February 2014

A look at
A Shorter Morning and Evening Prayer

published by The Liturgical Press
in Collegeville, Minnesota

(Some of the material here also appears in my article A look at the African Breviary)

This abridged breviary is similar to Shorter Christian Prayer by the Catholic Book Publishing Company and Christian Prayer by Paulines Publications Africa. It contains Morning Prayer (Lauds), Evening Prayer (Vespers) and Night Prayer (Compline).

Shorter Christian Prayer, A Shorter Morning and Evening Prayer, and Christian Prayer (showing signs of wear after constant use)

Morning and Evening Prayer (Lauds and Vespers) are called the "two hinges" of the Liturgy of the Hours.

These "shorter" editions contain only three out of the seven possible prayer hours each day, but I would not dismiss them as "for beginners only" which implies we will outgrow them once we learn the ropes. Some well-meaning folks have described these editions this way, but that could deter people from taking their first step towards the Liturgy of the Hours. Who wants to invest in a book that will shortly become useless? Members of the clergy are required to pray all the hours each day, but the laity are encouraged to participate only as they are able.

The introduction in the front of my American Shorter Christian Prayer makes it clear that the publishers intended these shorter editions for "parish use as well as private use" and also for "clergy who are traveling or otherwise unable to utilize the complete edition of The Liturgy of the Hours" (apparently even the shorter editions will allow traveling clergy to fulfill their obligation). Many people with "nine to five" jobs will never find time for praying those additional hours found in larger breviaries or multi-volume sets.

Most importantly, a small volume such as this will allow the lay person to respond to the challenge made by Pope Benedict XVI:

I would like to renew my call to everyone to pray the Psalms, to become accustomed to using the Liturgy of the Hours, Lauds, Vespers, and Compline.

If people from all walks of life answered the call to participate in the daily prayer of the Church, then the shorter editions would be the most popular choice. All this to say, if you are not already praying the Liturgy of the Hours, please don't hesitate to invest in one of these "shorter" editions. It can become your valued treasure and life-long companion even when you travel, and you may never need to buy a larger edition. And you will be joining your voice with voices all over the world who pray the "Prayer of the Church" every day. There's great power in that kind of prayer that's not found in other types of devotions.

Of course, one disadvantage of these shorter breviaries is that they don't include all the Psalms of the four-week psalter; only the ones used in Morning, Evening and Night Prayer.

If you want to keep up with all 150 Psalms even with a busy schedule, you can use a Bible or Psalm book (Psalter) and supplement your daily routine by praying the Psalms for the other hours.

A copy of the Revised Grail Psalms works well for this. This breviary is nearly identical in size to my copy of the The Revised Grail Psalms: A Liturgical Psalter Gift Edition which is also called the Deluxe Edition and is also published by the same publisher, The Liturgical Press in Collegeville, Minnesota, so the two make a nice pair.

The Revised Grail Psalms also come in a paperback text version and a singing version which has pointing in the form of accent marks over the text.

I have put together a chart that tells you when the Psalms are actually prayed in the Liturgy of Hours (Office of Readings, Morning Prayer, Daytime Prayer, Evening Prayer and Night Prayer) over the four week cycle. Of course, you also need to know which week you are in, and a calendar can be found at the Rosary Shop web site.

Since I already had two "shorter" breviaries with similar contents, why did I need to order this third one?

The answer is that this is the best edition of the Liturgy of the Hours for former Anglicans who want a breviary the same size as their old Anglican Prayerbook.

I am a former Anglican who came into the Catholic Church as an adult. In my Anglican days I loved to have my daily devotions (called the Daily Office in the Anglican and Episcopal Church) using the Book of Common Prayer (a.k.a. BCP). What I loved about this prayerbook was its portable size; it felt great to hold and use. I had been searching for something similar after I became a Catholic and started using the Divine Office (A.K.A. the Liturgy of the Hours). I was excited to discover this one which is practically the same size as my old Book of Common Prayer, both the American 1979 edition and the pocket size British 1662 edition.

The American 1979 BCP, my new portable Breviary, and a pocket size 1662 BCP

It is also printed in black ink and has no illustrations just like the Book of Common Prayer, unlike Shorter Christian Prayer by Catholic Book Publishing which has illustrations in red and black ink which were done in the 1970's and have a 70's feel.

Of course, former Anglicans in the Catholic Church can still have their familiar Morning and Evening Prayer Anglican style with the Catholic Church's blessings by using the Customary of Our Lady of Walsingham, which I also own. But that one is a huge hardbound book. Beautiful and wonderful to use at home, but too big to slip into your pocket or bag and carry around, especially if you rely on public transportation as I do, and need to carry everything you need for the day.

A Shorter Morning and Evening Prayer is small and can go with you everywhere, and either book will enable you to participate in the official Prayer of the Catholic Church all over the world, with the same prayers going up all around the globe in many different languages all day and night. I want a piece of that.

I have written more about the Liturgy of the Hours in an article called The Prayer of the Church.

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