The Liturgy of the Hours (or Divine Office) is the official public prayer of the Catholic Church. It is comprised of psalms, hymns, and scripture readings to be prayed within certain “hours” of the day. While this ancient practice is alluded to in Old Testament literature (Psalm 119:164), it came to maturity as an office within 5th century monastic communities. Ordained and religious communities pray the liturgy of the hours daily around the world, but lay people may also participate in this liturgy from home—uniting their prayer with the public expression of the Church.
Learning to pray the Liturgy of the Hours can be a daunting task. This resource aims to help you on your way.
The Divine Office in Detail
Online Text Descriptions:
General Instruction of the Liturgy of the Hours (GILH) (Vatican)
Hours of the DayPrayers are recited at different times of the day. Depending on your engagement with the LOH and/or your (religious) state in life, the hours within which you will pray can be considered in the following ways.
Full Monastic Hours of the day:
Matins or Vigils (at Dawn, or 3 a.m.)
Prime or Early Morning Prayer (~ 6 a.m.)
Terce or Mid-Morning Prayer (~ 9 a.m.)
Sext or Midday Prayer (~ 12 noon)
None or Mid-Afternoon Prayer (~ 3 p.m.)
Vespers or Evening Prayer ~ 6 p.m.)
Compline or Night Prayer (~ 9 p.m.)
Condensed Hours of the day:
Morning Prayer (Lauds)
Midday Prayer (Sext)
Evening Prayer (Vespers)
Night Prayer (Compline)
Important/Minimum Hours (Hinge Hours):
Morning Prayer (Lauds)
Evening Prayer (Vespers)
Getting the Prayer Texts
Online and Mobile LOH Editions:
iBreviary (Online & Mobile)
Ebreviary (Online & Printable for Groups)
Physical Breviary vs. iBreviary: How is a Person to Pray? (Article)
*Note: The LOH is governed by the International Commission on English in the Liturgy Corporation, (ICEL), and other organizations for supplemental works. It is assumed that the above links have obtained the appropriate copyright permissions to publish the LOH online accurately. This concern is not necessary for the print versions listed below.
Print LOH Volumes for Purchase:
The four volume set is the complete LOH that religious and ordained pray around the world. Individual volumes are used during the different seasons of the year, so only one volume needs to be carried at a time. Christian Prayer is a single volume for the whole year, and rotates or abbreviates its hours to do so. Both are equally fine resources for laity, with the former being more complete, but also more complicated and expensive.
Zipper Cases (for protecting your investment):
Page Guide Pamphlets:
With either the LOH complete 4 volume set, or the Christian Prayer single volume, as a beginner, you may need to purchase a guide to the assigned pages for the day. The St. Joseph Guide (for either set) will tell you the multiple pages that need to be referenced for each hour (why your breviary comes with ribbons). It costs approximately $3, and must be purchased yearly. There are free online monthly pdf references published by the St. Thomas More House (for the Christian Prayer book only). These pages can be printed, and stored in your breviary each month.
St. Joseph’s Guide for Christian Prayer (Find Current Year)
St. Joseph’s Guide for 4 Volume LOH (Find Current Year)
Free Online Monthly Print Guides for Christian Prayer (St. Thomas More House)
How to use the Print Breviary
Beginner’s Guide to Navigating Christian Prayer (Article)
Beginner’s Guide to Navigating the 4 Volume LOH (Article)
Learning to Navigate the Christian Prayer Breviary (Video)
In this video you may discover why the St. Joseph’s Guides above are recommended. The liturgical knowledge or math that the priest discusses is not necessary with these pamphlets, although the eventual independence from them is possible.
Examples of the LOH being prayed
Regular Roman Breviary Recitation
The video below is of a small group of seminarians praying Lauds (Morning Prayer) on Saturday, January 28, 2012 at Resurrection Seminary. This is a basic recitation of Morning Prayer that displays how your prayer at home should sound with a small group, or by yourself. (It is recommended that you pray aloud when possible)
If you would like to follow along using the application below, you need to enter the date this prayer was recited (it loads on today’s date). First click “More”. Scroll down and enter the date January 28, 2012 and click “go”. Then go back/click “Breviary” and then “Morning Prayer”. The seminarians in the video skip the Invitatory prayer, and start with “God come to my assistance…” , so you will have to scroll about half way down the page to start where they begin.
If you are following in a Christian Prayer book, this Laud (or Morning Prayer) text is on p. 916. In this format, notice how the antiphon (Ant.) is recited before and after each psalm. Also notice that after the psalm and before the antiphon, the Glory Be is recited. These omissions from the daily texts to conserve space are explained in the “ordinary” instructions, starting on p. 686.
Some religious communities pray the Divine Office in ways that are slightly different than the resources listed on this page. Their liturgies are enhanced with Gregorian chant, music, different translations of the psalms, or have supplements to the texts, and specific to their order.
Below is a fine video from the Trappist Monks of the Abbey of Gethsemani praying winter Compline (Night Prayer). Here you can reference and follow the format of their liturgy, with exception of the Psalms that could not be posted due to copyright.
Here the Benedictine Monks of Conception Abbey in Missouri pray Evening Prayer (Vespers).
I hope that you have found this resource helpful. If you have any questions, please contact me below. ~Robert Barzilauskas