Praying the Office Online

I’ve been praying the Office since 1997 or ’98. My aunt and uncle sent me a copy of _Christian Prayer_ for, I believe, my Confirmation. My wife also had a copy she’d received from an uncle. We bought the four volume set (at least two of one). The latter is tricky because despite my best efforts, I always seem to be unable to find the correct volume for the season. The one volume versions have both fallen apart from use.

One of the goals of Vatican II was to make the Liturgy of the Hours more accessible to laity, reducing its complexity, but many people are still intimidated by all the “ribbons,” keeping track of the Psalter, the Proper of Seasons, the Proper of Saints, and the various Commons, etc.

It was about 10 years ago that I started thinking how it should be relatively easy to create an interactive version of the Office using HTML, where one could click on a link, bringing up a frame with the appropriate materials, and providing choices for optional memorials, or memorials celebrated as personal Feasts, etc.

So, I created several HTML files in Word, and made it part of my daily prayer to type the relevant sections into the appropriate files.

Then I discovered that others were already deep into similar projects, and I saw little need to recreate their work, though some of the problems still remain, as I will discuss in reviewing and linking each site in this post.

The Liturgy of the Hours is one of the oldest prayer forms in the Church, and is used by Catholics, the various Orthodox churches and many “mainline” Protestant denominations. In Roman Catholic (as opposed to Byzantine/Orthodox) theology, the Liturgy of the Hours is “public prayer” or liturgy, an extension of the Mass. To pray the Office is to pray “with the Church,” so it’s important the words be as unified as possible. This is distinguished from “private devotion.” So, in a popular internecine debate among faithful Catholics, 1,000 people saying the Rosary are in “private prayer,” while one person praying the Office under certain circumstances is engaging in “public prayer.” Catholic clergy (bishops, priests, deacons), religious (nuns, monks, friars, sisters) and members of secular orders are under canonical obligation to say the Office but also have the grace of praying “publicly” even when we’re “alone,” because in sharing the common texts that others are praying around the world, we are joining with them spiritually. For laity who are not in Third Orders, it’s still a private devotion, unless they’re saying it in community with others. Thus, the “trick” with online adaptations is whether the translations are appropriate.

Even a few years ago, there were not as many options there are now.

One of the first sites providing a daily Breviary online was Universalis, which is based out of England and provides detailed information on the degree to which its texts are approved for various English-speaking countries. It has gotten much more elaborate, of course, since 2005, and it provides apps. For those under obligation, I just discovered that Universalis provides the official Latin translations, so if you’re extra-cautious about whether the translation is official, you can always just use Latin. 🙂

Perhaps the most popular and well-made, and the one I use most regularly, is DIvineOffice.org.
It has all its copyrights in order and uses the canonically approved texts for the US. It also has very well-made podcasts of a group of people praying the Office, with licensed hymns, and the participants (mostly volunteers who, IIRC, started the project as a way of teaching the Office to an RCIA class) alternate methods of communal praying: sometimes chanting the Psalms, sometimes repeating the antiphons, sometimes having one person read or sometimes alternating. You can read the text with no audio, listen to the audio, or read and listen. The audio usually takes about 20-25 minutes for morning prayer and 15-20 minutes for evening prayer, depending upon how much is chanted.

Before Divine Office, I used to use PrayStation Portable from Fr. Roderick Vonhogen’s SQPN. I used to also have it on an RSS feed here but found it was unreliable. Sometimes, it seems to update too quickly and you can’t find the actual links for the day. Other times, there was a delay in posting. I hope they’ve fixed those issues, but it’s been a while since I followed it. It’s just Fr. Roderick reading it, not a group of people, and much simpler, but he does include prayer requests that listeners send him as part of the General Intercessions.

Plenty of websites and apps offer the Traditional Breviary, and several sites offer the various offices of Eastern Churches.

The added challenge, which led to my most recent discovery of a treasure trove of sites, is praying “Optional Memorials,” days that are not on the “General Calendar” (such as the Discalced Carmelite Propers), days that are personal/community Feasts or Solemnities, etc.

CatholicCulture.org* has a cool Liturgical Calendar page with the Feast(s) or Saint(s) of the day on both the Extraordinary Form and Ordinary Form Roman Calendars, Collects, devotional prayer suggestions and other activities. So, if I’m looking for a Collect that’s not in DivineOffice.org, I have been turning to CatholicCulture.

Still, if it’s a day where I want, say, the Common of Doctors or the Common of the Blessed Virgin, and DivineOffice just has the regular Four Week Psalter options, I often find myself searching the Internet, and recently those searches have proven more fruitful:

Liturgy Archive is exactly what I imagined 10 years ago. It is a basic HTML page with links to every option for the entire year: the liturgical seasons, and the collect for every saint on the general calendar. It also has the Commons. So now, when it’s a Carmelite day, I go there for the Commons. I don’t know what their arrangements are with the copyright-enforcing USCCB, but it’s all there for now. Its wider “Archive” has both internal and external links for a variety of liturgical prayers from a number of Christian traditions.

iBreviary is also very good. Indeed, when I heard people say “iBreviary,” I always thought they meant “Divine Office.org”. It is based out of Italy, and defaults to Italian but offers a variety of language options, including both Latin and the official (Grail Psalter) English translations. It is a relatively simple website but is oriented towards tablets.

eBreviary offers everything in PDF format but only offers certain parts for free on its website or App and otherwise requires a subscription because of the copyrights.

More and more, with all these apps available, priests, deacons and religious are finding their confreres praying along in chapel with their phones, tablets and eReaders.

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