Dubia Regarding the Obligation to Pray the Liturgy of the Hours
On November 15, 2000, Cardinal Jorge Medina Estιvez, Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, after consulting with the Congregation for the Clergy, published the following dubia concerning the obligation of clerics to pray the Liturgy of the Hours (Prot. No. 2330/00/L). The original text appears in Latin and Spanish, and is offered here in an unofficial English translation for the benefit of our readers.
The integral and daily celebration of the Liturgy of the Hours is, for priests and deacons on the way to the priesthood, a substantial part of their ecclesial ministry.
Only an impoverished vision would look at this responsibility as a mere fulfilling of a canonical obligation, even though it is such, and not keep in mind that the sacramental ordination confers on the deacon and on the priest a special office to lift up to the one and triune God praise for His goodness, for His sovereign beauty, and for his merciful design for our supernatural salvation. Along with praise, priests and deacons present before the Divine Majesty a prayer of intercession so as to worthily respond to the spiritual and temporal necessities of the Church and all humanity.
The sacrificium laudis (sacrifice of praise) is realized above all in the celebration of the Most Holy Eucharist, but it is prepared for and is continued in the celebration of the Liturgy of the Hours (Cf. GILH, 12), whose principal form is the communal recitation either in a community of clerics or of religious, with the participation of the faithful, however, being very desirable.
Nevertheless, the Liturgy of the Hours, also called the Divine Office or Breviary, in no way lacks efficacy when it is recited alone, or in a certain private manner, because even in this case, "these prayers are realized privately but they do not ask for private things" (Gilbertus de Holland, Sermo XXIII in Cant., P.L. 184, 120).
In effect, even in similar circumstances, these prayers do not constitute a private act but rather form part of the public worship of the Church, in such a way that upon reciting the Hours, the sacred minister fulfills his ecclesial duty: the priest or deacon who in the intimacy of the Church, or of an oratory, or his residence, gives himself over to the celebration of the Divine Office effects, even when there may be no one who is accompanying him, an act which is eminently ecclesial in the name of the Church and in favor of all the Church, and inclusive of all humanity. The Roman Pontifical reads:
"Are you resolved to maintain and deepen a spirit of prayer appropriate to your way of life and, in keeping with what is required of you, to celebrate faithfully the Liturgy of the Hours for the Church and for the whole world?" (Cf. Roman Pontifical, Rite of the Ordination of Deacons).
Thus, in the same rite of diaconal ordination, the sacred minister asks for and receives from the Church the mandate of the recitation of the Liturgy of the Hours, which mandate pertains, therefore, to the orbit of ministerial responsibilities of the ordained, and goes beyond that of his personal piety. Sacred ministers, along with the Bishops, find themselves joined in the ministry of intercession for the People of God who have been entrusted to them, as they were to Moses (Ex 17, 8-16), to the Apostles (1 Tim 2, 1-6) and to the same Jesus Christ "who is at the right hand of the Father and intercedes for us" (Rom 8, 34). Similarly, the General Instruction of the Liturgy of the Hours, no. 108 states: "Those who pray the psalms in the liturgy of the hours do so not so much in their own name as in the name of the entire Body of Christ."
In the same manner, number 29 of the same General Instruction states: "Hence, bishops, priests and deacons aspiring to the priesthood, who have received from the Church the mandate to celebrate the Liturgy of the Hours (see no. 17) are bound by the obligation of reciting the full sequence of the hours each day, observing as far as possible the true time of each day."
The Code of Canon Law, for its part, establishes in canon 276, §2.3, that: "Priests and deacons aspiring to the presbyterate are obliged to carry out the Liturgy of the Hours daily according to the proper and approved liturgical books; permanent deacons, however, are to carry out the same to the extent defined by the conference of bishops."
Having presented above the necessary background, we can now respond to the questions that were asked in the following form:
Question #1: What is the mind of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments regarding the extension of the obligation of celebration or reciting daily the Liturgy of the Hours?
Response: Those who have been ordained are morally bound, in virtue of the same ordination they have received, to the celebration or the entire and daily recitation of the Divine Office such as is canonically established in canon 276, § 2, n. 3 of the CIC, cited previously. This recitation does not have for its part the nature of a private devotion or of a pious exercise realized by the personal will alone of the cleric but rather is an act proper to the sacred ministry and pastoral office.
Question #2: Is the obligation sub gravi extended to the entire recitation of the Divine Office?
Response: The following must be kept in mind:
- A serious reason, be it of health, or of pastoral service in ministry, or of an act of charity, or of fatigue, not a simple inconvenience, may excuse the partial recitation and even the entire Divine Office, according to the general principal that establishes that a mere ecclesiastical law does not bind when a serious inconvenience is present;
- The total or partial omission of the Office due to laziness alone or due to the performance of activities of unnecessary diversion, is not licit, and even more so, constitutes an underestimation, according to the gravity of the matter, of the ministerial office and of the positive law of the Church;
- To omit the Hours of Morning Prayer (Lauds) and Evening Prayer (Vespers) requires a greater reason still, given that these Hours are the "double hinge of the daily Office" (SC 89);
- If a priest must celebrate Mass several times on the same day or hear confessions for several hours or preach several times on the same day, and this causes him fatigue, he may consider, with tranquility of conscience, that he has a legitimate excuse for omitting a proportionate part of the Office;
- The proper Ordinary of the priest or deacon can, for a just or serious reason, according to the case, dispense him totally or partially from the recitation of the Divine Office, or commute it to another act of piety (as, for example, the Holy Rosary, the Stations of the Cross, a biblical or spiritual reading, a time of mental prayer reasonably prolonged, etc.).
Response: The answer must be given in parts, to clarify the diverse cases.
- The "Office of Readings" does not have a strict time assigned, and may be celebrated at any hour, and it can be omitted if there exists one of the reasons signaled out in the answer indicated under number 2 above. According to custom, the Office of Readings, may be celebrated any time beginning with the evening hours or nighttime hours of the previous day, after Evening Prayer (Vespers) (Cf. GILH, 59).
- The same holds true for the "intermediate hours," which, nevertheless, have no set time for their celebration. For their recitation, the time that intervenes between morning and afternoon should be observed. Outside of choir, of the three hours, Mid-Morning Prayer (Tertia), Mid-Day Prayer, (Sexta) and Mid-Afternoon Prayer (Nona), it is fitting to select one of these three, the one that more easily corresponds to the time of day, so that the tradition of praying during the day, in the midst of working, be maintained (Cf. GILH, 77).
- By itself, Morning Prayer (Lauds) should be recited during the morning hours and Evening Prayer (Vespers) during the evening hours, as the names of these parts of the Office indicate. If someone cannot recite Morning Prayer (Lauds) in the morning, he has the obligation of reciting it as soon thereafter as possible. In the same way, if Evening Prayer (Vespers) cannot be recited during the evening hours, it must be recited as soon thereafter as possible (SC 89). In other words, the obstacle, which impedes the observation of the "true time of the hours", is not by itself a cause that excuses the recitation either of Morning Prayer (Lauds) or of Evening Prayer (Vespers), because it is a question of the "Principal Hours" (SC, 89) which "merit the greatest esteem" (GILH, 40).
BCL Executive Director Named Chaplain to the Holy Father
The Executive Director of the Secretariat for the Liturgy has been named a chaplain of his Holiness, Pope John Paul II, with the title of "Monsignor." Monsignor James P. Moroney, a priest of the Diocese of Worcester, has served as the Executive Director of the Secretariat since September of 1996.
>Rev. Michael Spillane Resigns as FDLC Executive Director
The Chairman of the Federation of Diocesan Liturgical Commissions (FDLC), Rev. John H. Burton, announced that at the end of 2002, Rev. Michael Spillane would resign his post as Executive Director of the FDLC. Since 1986, he has served with distinction under eight boards of directors and seven chairmen. Not only did he guide the day-to-day operations of the FDLC, in particular by introducing computerization, but he was also closely involved with an exhaustive self-study undertaken by the Board of Directors in 1993. This study produced the present by -laws as well as a renewed National Process. Both the Executive Director and Chairman of the FDLC attend the plenary meetings of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. As the Executive Director, Fr. Spillane worked closely with the Secretariat for the Liturgy and was an ex officio member of the Bishops' Committee on the Liturgy. His liturgical knowledge, pleasant manner and dedication to the realization of the liturgical reform in America were valued by all. The FDLC so treasures the work of Fr. Spillane that it has announced that he will receive the Frederick J. McManus award this year. We express our gratitude to Father Spillane and we wish him all the best !
FDLC Seeks New Director
The Federation of Diocesan Liturgical Commissions (FDLC), a national Catholic nonprofit organization located in northeast Washington, D.C. is seeking an Executive Director. Responsibilities include attending to the administration of the FDLC national office in Washington, D.C. the preparation and oversight of the annual FDLC budget, the tracking of membership and dues, the oversight of external and internal publications, the editing/publishing the FDLC newsletter, collaboration with the USCCB and BCL, the maintenance of communications with other national organizations, organization of national meetings and workshops, and networking with the Board of Directors and diocesan worship directors. Candidates should have the following qualifications: be practicing Catholic, and have strong administrative and managerial skills, very good communication and contract negotiation skills, computer literacy, liturgical knowledge and the ability to travel. Salary and benefits negotiable. Equal opportunity employer. Send resume to Joan Turel, Diocese of Scranton, 300 Wyoming Avenue, Scranton, Pa. 18503. E-mail to: Joan Turel@AOL.com.
ICEL Executive Secretary Resigns
Dr. John R. Page, Ph.D., has resigned as Executive Secretary of the International Commission on English in the Liturgy, effective Aug. 15, 2002. In the twelve years he served the commission, Page has been known as a man dedicated to the task of liturgical reform. ICEL began in the 1960's as the bishops of English-speaking countries throughout the world met to collaborate in implementing the mandate of Vatican II to provide liturgical texts in English. Dr. Page's focus on the preparation of texts which have enriched the prayer of the People of God in many countries has earned him the admiration of his peers. In addition, Page's assistance in the revision of the constitution of the episcopal board, which consists of one bishop from each of the 11 bishops' conferences that sponsor ICEL, has been invaluable. The countless hours spent in the often tedious task of translation speak to his great desire to serve the liturgy. His courteous and professional manner, his attention to the countless small tasks which his position demanded, and his willingness to collaborate in a variety of projects ensure that he will be missed by his colleagues as well as those who currently enjoy the results of his labors. Our gratitude and our prayers go with Dr. John Page as he embarks on new endeavors.
Position of Executive Director of the Instituto Nacional Hispano de Liturgia Open
The part-time position of Executive Director of the Instituto National Office, located in Caldwell Hall of the Catholic University of America, is open. Sister Doris Mary Turek, SSND, Executive Director since 1995, has joined the Staff of the Secretariat for the Liturgy. The Executive Director manages the National Office in Washington, DC, attends meetings and conferences, supervises membership data and applications and communicates with the Board, as well as with the membership and other national liturgical organizations. Qualified bilingual (English/ Spanish) applicants should express their interest in a letter to the President of the Instituto and include a resumι and two letters of recommendation. Upon receipt of these letters, a job description will be sent to each applicant. This will be followed by a meeting of the applicant with the interview committee of the Instituto Board. Candidates for the position should send the required documentation by May 1, 2002 to: Rev. Juan J. Sosa, St. Catherine of Siena Catholic Church, 9200 SW 107th Avenue, Miami, Fl. 33176. Interviews will be held at the end of May. The person selected by the Board will assume duties at the National Office on July 1, 2002.
Requiescat in Pace
Msgr. Balthasar Fischer
On June 27, 2001, Msgr. Balthasar Fischer, Professor at the Liturgical Institute at Trier, died at the age of eighty nine. He was a pioneer and giant of the liturgical reform. From 1945 until his retirement in 1980, he was recognized as an exceptional scholar and teacher of liturgical studies. He was a co-founder of the Liturgical Institute at Trier in 1947. From 1965 until 1975, during his tenure as leader of the Liturgical Institute at Trier, some 35 professors and scholars from many continents were shaped and formed under his scholarly guidance as well as his human warmth. Not only did Balthasar Fischer serve as a peritus at the Second Vatican Council, he also collaborated with the Consilium and was involved in drawing up the Ordo Baptismi Parvulorum (Rite of Baptism For Children - 1969) and the Ordo Initiationis Christianae Adultorum (Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults - 1972). He chaired the groups that prepared the Directory For Masses With Children (1973) and the Eucharistic Prayers For Masses With Children (1974). In 1966, Balthasar Fischer was named a papal chamberlain. In 1975 he was elected President of the ecumenical and international Societas Liturgica. The University of Mainz and Catholic University of America bestowed honorary doctorates on this dedicated scholar. His guiding motto, taken from St. Augustine was "to use the language not of the learned, but of the simple."
Rev. Godfrey Diekmann, O.S.B.
The eminent Benedictine monk and liturgical scholar, Father Godfrey Diekmann, OSB, died at St. John's Abbey, Collegeville, Minnesota on February 22, 2002. For more than twenty five years, he edited the influential periodical Worship. He was a "peritus" at the Second Vatican Council and also served on the post-conciliar commission responsible for the reform. The citation found on the Berakah award, given to him in 1996 by the North American Academy of Liturgy, best captures the spirit of this liturgical pioneer: "In recognition of his achievement in behalf of the renewal of worship as writer, scholar, teacher, and advisor and for his editorial encouragement and dissemination of the achievement of others, in appreciation for his unfailing vitality of mind, breadth of interest, generosity of spirit, and love for what he is doing, and as an expression of gratitude for the joy of his friendship, the wisdom of his counsel, and the inspiration of his leadership, the North American Academy of Liturgy presents its Berakah award to Godfrey Diekmann, OSB on this the jubilee year of his journal with which he has so long been associated and of his own profession in the Order of St. Benedict."
we pray for our brothers Balthasar and Godfrey
who responded to the call of Christ,
and pursued wholeheartedly the ways of perfect love.
Grant that he may rejoice
on that day when your glory will be revealed
and in company with all his brothers and sisters
share for ever the happiness of your kingdom.
We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.
© 2002, United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. All rights reserved.