In several recent posts (e.g., here) I have discussed the absence (or, rather, loss) of the Divine Office, that is, the public prayer of the Church, among Latin Catholics. By comparison, the Eastern Orthodox (and, to a lesser extent, Eastern Catholics) have done a much better job offering services like Matins, Vespers, and the small hours to the faithful. It remains my contention that public prayer outside of Mass will not return to the Latin Church until the clergy takes up the cause. Lay demand for these services is, at best, minimal, mostly due to ignorance or a (false) belief that it is not “their place” to address the matter. This does not mean that the lay faithful have to be shut out of praying liturgically even if they cannot participate in a formal parish setting. Although the vernacular Liturgy of the Hours has been around for decades, traditionally minded Catholics—or those who are simply not thrilled by the U.S. Catholic Church’s official translations—have mostly steered clear of it. Thankfully, a number of liturgical resources, in both Latin and English, have started to become available so as to allow the faithful—and their families—to pray with the Church even if, for now, it must be done in the privacy of the home.
Angelus Press, for example, publishes Latin/English editions of both The Divine Office (DO) and a new edition of The Little Office of the Blessed Virgin Mary (LOBVM). The DO, which follows the officially approved 1962 edition of the Breviarum Romanum, contains the texts necessary to daily recite Prime, Sext, and Compline, along with Lauds and Vespers for Sundays. Although it is praiseworthy for families to pray the Rosary in common, why not augment that practice with common recitation of a straightforward office like Compline—the historic night prayer of the Church?
For those wishing to sanctify their days in a fuller manner, the LOBVM contains all of the liturgical hours. Unlike the breviary, the Little Office does not demand knowledge of complicated rubrics nor does it undergo significant changes with the seasons. An additional upside to Angelus Press’s edition of the LOBVM is that it also contains the Office of the Dead, which is a wonderful devotion which can be prayed along with the Little Office on certain days or as a standalone liturgical offering. Once again, for those who pray with families, why not set aside one evening a week to offer Vespers for the dead for friends and family who have parted this life in faith and hope of the resurrection? Or why not dedicate time on Saturdays—or Lady’s day—to saying at least some of the Little Office in common?
This is just a sampling of what is currently available to faithful Latin Catholics wishing to link themselves spiritually to the Church’s age-old liturgical heritage. Most good hand missals, including the Angelus Press 1962 Roman Catholic Daily Missal, contain Latin/English texts for reciting Vespers and Compline on Sundays and most major feast days. If one is looking for a place to begin, there you go. For those adept at Latin, several newly set editions of the 1962 Breviarium Romanum have appeared in recent years along with St. Michael’s Abbey’s wonderful new pressing of the Monastic Diurnal which follows the Benedictine rule. There is no shortage of resources for those who wish to take advantage of them. Even if the institutional Church wishes to keep denying the public office to the faithful, the faithful need not deny themselves, and their children, of the spiritual riches of liturgical prayer.