? about Vespers

What is Vespers?

Any & all info about origins, prayers, music, how celebrated, why, who attends, etc.

I’ve never seen or attended (or even heard it talked about) at our Church.

Google is your friend.

I should clarify, I prefer answers from personal experiences.

Particularly since it is Catholic and our Church has never spoken of it.

Vespers is also known as Evening Prayer. It’s one of the hours prayed as part of the Liturgy of the Hours.

You can see what the prayers look like by going to divineoffice.org

Various people participate in the Liturgy of the Hours. Clergy are obliged to pray it. Most religious communities gather together for prayers at different times of day. Lay people are also welcome to participate, either praying alone or in groups.

I don’t think very many parishes offer Morning or Evening Prayer as part of their liturgies. It would make sense to me to have Morning Prayer before a morning Mass or Evening Prayer after an evening Mass, but it doesn’t seem to happen very often. Because this is a form of prayer I like, I got Evening Prayer started following daily Mass in the parish I go to daily Mass at. We usually have 8-10 people stay to pray, sometimes a few more and sometimes a few less.

VESPERS is part of the Liturgy of the Hours (LOTH) or Divine Office, part of the liturgy or public prayer of the Church (along with Mass, sacraments and other rites). It corresponds to evening prayer. There used to be several times of the day when religious would stop for prayer, now there are 3, morning, noon and evening. Night prayer has been retained (usually bedtime) and also the Office of REadings or Vigils. The older names for the hours, such as matins, lauds, vespers etc. have been replaced by these and some of the older hours supressed or combined.

Priests, all the ordained, and professed religious are required to pray the LOTH, lay Catholics are encouraged to do so. there are stickies on this forum with links to guides for praying LOTH yourself. In this diocese several parishes prayer morning and evening prayer together (like daily Mass, however, attendance may be sparse). My residential parish has morning prayer at 6:15, just before Mass at 6:30am, and a parish close to work has evening prayer daily, just before their daily Mass which is at 6pm. At the basilica there is also a priest or deacon who leads it most days, morning and evening. It can probably be found in your diocese, perhaps by looking at websites of neighboring parishes.

Since you ask for personal experience, I pray LOTH because as a Benedictine Oblate it is part of the spirituality I share with the sisters, the other part being lectio divina daily. It is based on the psalms, which have been integral to daily prayer of the Church for 2000 years, because it was so intimately connected with Jewish prayer. I recommend getting started with one of the websites, and not spending money on books until it becomes a firmly established habit. Then spring for Shorter Christian Prayer, an inexpensive way to have what you need for most days of the year.

I have a subscription to Magnificat, would you know if the Evening Prayers listed there are also the prayers used in the LOTH?

Is the LOTH difficult to use?

I attended a Lay Carmelite meeting once and there seemed to be a bit of confusion about the proper prayers to say on that day.

They are most likely the same ones. If you have a parish nearby that is affiliated with a Religious order, they will likely have Morning and Evening Prayer prayed in the Church. They might not advertise this, but if you go to the Church during the later part of the afternoon, you might see people doing this.

It needs to be used in conjunction with the Ordo. The Ordo will give the page numbers of the LOTH to be used for that day - although even in that case, the Ordo is sometimes not very clear.

I attended a Lay Carmelite meeting once and there seemed to be a bit of confusion about the proper prayers to say on that day.

This happens when a Saint’s day and a moveable feast such as the Feast of the Sacred Heart land on the same day. The Ordo will usually tell you which one takes precedence - but sometimes it doesn’t - and then, you just make your best guess. :slight_smile:

If you’re praying privately you can use the Magnificat version. If you’re praying with a group you would want to use the official translation which is available in both one-volume and four-volume versions.

no they are not, they use the same format, psalm with scripture reading and canticles, but do not jibe with the LOTH of the day. Still it is a great way to get started in the habit of praying the hours. Magnificat also has a saint each day and reading from a spiritual master, that can be used in place of office of readings so you can pray vigils, and has the format for night prayer on the back cover. Plus you have the daily Mass readings so it is the perfect first resource to get, IMO.

Well, based on my experience as a lay Dominican, I’d say you need the following in order to learn to pray the Liturgy of the Hours (also known as Divine Office):

  1. A breviary.** I personally use the four-volume set (2 volumes for ordinary time, 1 for Advent/Christmas, 1 for Lent/Easter). There is a one-volume breviary: this does not have the Office of Readings.
  2. A cheater guide.** This is a booklet that is published every year and that you can get at a Catholic bookstore. There is one for the four-volume breviary, and one for the one-volume breviary.

3. An instructor. The quickest and most efficient way to learn to say the Office is to have somebody teach you. All my own efforts to learn it on my own came to nothing; I got nowhere until I finally broke down and asked for help.

4. Stick-to-it-iveness. It took me the entire year of my postulancy to learn the Office, and that is because I lacked stick-to-it-iveness. I’d get frustrated and give up for weeks, and then pick it up again, and start the cycle all over again. It’s lucky for me the Dominican rule does not bind on pain of sin.

Just to build on what was said before: there are still several hours in the Office, and not all religious communities have dropped the old names for them: Matins (Office of Readings); Lauds (Morning Prayer); Terce (Mid-morning Prayer); Sext (Mid-Day Prayer); None (Mid-Afternoon Prayer); Vespers (Evening Prayer); and Compline (Night Prayer). Some religious houses still recite all the hours (e.g., the cloistered Dominican Nuns of Linden, VA). There used to be an hour called Prime, which was suppressed when the breviary was reworked during the reign of Paul VI. However, Summorum Pontificum, which freed up the use of the Extraordinary Form of the Mass in 2007, also freed up all the other pre-conciliar liturgies, including the use of the old Breviarum Romanum; at least some religious communities that use the older liturgies (like the Benedictine nuns of Mary, Queen of Apostles in Gower, MO) recite Prime.

As a lay Dominican of the Western Province of the Holy Name of Jesus, U.S.A., I say Lauds, Vespers and Compline every day, per the Rule as applied in my province (to the extent the duties of my state of life allow).

No it’s not.

Following the psalmist

Psalms 118:164 Seven times a day I have given praise to thee, for the judgments of thy justice.

form about the 3rd Century the Church praised the Lord 7 times a day:

  • Matins and Lauds as night (vigil) prayer
  • Prime as morning prayer
  • Terce for first break from the work (9 AM)
  • Sext as lunch break from the work (noon)
  • None as afternoon break (3 PM)
  • Vespers after finishing work
  • Compline at the end of the day before bed.

This set of prayers was called Divine Office (Breviarium).

In 1970 this was reduced to

  • Lauds as morning prayer
  • Sext ad daytime prayer
  • Verspers as evening prayer
  • Compline before bed
  • Office of reading any time during the day.

Traditionally the Vespers consisted of the

  • introductory part
  • 5 (for monastic 4) psalms with antiphons
  • short reading from the Scripture
  • hymn
  • versicle
  • Magnificat with antiphon
  • collect
  • closing part

In 1970 this too was changed in preparation that it will be added to the evening Mass, that this never happened.

Traditionally all subdeacons and higher order were obliged to recite or chant the full office; now deacons are obliged to pray the Lauds and Vespers, presbyters and bishops all 5 parts of the Liturgy of Hours, which with the permission from the Ordinary can be exchanged to the Rosary. (5 decade for a day). For religious there are different rules.

Thanks so much for all your replies.


Here ya go:

The Divine Office for Dodos: A Step-By-Step Guide to Praying the Liturgy of the Hours


Get it from a Catholic bookstore, if possible.

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