Re-Reading Sacrosanctum Concilium: Article 101

Vatican website translation:

101. 1. In accordance with the centuries-old tradition of the Latin rite, the Latin language is to be retained by clerics in the divine office. But in individual cases the ordinary has the power of granting the use of a vernacular translation to those clerics for whom the use of Latin constitutes a grave obstacle to their praying the office properly. The vernacular version, however, must be one that is drawn up according to the provision of Art. 36.
2. The competent superior has the power to grant the use of the vernacular in the celebration of the divine office, even in choir, to nuns and to members of institutes dedicated to acquiring perfection, both men who are not clerics and women. The version, however, must be one that is approved.
3. Any cleric bound to the divine office fulfills his obligation if he prays the office in the vernacular together with a group of the faithful or with those mentioned in 52 above provided that the text of the translation is approved.

Latin text:

101. §1) Iuxta saecularem traditionem ritus latini, in Officio divino lingua latina clericis servanda est, facta tamen Ordinario potestate usum versionis vernaculae ad normam art. 36 confectae concedendi, singulis pro casibus, iis clericis, quibus usus linguae latinae grave impedimentum est quominus Officium debite persolvant.
§2) Monialibus, necnon sodalibus, sive viris non clericis sive mulieribus, Institutorum statuum perfectionis, in Officio divino, etiam in choro celebrando, concedi potest a Superiore competente ut lingua vernacula utantur, dummodo versio approbata sit.
§3) Quivis clericus Officio divino adstrictus, si Officium divinum una cum coetu fidelium, vel cum iis qui sub § 2 recensentur, lingua vernacula celebrat, suae obligationi satisfacit, dummodo textus versionis sit approbatus.

Slavishly literal translation:

101. §1) According to the age-old tradition of the Latin rite, the Latin language is to be preserved by clerics in the Divine Office, but the use of a vernacular version, created according to the norm of art. 36, is conceded to the power established for the Ordinary, in individual cases, to those clerics for whom the use of the Latin language is a grave impediment at least insofar as they could pray the Office worthily.
§ 2) It can be conceded to the competent Superior, for nuns as well as for [members of] sodalities of Institutes of states of perfection, whether for men who are not clerics or for women, that they may use the vernacular language, even for celebrating in choir, presuming that the version [employed] would be one approved.
§ 3) Any cleric bound to the [recitation of the] Divine Office, if he celebrates the Divine Office in a vernacular language, one with a gathering of the faithful or with those listed under § 2), satisfies his obligation, as long as the text of the version is approved.

The Council Fathers conclude their treatment of the Liturgy of the Hours by considering the language(s) in which it will be prayed. As in other cases in the Constitution, they express a concern that in the Latin rite, the Latin language be retained for public prayer. Nevertheless they recognize that the continued use of Latin may make it practically impossible for some of the baptized to celebrate the Liturgy of the Hours “fully, consciously, and actively.” First among this group would be clerics who, although trained in Latin through seminary formation, may still not find themselves at ease when praying in this tongue. Their local Ordinary can grant permission for clerics in this situation to pray the Divine Office in the vernacular regularly. Second a religious superior can likewise grant that the Liturgy of Hours be celebrated in the vernacular by men and/or women religious in a given community, as long as the translation used has been approved (by the appropriate territorial bishops conference and given recognitio by the appropriate curial congregation). Finally clerics bound to the recitation of the Liturgy of the Hours may fulfill their duty by praying with other groupings of the faithful, even if they use a vernacular version of the texts.

Since Sacrosanctum Concilium was promulgated, the vast majority of clerics obligated to the recitation of the Divine Office do so in the vernacular, although some clerics will recite it in Latin. There are some monastic foundations and religious communities who have preserved celebrating the Liturgy of the Hours in Latin; one thinks of the Benedictine foundation in Norcia with Fr. Cassian Folsom, OSB, serving as prior or the monks at Solesmes. Nevertheless the vast majority of monastic and religious communities likewise have opted for celebration in the vernacular. The same is true of those groups of laity who celebrate the Divine Office in parishes or under retreat center auspices. Pray, Tell readers might want to discuss the benefits and drawbacks of vernacular celebration of the Liturgy of the Hours.


  1. It is interesting to note that Latin editions of the reformed office are extremely hard to find and very expensive if you can find them. So one wonders how serious the powers that be (especially the powers that publish) were about praying the Office in Latin.

  2. Having celebrated the LOH in the vernacular since the mid 1970s I purchased a set of Latin breviaries in the past twelve months. My initial interest was to use them for the Office of Readings (with the help of a dictionary) especially for those readings composed originally in Latin. I sometimes use them also at Vespers. I have the sense that while the Latin translation of the Psalms has its own appeal, there is quite a divergence there from the Hebrew texts and from contemporary English translations based on them. I am glad that the choice exists. That is, when it comes to Latin and vernacular, both and is preferable to either or.

  3. The office at Solesmes is sung in Latin and is open to the public. It is quite well attended. Convenient booklets are provided for visitors to help them follow the prayers.

  4. At my parish in Houston for about a year now we’ve been offering occasional sung Vespers services. The usual order goes something like:

    • organ prelude
    • choir sings an “introit” anthem/motet
    • all sing the hymn (in English, to the LH melody)
    • Psalms use a variety of languages/styles: English, Latin, Spanish, Gregorian chant, St. Meinrad tones, Anglican chant
    • Antiphons are sung according to the AR2 (Latin)
    • Reading is pointed/sung as per AR2 (English)
    • short responsory (Latin), or the prolix one from LH (Latin)
    • Mag in Latin, usually an alternatim setting
    • repetition of the Mag antiphon sung as a motet
    • intercessions sung (English)
    • Snow “Our Father”
    • final hymn (English)
    • organ postlude

    We generally get very good congregational singing in both English and Latin. Attendance has been up/down but is generally good. The parish is right downtown, which advantages these well to be “young adult” events, with dinner/drinks afterward.

  5. A significant number of Benedictine houses have most of their office in the vernacular, but preserve Vespers (and often Compline too) in Latin with the chant.

  6. singulis pro casibus, iis clericis, quibus usus linguae latinae grave impedimentum est quominus Officium debite persolvant.

    Even before the Council, it was not uncommon for diocesan clergy to individually petition their bishop to pray the Office from a bilingual or vernacular edition. From what I understand, many bishops readily gave this dispensation.


    I still read the Breviarium with the old Vulgate psalms. If I could gather together enough money to spring for a Liturgia Horarum I would buy one and then convert over to its use. However, the reformed Breviary uses the Nova Vulgata psalms and not the ancient Vulgate psalms. I understand that the Pian revisions were designed to better conform to the Hebrew text. However, the old Vulgate psalms, though simplistic and sometimes obscure, are easier to memorize and contemplate. I suppose I could read the Liturgia Horarum along with Clementine Bible. I could flip to the old psalms when required. This would probably be a hassle. If only an edition of the Liturgia Horarum was printed with the old Vulgate psalms, then perhaps more clergy and laity would take up the use of the Liturgia Horarum.

    On the plus side, though, the hymns of Liturgia Horarum have been restored to more ancient versions. The Urban hymns of the Breviarium can be rather strange in construction. I wonder why the more ancient forms of the hymns were restored but not accompanied by the old Vulgate psalms.

    1. @Jordan Zarembo:
      If I could gather together enough money to spring for a Liturgia Horarum I would buy one and then convert over to its use.

      They do appear, in reasonably good condition, from time to time in second-hand book shops (at least here in th U.K.). Have you tried ABEbooks?

  7. Wasn’t the first edition of the LH issued with the old Vulgate psalms due to the fact that the new Vulgate was not ready?

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