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Divine Office Forum: Office of Our Lady

by Catherine Frakas 25 Feb 2002

Office of Our Lady QUESTION from Kristen on December 5, 2002 My Parish Priest encouraged me to pray the Divine Office. He told me that as a layperson I could pray ANY office that I wanted and showed me an article in Homelitic and Pastoral Review that pointed out some of the problems with the current translation. I settled on an Office of Our Lady that does all the Psalms every 2 weeks. I LOVE that Office and do not like the regular one that is in current use. Reading your answers to some other questions has made me very upset. Was my Priest wrong? Am I really required to pray the current Office? I know some 3rd order Carmelites and they pray A Little Office of Our Lady. Should they be praying the current Office instead? Since Latin is the official language of our Church, can't anyone pray the Office in Latin without special permission? We are allowed to read any translation of the Scriptures, why not the Office? And finally, since the Church is universal, why can't we pray with any Office that has been approved anywhere at any time? Thanks.
ANSWER by John-Paul Ignatius, OLSM on December 20, 2002 Dear Kristen:
The Divine Office is NOT a personal devotional prayer. Personal devotional prayers can be prayed in anyway you choose.
LITURGY is the OFFICIAL prayer of the Church and like the Liturgy of the Mass it must be said according to Liturgical Law and no one, even a priest, can make changes to liturgy.
If we are to say the Divine Office, which is the official prayer of the Church, then it must be said according to the liturgical law that applies to the Divine Office -- which means we must obey rules of rebrics and use only an approved translation.
You can pray the Latin version if you wish instead of the English Translation.
To pray the Divine Office properly we either need to use the approved Latin text OR the officially approved vernacular translation for the language that we speak.
Laity are not required to pray the Divine Office but are HIGHLY encouraged to do so. When Laity do pray the Divine Office, they must do it according to Liturgical law. The Liturgical Law takes into account laity praying the Office. The law allows some variations to account for those who pray the Office voluntarily. Thus there is no excuse for laity to ignore the Liturgical Law as it applies to the Divine Office.
But, since laity are not required to pray the Office, a layman may, as a personal devotion, use any number of abbreviations of the Divine Office -- such as in the magazine Magnificat, or translations of prayers not approved for the Divine Office by the Holy See.
But when doing these personal devotional variations one must realize that he is NOT participating in the Prayer of the Church (Divine Office).
If we pray the Divine Office in the way it is meant to be prayed then we pray it we are praying with the ENTIRE Church.
If we pray a personal devotional prayer, like the rosary or a devotional version of the Divine Office, then we are not praying with the entire Church, but are praying personally before God.
Such personal devotions are great and are honored by God, but it is not the real Office.
The General Instruction for the Liturgy of the Hours, which gives the binding liturgical law for the Divine Office states:

20. The liturgy of the hours, like other liturgical services, is not a private matter but belongs to the whole Body of the Church, whose life it both expresses and affects.
The Congregation for Religious (1955) encouraged the use of a new Office of Our Lady, a full breviary, prepared by the Monks of the Abbey of En Calcat in France. This Office of Our Lady included the entire Psalter prayed over two weeks, a full seasonal and sanctoral cycle, and very importantly, daily readings.
In Vatican II, the Constitution on the Liturgy declared that the Little Office of Our Lady, whether prayed out of obligation of a religious or voluntarily by the laity, were now to be classified as liturgical prayer, and those who prayed them would be participating in the official liturgy of the hours of the church.
So praying the Little Office, can be said instead of the standard Divine Office and STILL be considered participating in the Prayer of the Church.
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