I know some priests who pray all the Hours of the divine office at a particular time…for example:
There is this priest who went out for an important trip..he probably didn’t have any free time in the evening so he prayed Lauds, Office of Readings, Daytime, and Vespers all in the morning, is that allowed for just causes since Canon Law states that the Hours be prayed as much as possible in their respective time, thanks Father.
First, let it be said that it really isn’t any of your business when Father says his Office. Be happy that he is, in fact, saying his Office for the whole Church (that is, also for you).
That said, restricting myself to priests of the Latin Church and Roman Rite, the law requires that the Officium (“office” is from Latin officium, “duty, obligation, function, service”) be celebrated “as far as possible” at the appropriate time of day (cf. General Instruction of the Liturgy of the Hours 29). Also, the 1983 Code of Canon Law says in can. 276, § 2, n. 3: “Priests, and deacons aspiring to the priesthood, are obliged to carry out the liturgy of the hours daily, in accordance with their own approved liturgical books; permanent deacons are to recite that part of it determined by the Episcopal Conference”. The 1983 CIC no longer says “under pain of mortal sin”.
This all gives the Latin cleric a good deal of latitude.
A good and faithful priest, taking stock of his schedule, will pray his Office when he can. If the evening is jammed with a meeting of the Knights of Columbus, a funeral vigil, training servers for the Extraordinary Form Mass, and a social event with the St. Gabriel Possenti Gun Club at the parish’s indoor shooting range, Father is to be commended for his foresight if he prays Vespers at 1:00 pm. If Father knows he has a free morning, but the afternoon and evening are going to be hectic, and he therefore he prayers through the whole Office in the morning, that could be better than rushing through Vespers and Compline with tired eyes and distracted mind at 11:53 PM.
BTW… there was a time when priests would, while driving, stop their cars and read their breviaries with the light of the car’s headlamps. Not only! They would know when solar midnight fell in the place where they lived, or how far they lived from the timezone line by longitude in case they needed those extra few minutes accorded them by the interpretive principle of law odiosa restringenda, that is, that laws which impose a duty are to be interpreted strictly. This is handy for understanding “time” in the legal sense. For example, if I need to finish my office by midnight, I can think in terms of 1200 midnight by civil time, 24h. That’s both boring and too restrictive. To give me more flexibility I can also go by an offset of how many degrees I am from the timezone line. By that reckoning, I should have, given my location, till about 12:06 AM, I think, to complete my office. However, I can also calculate Roman midnight, since I am Roman Catholic priest. Roman midnight is halfway between sunset and sunrise the next day. As a matter of fact, my Roman Curia calendar, with the tear off sheets provides me with the sunrise and sunset times, in addition to “Aurora” and “Ave Maria” times… in Rome. But figuring this out each day is a bother. To give myself greatest latitude, pardon the pun, I can also go by solar midnight, which would today give me until 12:52 AM tomorrow (and 54 seconds), given my precise coordinates on your planet! That’s when your Earth’s yellow sun will be at the exact nadir for my location. But I digress.
So, if Father regularly prays the whole Office at once “to get it out of the way”, he might want to bring his practice up with his spiritual director. That notwithstanding, he fulfills his obligation to the Lord and to the Church, an obligation he willingly assumed at the time he was ordained a deacon.
As far as the time of recitation of the hours is concerned, looking at the Liturgy of the Hours, it is reasonable to assume that the Church wants us to pray Morning Prayer in the Morning, right? The intermediate hours still have distinctions of Terce, Sext, Nones. Does that mean that Father must say the intermediate prayer for Sext exactly at noon (civil, solar or Roman?). I don’t think so. Neither should Father worry during Mass about completing signs of the Cross exactly between the syllables where the ✠ appears on the page.
Priests should talk to their spiritual directors about their relationship to the Office. They should be open with their brother priests if they struggle with it. Fraternal support can help tremendously, and fraternal correction can also be of great value. They publicly assume at ordination the duty to recite the Office daily, that is, to offer the Church’s official prayers on behalf of the whole Church so that God hears ceaselessly the supplications and praises raised by His Son’s Mystical Body.
And, before people raise it:
Yes, Latin, Roman Rite priests fulfill their obligation by reciting either the Roman Breviary as it was during the Second Vatican Council (that is to say with the Breviarium Romanum of Saint John XXIII, the actual Vatican II Office) or with the Liturgia Horarum of Paul VI revised by St. John Paul II in 1985 with the New Vulgate. And were I to participate in the singing of any of the hours at, say, the wonderful Benedictine Monastery at Norcia or at Le Barroux, I would fulfill my obligation.
Furthermore, while recitation of the Office should be aloud, since it is official and vocal prayer – this is why of yore and even now priests move their lips when saying their Office, there is always a measure of subvocalization taking place when reading. I am of the opinion that a priest fulfills his obligation even when not moving his lips, reading silently.
And, yes, priests and deacons can use mobile phone apps and websites. They don’t have to be holding a book in their hands. The Office is the text, not the book.
Finally, this is why I think it is wrong wrong wrong to call Holy Mass simply “the liturgy”. The Church’s liturgy is much more expansive than Mass, even though Mass is the zenith of what we do in our sacred liturgical rites.