Breviary Revision at Bishops’ Meeting!

An hour ago I had the luck   presence of mind nudge from my guardian angel to turn on EWTN and see how the bishops were doing with their meeting in Baltimore. Within minutes of tuning in, I gasped as Archishop Aymond, chairman of the committee on Divine Worship, took the podium to discuss (insert drum roll here) the proposed revision of the American breviary! Apparently enthusiasm for the new missal has emboldened Catholics to ask that the Liturgy of the Hours be similarly renewed and reinvigorated with a more faithful translation, and our bishops are actually responding.

I’d heard a rumor in September that this subject would be brought up, but feared it would be shelved in favor of giving time to more pressing matters related to the healthcare mandate or the proposed document on employment. But thanks be to God, not so.   I leaped for the laptop,  when I saw what was about to happen. Today’s session was a presentation of the worship committee’s preliminary  decisions. The other  bishops were then given the chance to ask clarifying questions. Actual debate on the proposals  will take place tomorrow. What follows is from  my hastily typed notes with my own reactions in bold.  Here we go:

Archbishop Aymond opened by saying that ever since the new missal translation was implemented last year, there were frequent inquiries and requests for a revised translation of the breviary. As a result, the committee requested Rome for permission to pursue a “more up to date” edition of the breviary,and one that would be more in harmony with the Latin edition (editio typica).   [Yay! We did it! Kudos to everyone who ever wrote the USCCB or their own bishops about this. I had heard earlier that a new breviary was on the back burner, behind new translations of rituals for sacraments. Now it’s on the front burner!]

Next, Archbishop Aymond mentioned several proposed  modifications that were in mind. And the bishops who asked questions based on the handout’s they’d received indicated that there were several more:

1. The Revised Grail Psalms would be the new psalter.[We already knew this but now it’s official.]

2. The translation for the Benedictus and the Magnificat would remain the same because of long familiarity.[this makes some sense because people have them memorized.]

3.The Te Deum would be re-translated.

4.The Holy See said not to attempt re-translating the Office of Readings second readings, in the interest of not making the project drag on for years. [Amen!]

5.Hymns will be English translations of the official Latin breviary hymns! [Yay!  Morning Has Broken shall decrease, Conditor Alme Siderum will increase!!!]

6. Psalm prayers will be eliminated to make the text match the Latin edition.[look for lively discussion of this one tomorrow. Bishop Fiorenza expressed dismay in the question period.]

7.The doxology (Glory  Be) is still under discussion as to whether it should be the traditional (world without end.Amen) version, or something else. Archbishop Aymond acknowledged that discussion in the committee on this point was lively. In the clarification questions that followed from the floor, Cardinal O’Malley said he was pleased that the Glory Be was being reconsidered. He pleaded for the traditional version, saying that the only uniform prayers catholics had left at the moment  were the Our Father and the Sign of the Cross–that even the Hail Mary had it’s “thee vs. you” versions. [Right on, Cardinal Sean!]

Other clarifiying questions  included a worthwhile request from Bishop Trautman that antiphons be changed to match the Grail Psalms. [A very sensible idea–to take the antiphons away from ICEL and give them to Conception Abbey to harmonize them with the psalms.]

When asked by Bishop Sheehan for a timeline on the whole process from new translations to approval from Rome to publication, Archbishop Aymond said three to five years. [Given how long it took to get the mass re-translated and implemented, I think 5 years is lovely, and if it were 3 I’d be delirious with joy]

Remember, gentle fan of the Divine Office, none of the above is in concrete. The actual debate on it all will take place tomorrow. I have no idea where on the schedule this is, but keep tuning into EWTN and maybe you will catch it.

This is progress. Te Deums are in order.



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Daria Sockey


Daria Sockey is a freelance writer from western Pennsylvania. Her articles have appeared in many Catholic publications. She authored several of the original Ignatius Press Faith and Life catechisms in the 1980s, and more recently wrote five study guides for saints' lives DVDs distributed by Ignatius Press. She now writes regularly for the newly revamped Catholic Digest. Her newest book, The Everyday Catholic's Guide to the Liturgy of the Hours, will be published by Servant Books this spring. Feel Free to email her at

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  • JMC

    I have a pre-Vatican-II edition of the Little Office of the BVM; it also contains the Te Deum during the hour of Matins. It rests side-by-side with the Latin, and the translation is amazingly close. (Yes, I do understand Latin, though I’m not fluent in it.) When I pray the breviary online, I do so substituting the traditional TeDeum for the one in the Office. To the ears of one raised with the traditional prayers, the modern versions actually sound somewhat insipid at best, inane at worst. Take, for instance, the Salve Regina during Compline. The traditional prayer is:

    Hail, Holy Queen, Mother of Mercy.

    Hail our life, our sweetness, and our hope.

    To thee to we cry, poor banished children of Eve,

    To thee to we send up our sighs, mourning and weeping in this vale of tears.

    Turn then, most gracious Advocate, thine eyes of mercy toward us,

    And after this, our exile, show unto us the blessed Fruit of thy womb, Jesus.

    O clement, O loving, O sweet Virgin Mary.

    Pray for us, O holy Mother of God,

    That we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ.

    (Yes, I know, strictly speaking those last two lines are not an integral part of the prayer, but a following versicle and response.)

    Now go read the modern version. When I first read it, I didn’t even recognize it. In comparison…insipid. Lukewarm, the dreaded lukewarm. Lex orandi, lex credendi.

    As for the Glory Be, I don’t know where that “world without end” part came from. In the Latin, it’s “saecula saeculorum,” which is loosely rendered “forever and ever.” In German, it’s “in alle Zeit in Ewigkeit,” which means literally, “in all time in eternity;” a looser translation might read, “throughout all time and forever.” Though the English “world without end” is the way I was taught it, and, in my readings, I’ve since learned that it goes back centuries, it’s never made any sense to me. It contradicts everything we are taught, that the world *will* end someday. Now the version of the “Glory Be” in the 1980s breviary, like the modern Salve Regina, was barely recognizable for what it was. I’m glad to see that the Universalis Office uses the more traditional one. But I really would like to see that “world without end” replaced with something that makes more sense.

  • I support getting rid of the “Psalm-Prayers”. They are wordy and interrupt the ebb and flow of the psalmody. One psalm-prayer comes to mind which outright contradicts Catholic theology, which is the one at the end of the third psalm for Midday prayer on Wednesday of the Second Week of Lent: “Give us the confidence that you had in the Father, and our salvation will be assured.”

  • Jeff Holston

    I don’t mind the “is now and ever shall be, world without end. Amen.” because it’s traditional, however if they wanted to use something more literal, why not go with what the Orthodox use: “now and ever and unto the ages of ages. Amen.” That at any rate would seem to be closer to the idea behind “nunc et semper et in saecula saeculorum. Amen.”

  • Steve Petrica

    I wouldn’t be sad to leave the Grail psalms behind. There’s some weird syntax, obscure vocabulary, and purple excess (e.g., “the throng wild with joy” in Ps 42). OTOH, I would be very happy to see the two-year Office of Readings lectionary implemented.

  • Matt L.

    I think we shouldn’t just have English translations of the hymns, but also have old hymns such as “Lord who at Thy first Eucharist,””Holy Holy Holy, ” “Now we thank thee for our God,” and “Holy God we Praise Thy Name.”

  • Anon

    What wildly popular reception of the Roman missal?