Moderator’s note: Below is a question sent in to me, and my response to it, both edited lightly for publication. I encourage your comments on it. What would you add to or improve upon in my response? awr
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I am both a deacon and a Benedictine oblate. I have a question about the Liturgy of the Hours [LOTH] and Benedictine Daily Prayer. I know your name from the Pray Tell blog and thought I would email you.
As a deacon I have the obligation to pray the LOTH daily. Benedictine monasteries have their own versions that fulfil this duty for their clergy and these are often different in many ways from the official [i.e. Roman] LOTH.
So my question is this: as an oblate can I fulfill my ordination promise to pray the LOTH by using a Benedictine version such as Benedictine Daily Prayer? The way I see it is that this is similar to the monasteries formulating their versions, since Benedictine Daily Prayer comes from a Benedictine publisher as being especially for oblates.
I have been told “no” by some (because it is not an official Office approved by the USCCB) and “yes” by others (who say it’s of the same spirit and style as LOTH). Is there any official word on this kind of situation?
Thank you very much. God grant you peace!
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Dear Deacon N.,
Thanks for writing. I can only give you my understanding of this question. My thinking has been formed by an article (attached below) we published in our journal Worship in 1963. It argues, among other things, using the categories of traditional morality at a time when this tradition was being renewed, that a cleric could fulfill the obligation to the Latin office, in particular circumstances, by praying in English. This is because the goal, and the charge from our Lord, is to pray always with mind and heart so as to draw near to God. In my view, the kind of legalism that says ‘this counts’ and ‘this does not count’ based on a supposed external law, without looking at what is in the human heart and what God is really calling us to, is not a helpful viewpoint. It seems at odds with everything Our Lord teaches in the Gospels. The article doesn’t address your specific question, but I think it gives a good, Gospel-based foundation for thinking about questions such as yours.
The constitution of our monastic congregation says that we fulfill the obligation to the Office by praying the Office of the place we’re at. When I’m at another monastery with another psalm distribution, I don’t go to their Morning Prayer, and then go to my room and re-do Morning Prayer using all books from St. John’s which I lugged in my suitcase, to get in our psalms!
I hope you find the attached article helpful. It breathes the spirit of rigorous, faithful commitment to the Office from a Gospel-based perspective. I hope that your prayerful discernment before God leads you to a place of peaceful and heartfelt devotion in prayer.
Fr. Anthony, OSB
Attachment: “Bernard Haering, A Closer Look at the Breviary Obligation,” Worship XXXVII (1963), 274-285.