Enticing the Faithful to the Office

During my stay at Clear Creek Abbey, I noticed something I would have found extraordinary a couple of years ago: lay persons of the “Latin Mass” attending services of the Divine Office.  This is not altogether surprising, since if you start a monastery like their’s some people will relocate to be near it.  Of course, wanting to pray what the monks pray (or, at least trying to once for the sake of curiosity) is the natural result.  Still, it was heartwarming to see mantilla-clad women and rustic-looking laymen gather in the crypt to pray with the monks, imitating them as they bowed, signed themselves, and sang the psalms.

Clearly, there are those who would attend the Divine Office if it was offered in parish churches and people were made more aware of it.  The use of quality easy-to-follow booklets would be a must and the Benedictines of the abbey seem to have understood this perfectly (a booklet each for Vespers, Compline, and Prime; Terce, Sext, and None are all put in one booklet; Matins/Lauds required its own separate and much bigger hand-book).

For the ordinary Parish Church, though, all of the Hours would be impractical.  Matins takes too long, is extremely complex, and requires people to awaken at 4-6 in the morning.   Terce, Sext, and None will likely get in the way of parish duties and the Masses that are needed in Latin Mass churches.

However, I do have a proposal that was inspired by the practice of the monks.  Given a good and easy-to-follow Vespers booklet (and the Abbey has already demonstrated that this is doable), many of the laity would be happy to attend Vespers if Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament followed immediately after.  This is what the Abbey does and Vespers is by far the most attended office after the Masses.

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God wanted me to pray in his presence instead of take pictures, hence the distortion

I would also recommend adding something in the morning before Mass.  As I said before, Matins is impractical.  However, there are Orthodox churches who do Orthros before their Sunday Divine Liturgy.  So this gave me the idea: Why not do Prime before Mass?  Prime is short, easy, and can easily lead into Mass before the Aspereges Me.

There is something inherently masculine about a bunch of men meeting in a dark place to chant together.  Even the various pagan tribes of old would have times when the warriors would gather together and chant.  A young boy who is taken to Benediction by his parents might find something more participatory in actively praying the ancient psalms instead of fidgeting and trying to keep silent to not disturb the meditators around him for a full hour  (note: the Vigilante actually really likes Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament and Tantum Ergo is a big reason for that).

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6 thoughts on “Enticing the Faithful to the Office

    • This is a well-known American Benedictine abbey among the Traditionalists. They use the ’63 Monastic Office and Mass, with some changes and additions as far as I know. I myself have wanted to go for some time, either to Clear Creek or to Our Lady of Guadalupe Monastery in Silver CIty, NM.

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    • Paul is correct. It is indeed a very well known place for traditionalists in this part of the United States.

      Personally, i was recommended to go by a relative who went and was stunned by how peaceful the place was. There is no one there but you, the monks, the local people, and whatever other visitors happen to be there (there were 4-6 others there when I went).

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  1. I used to pray the Benedictine Office religiously, mostly from the Farnborough Diurnal with occasional Matins from the Lancelot Andrewes Press. It’s incomparably rich and beautiful, and truth be told it’s not that time consuming if you only pray full Matins on Sunday’s and major feasts. It’s well worth the effort to let your life be formed by the rhythm of the Office.

    Here where I am the local New Rite student chapel prays the LOTH all the way through each day sans the Office of Readings. It’s less rich than the older for. But it’s still spiritually uplifting to see something like Evening prayer sung in common before the weekday evening Mass. I really believe it ought to become normative in most places to do as you say, at least pray Prime or something.

    It’s heartening to even hear of places like Clear Creek or Norcia, and to hear of layman joining the monks. I wish I lived near a monastery like those.

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