What resources should I use to pray the “Liturgy of the Hours?”

What resources should I use to pray the “Liturgy of the Hours?” February 8, 2023
Is there a general Liturgy of the Hours that most Catholics use, or are there a variety of them?

There are lots and lots of prayer books that are used by Catholics. You will run into lots of different resources that offer forms of morning and evening prayer and many of them are influenced by the Liturgy of the Hours. However, the liturgy of the hours refers to a particular set of official prayers. This official set is what is required for priests and deacons to pray, and what is encouraged for the laity to pray. This prayer involves 7 liturgical hours or “offices”. As a layperson, there is no requirement for me to pray these particular prayers, but I have tried to adopt these hours as the basis of my prayer life. I aim to pray all 7 hours each day, but sometimes miss an office or two. Deacons pray morning and evening prayer, priests are required to also pray the office of readings one daytime prayer hour and night prayer. Monks generally pray all 7 hours. What I will explore below are some resources to pray the “official” liturgy of the hours. I’d be happy to explore some other “unofficial” resources with you later if that is of interest.
Final notes: You will sometimes run into people who like to pray the old Latin offices that predate Vatican 2, this is a different setup than those who read the current official version of the office in Latin. Some of these folks will have English translations of the old version of the Divine Office. You will also sometimes run into Easter Rite Catholics. These folks are in union with the Catholic Church but follow different liturgical rites. Each of these Churches will have its own disciplines around the Liturgy of the Hours and will use other resources.
What follows are the key resources that I am familiar with for praying the official Latin Rite Liturgy of the hours in the United States, in English. 

What’s a good resource (book or website) for a Liturgy of the Hours for Catholics?

Ok let’s start with books!
There are 3 great options for physical books for English Speakers.
1. Christian Prayer 
This was the first resource I bought. I bought it nearly 20 years ago when I was still a protestant. I can honestly say this one is a great place to begin. You only have to buy it once and it gives you everything you need to get started praying the Liturgy of the Hours each day. It takes a lot of work to figure out how to use it, but there are some great resources to walk you through this that exist both online and as books. The main downside of this volume is that you don’t get a full version of the office of readings and daytime prayer. There are some options for doing it, but you won’t get all the prayers and readings. I think this is OK for newcomers to the offices. I was praying morning prayer for over a decade before I got to the point where I was regularly praying the Office of Readings. I have a special place in my heart for this volume. I used it for many years, leading a liturgy of the hours group at my protestant seminary with this volume. It still sits on my desk and I often use it to pray evening prayer before I head home for the day.
Pros:  You only buy one volume and you only buy it once.
Cons: You miss out on the full experience if you want to pray the Office of Readings.
Bonus: Has a nice guide to chant and a hymnal in the back, which is nice.
Final Notes: For an even more simplified version of this you can pick up a copy of “Shorter Christian Prayer” this is a really stripped-down version of the Liturgy of the Hours (too much if you ask me), but is a nice resource if you are just trying to get used to praying with the Psalter during morning and evening prayer.
2. The Liturgy of the Hours (4 Volume Set)
This is a lovely edition of the offices. It’s really the most complete printed version in the United States. With this, you get a full 1-year cycle of the office of readings which is great and gives you the full experience. I love using these, it’s a lovely way to engage in prayer. Even though they are four full volumes they are organized by the time of year that you are in so you never need to carry more than one volume with you at any given time. However, last I checked, they run about $40 a volume so buying this is a big investment. You could always spread it out over the year, but still, it’s not cheap. I generally don’t recommend people start with this. Developing a practice first, then deciding if you want to make the investment makes the most sense to me. However, this is the “full version” and if you want to have that at your fingertips… Great!
Pros: You can read all 7 hours every day with a full year’s worth of readings.
Cons: Expensive!
Final Notes: There is a hypothetical second year of readings that has never been released officially, but there have been some attempts to piece it together. So even though it’s the most complete I hesitate to call it fully complete. However, I am skeptical that the second year of the office of readings will see the light of day. It is critical to mention that there is a NEW TRANSLATION of the Liturgy of the Hours in the works, so this set will become “obsolete” in the “near future” (within the next decade?). It’s an expensive investment for something that will be updated “soon.”
3. Liturgy of the Hours Subscription (Word of Fire) 
For the easiest way to get started with a book, you can check out the Word of Fire editions. These come out each month and are available to order ONLINE. These are $7 and are lovely. They include Morning prayer, Evening Prayer, and Night prayer. They are a GREAT way to try out the liturgy of the hours for a month and see if you like it. They are really easy to use because the editors do all the work for you and put the right prayers in the right places. The downside of this is simply that you don’t see the work, so you aren’t forced to notice how it all get’s put together. At some point, it is probably worth learning how to navigate one of the other printed books, just so you can get a better understanding of how it all comes together For the average beginner, however, this is a really great way to get started. It’s cheap to try for a month, however, buying a new edition each month means that if you use this option for a year or more you’ll wind up paying more than the 4-volume set and you’ll still only be getting half the hours.
Pros: Really easy to use. The cheapest option (to get into).
Cons: Doesn’t have all the hours, doesn’t teach you how it all comes together, the most expensive option (in the long run).
Final Notes: One thing I really like about his volume is the hymns that they bring in each month.

Ok, let’s look at Websites/Apps
I personally use 3 different web pages, each of which also has its own app.

1. Universalis – https://universalis.com/ 

This is my personal favorite online webpage. I have the app on my PC, my iPad and my Phone. You can get a free version online, but buying a license is the best money I have probably ever spent. The desktop app lets you generate e-books, and this has been my favorite way to read the hours. I generate a new book each month which includes daily mass, and all 7 hours. You can also set it up for getting regular e-mails. It’s really customizable. The app works great too and you can make changes on the fly.
Pros: Really robust and customizable tools
Cons: There are some variations in the translations from time to time, particularly in the translations of the scripture. If you’re looking for a resource that copies the print copies exactly, this resource falls short.
Final Notes: This app has some really cool options to customize your experience. Here are a few of the settings I use –  I have the Gospel in Greek and English each day, I read the Palms in Latin, I have a 2-year Office of Readings schedule, I have a really great commentary included on the day’s readings, I include chant diacritics and have mass parts presented in Spanish (since I attend Spanish Mass most weekends). There are some other great features I don’t use at the moment that are amazing too, like including reading plans and Lectio Divina.  I LOVE this resource.
2. Divine Office – https://divineoffice.org/ 
This webpage is really great too. It’s the best supplement to the printed versions. It matches the texts of the printed versions and even gives you the page numbers to help you get oriented in your prayer books if you need a little extra help (a great resource for someone getting started). They also have audio versions of most of the hours – which is great if you want to pray while driving around. They say the Psalms Monday – Saturday and chant on Sundays. The main downside is that you don’t have a lot of options. You get the hours how they present them and there isn’t much of a chance to choose optional memorials and the like. I’ve used this resource for many years. Their audio recordings have helped me pray on the go when I couldn’t find the time to read but still wanted to pray in my car. I also use them as a quick and easy way to find my place in a prayer book if I haven’t picked up the volume in a while and have my ribbons in all the wrong places.
Pros: Parallels the printed texts, includes audio, and pages numbers are included to help you follow along.
Cons: Fewer options, no e-book version, you need the app if you want to pray all three daytime hours. Also, it’s less “customizable.”
3. iBreviary  – http://www.ibreviary.com/
This is the simplest app/ webpage. It lacks the bells and whistles of the above two, but it’s lovely in its simplicity. This is my go-to when I want to access the text quickly. They also have some great options for other languages. I will sometimes open this app in Latin and have it side by side with my English text. It does usually require a little bit of tinkering, but once you get the hang of it it’s a beautifully simple app/webpage.
Pros: Lightweight
Cons: The UI can be a little more clunky with daytime prayer in particular.
Bonus tip: Check out SING THE HOURS. https://singthehours.org/ 


I absolutely love the project by Paul Rose. He posts a sung version of morning and evening prayer every day.
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