by Fr. Neil Xavier O’Donoghue
November 2nd falls on a Sunday this year. The Mass will be taken from the Commemoration of All the Faithful Departed. However when preparing for Sunday, I noticed the following rubric in the Liturgy of the Hours:
“When November 2 occurs on a Sunday, even though the Mass for All Souls may be celebrated, the office is taken from the current Sunday in Ordinary Time; the Office for the Dead is not said. However, when Morning Prayer and Evening Prayer are celebrated with the people, these hours may be taken from the Office of the Dead.”
I am quoting from this edition as it is translated from the Second Edition (Editio Typica Altera) of the Liturgy of the Hours published in Latin in the year 2000. However the translation is exactly the same as the one provided in the 1975 US edition.
This rubric started me thinking. I wonder why is there a difference between a celebration “with the people” (Latin “cum populi participation”) and one that is not with the people?
Is it presumed that only a priest or a religious would be praying alone? Or does the rubric hold even if a layperson was praying alone? Does this imply that a priest is expected to be above the simple spirituality of the layperson who would be scandalized by the Sunday prayers on All Souls’ Day? What happens if two people are praying together (maybe two priests in the rectory before Sunday Mass, or a husband and wife before going to church), are they allowed to pray the Office of the Dead or must they pray the Office for the Sunday in Ordinary Time?
Worse still does this imply that by virtue of my Ordination, I no longer form part of the “people”? On Sunday, I intend to pray for all the faithful departed. Also as I am now ministering in my mother’s native town, after spending most of my life in the United States, I intend to go the grave of my grandparents and say a prayer there. Ought I as a priest not do so?
Admittedly, this criticism is a little tongue in check, and maybe I have a totally mistaken reading of the rubric. I appreciate the primacy of Sunday and the importance of emphasizing the Lord’s Day. However, given that PrayTell readers are reflecting on the section on the Liturgy of the Hours in Fr. Joncas’ commentary on Sacrosanctum Concilium this week, I thought that this might complement the discussion there.
Is this an instance of where the revisers of the Liturgy of the Hours fell into the trap of considering it to be a prayer book for clerics and not part of the liturgy of the People of God? Surely it would have been possible simply to give both the option of the Office of the Dead and the Sunday Office, and let those celebrating the liturgy decide which is better for their spiritual needs (whether it be an individual praying alone or a large assembly). If those in Holy Orders of Religious Life consider their spirituality to be superior to that of the People of God, then we have a problem. Pope Francis has warned that seminary formation can foster clericalism and create priests who are “little monsters.” Does this rubric feed this attitude? Surely the Liturgy of the Hours ought to foster a true spirit of ministry among the clergy as that proposed by St. Augustine: “For you I am a bishop, with you I am a Christian. The former title speaks of a task undertaken, the latter of grace; the former betokens danger, the latter salvation.” (Sermo 340, 1: PL 38:1483)
Fr. Neil Xavier O’Donoghue is a priest of the Archdiocese of Newark, NJ. He currently serves as Vice Rector of Redemptoris Mater House of Formation in Dundalk, Co. Louth, Ireland and as a curate in Holy Redeemer parish.
 The Liturgy of the Hours According to the Roman Rite (Nairobi, Kenya: Paulines Publications Africa, 2009) Volume 4, page 1385-86.