the OF Office.

  36. I know a man who did a complete analysis of the LotH. I’m passing on a portion of the fruits of his labors to you all:

    Psalm 58, 83, and 109 are omitted in their entirety from the Psalter, as well as verses from 19 other Psalms, namely, 5, 21, 28, 31, 35, 40, 54, 55, 56, 59, 63, 69, 79, 110, 137, 139, 140, 141, and 143.

    The GILH says the following:

    131. Three psalms (58, 83, and 109) have been omitted from the psalter cycle because of their curses; in the same way, some verses have been omitted from certain psalms, as noted at the head of each. The reason for the omission is a certain psychological difficulty, even though the psalms of imprecation are in fact used as prayer in the New Testament, for example, Rv 6:10, and in no sense to encourage the use of curses.

    Revelation 6:9-10
    [9]When he opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain for the word of God and for the witness they had borne; [10] they cried out with a loud voice, “O Sovereign Lord, holy and true, how long before thou wilt judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell upon the earth?”

    Only 128 psalms remain in whole.

    Psalms were edited
    15 contained subjunctive statements of God’s punishment
    5 contained indicative statements of God’s punishment
    4 contained accusations of evil doers.
    1 contained a statements of hate.

    Fr. Z's Gold Star Award

  37. Imrahil says:

    As a throw-in to some side-point of the dear Sid Cundiff in NC,

    In the book of Job, Job’s wife tells him “bless God and die.” Historical-critical scholarship is nearly unanimous that the text originally said “curse God and die”.

    My Bible has “blaspheme against God and die”, and I had not hitherto been aware of any Bible saying anything else. Makes for a nice and deep-going equalization of blasphemy and death, too.

    If the rabbis changed the text, well, Job would have been rather willing to bless God and die (he actually did bless Him: “the Lord hath given, the Lord hath taken, blessed be the Name of the Lord), so it makes no sense to me. I’d rather think the rabbis were just of too patronising mood and acting against the sense of the text, but that’s, of course, just me and my spontaneous reaction.

  38. Imrahil says:

    Dear acardnal and Sid Cundiff in NC,

    isn’t there a point in saying that this verse means the spiritual children of Babel i. e. the sinners, and that in so far as they are sinners?

  39. Gregory DiPippo says:

    Mr Cundiff, if you read Fr Taft’s book a little more carefully, there is a passage where he admits that the Cathedral Office vs. Monastic Office thesis rests on very slender evidence indeed, and particularly as far as the Roman Rite is concerned, there is very little evidence of a Cathedral Office.

    The Council of Trent did not impose any kind of Office on anyone – all the different groups of clergy in 1600 were using the same kind of Office that their brethren had been using in 1500, with the exception of the happily banned Quiñonez Breviary. (i.e. the beta-version of the Novus Ordo)

    The Novus Ordo Office is not a product of V2, which only gave some fairly vague indications about the revision. At the time they asked for the psalms to be distributed over a longer period than one week, most of them were certainly thinking of the Ambrosian two-week psalter. As with most things, the Council Fathers called for a revision, and got a revolution.

    No real scholar would argue that the OF Office, with its obsessive dread of repetition, has anything at all to do with any kind of historical Office, Cathedral or Monastic.

    The censorship of the inspired Word of God in the new Psalter constitutes a significant divorce from the universal custom and tradition of the Church. All historical Christian liturgies are in agreement (with the sole exception of the weird and incredibly prolix Mozarabic Office) in using the whole of the Psalter. This includes the various Eastern Rites. Pope Paul VI himself expressed grave reservations about the censorship of the Psalms to Fr Louis Bouyer.

    And let us not forget what a complete and utter failure the implementation of this whole thing has been. The Office has never in the history of the Church been LESS present to the devotional life of the faithful than it is now. I grew up in Rhode Island, the most Catholic state in the Union (percentage-wise), and never even knew that the Office existed until I accidentally picked up a copy of a “Breviarium Romanum” in a university library. When I asked my parents about it, they both remembered that priests used to have a book called a Breviary which they were required to read on a regular basis, but they both thought it had been abolished after Vatican II.

    As to the recitation of Tenebrae at night, if you will forgive the seeming lack of modesty:

  40. Mr. DiPippo,

    “The Office has never in the history of the Church been LESS present to the devotional life of the faithful than it is now.”

    Even as I have long stood in awe of you profound liturgical scholarship, I wonder how or whether this assertion can be substantiated.

    My own information is admittedly anecdotal. But in all the several parishes I’ve regularly attended in recent years, there were individuals or groups of lay people praying at least morning and evening prayer, and in none was the complete liturgy of the hours completely unknown. In the two parishes I currently attend, in one there are multiple lay groups meeting to pray various hours, and in the other morning and evening prayer led by a priest are sung in church at 6 am and 5:30 pm each weekday.

    Whereas, in none of the several parishes that I attended in different regions and dioceses prior to Vatican II, were there (to my knowledge) any laymen at all praying the divine office, nor indeed any who were even vaguely aware of the breviary as something other than something that priests alone used.

    So if I judged solely on the evidence of my own eyes–not to even mention the vast numbers who use the Magnificat periodical to pray brief morning, day, evening, and night hours (which I see in hands in virtually every parish I visit))–I might well see the current era as one in which prayer of the psalms is flourishing, perhaps the only area in which the consequences of Vatican II have been positive.

  41. Sid Cundiff in NC says:

    Gregory DiPippo, thank you for a thoughtful letter. My view of the historical facts differs from you:

    1. I have indeed read Taft (and Bradshaw) carefully. Taft offers plenty of evidence for the Cathedral Office; so does Bradshaw. We know the Psalms used and the order of worship for Morning Lauds and Even Vespers. What Taft does indeed argue is two fold:
    a. the Eastern Church did a better job of preserving the Cathedral offfice; indeed, Taft seems to want to bring an Eastern practice into the Western Church. Bradshaw, an Anglican, seems to want to keep Cranmer’s Morning Song and Evensong with the Psalms read consecutively over a month.
    b. the Western Church, so Bradshaw and Taft, imposed a monastic office

    2. Trent indeed imposed an Office on clerics, a monastic office, however much this had been the practice in the Western Church for 600 years. Trent did not impose it on the laity because they were illiterate. V2 wisely saw that most laity are today not illiterate.

    3. V2 did indeed provide clear directions for a revision of the Office. I see nothing in its documents that say anything about an Ambrosian two week psalter; such a surmise is hardly “certain”. (yes, I know that one of the Ultratraditional’s talking points is that V2’s documents are “vague”, and the Ultras join the Liberals in the practice of twisting the documents to say something that they don’t say.) The committee that drafted the Office took seriously V2’s directive to make the office accessable to the the laity; i.e., to set up a Cathedral Office in a literate world. We didn’t get a revolution; we got a restoration. And the directive to spread over several weeks is exactly what the committee did. Good for them! Enough of trying to make monks out of clerics and laity! Enough of what Taft rightly called “liturgical exhaustion, from overnutrition and consequent spiritual indigestion”!

    And as for ” but they both thought it had been abolished after Vatican II”, they didn’t read V2, and they let Liberals tell them what V2 supposedly said.

    4. You have called the censorship of the Psalms against “universal custom and tradition”. Hardly universal, as Taft and Bradshaw show, and hardly tradition. It is indeed a custom, and a bad custom. I sorry that a custom would have us pray to Him bash little children’s heads against a rock. The real tradition and Tradition in fact is Our Lord’s clear teaching of love of enemies.

    5. “And let us not forget what a complete and utter failure the implementation of this whole thing has been. ” A post hoc fallacy. And a unfactual claim: What implementation? It really was never done. Just as before v2, almost no laity pray the Office, and few clergy, who claim they are too busy. And why should they? They aren’t monks. True, I haven’t taken a poll. Tu quoque: Have your taken a poll for the following claim?: “The Office has never in the history of the Church been LESS present to the devotional life of the faithful than it is now”. I submit that the Office has been NEVER “present to the devotional life” of the lay faithful in the Western Church since Late Antiquity, because of illiteracy on one hand, and the attempt to impose a monastic office on them on the other. V2 made a good start. Now let’s you and I set about its implementation.

    6. As for you very useful link (thank you!), if the Tenebrae was to be said say about 3am, then making it the Mattins and Lauds office would make sense. It isn’t said at that time. The claim in the link that lauds “becomes the fourth of the ancient Roman military watches, that which sees the arrival of the dawn “, is refuted by Taft and Bradshaw. Lauds is and always has been the morning office, prayed at sunrise.

    i. V2 says clearly that the Office is for everyone, not just deputed to monks and clerics.
    ii. Consequently, V2 says clearly that the Office is to be made user-friendly to clerics and laity.
    iii. Consequently, V2 says clearly that the Office is to spread the Psalms over a longer period.
    iv. V2 says the purpose of the Office is to sanctify the day.
    v. Consequently, the hours are to be prayed at particular times of the day, the Office of Readings to be prayed when the cleric or layman provides in his day.
    vi. V2 and the Ordo say clearly that the psalms and canticles are the prayer of Christ to the Father — in Christ, by Christ , with Christ. Christ does not pray to the father to bash infants’ heads’ against rocks.
    vii Go back and read what I posted above. If someone has the time to pray the monastic/EF Office, and to pray it digne, attente ac devote , then God bless. Most of use need a different office to so pray.

  42. Sid Cundiff in NC says:

    Thanks, Henry Edwards.

  43. Imrahil says:

    I’ll throw in (if our rev’d host suffers it) that the Holy Office, while indeed the liturgy of the Church, is not of obliging nature to the layman. At least not now. And there obviously is something priestly about praying it, even if it is in the sense of common-priesthood for us layfolk. It used to be said, too, that parish-priests recite it vicariously for their flock.

    The Second Vatican Council wanted it to be prayed more by layfolk, yes. Just, forgive me to say so, as any council wanted the layfolk to do pious exercises.

    As for praying it digne, attente ac devote, that seems to be the standard for those who have to do it. As for the rest, I don’t think it would be sinful – on the contrary, I’d think it would be meritorious, at least in a lesser way – to devoutly read through it (with silent reading). That’s quicker. You aren’t held to attentively pray each Hail Mary in the Rosary, either.

    Dear Sid Cundiff in NC,

    I can understand the argument that we don’t pray what we would understand wrongly. However, if you say,
    the psalms and canticles are the prayer of Christ to the Father — in Christ, by Christ , with Christ. Christ does not pray to the father to bash infants’ heads’ against rocks.
    then that does not just about pious censorship of the psalms in so far as privately prayed (we’re free to pray, after all); that seems a direct criticism of the psalms, as Scripture. Note they are not only the collected prayers of the people of Israel; they are part of the Bible.

    In which case, I do understand the somewhat noble idea of “let’s just pray them as they stand and meditate about the real meaning, afterwards”. As we likewise pray “and do not lead us into temptation” despite the well known seeming-contradiction ín one of the letters of St. John.

  44. TWF says:

    For those who opposed the post-Vatican II reforms of the Office, what made St. Pius X’s fairly radical reforms in 1910 justified?
    As I said earlier, if you have the time to faithfully pray all 150 Psalms each and every week – praise be God – but if you want to do so in a truly traditional and ancient manner, follow the Benedictine schema. From what I’ve read, the 1910 reforms were no more organic than were the post-Vatican II reforms.

  45. Sid Cundiff, you make an important point. That, whereas many might argue plausibly that what is best in the Mass for one is best for all, a “one size fits all” view is counter-productive regarding the divine office. Indeed it is arguable that

    — a monastic from of the breviary (Roman or otherwise) is best for divine office as chanted by monks in choir and some others;
    — a briefer form (like the Liturgy of the Hours) is best for the vast majority of literate laymen and clerics;
    — a still briefer form (like the Magnificat) may make regular prayer of the psalms accessible to many ordinary pew Catholics for whom even a three-psalm LOH hour is a non-starter;

    These different approaches take account of the difference between the divine office as liturgy sung in choir and as a private devotion recited in private. Each can be deeply devotional and fruitful for those who follow it, while each can be counter-productive for some. For instance, like you, I observe that many who argue most strenuously in favor of a traditional 150-psalm-per-week breviary never in fact pray all 150 psalms per week themselves. Instead, they may pray only lauds or vespers or an occasional day hour, and hence never pray most of the longer and deeper psalms. These folks who claim they favor the 1-week psalter may in fact pray regularly only a small portion of the whole body of psalms themselves, while those who follow the 4-week psalter of the LOH may pray regularly the great majority of the 150 psalms. Between these two extremes, it is obvious which is more fruitful?

    A more speculative question occurs to me. Could the burdensome strait jacket of the monastic office for all have actually been a contributing factor to the general collapse of faith and practice in the aftermath of Vatican II? I have occasionally wondered what could explain the seeming relish with which so many clerics and religious so eagerly (it seemed) hastened to throw overboard so much of what they had professed and been taught before the Council. Could it have been the irresistible enticement of sudden relief and release, in the heady “the past is past” atmosphere of the 1960s, from what surely had been the most tedious burden of their religious lives—their sworn obligation under pain of mortal sin to pray the entire breviary in Latin (with which many likely never were never really comfortable)?

  46. Ben Dunlap says:

    Sid Cundiff, I cherish the LotH because it kindled in me a lifelong love for liturgical prayer. But after many years of using it I discovered the preconciliar Office, which I now love even more.

    I think it’s possible to assess the strengths and weaknesses of both forms without denigrating either. Again, I love the LotH, but there are very important things missing from it, especially from the Office of Readings — such as the reading of Lamentations during the Triduum and the heavy reliance throughout the year on the sermons of the four great Latin Fathers.

    I would suggest that the same goes for the use of imprecatory psalms and psalm-verses, which have been recited daily by Christians throughout the world for millennia. Even now those who pray the LotH say, quite often, “Let the praise of God be in their mouths and a two-edged sword in their hand to deal out vengeance to the nations and punishment upon the peoples” and “all the nations surrounded me, in the Lord’s name I crushed them” and many other such things. Are these passages substantially less difficult for Christians to apply properly than beati qui allidet parvulos suos ad petram? If so, why?

  47. Ben Dunlap says:

    Henry Edwards, do you know if there is substantial evidence (even anecdotal) that many clerics felt the preconciliar Breviary to be a grievous burden? I’ve never understood why this would be the case but if that’s what many of them said…

  48. Sid Cundiff in NC says:

    I’m delighted that this topic has brought forth some very good posts. Perhaps there is hope for the long-overdue implentation of Office!

    Imrahil, thanks for your comment. You have written “You aren’t held to attentively pray each Hail Mary in the Rosary, either”. Two counter arguments. (a) the Rosary isn’t the Church’s official liturgical prayer; the Office is. (b) the Rosary is best prayed, so it seems to me, five decades at a time.

    You have also written “that seems a direct criticism of the psalms […] they are part of the Bible” Yep, it is indeed direct criticism of the Bible. I’m not a Protestant; there’s more to the Word of God than paper and ink. Indeed, the Word is The Son Himself. The Sermon on the Mount is currently the gospel for the MOF. Repeatedly in that sermon Our Lord says “You have heard it said” and then He quotes Holy Writ. Then He says “Yet I say to you …” and then He faults the same and adds to it in a way that fulfills Holy Writ.

    Thanks, TWF

    Henry Edwards, I like thee. I’d welcome more contact. I’d rather not put my email in a public forum. You can find me on Facebook under “Sid Cundiff”, where you can send me a FB Message. If you’re not on FB, consider doing so; FB needs your wisdom. It’s easy to join and you don’t really have to leave any information about you in a public forum.

    Ben Dunlap, you have written ” imprecatory psalms and psalm-verses, which have been recited daily by Christians throughout the world for millennia”. Taft and Bradshaw say differently, esp. for the Cathedral Office. Indeed praying all 150 starts in the monastic Office only in the fourth century.

    You have also written “all the nations surrounded me, in the Lord’s name I crushed them” Are these passages substantially less difficult for Christians to apply properly than “beati qui allidet parvulos suos ad petram?” Yes, they are substantially different. Your quote from the glorious 118th, my favorite of the Psalms because it best expresses the Paschal Mystery, is stating a fact, that He has protected the singer from enemies. It is just fine to pray for protection and defense from enemies, and to give thanks for the same. What is to be omitted is praying for harm and for damnation to our enemies, and certainly to be forbidden is pray that their children’s heads be bashed in.

    You have wisely written “very important things missing from [OF Office], especially from the Office of Readings — such as the reading of Lamentations during the Triduum and the heavy reliance throughout the year on the sermons of the four great Latin Fathers.” First, with respect to the Office of Readings, look at at the two year cycle of Scripture. It’s all there. As for the second reading, look a the volumns which I mentioned at They are exclusively Patristic, and not just from the Western Fathers. So lets both of us stress the two-year cycle and Patristic readings at the Office of Readings!

    As for Lamentations during the Triduum (I assume you don’t mean the Easter Vigil), you have a good point. This is something that could be corrected. And let me go back to the Tenebrae. The Vigils provided in the OF Office could be adapted to Tenebrae. There is a Vigil for Good Friday, and one for “Limbo Saturday”. There is, alas, none for Maundy Thursday. Yet one could be provided. When one puts out the candles on the Tenebrae lampstand and on the altar could also be provided.

  49. Gregory DiPippo says:

    Henry Edwards,
    You are exceedingly kind. My experience, however, has been the exact opposite of yours. In the two parishes which I went to as a child; the Newman Center, cathedral, and two basilicas where I went during college (different city); the Newman Center and two parishes I went to during grad school (yet another city), there was no Office. My first encounter with the Divine Office actually celebrated in church in any form was Orthros at a Byzantine church; I had no idea that there was or ever had been anything even remotely analogous in the Roman Rite. Later on, one of the churches did begin doing Sunday Vespers, with beautiful organ music to accompany a hideous “poetic” paraphrase of the Magnificat.

    I now live in Rome, where almost none of the hundreds of churches (staffed by every kind of religious congregation you can imagine) has any form of public Office; the Pope’s own cathedral has no part of it on its public schedule. It is done of course in the various seminaries, but the only place where Sunday Vespers has any substantial attendance is St Peter’s. I attended this service for years, and it was usually obvious that the majority of the laity in the congregation were non-Italian tourists. (Not a bad thing, of course, but also not a stable part of the devotional life.) I could write down what one of the seminaries in Rome routinely did at Vespers 10 years ago, but it was so weird you almost certainly wouldn’t believe me. I have also traveled extensively in Western Europe. The very first place I ever visited outside Italy was a major German archdiocese, where the cathedral canons have a chapter meeting every 2 weeks. Before the meeting, they read Terce together in German in the chapter room, and that is the whole of it. My subsequent experience is that that is more or less typical.

    It many people are adopting the Office as part of their prayer life, as you report, that is all to the good. Perhaps the difference between your experience and my own is more a matter of differing ages and geography.

  50. Mr. DiPippo,

    I think we are talking about two different phenomena–the Divine Office as public liturgy and as private devotion–hence our different perspectives.

    In your comments, you recount, no doubt correctly, the paucity of public liturgical celebrations of the Divine Office. My experience in this regard, although minimal in comparison with yours, is the same. My own parish, with clerically lead and sung lauds and vespers on the public schedule–and this only in the past decade, may be the only such mainstream parish within hundreds of miles.

    In my previous comment, I was describing the growth of private recitation of parts of the LOH (usually just morning and evening prayer) by laymen using the ICEL English translation, which I believe is fairly widespread in the English-speaking Catholic world, though likely confined pretty much to that same minority of Catholics who typically attend weekday Mass. So this devotion to the prayer of the psalms is probably unknown to “Sunday-only” Catholics. And at the time of your youth as you alluded to it, my experience was the same as yours. The LOH was not on my radar then either. So the flowering of this devotion (as I perceive it) may be a phenomenon of the past couple of decades.

  51. Sid Cundiff in NC says:

    Thank you, Henry Edwards, for making a distinction. I go a step further. There was been no public liturgy of the Divine Office in the Western Church in 16 centuries, with the end of the Cathedral office. You are also right, Henry, that the Office will become public liturgy again only when enough laymen first make it their private devotion. And when enough, they will ask for it at their respective parishes. Call this a “grass roots effort”. And for enough laymen to make it their private devotion, such laymen need an office that is not a monastic office. That means they need the OF Office, the LOTH.

    I invite Mr. Mr. DiPippo to adopt such a devotion, and then yo network via email or blogs with me and people like Henry Edwards.

  52. Magash says:

    As a Secular Franciscan (not yet professed) I am bound to recite the office, as our my brethren, most (but not all) members of the laity. So it is not strictly true that only clerics are bound to recite the office.
    In my parish the existence of the office is well known, if not widely prayed. I have seen morning and evening prayer publicly prayed at diocesan teen youth conferences, adult retreats and by groups of teens at the parish.
    As for the wider use of public liturgy, I believe that the practice of Evensong is one of the fruits of Anglicanism that the Holy Father Benedict hoped that the Ordinate would bring to the wider Church.
    I would like to see the new English translation of the LotH, but may not live until the end of the decade (indeed, like all men I have no guarantee of living to the end of the hour.) But more I would like to see the Office of Readings completed in its two year cycle as originally intended.
    The actual published books could well stand to be revised in their structure too, in my opinion. It is no doubt handy to have a single seasonal volume to do all readings for some. I would much prefer that Office readings be in a separate volume, so that I could carry Christian Prayer and the readings, each in their own book. I suspect that if all of the Office readings were pulled from the four volume set they would easily fit in a single volume. I even suspect that should all of the two year cycle readings be collected they would fit in a single volume, if a rather thick one.
    I understand that at one time there was such a book (at least of the present one year cycle readings) but that it is no longer in print.

  53. The Masked Chicken says:

    “There is too little out there on the theology and spirituality of the current hours; if anyone can recommend titles, I would be welcome.”

    Actually, there is little out there that has real historical meat on the whole history of the DO/LOTH. Many years ago, I did a relatively thorough bibliographic database research on the history and development of the DO. There isn’t much. I believe I was aware of the Taft book. The Bradshaw is too recent (my research was in the late 1990’s). There is a master’s thesis that analyzes the structure of the current LOTH in great detail (I can track it down, if anyone is interested). I used that to create a chart of all of the psalms and their organizations in each hour of the current LOTH.

    Yes, there are psalms missing and some abridged in the current setting, which, while similar in accident to the Rennaisance, Quiñonez Breviary, in having three psalms with most hours instead of five as in the Tridentine Breviary, the modern breviary, according to Bugnini’s documenting of the liturgical changes, is based on the Anglican arrangement, which just also happen to use three psalms per hour.

    As for the Cathedral/Monastic Office distinction, yes, there was one, from quite early on, but the point is that there was no real uniformity in the practice of the Office until Trent. The Carolingian practice imposed some uniformity in language, but I think there were regional differences in practices until Trent. We have contemporary descriptions of liturgical musical practices describing various regions of Europe in music treatises from the 1300’s, if memory serves, and they suggest that, at least according to musical practices, there was some variability.

    As for the use of the LOTH by the laity, under SP, the pre-1962 can be used, but those in Third Orders, as other members of religious Orders, have to consult their superiors (I think anyone, including secular Order members, can say the current LOTH in Latin in private – in choir, one must consult with one’s superiors). There is a lot that can be done on the current LOTH to bring it into a more continuous historical continuity with past practice. I know changes are in the works at the translation level. That is a start, but some of the prayers and responsories could use a heightening of the language or revision to longer, older forms, in my opinion.

    In my observation, the LOTH is making a slow come-back, especially among the laity. I don’t think it is quite right to say that there has been no public liturgy of the DO for 16 centuries. In the strictest sense, the DO is a public liturgy said in private by lay clergy, since any corporate prayer of the Church is public. The Mass is a public liturgy, even if said in private. I may be using the term, public, in a different sense, however. Liturgy was always considered public worship going back to the Greeks.

    These are just some rambling. May be wrong. Wanted to say something. Perhaps better to keep mouth shut.

    The Chicken

  54. Toan says:

    Sid Cundiff: “Toan, words mean things. Inerrancy is a foundational tenit of Fundamentalism. For them “take everything literally” is indeed what they mean by “inerrancy”. We need a better word for our Catholic belief.”

    No, we don’t need a better word. We just need to understand what inerrancy means–and inspiration, for that matter–and that Fundamentalists are wrong in their interpretation of the word. After all, we Catholics have been saying that Scripture is without error at least as early as St. Augustine. We shouldn’t abandon a term just because some people come along misunderstanding it; rather, we should stick to our guns and correct the misunderstanding.

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