New Breviary Project approved by Bishops

Yesterday I talked about the plans presented the Bishop’s meeting for a revised translation of the Liturgy of the Hours. Today: the blow by blow on the debate and vote, plus my own opinions on it all.

In three to five years, we should have a new breviary in the USA. Maybe.

Today our Bishops voted to go forward with the work of editing, amending, and in some cases re-translating the elements of the Liturgy of the Hours. This vote was a preliminary approval for the work to be done. Once a draft is complete–and no timelime was given for that–the bishops will again review, discuss, and debate before voting on whether to send it to Rome for approval.  Then, once the bishops have approved and Rome has approved, there will be the process of getting it published.

So I think 3 to 5 years is pretty optimistic. The new missal took way longer than that.

Here are some details of today’s debate priot to the vote.

Bishop Taylor argued for an amendment to expand  the Office of Readings to include a two year cycle of scripture readings (such as Spanish breviaries already contain), and also a 2 year cycle of patristic readings. Archbishop Broglio also spoke in support of this, as did Cardinal DiNardo, who also mentioned that many of the current patristic readings were poorly translated and needed to be re-done. However, this amendment was voted down. Divine Worship Committee chairman Archbishop Aymond agreed that this should be done some day, but now was not the time. He argued that the priority now was to harmonize the current breviary with the Latin breviary, and that overhauling the Office of Readings would add years to the project.

Bishop Paprocki argued in favor of an amendment that would include more than just the (translated to English) Latin breviary hymns in the new breviary (i.e. a selection of the more modern hymns that we have now). Lots of discussion pro and con ensued. Cardinal O’Malley and Bishop Coyne argued for some kind of hymn supplement or appendix containing hymns that people already know how to sing.

Cardinal George argued forcefully against this. He said that tasking the Worship Committee a hymn supplement would put them in charge of determing which hymns were truly classic and which were mere period pieces. He said the current breviary is full of the latter, and that many of them, though perhaps meaningful in the seventies, were now “an embarassment”. The Latin hymns, he argued, had stood the test of centuries, and are now in use in the British Isles and in India. There is still permission to substitute other hymns, so this option can be exercised by using hymnals, missals, and missalettes.

Another bishop, whose name I did not catch, added that with the current availability, and probably eventual takeover, of digital resources over printed, that it was not necessary to print common hymns in the breviary. The overriding  principle was–just as with the missal– to closely follow the Latin breviary, and when that principle was adhered to, the project could go forward with minimal loss of time.

The amendment to add extra hymns was voted down.

Cardinal Dolan then called for a vote on the whole project. It passed handily with 203 in favor, and 14 against.

Then something strange happened. Bishop Brom asked to be recognized. Apparently he had missed his chance to speak earlier either through his own confusion or Cardinal Dolan’s overlooking him–it’s not clear which. Cardinal Dolan let him speak. What followed was Bishop Brom’s attempt to criticize not so much the proposed breviary project, but the new missal which was approved and has been in place for nearly a year. His way in to the discussion was to object to the new missal collects replacing the concluding prayers in the Office of Readings and Morning Prayer. He went on at length claiming that his priests and some  of the laity did not like the new collects and prefaces, bringing up old objections about the style of grammar, length, etc., that had been hashed over years ago when the new missal was debated. He concluded by saying that before any discussion of a revised Liturgy of the Hours, the missal had to be re-visited since, he claimed, his own priests found it “more of a burden than a blessing.”

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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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  • Brian Sullivan

    Sounds like a good path forward. Can’t say I’m surprised that there was an attempt to bring up the new missal translation. I wonder if publishing a supplementary volume of readings in parallel with the new Breviary would allow for a timely publication of both?

  • Daria

    Brian, the supplement idea was brought up–I forget by whom–and Bishop Taylor (the one advocating the extra readings) kind of dismissed that. He said that when things are put in a supplement no one ever uses them, and used as an example some optional Eucharistic prayers that are never used because they are only in a supplement.

  • JMC

    Personally, I wish they’d print the music to the hymns. Except for *shudder* “Morning Has Broken,” I have yet to find a hymn in the breviary that I actually know, and I can’t find any of them in my fair-sized collection of hymnals. I end up using the Metrical Index to find something, anything, that fits the words.

  • stefanie

    Thanks for this summary, Daria. I (a lay person) pray the Latin/English Roman 3-volume Breviary published by the Liturgical Press in 1963. (bought it on Amazon two years ago) It doesn’t have a hymnal per se. There are Latin/English hymns at Matins and Vespers — but words only. LOVE what Cardinal George said about the songs from the 1970’s Breviary. So true.

    P.S. also enjoyed the comment regarding the Sunday Collect. I always start my each week’s lesson (I teach RCIA for all ages — 7 years +) with the Sunday Collect. You can’t simply rattle these things off — like Scripture to be read aloud to the assembly– you have to get familiar with it in order to proclaim it. Perhaps the dissenting bishops don’t want to do the practicing. Or perhaps they don’t understand why the Collect Prayer exists.

  • Interesting to see the differences between the US and UK LotH. As well as those improvements already noted, I think the short responsory needs to be in the Latin format. Do you guys in the US have an ‘*’ halfway through the first line of the short responsory, so that the second response is only the second half of the ‘R’ line? There’s no reason why we shouldn’t do it the proper way – if anything, it just looks like they forgot to print the ‘*’. Does any of that make sense? :p

  • David William

    Why can’t the Church just go back to Latin and be done with it?? englishizong everything only dumbed down the Liturgy. Shucks, even the Anglicans did better 400 years ago, and if you compare the old, non-hippieized version of the Church of England’s prayerbook with the Roman Catholic version in English, the RC comes off looking illiterate. Back to Latin for America (and think — how much better educated Altar Servers would be… 🙂

  • Vince Contreras

    For what it’s worth, I would be one of those who would miss the Psalm prayers. They aren’t that long or a burden to pray, many of them are beautiful and inspiring, and, yes, they do help to bring out the Christological meaning of the Psalm without going to outside sources.

  • John H.

    I understand that the Glory Be as said in the Breviary is not “traditional” in the English language. But the irony is, it is a more faithful translation from the Latin. It does seem brief, and maybe less poetic, but if we are going to bring things closer to the Latin texts then that is one prayer that probably shouldn’t change. “…in saecula saeculorum” does not mean “world without end.” In fact, the phrase “world without end” can actually lead to theological confusion. The reality is, the world as we know it will end. The prayer refers to God not the world. “…and will be forever” is also not a literal translation, but it is a very good idiomatic translation. After all, we wouldn’t normally say “ages of ages” in the English langage. We would perhaps say “forever and ever” instead.

  • Lankester

    Bad idea. Many cannot afford breviaries or pay large sums to replace them.

  • Daria

    It will all be free or very cheap online, so fear not.

  • Daria

    You have a point and I would be in the “forever and ever” camp EXCEPT for the point that Cardinal O’Malley made: the only prayers catholics now have that don’t have multiple “versions” are the sign of the cross and the Our Father. (even the Hail Mary has it you vs. thou version.) Everyone does “world without end” during the rosary and probably other devotions that include the Glory Be. I think O’Malley’s plea for one more unified Catholic prayer should be taken seriously.

  • Daria

    Because most of us don’t know Latin, or know enough of it to pray it with understanding. Personally I love when Mass (ordinary form) is said partly of fully in Latin. But most of the mass prayers don’t change, so after a while you know them in the sense of knowing what you are saying as you pray them. But the psalms of the office change daily.Constantly Looking back and forth from Latin to English translations while praying would really prevent most people from saying the office, well, prayerfully.

  • I can’t say how happy I am to see the psalm-prayers go. To me, they are a distraction. Paul VI already added the gist of the psalm in its beginning in red letters, but the psalm-prayer narrows down the interpretation of the psalm to one and stifles its other varied meanings. Since they are optional, I just skip them when praying in private, as do most of lay and ordained people I know.

    I am sad though about the foot-dragging to revise the Office of Readings. What’s wrong with more Fathers and Doctors and Saints?

  • Nothing’s wrong with them. Problem is, new readings would have to be translated from the original Latin/Greek/and other languages.Huge job for ICeL that could take years. I’d rather get an improved breviary while I’m still alive, and hope for maybe a supplementary volume of reading a few years later.

  • Ana M Garcia

    Where can i find a format on how to use LOH Morning Prayer on Weekend Retreat to include all the participants?

  • Jane

    I have the US 4 volume Divine Office and the 3 volume UK/British Isles Divine Office (as I am discerning a vocation to the US and UK) and the UK version is MUCH better. The US ones does have awful hymns, the majority of them and the UK version has the psalms, etc. translated much better. Hopefully this new US Divine Office WILL be better.

  • David L Alexander

    “Why can’t the Church just go back to Latin and be done with it??”

    Because we never left it.

    Latin is already the official language of the Church, particularly of the Roman Rite. Those bound by obligation to read the Office already have a Latin edition available for their own use. There is a problem with many of the office hymns being dated, and that will have to be dealt with sooner than the majority of bishops expect, perhaps before the revision is finished.

    Bishop Brom doesn’t seem to understand, as has been the case with him in previous years, that this part of the discussion is over. Whatever is to be done in the future will be faithful to the Latin editio typica, and he and the crybabies among his presbyterate will simply have to accept it.

  • No way. With all due respect, Your Excellency Bishop Brom, we cannot keep the current Closing Prayers in the breviary over the new Collects of the Mass. If indeed the new Collects are more faithful translations of the Latin, then some of the old Collects of the Mass and thus the present Closing Prayers for the breviary have nothing to do with having translated the Latin, but are merely the “translator’s” own creation. Case in point: the old Collect and present Closing Prayer in the breviary for the feast of All Saints:

    Old Collect and Present Closing Prayer in the Breviary:

    Father, all-powerful and ever-living God,
    today we rejoice in the holy men and women
    of every time and place.
    May their prayers bring us your forgiveness and love.
    We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ…

    The New Collect of the Mass:

    Almighty ever-living God,
    by whose gift we venerate in one celebration
    the merits of all the Saints,
    bestow on us, we pray,
    through the prayers of so many intercessors,
    an abundance of the reconciliation with you
    for which we earnestly long.
    Through our Lord Jesus Christ…

    I would much rather be praying the universal prayer of the Church in a faithful translation of the Latin than the prayer stemming primarily from the authorship of the “translator”. Even if some think that some of the new translations sound more stilted and clunky, they are by no means so stilted that they cannot be coherently prayed aloud and explained when necessary. The cost in such cases are still far outweighed by the benefits of praying the universal prayers of the Church.

  • Bravo, Richard, Bravo!

  • Ragness

    The word “world” has many meanings, only one of them refering to the Earth as a whole. In actuality, other meanings are “an area, sphere, or realm considered as a complete environment” or “a period or state of existence”, either of which would make the word “world” in the prayer mean “The world of God, the totality of God – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit” without end, will live forever and ever. Amen.

    Actually, ignorance of the English language has cost the Church a great deal. Take the ludicrous events of the ’70s and ’80s where the Church jumped through hoops of fire for outraged ignorant women all over America not intelligent enough to know that a male pronoun or the male form of a word can mean both males and the combination of males and females. Anyone who has taken a Latin-based foreign language can tell you that. They re-wrote Sacred Scripture and ancient hymns, for cryin’ out loud!

    Ignorance. Poorly educated people. Why do you think our government is shut down? Greed. Obstinance. Ignorance. This is what you get when you have a countrywide breakdown of the family unit and graduating kids so they can stay with their friends even though they haven’t learned a thing: a government that is shut down and buried in so much debt, there is little chance of America ever being its own country ever again. Who’s the superpower now?