CD 297: Laity and the Divine Office

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I am trying to pray the Office each day. Should I only use the official breviary or can I use the Little Office of Our Lady?

The second Vatican Council encouraged lay people to pray the Divine Office; indeed the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy encouraged parish priests to see that Vespers are celebrated in Churches on Sundays, something that is quite rare nowadays. So it is an excellent practice for you as a lay person to pray at least a part of the Office. By doing so, you unite yourself to the whole Church in the prayer which Christ offers up as our High Priest. It is rightly called a sacrifice of praise when we pray the psalms to sanctify the hours of the day.

Priests and religious are bound to celebrate the Divine Office every day and must use the Office that is approved for them. Secular priests, for example, must use either the Liturgy of the Hours (the Office that was composed after Vatican II) or the older breviary that was approved before the Council. Lay people who are not bound to the Office may use any office that they wish. The Little Office of Our Lady has a privileged place because it is an approved office (this approval was reaffirmed after the Council.) In fact, the older form of the Little Office of Our Lady is rather longer than the Liturgy of the Hours though it is convenient in that, because it has few variations, it is contained in a smaller book. The advantage of using an approved form of the Office is that it is part of the public prayer of the Church and benefits from the communion of the whole Church in prayer.

Nowadays there are many forms of the Divine Office available on the internet and therefore usable on smartphones, tablets or e-book readers. Without getting involved in another discussion about using non-paper text, it can be admitted that many priests use such devices as a convenient way of keeping faithful to the praying of the Office without having to carry around a large book.

Catholic Dilemmas column published originally in the Catholic Herald

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