Tuesday, July 4, 2017

How to Pray the Divine Office in Latin

How to Pray the Divine Office in Latin

What is the Divine Office?

Praying throughout marked intervals throughout the day is the ancient and revered custom of the Catholic Church. This is the Divine Office and the book that contains it is called the Roman Breviary(usually printed in 2 or 3 volumes). The new revised version after the Second Vatican Council is commonly called the Liturgy of the Hours (LOTH printed in 4 volumes).

Traditionally the hours were as follows:

  • Matins (midnight)
  • Lauds (before sunrise)
  • Prime (6am)
  • Terce (9am)
  • Sext (12pm)
  • None (3pm)
  • Vespers (evening)
  • Compline (bedtime)

After the Second Vatican Council, the hours were reduced to the following arrangement in the Liturgy of the Hours (LOTH):

1. Office of Readings (formerly Matins – now at any time) 2. Lauds (morning) Prime is now suppressed and gone 3. Midday Prayer – only one of the following is required: Terce (9am) Sext (12pm) None (3pm) 4. Vespers (evening) 5. Compline (bedtime)
What are the other differences? The older Divine Office is on a weekly Psalm cycle (all 150 Psalms are prayed in one week). The new LOTH is on a monthly Psalm cycle; however, the LOTH drops some of the Psalms because they are deemed scandalous. This is the #1 reason why I don’t care for the LOTH.
There is one advantage to the LOTH that I really like, and this is that its Office of Readings has a much simpler set of readings (one from the Bible and one from the Fathers or magisterial documents). I find that the second readings are always rich and edifying.

So you have to decide whether you want to follow the traditional arrangement (8 intervals) or the newer arrangement (5 intervals).

What I have done in the past is pray the older 8 intervals of the Roman Breviary, but I use the LOTH Office of Readings for my midnight Matins. This allows me to use a “diurnal” throughout the day. I’ll say something about what a diurnal is below.

I have prayed LOTH for a long while and I gradually transferred over to the older arrangement in Latin. So how do you do this?

Two Proposed Game Plans to Get Started

If you have no experience in praying the Hours, I suggest the following “training plan”:

There are two ways to start off:

Plan A: Be traditional and pray the 1961 Edition of the Little Office of the Blessed Virgin Mary (English and Latin text) for 6 months. The arrangement and rubrics are super easy and it shorter than the full 1961 Divine Office – hence it is the “Little Office.” Just click the link to the left and you’ll get the best and most beautiful version of the Little Office. I’ve researched it and this is THE best version out there. As I’ve said before, I love Barionius Press products.

You can figure out how to use the Little Office in about 20 minutes. It has the English and Latin next to each other. I’d recommend that you pray the English for 2 months and by then you’ll have a good bulk of it memorised in English. Then start doing the Latin if you have a background in it.

Plan B: If you want only use English and want to conform to the Vatican 2 reforms, pray the current LOTH. If you want to eventually go to Latin or a more traditional form, the LOTH can be helpful to give you a “feel” for what the Office is all about.

How to Fit in All These Prayers into Your Workday?

Okay, so now that you’ve got a plan, how do you do it?

The key is “frontloading” Matins and Lauds. Traditionally, Matins and Lauds were prayed together without interruption. So wake up in the middle of the night (e.g. 2am) or early in the morning (5:30am) and pray Matins/Lauds (1961 Little Office) or Readings/Morning Prayer (LOTH).

Prime Before Work

After you wake up, shower, get dressed: pray Prime. If you’re doing LOTH, Prime is suppressed so don’t worry about it. Personally, I think Prime is a fantastic little prayer.

Midday Prayers During the Work Day

When you get to work, find a time to pray Terce, Sext, and None or just Midday (LOTH). You can pray them together or break them up. I like to break them up, but I don’t often get the chance to do this. Sometimes they get lumped together. These will take about 4 minutes each. So you can sneak them in almost anywhere – either together or apart as is the intention. Just make sure that you do them at the same time and same place every day to make a firm habit.

Squeezing in Vespers/Evening Prayer

I’m a father of six and a husband of one and I have found the most difficult time of prayer to be Vespers. Before dinner there is homework, sports, dinner preparations. After dinner are baths, pyjamas, tooth brushing, family Rosary, etc. There just isn’t a place to pray Vespers.
So what I do is either pray Vespers in my car in the parking lot before leaving work (it’s quiet and nobody bothers me) or I just group it with Compline. If you do this, then before bed I pray Vespers and then go right into Compline.

Timing Compline (pray it with your spouse)

My wife and I pray Compline every night together. It’s great. We’re too tired to come up with any prayers on our own. Compline becomes our familiar nightly prayer. It also includes an examination of conscience so it’s a perfect completion of the day. If you want to be really old school and Benedictine, Compline is the same every night so after you have it memorized, you don’t even need a book. You can even turn out the lights and pray it by heart.

Taking it to the Next Level: Latin

So after you’ve been praying the Divine Office for awhile, you may want to upgrade from the Little Office of the Blessed Virgin Mary (1961) or from the LOTH.

There are two routes you can go.

You can go full out 1961 Roman Breviary in 2 volumes. This has no English – just Latin. Be ready to shell out about $300. Yikes.

But if you want to do the 1961 Office for free. I recommend this website: Officium Divinium. Set the rubrics to “Rubrics 1960” and you’ll be good to go. It even has the Douay-Rheims in English next to the Latin. I use this site as my crutch during Matins at night. Best of all it’s free. If you own an iPad – congratulations, with this site you now have a Latin Breviary with parallel Latin and English!

The other option is the Monastic Diurnal of St Michael’s Abbey. It has English and Latin next to each other. A “diurnal” is the Divine Office for the “day.” So it has everything except for the night office of Matins. A Catholic diurnal contains the 7 offices of: Prime, Terce, Sext, None, Vespers, and Compline. I own this and I like it. It’s a beautiful book.

You can also get the 1961 Brevarium Romanum Diurnal, but it is Latin only…no English.
Now, Baronius Press is working on a long-awaited 1961 Brevarium with English/Latin parallel (including Matins). This will be the obvious “winner” and go-to book when it eventually comes out. It will also be very expensive.

For the time being, I use a combination of the Divinium Officium website on my iPhone/iPad and the Monastic Diurnal for daily offices. In a pinch or when praying publicly with others, I happily pray the LOTH in English. If I’m out and about, I still use the Little of Office of the BVM, for which I still have great love and devotion

A Note About Latin Psalms

The Divine Office is essentially praying the Book of Psalms. If you’re into Latin and chant, you need to be aware of the 3 common Latin Psalters out there:

  1. Clementine or Gallican Vulgate Psalter(the classic medieval Psalms – this is the only one you want to use!)
  2. Pian or Bea Psalter (revised Hebraicized Psalter of Cardinal Bea – found in many printed Breviaries from 1945 till 1970 – don’t use this)
  3. Neo-Vulgate Psalter (version found in Latin LOTH)

If you’re praying the LOTH, you’re stuck with the Neo-Vulgate. Sorry.

If you’re praying the traditional office in Latin, you’ll need to be discerning about which Latin Psalms you’re praying and memorizing. Many so-called “traditional” Latin breviaries (especially the used ones on eBay) have the 1945 Pian/Bea Psalter. Don’t buy a breviary that says “Pian Psalter.”

You can’t chant communally with the Pian/Bea Psalter and most serious religious communities that use the Latin have gone back to the good ol’ Clementine or Gallican Vulgate Psalter. The Gallican Vulgate Psalter is the version that echoed throughout the cathedrals and monasteries of medieval Europe.
I’d love to here some tips and advice from others who are trying to prayer regularly. It’s a struggle, but also a blessing (isn’t that how all good things are?).



The Russian Republic of Dagestan, which translates as "land of the mountains", is situated in Russia's turbulent North Caucasus with Chechnya and Georgia to the west, Azerbaijan to the south and the Caspian Sea to the east.

So high are its peaks in some places that certain areas are accessible only by helicopter. The republic is also famed for its ethnic and linguistic diversity, being home to more than 30 languages.

Several dozen Muslim peoples have settled among the high valleys over the centuries.

The Avars form the largest ethnic group and account for about a fifth of the population. A further substantial proportion is made up of Dargins, Kumyks and Lezgins. About 10 per cent are ethnic Russians. There are also Laks, Tabasarans and Nogai, to name but a few of the other significant groups.

At A Glance

Politics: Dagestan's politics is dominated by the need to balance its many ethnic groups. A long-running militant Islamist insurgency is a thorn in the authorities' side

Economics: Dagestan has oil reserves and a strong manufacturing sector, but rampant corruption and organised crime hold back growth

The republic's constitution declares the protection of the interests of all of Dagestan's peoples to be a fundamental principle. It is a delicate balance to maintain, in what is Russia's most ethnically diverse province.

The republic has oil and gas reserves and also the fisheries potential offered by a share in the resources of the Caspian Sea. However, it is prey to organized crime and regional instability. The crime barons may prosper but the people are amongst the poorest in Russia.


Dagestan was the birth place of Imam Shamil, the legendary fighter who in the 19th century spearheaded fierce resistance by tribesmen of Chechnya and Dagestan to the spread of the Russian empire. His name is still revered by many in both republics.

Federal troops were deployed to repel incursions by Chechen militants in the 1990s

When the Bolsheviks sought to enforce control in the Caucasus in the early 1920s, Dagestan became an autonomous Soviet republic within the Russian Federation. During the Stalinist period, its peoples escaped the mass deportation inflicted on their Chechen neighbours and many others.

After the fall of the Soviet Union, the republic's authorities stayed loyal to Russia, but the region became infamous for its lawlessness and corruption. Organised crime is reported to flourish and kidnappings and violence are commonplace. Firearms are ubiquitous and assassinations are a regular event.

Moscow blames much of this on Chechen-based separatism, but others say lust for profit, combined with a gun culture, is the root cause.

Budennovsk and beyond

In the 1990s, separatist warlords from neighbouring Chechen openly led armed operations in Dagestan on several occasions. In 1995 and 1996, they seized hundreds of hostages in hospitals in the Dagestani towns of Budennovsk and Kizlyar. Scores died in the attacks.

Dagestan's Muslims, who tend to follow sufism combined with local tradition, generally steered clear of Chechen-style separatism, but after the late 1990s, radical and militant elements said to be linked with the more fundamentalist wahhabist tendency began to gain in influence.

In August 1999, an Islamic body declared an independent state in parts of Dagestan and Chechnya, and called on Muslims to take up arms against Russia in a holy war.

Chechen fighters crossed into Dagestan in support, but within a few weeks, Russian forces had suppressed the insurrection.

The republic has seen numerous bombings targeted at the Russian military stationed in the republic.

Russia accused Dagestani militant Magomed Vagabov of being behind an attack on the Moscow metro by two female suicide bombers from Dagestan in March 2010, in which 39 people died. In August 2010, Russian forces killed Vagabov in Dagestan

1) What are Chechnya and Dagestan?

The most basic answer is that they're two federal subdivisions of Russia, both in the country's far southwest. They're small, mountainous, predominantly Muslim and have been marked by years of conflict and independence movements.

The regions are known for their diversity and scenic beauty, but they've also sadly become famous as flashpoints of internal Russian conflict.

2) Why is there conflict in Chechnya and Dagestan?

To understand that you have to know that it's been almost 200 years since they were independent. In the early 1800s, Russian Tzar Nicholas I led an invasion of the Caucasus, including the regions we now know as Chechnya and Dagestan. After decades of fighting, they were incorporated into Imperial Russia, and have been under some form of Russian rule ever since.

Chechnya, and to a lesser extent Dagestan, have periodically rebelled against Moscow in a sometimes-violent effort to secure independence. Some of this violence has been led by separatists and some by "jihadists" who profess an extreme version of Islam. Some of it has been directed at local, pro-Moscow governments, some of it at people in Moscow itself and, during some of the worst years after the fall of the Soviet Union, against Russian troops sent to the region to put down the uprisings.

3) Was There A War in the 1990s?

Two wars, actually. The First Chechen War began in 1994. A few years earlier, when the Soviet Union dissolved and its various regions either seceded or negotiated their place in the new Russian Federation, Moscow's talks with Chechen representatives fell apart. Nationalist movements had been gaining momentum in Chechnya for years, some of them armed, and in 1991 a former Soviet Air Force general maneuvered his way into becoming the president of Chechnya, after which he quickly declared independence. Three years later, Russia sent tens of thousands of troops to invade and retake Chechnya.

The First Chechen War, which lasted almost two years, was brutal: Fighting claimed thousands of lives, including many civilians. Chechen groups devolved into insurgencies; Russian troops were accused by human rights groups of summarily executing men in their homes, firing deliberately into civilian areas and, according to one Human Rights Watch report, leading a "massacre" in the town of Samashki that the United Nations says ended in more than 100 civilian deaths. Eventually, Russia retook Chechnya.

The first war and its aftermath, according to a report by the International Crisis Group, "transformed the nationalist cause into an Islamist one, with a jihadi component." Jihadist groups started to rise in influence and, in 1999, a Chechnya-based group invaded the neighboring Russian region of Dagestan. They seized several villages, declared war against Moscow and said Dagestan was now an independent Islamic state. Once again, Russian troops moved in.

The Second Chechen War, like the first, took thousands of lives, including many civilians, leveled wide swathes of the country and was marked by allegations of horrific human rights abuses on both sides. Though the war lasted less than a year, it bled into neighboring Dagestan, as did the decade of insurgency and military presence that followed.

4)Is The War Over Now?

Not really, no. Low-level rebel violence persists in the region, according to the Crisis Group, and Chechnya is now run by a leader known for his allegiance to Moscow, consolidation of power and sometimes severe crackdowns, none of which have exactly dispelled the underlying issues that led to the wars in the first place. Jihadist groups continue to operate there.

Dagestan has never had quite as tough a time as Chechnya, but it has struggled with insecurity and violence, which scaled up significantly in 2010.

The violence and extremism have spread beyond Chechnya and Dagestan. In 2002, fighters who claimed to represent Islamist Chechen separatists seized a crowded theater in Moscow, taking hundreds of civilians hostage. In a microcosm of the larger conflict, Russian forces responded by pumping the theatre full of a toxic gas that killed 130 of the hostages. All of the militants were killed. In 2010, two women believed to be Chechen Islamist rebels bombed the Moscow subway, killing 40.

Depending on who you ask, the reason for the violence has either changed dramatically over the past 200 years, swaying from separatism to nationalism to Islamism to general lawlessness, or it's been part of a consistent struggle to break free from Moscow's rule.

It's hard to separate the two, particularly given Chechnya's and Dagestan's long and traumatic histories with Moscow. After Chechen insurgents tried and failed to win independence during World War II, for example, Joseph Stalin approved a plan to forcibly relocate more than 400,000 Chechens, sprinkling them throughout the vast Soviet Union and undermining the very idea of a distinct Chechen identity. (Some of them ended up in Kyrgyzstan, which may explain why one of the Tsarnaevs was reportedly born there.) And that 1940's rebellion was itself a partial response to Imperial Russia's deportation of 100,000 Chechens a generation earlier.

7) So whom do we blame for the violence? Is it Moscow or Jihadists?

It's not that simple. First of all, whatever the Boston Marathon suspects believed and whomever they blamed, the Caucasus conflict has too complicated a history to be pinned on any one group or ideology.

One writer has called the conflict with Moscow "a circular pattern of marginalisation, violent rebellion, and deportation that consumed the peoples of the North Caucasus."

A second Crisis Group report, calling the Caucasus conflict the most violent in Europe, explained, "The root causes of violence are as much about ethnicity, state capacity and the region’s poor integration into Russia as about religion."

It's about identity, about law and order or its absence. It's about the still-unresolved questions about Chechnya and Dagestan's place within but still distinct from the larger Russian state. It's really, really complicated.

8) Are things improving in Chechnya and Dagestan at all?

Things are not nearly as bad as they were a decade ago but, as the Crisis Group warned in its two 2012 reports that militant attacks are still a regular part of life, often against police or government targets; jihadist groups still operate in small numbers in the region; and, of course, the 2010 Moscow subway bombing was only three years ago. Neither the regional governments nor Moscow appear to be trying to solve the underlying issues so much as tamp down the extremism and violence.

This line from the second Crisis Group report is almost haunting in its potential prescience: "These harsh measures [by the Russian and Caucasus governments] do little to convince radicalised parts of the population to give their allegiance to the Russian state. They seem instead to stimulate a new generation of disillusioned youth to 'join the forest' (go over to the insurgency) in search of revenge or a different political order."

9) What's The Big Takeaway?

The conflict in Chechnya and Dagestan is relatively quiet right now, but has been ongoing in some form or another for almost 200 years.

The issues at the heart of the conflict remain: Chechens and other peoples in the Caucasus region are struggling to retain an identity distinct from the larger Russian mass; Moscow and the pro-Moscow government in Chechnya are working to tamp down extremism and violence rather than address the underlying grievances; extremism and jihadism are filling the void left by two awful wars in the 1990s; and young people feel dispossessed and prosperity has not really arrived.

None of this necessarily means that the Chechen and Dagestan conflicts will define or "explain" what happened at the Boston Marathon, but as more biographical details emerge linking these two young suspects to a restive and little-understood part of the world, it can't hurt to better understand what's happening there and why it's been so troubled.

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