We conclude Vatican II’s reform-minded ideas regarding the Liturgy of the Hours, otherwise known as the Divine Office. While it may seem outside the common experience of most parishes, Sacrosanctum Concilium did devote nineteen sections to the daily prayer of the Church. And regardless of how poorly its implementation has been received where it’s been attempted, it remains one of the more significant liturgical failures of the post-conciliar period.
Some people, even those who lack Sunday Vesper celebrations in their parishes or their spiritual lives, will latch on to the use of Latin:
1. In accordance with the centuries-old tradition of the Latin rite, the Latin language is to be retained by clerics in the divine office. But in individual cases the ordinary has the power of granting the use of a vernacular translation to those clerics for whom the use of Latin constitutes a grave obstacle to their praying the office properly. The vernacular version, however, must be one that is drawn up according to the provision of Art. 36.
But let’s remember that Latin was the presumed usage of the time. The real liberalization was the possibility of using the vernacular. This had real promise, especially in developing the lay use of the Office.
2. The competent superior has the power to grant the use of the vernacular in the celebration of the divine office, even in choir, to nuns and to members of institutes dedicated to acquiring perfection, both men who are not clerics and women. The version, however, must be one that is approved.
All vernacular translations must be approved. We knew that.
3. Any cleric bound to the divine office fulfills his obligation if he prays the office in the vernacular together with a group of the faithful or with those mentioned in 52 above provided that the text of the translation is approved.
Your parish priest can pray with you. And “it counts.”
Among the developments I’d like to see to resuscitate the Liturgy of the Hours:
- A flexible cathedral office for parishes that pray Lauds or Vespers weekly.
- More formal Vigils for major feasts.
- Several age-appropriate adaptations of Lauds for use with children of various ages, or for special events like VBS or other camp experiences.
- The official encouragement to offer Vespers weekly, or minimally, seasonally, with the talent and experience of the pastor and music director behind the effort.