How To Use St. Gregory’s Prayer Book
St. Gregory was the name of the pope (Pope St. Gregory the Great) who dispatched St. Augustine of Canterbury to convert the English in AD 595. The St. Gregory’s Prayer Book (SGPB), available directly from Ignatius Press and most book retailers, is a prayer book designed for all English-speaking Christians, using Sacred English exclusively, and approved for Catholic devotion by Bishop Steven J. Lopes of the Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter. The prayer book is also useful for non-Catholic devotion by English-speaking Christians who seek greater connection to Medieval Christianity from the tradition of the British Isles. Following in the footsteps of the Anglican Saint Augustine’s Prayer Book, the SGPB is a much more comprehensive text, including an abbreviated version of the Daily Office, and abbreviated Coverdale’s Psalter, as well as the Collects from the English Patrimony. The SGPB contains the ordinary (people’s portion) of the Divine Worship Mass, according to the Ordinariate usage, an guide to confession, and a plethora of private devotions, all connected to Medieval English Christianity in one way or another. The book is designed to be an all-in-one, comprehensive companion that easily integrates into the life of Catholics attached to the Ordinariates of English Patrimony, English-speaking Catholics seeking more traditional devotion and all Christians who appreciate the Medieval traditions of Christianity in England.
The cornerstone of the best English prayer books is the Daily Office. The SGPB takes this into special consideration, as it’s designed to contain an abbreviated version tailored for the laity, specifically for busy families who don’t have the time for the full Daily Office regularly prayed by the clergy. The idea behind the SGPB is to provide a quick abbreviated version of the Daily Office, which is short enough for busy families to use while taking care of children, but long enough to be meaningful and in keeping with the tradition of the English Patrimony…
- Turn to page 54 of the SGPB.
- Say the black text out loud, and do the red text. Whenever encountering a red +, make the sign of the cross.
- The Psalter begins on page 83. This is an abbreviated selection of psalms. You may pray any one (or more) as you like. Or you may do as I’ve done and number each psalm (1-30) for each day of the month, repeating the last Psalm if there is a 31st day. Once you’ve completed your selection of psalm(s), say the Doxology (Glory Be…) and return to page 54 for the rest of Morning Prayer.
- On page 56, the option to pray the Daily Collect is given. The Daily Collects begin on page 103, and follow the liturgical calendar of both the Ordinariates within the Catholic Church, and High Church Anglicanism. Special Collects for Saints and Holy Days begin on Page 121. Once you’ve prayed the appropriate Collect, return to Morning Prayer on page 56.
- Pray one or more of the remaining Collects on pages 56-57, and conclude with the last prayer “May the Almighty and Merciful Lord +…” The End.
- Turn to page 64 of the SGPB.
- Say the black text out loud, and do the red text. Whenever encountering a red +, make the sign of the cross.
- The Psalter begins on page 83. This is an abbreviated selection of psalms. You may pray any one (or more) as you like. Or you may do as I’ve done and number each psalm (1-30) for each day of the month, repeating the last Psalm if there is a 31st day. Once you’ve completed your selection of psalm(s), say the Doxology (Glory Be…) and return to page 65 for the rest of Evening Prayer.
- On page 66, the option to pray the Daily Collect is given. The Daily Collects begin on page 103, and follow the liturgical calendar of both the Ordinariates within the Catholic Church, and High Church Anglicanism. Special Collects for Saints and Holy Days begin on Page 121. Once you’ve prayed the appropriate Collect, return to Evening Prayer on page 66.
- Pray one or more of the remaining Collects on pages 66, and conclude with the last prayer “+ May the souls of the faithful departed…” The End.
Compline (Night Prayer)
A complete Order of Compline, for one night, is provided on pages 68 – 82. Just say the black text and do the red text. Compline is provided here, with the mindset that busy parents have already put their children to bed, and might on occasion wish to pray a full portion of the Daily Office. This Order of Compline is provided to satisfy that occasion.
Additionally, many other daily devotions are provided, for those too busy to organize an Office version of prayer as outlined above, or those who wish to add to the Office version with shorter prayers as time permits. Pages 45 – 53 provide short prayers (based on the Office) for each day of the week and various times of the day. One could easily select a prayer for the day of the week on pages 45 – 47, and use it for the morning upon rising. Then, as time permits, add to it throughout the day with prayers from pages 48 – 53. The instructions will direct you based on what time the prayers should be said. Just do as many, or as few, as you like. This selection of prayers is great for people who are super busy, or who don’t like their prayer lives to be too organized or liturgical. It keeps one grounded to the liturgy of Medieval English Christianity, without functioning like a liturgical text. It’s just prayers for the days of the week, and times of the day. That’s it.
A selection of one-line Arrow Prayers is provided on pages 40 – 43, designed to cover most times and situations in life. These can be easily memorized by those interested.
A section for confession and examination of conscience is provided on pages 205 – 217. This will be suitable for all Catholics, as well as some Anglicans, Methodists and even Lutherans.
Pages 219 – 240 provide prayer for before and after the liturgy of the Holy Mass.
Pages 241 – 247 provide a follow-along people’s version of the Holy Mass, which allows for easy participation, without being bogged down in page-turning to find various readings and prayers. This allows the reader to have quick access to the portions of the Mass needed for the people’s responses, while listening to the rest of the liturgy, which is the intention of the liturgy to begin with. The Mass is designed to be “heard,” not followed in a book. Busy families won’t have time for reading a Missal during Mass anyway. Most are preoccupied with the needs of their children.
Pages 249 – 263 provide devotions for Eucharistic Adoration and visits to the blessed Sacrament.
The rest of the SGPB provides a large volume of private devotions, each of various types, all in Sacred English. The purpose of Sacred English is to provide a simple and comprehensible prayer language for Christians who speak English fluently. It originally derives from archaic English, which is no longer used in the modern world. While not intended to be a replacement for Latin, Greek or Hebrew, it is a form of English that is easily accessible to English-speakers without much training. In fact, all the training you need is right here…
- Thou (second person singular for “you,” used as the subject of a sentence)
- Thee (second person singular for “you,” used as the object of a sentence)
- Thy (second person singular, for “your,” used in the possessive)
- Ye (second person plural, for “you”, used as the subject of a sentence)
- You (always second person plural, used as the object of a sentence)
- Your (always second person plural, used in the possessive)
- -est (added as the suffix of a verb in reference to the action of a second person or persons)
- -eth (added as the suffix of a verb in reference to the action of a third person or persons)
That’s the basics. When you say thou, thee or thy, just remember, you’re always addressing just one person. If you say ye, you or your, you’re always addressing more than one person. The easiest way to remember when to use -est or -eth, is to remember the -est is for second person, because there is an “s” in it, while -eth is for third person, because there is a “th” in it.
If you can remember these basic concepts, you are now ready for prayer and liturgy in Sacred English. The concept of Sacred English as a prayer language, hearkens back to the use of Latin, Greek and Hebrew as prayer languages. Because the SGPB is primarily a Catholic book (because the Ordinariates are Catholic, and so was medieval England), it does provide copies of some common prayers in Latin. Everyone knows that Latin is the official prayer language of the Roman Catholic Church, while Greek is the official prayer language of some Eastern Catholics and many Eastern Orthodox. Hebrew is the official prayer language of Judaism. Having a specific prayer language, like Sacred English for example, sets aside prayer as something special and set-apart from daily life in the modern world. It says: “this time is different, this space is different, my words are different, what I’m doing is different.” It’s a way of saying to yourself, to God, and the world, that what you’re doing right now is different and special. You’re talking to God. So you’re not using the same kind of language you would use to talk to your family, friends, neighbors, coworkers or people on the street. This is why some Catholic priests chant in Latin, some Orthodox priests chant in Greek, and Jewish rabbis chant in Hebrew. These are prayer languages. English has a special form too, Sacred English (based on Archaic English), which is now used just as a prayer language. Some people might occasionally use it for poetry, song or plays. Even then, however, it just further demonstrates that this language is something different, something out of the ordinary, and that’s the point.
Pages 299 – 301 contain a special English devotion of contemplation on the Five Wounds of Christ, based on Our Lady of Walsingham, which utilizes standard rosary beads. While pages 333 – 342 feature the traditional devotions of the Holy Rosary. Pages 355 – 366 feature specific devotions to Our Lady of Walsingham. These all come from Medieval England, and are centered around a Marian apparition that happened in AD 1061, which became a major site of European pilgrimage during the later Middle Ages. European Christians, who could not travel safely to Jerusalem for pilgrimage, would often choose to travel to Walsingham instead. The trip was much safer, as it avoided all Muslim occupied territories, and it was highly esteemed by nobility and royalty, as well as commoners and peasants. It remained an extremely popular pilgrimage site until it was destroyed by the servants of the Protestant King Henry VIII. It has since been revived as a pilgrimage site in recent centuries.
Beyond that, the SGPB is filled with prayers of various types which would be very familiar to both Catholics and Anglicans alike. Many of them come from the Book of Common Prayer. Many come from Catholic prayer books of all types. The entire thing, cover to cover, is written in Sacred English to set it apart from modern life. It’s a highly useful text, designed to perfectly complement Ordinariate life within the Catholic Church, but it also provides one of the most traditional devotions in the English language for all Catholics, as well as non-Catholic Christians interested in Medieval English Christianity. The St. Gregory’s Prayer Book (SGPB) is available directly from Ignatius Press and most book retailers.