The musings and meandering thoughts of a crotchety old man as he observes life in the world and in a small, rural town in South East Nebraska. My Pledge-Nulla dies sine linea-Not a day with out a line.
29 December 2022
Ask Father: "Why Do Most Clergy Have Almost No Interest in the Liturgy of the Hours?"
Fr Zed addresses the question of why the orders of VII that Vespers should be sung on Sundays in all major Churches were disregarded.
Why do most clergy have almost no interest in the Liturgy of the Hours? [Maybe they are saying the Roman Breviary!]
I know many lay people who have discovered and love the divine office and expend the effort to learn how to pray and even chant it in the vernacular or Latin. But almost all clergy I know, with few exceptions, show no interest in it whatsoever. A few reasons seem to suggest themselves including the following.
1. Poor liturgical formation which does not enable them to understand or appreciate the Liturgy of the Hours 2. Their own personal experience of the obligation to pray the Liturgy of the Hours as an oppressive burden 3. An already busy schedule that doesn’t have much room for yet another obligation/responsibility (I have sympathy for this one. I know how busy most priests are and how much their time is in demand) 4. A preference to pray it as a private devotion rather than as public liturgy.
But these are just my guesses. I would like to hear a priest’s thoughts on this question.
Firstly, I think you are asking why clergy aren’t interested in public recitation of the hours.
If this is the case, I rather doubt 1) and 4) not sure about 2) (sometimes it is a real pain) and tend to 3).
You will notice that in most hand missals for the Vetus Ordo, the Traditional Latin Mass, there is a section for the prayers of Vespers for Sundays and Feasts. It was, in fact, a custom in many places to return to church for sung Vespers. As a matter of fact in my home parish this was and is still done and has been since … well… probably the better part of 40 years, in Latin, usually with Exposition and Benediction. And it isn’t clergy who are hard to motivate, it’s lay people.
Vatican II strongly urged that there should be public Vespers on Sundays in major churches. This is been honored more in the breach than the observance. The blame for that, and there should be BLAME for that rests squarely on the backs of bishops, who have the chief major church of the diocese, the cathedral. That ought to be the flagship for such a devotion. I’d like to know at which cathedrals you can find Sunday Vespers, outside of Westminster. Brompton Oratory in London. St. Eugene and St Nicolas in Paris both have Vespers in the Vetus Ordo live streamed. The SSPX seminary in these USA stream Vespers. I am not a fan of chant with organ, btw. On the Benedictine side, there’s the great Abbey of Le Barroux. Some of the ICK chapels have streams of Vespers. I would like to see a return to streaming from Gower Abbey.
Sharing the blame are the liturgical vandals who shattered the prayer life – and identity – of the Church by the abrupt imposition of an artificially cobbled up “Roman Rite”, Novus Ordo. There were no books with musical notation for the Liturgy of the Hours, which is not the same as the Roman Breviary. There were and are monastic diurnals, and so forth, but nothing for us seculars. This lead to all manner of cringeworthy nonsense. It still with pain and horror recall the truly hideous dreck foisted on us seminarians for morning and evening prayer: it had nothing to do with the true office and the music was less worthy than the theme song of Gilligan’s Island and My Little Pony. Then again, it was the entire project of the faculty there to infantilize and break the masculinity of the men who entered as men… still.
I digress. The lack of books was a problem. Solesmes started to produce helpful books, such as the Liber Hymnarius but that didn’t help with the psalter. I am talking here about Latin, of course. The situation for the vernacular was dire in the extreme.
So, there are practical issues to consider. Lack of materials and lack of time and energy.
If you want to have sung Vespers, do all the work to recruit and train and organize.