If you’re looking for a Divine Office (Liturgy of the Hours) that is compacted into one book, then I would highly recommend the Ordinariate version called Divine Worship: Daily Office. This Ordinariate-version is approved for all lay Catholics, it’s easier to use than the standard Roman Divine Office, and it focuses on Scripture readings like a laser beam. If you want to become more literate in Scripture, and simultaneously participate in the official prayer of the Church, this is the book you want.
The new Liturgy of the Hours tries to accomplish a similar goal, but in a very different way, requiring a four book set. This is because in addition to Biblical literacy, the Liturgy of the Hours hopes to acquaint laypeople with various extra-Biblical literature as well. Overall, it’s an amazing selection of readings, however, it does have its downside. If Biblical literacy is your goal, you’re going to get more than you bargained for with the Liturgy of the Hours. Also, it can be a bit complicated to use, and requires a four-book set to do it properly. There are shorter abbreviated one-book versions called Christian Prayer and Shorter Christian Prayer, but these do not contain all the readings and can sometimes be even more complicated to use. However, with the invention of smart phones, there are some new applications that can be used to handle the page-flipping and ribbon placing for you. So I would say the Liturgy of the Hours truly comes to life for laypeople in the digital format more than anything else. The one application I recommend the most, for the Liturgy of the Hours, is $25 (US) from Universalis. It’s a bargain, considering the quality of this stand-alone application. Try it for free, and I’m sure you’ll agree it’s the best product out there for digital reading of the Liturgy of the Hours. Otherwise, you can pick up the four book set for $155 (US) from Amazon.
In contrast, the pre-1970 Roman Breviary is beautiful, but the focus is a bit more liturgically oriented, to meet the eight office readings of the day, it is more geared for clergy and religious. Nevertheless, the lay faithful can still tap into its beauty and solemnity. If you’re reading it for that reason, you won’t be disappointed. However, if your goal is Biblical literacy, and praying all 150 psalms a month, in just two readings per day, it’s just not going to happen with the pre-1970 Roman Breviary. It’s just not designed for that purpose. That doesn’t mean it’s bad, mind you, as it’s actually quite good. You just have to understand that the pre-1970 Roman Breviary was not primarily designed for use by regular laypeople, nor was it designed to be a comprehensive tool for Biblical literacy. However, if liturgical participation is your goal, either in a traditional Latin community, or in your home, then this is the set of books you need. That said, you can pick up the most complete version of it for $380 (US) in this three-book set from Baronius Press. There is also an online version of the same Breviary, which can be accessed by a subscription for $30 (US) annually. Honestly, if you’re thinking about going this route, I would try the subscription for one year until you get used to it, then maybe cancel the subscription and just buy the books.
Now the Ordinariate version the Divine Office is based on the English Patrimony, so it’s a bit different than the old Roman Breviary or the new Liturgy of the Hours. The English Patrimony focuses on Biblical literacy, and it’s more designed for use by laypeople. So the two hinges of the office (Morning Prayer and Evensong) are packed with readings from the Bible, and the Psalms are arranged in such a way as to allow the user to recite all 150 within a month, by just doing those two readings (Morning Prayer and Evensong).
The English Patrimony, sometimes called the Anglican Patrimony, is the liturgical tradition that comes from pre-Reformation England, back when England was profoundly Catholic. However, after the Reformation, the English Protestant objective was to improve Biblical literacy among laypeople. So it was decided to use the Daily Office, the English version of the Divine Office, to “kill two birds with one stone,” helping English laypeople to develop a rich liturgical life in the home and parish with Morning and Evening Prayer, while simultaneously packing these readings with chapters of Scripture. Ease and simplicity of use was paramount to this end, so the English Daily Office, from the Book of Common Prayer, simplified things as much as possible, relying heavily on commonly known prayers and collects that laypeople could recite from rote. The result was a rich liturgical devotion that is simple, easy to learn, and heavily steeped in Biblical readings.
The Ordinariates of English Patrimony, having been created by Pope Benedict XVI in 2009-2012, drew upon this version of liturgical devotion for what is called Divine Worship: Daily Office. It’s a Vatican-approved version of the Divine Office (or Liturgy of the Hours) that’s based exclusively on the English Patrimony. Any lay Catholic may use it, at any time, for any reason, to fulfill the personal devotion of prayer with the Church. Clergy and religious are bound to their liturgical books associated with their respective rites and orders. The most common one used in the West is the Liturgy of the Hours. Only priests and religious of the Ordinariates may use Divine Worship: Daily Office, but all laypeople everywhere are free to use it as they see fit, as laypeople are not bound to any particular rite or order. They are free to use whatever devotional books they like, though it is always recommended to use those that are approved by appropriate ecclesiastical authorities. Again, this particular one is approved by the Vatican directly.
Currently, you can only get this book from the U.K. Though priced in British pounds, it comes out to about $57 (US) from Catholic Truth Society (CTS). Considering the quality of this book, it’s a steal. Postage from the U.K. can be a little expensive, but it’s speedy-quick. I got mine in seven days by FedEx. That’s from Norfolk, England to Springfield, Missouri in just one week! That’s not bad for international delivery, and having placed many international orders for Catholic things, and waited weeks to months to receive them, that was money well spent for one-week delivery time.
English-speaking Catholics should really consider acquainting themselves with the English Patrimony. The Catholic Church gives a small nod toward the English Patrimony in the English translation of the 1970 Roman Missal by using Sacred English for the Lord’s Prayer.
“Our father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name… etc.”
You see, Rome has always acknowledged that English-speaking (Anglophone) people often use a special dialect of English for prayer and worship. This dialect (sometimes called Sacral English) is modeled after the archaic English that was commonly spoken English in the 14th through 17th centuries. This isn’t true in all cases, but it is true in many cases, and historically it was much more prevalent than it is today. Catholic publishers historically recognized this too, publishing English prayer books in Sacral English for centuries, as the Catholic Douay-Rheims Bible remained highly popular too, alongside Protestants using the King James Bible. So when the 1970 Missal was translated into English, the translators gave a nod to the Sacral English custom in the “Our Father” prayer.
So the English Patrimony is just like it sounds. It’s the liturgy of the Church in Sacral English. You’ll find this in Divine Worship: The Missal, which is exclusively used for the celebration of the Mass in Ordinariate parishes. You’ll also find it in Divine Worship: Daily Office, which is required for use among Ordinariate clergy and religious, but open for use to all lay Catholics everywhere. Imagine using the Sacral English for the “Our Father” prayer all across your entire devotion of Morning and Evening Prayer. That’s what this book does. The only exception to that is the Biblical readings, which are done in more contemporary English to help with reading comprehension of the Biblical lessons. A full video tutorial on how to use this book can be viewed here.
You don’t need to be a member of the Ordinariate to use this book. You don’t need to attend an Ordinariate parish either. This book, and the liturgy contained therein, is a gift to all the English-speaking people of the world. Enjoy!
Shane Schaetzel is an Evangelical convert to the Catholic Church through Anglicanism and was trained as a catechist through the University of Dayton – a Catholic Marianist Institution. Shane’s articles have been featured on LifeSiteNews, ChurchMilitant, The Remnant Newspaper, Forward in Christ, and Catholic Online. Shane is an author of Catholic books, which can be read here.