“Around the world, someone is always saying the Liturgy of the Hours”

You can now pray the office on your computer, on your cell phone, on your iPad — or, the old fashioned way, from a book with colorful silk ribbons.  Catholic San Francisco takes a look at this great prayer of the Church, and why more people are embracing it:

Each morning at St. Anthony Church in San Francisco, a handful of Catholics gather to pray one of the oldest prayers of the Catholic Church – the Liturgy of the Hours, otherwise known as the Divine Office – lifting their voices in prayer and song with priests, monks, religious and lay people around the archdiocese and the world.

“St. Paul says we should pray at all times and never lose heart. And the Liturgy of the Hours became a practical form for the church to answer that apostolic mandate to pray at all times and never lose heart,” said St. Anthony pastor Father James Garcia, citing St. Paul’s Letter to the Thessalonians (1 Thessalonians 5:11): “Pray without ceasing.”

“It’s a foundation for the beginning of the day,” said St. Gabriel parishioner Mike O’Leary, who prays morning prayer. “And around the world, someone is always saying the Liturgy of the Hours.”

The Liturgy of the Hours is so central to the prayer of the church that church law requires ordained ministers – bishops, priests, and deacons – to pray it daily, said Deacon Rich Foley, director of diaconate formation for the Archdiocese of San Francisco. Most deacons pray morning and evening prayer while priests tend to pray five times a day under the new post-Vatican II form, with a few religious orders continuing to pray the old form of seven times a day.

Advent is a perfect time to consider trying the prayer, because “Advent is a time to examine our prayer life,” Deacon Foley said.

Based on the psalms, the Liturgy of the Hours traces its origins to Old Testament Jews who prayed seven times daily, a practice continued by the early Christians, formalized by the monastic orders, and later institutionalized at the Council of Trent in 1545, said Benedictine Brother Joseph Murphy of the archdiocesan Office of Worship.

The Liturgy of the Hours follows a four-week cycle that includes praying all the psalms but it is also attuned to the church seasons. Vatican II revised the practice to make it more accessible, and recommended the Liturgy of the Hours be promoted as a prayer of the laity, particularly morning and/or evening prayer, said Deacon Foley. As recently as Nov. 16, Pope Benedict XVI in a weekly talk on the psalms at St. Peter’s Square suggested again the laity pray the Liturgy of the Hours.

In the last of seven weekly addresses on the psalms at St. Peter’s Square Nov. 16, Pope Benedict XVI said: “I would then like to renew to you all the invitation to pray with the psalms, even becoming accustomed to using the Liturgy of the Hours of the church .… Our relationship with God cannot but be enriched with greater joy and trust in the daily journey towards him.”

Read the rest.

And if you’re interested, check out a great version of this prayer online at Divine-Office.com


  1. I have been praying the Divine Office most of my adult life and it has been such a blessing. It gives me set times throughout the day to “put away the world” and focus once again on my relationship with the Lord. I always return from my prayer energized in the Spirit and ready to take on all the challenges of living in our modern world. Although it can be inconvenient – I get scheduled into a lot of meetings and cannot always pray at the correct hour – it has been worth the time and effort to make this a permanent part of my prayer life.

  2. This has to be because of the proliferation of technology. No one (outside of clergy, religious, and very few devoted laity) even knew about the LOTH-DO ten years ago. They might have been vaguely familiar with a breviary from old movies, but they probably thought it was a Bible or a Ritual.

    It is only with the new websites and mobile apps to pray the office that the vision of the Second Vatican Council is finally being realized. Slowly but surely, the LOTH-DO is becoming the prayer of the entire Church–laity, clergy, and religious all.

    I would be remiss to not to highly recommend at least trying the older Divine Office for those allowed to pray it in the vernacular (i.e., the laity for all hours and deacons for all hours but Lauds and Vespers). I moved from the LOTH to the DO over the past ten years. It is infinitely richer, even if it takes longer.

  3. And for the altar boy on the go, Father Finigan shows you how to put these helpful prayers on your phone! Sorry, no girls allowed :-)

  4. I’ve just begun to pray the hours this Advent– morning and evening. It’s something I’ve been meaning to take up for a while.

    I just got an iPhone, and had heard of iBreviary, which is wonderful in many ways, but I’ve heard there are numerous advantages to the Divine-Office app. Is it worth having both (thinking that all the other prayers, readings, etc. are nice to have in iBreviary)? Does the D-O app include all these? I think the latter is something like $15?

    Thanks for any input or suggestions…

  5. Deacon Greg Kandra says:

    Yes, Steve, the Divine-Office app has all the hours, plus the Office of Readings, plus information about the saint of the day. It also offers audio — include hymns — so you can clip on headphones and listen while you pray. I like it a lot.

    Dcn. G.

  6. I have been praying Vespers (evening prayer) for three years now. It is the highlight of my day.

    I have been meaning to get an audio copy of Lauds (morning prayer) so I can listen to it on my drive into work: down load to my iPod Touch, then play it thru the Ford Sync system… I need to investigate that.

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