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Divine Office Forum: Office for the Dead

by Catherine Frakas 29 Mar 2002

Office for the Dead QUESTION from John K. September 12, 2001 Hello and thanks in advance for answering my question.
My question concerns the Office for the Dead. There is no mention of this office in the Genral Instruction for the Liturgy of the Hours and I have been unable to find any information on how and when this office would be said aside from All Souls Day.
For instance, in wake of the great number of souls now in need of our prayers in NY/D.C./PA would it be proper to say the Office for the Dead for these souls? What exactly must we do to say the office properly for their intentions? I do not mean how do we recite the office itself, but would we use this office instead of another and are there rubrics concerning if we may say the office in place of the normal morning/evening/OOR? Do we say the Office in addition to the regular hours or substitute the Office of the Dead in place of the regular hours? How many hours may we say and for how long may we do this? For what and whom may the office be said and what rules are there concerning the use of the Office for the Dead?
I have had this question for some time and have not had any luck finding answers. I also wish to say this office for deceased relatives and friends if possible, but do not want to go against the proper use of this office by assuming when I may say it, or if it is even proper to say in situations such as this.
I would appreciate any and all information you may be able to provide.
ANSWER by John-Paul Ignatius, OLSM on September 12, 2001 Dear Mr. John:
Your first question was posted by another reader a while back. I'll repeat my answer from then:
This turns out to be a hard question to answer. The General Instruction on the Liturgy of the Hours does not seem to address this, except No. 186 which states:
In the intercessions at evening prayer the last intention is always for the dead. Thus we can always pray for our fellow brothers and sisters in the intentions during vespers (and we can add intentions to Lauds as well.
Since the GILH does not seem to specifically address this issue, I took a look to the GIRM for direction. What are the rules for the Mass for the Dead?
In the 4th Edition of the GIRM it states:
336. The funeral Mass has first place among the Masses for the dead and may be celebrated on any day except solemnities that are days of obligation, Holy Thursday, the Easter triduum, and the Sundays of Advent, Lent, and the Easter season. 337. On the occasions of news of a death, final burial, or the first anniversary, Mass for the dead may be celebrated even on days within the Christmas octave, on obligatory memorials, and on weekdays, except Ash Wednesday and during Holy Week.
Other Masses for the dead, that is, daily Masses, may be celebrated on weekdays in Ordinary Time when there is an optional memorial or the office is of the weekday, provided such Masses are actually offered for the dead.
Barring any specific legislation that deals with the Office of the Dead in the Divine Office, I think we can use the above as a guideline. Both the Mass and the Divine Office are liturgies of the Church and thus operate on similar principles.
As for your second question it is most appropriate to say the Office for the Dead for the victims of the Terrorist Attack. As to when, use the guidelines mentioned above. I am going to say the Office of the Dead tonight.
On the issues of replacing the usual Office with the Office of the Dead, the Office of the Dead replaces the usual Office. The Office of the Dead has all seven hours available. You can say all seven hours from the Office of the Dead that is located at the back of your Breviary.
May God bring the dead into everlasting life. May our Blessed Mother comfort the families. And May God have mercy upon the souls of the terrorist.
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