Can someone explain what a Breviary is?


Thank you so much for all of your suggestions and the information you have provided. I am greatly appreciative!

Just one more question then…Do you think there is a lot of flipping around in the Christian Prayer book or the Shorter Christian Prayer Book? That is admittedly one thing that I never did get used to in the Book of Common Prayer. There was always too much going from one end of the book to the other.

What about in the four volume Liturgy of the Hours? In the online version, it seems like the LOTH doesn’t require flipping at all (or at least not much), but the problem with that set is that its expensive and huge (first of all), and secondly, it contains all 6 times of prayer in the day when really I only want two…

If I could build my own set…It would contain all of the psalms in the psalter, morning and evening prayer only, and would contain the readings for the day in the actual book without having to open a Bible (at least I would have to only rarely). This would also be a big volume set I am sure because all of the readings would be included in the books themselves, but I would prefer that over having to keep a prayer book and a bible with me at the same time.


There is an equal amount of flipping in both the four-volume and the one-volume Christian Prayer. The main factor when deciding which to buy is whether or not you intend to pray the Office of Readings. If you do, then you need the four-volume. If your schedule allows only Morning, Evening and Night Prayer, then the one-volume Christian Prayer is sufficient.

If I may suggest, don’t start with Shorter Christian Prayer. Start with Christian Prayer if you won’t say the Office of Readings. The flipping will always be there but it’s not bad at all.


There are seven hours in the Liturgy, not six. They are Matins, Lauds, Prime, Tierce, Nones, Vespers, and Compline. In modern parlance: Office of Readings, Morning Prayer, 3 Day Prayers - morning, noon, and afternoon - Evening Prayer, and Night Prayer. If you intend to say just Morning and Evening prayer, get Christian Prayer; everything is the same except it doesn’t have all the readings for Matins. “Flipping” depends on whether or not a feast is being celebrated. There is no flipping for a ferial or a solemnity. In between, the amount of “flipping” depends on how much is contained in the Sanctoral vs. what has to be found elsewhere. The word Breviary means brief. That is: everything is from the Holy Bible but brief.


Small correction – Prime was not included in the Liturgy of the Hours when it was revised; although it is, I believe, still prayed by those using the 1962 or earlier versions.
The current hours are:
Office of Readings (Matins)
Morning Prayer (Lauds)
Mid-morning (Terce)
Mid-day (Sext)
Mid-afternoon (None)
Evening Prayer (Vespers)
Night Prayer (Compline)


The number can vary with your obligation. A monastic is likely to be bound to seven offices: Matins/Vigils, Lauds, Terce, Sext, None, Vespers and Compline. It could be eight if they’ve retained Prime. A diocesan priest will be bound to five offices: Office of Readings, Morning Prayer, Prayer during the Day (Mid-morning, noon or mid-afternoon), Evening Prayer and Night Prayer.


The current canonical hours of the LOTH are:

Office of Readings (or Vigils in some communities)
Sext )— only one of these required outside of communities

Prime is no longer a canonical hour. The post-Vatican II monastic LOTH in Schema A (the original schema of St. Benedict) allows that Prime can be said ad libitum, or its psalmody distributed over other hours (two schemas are proposed, either distributing to Vigils or the Minor Hours).

The Roman Breviary, and pre-Vatican II Monastic Breviary, both include Prime as a canonical hour.

For the minor hours in the current LOTH, one uses Mid-Day prayer to be said at any one of the three canonical hours, if only saying one of those hours. Alternately, if (usually a community) says all three hours, Mid-Day prayer is used at one of them, and the complementary psalter at the other two, selecting from the appropriate hour in the complementary psalter. Those psalms are invariable from day-to-day as was the case in the Monastic Breviary; it allowed monks to recite those hours by heart from wherever they were working, if it was impractical to get back to the conventual chapel for the hour.

There are, surprisingly, some hidden traditional monastic treasures in the current LOTH, that are optional. As an oblate I use them to align my prayer more to monastic tradition, when I haven’t the time to use my abbey’s monastic breviary (which is often given the realities of professional and family life).


I only intent to pray two-three times, but I did want something with the readings as well. Is there any non-psalm scripture in Christian Prayer? If not, is there any directive in Christian Prayer to read non-psalm scripture (like there is the Anglican Book of Common Prayer)? In other words, in the BCP, which is what I am familiar with, the psalms are included along with morning, midday, and evening prayer. There is also, however, a directive to read scripture (not the psalms) every single day based on the church calendar. Does Christian Prayer include these directives or is there absolutely no mention of the daily readings at all? I just am having a hard time understanding how a giant book could include only daily morning, evening, and night prayers with psalms and without anything else.

Can someone who has a Christian Prayer book break down the contents of it? I think I am missing something here. I apologize…I know you are all trying to explain it but I still don’t think I am visualizing everything within it.


Morning Prayer and Evening Prayer have short readings that are printed in place. The treasure of scripture and hagiographical readings in the Office of Readings are what make the four-volume set four volumes.

Now, Christian Prayer has a sampling of the Office of Readings but it’s very incomplete. At the back, however is a table giving a two-year cycle of readings for the Office of Readings but you will need a separate Bible to use those. This this, it’s much like the Book of Common Prayer (as the BCP only has lectionary tables). And that still does not take care of the second reading, which again, you have only a sampling in Christian Prayer.

If you really want a rich diet of scripture and prayer, you MUST invest in the four-volume edition. Then the best thing you can do is set aside half an hour every morning and combine the Office of Readings and Morning Prayer according to the rubrics. That’s probably the best personal prayer time anyone can have.

In brief, Christian Prayer has the COMPLETE Morning Prayer, Evening Prayer and Night Prayer for all days of the year. It has only a selection of Daytime Prayer (one week), and a very limited selection of the Office of Readings. Of the Office of Readings, it has a complete Psalter, selections of Scripture readings, selections of non-Scripture readings and a complete table of readings according to a two-year cycle.


I have the Christian Prayer by the Catholic Book Publishing Company. There are other versions. But I think this is the most common.

It has 1 volume, 2080 pages, and is about 8 x 5 x 1.5 inches. Weighs maybe 2 pounds.

It includes a 4 week (repeating) “Ordinary” which includes psalms, canticles, readings, and various prayers for morning prayer, and evening prayer, and a 4 week cycle for the office of readings. The OOR also includes about a hundred pages of various scriptural and non-scriptural readings based on the liturgical year. There are also 1 week sections for daytime prayer and evening prayer. There’s a fairly large sections with hymns (including music, and instructions on how to chant), The first 700 pages are the seasonal items. And there’s a large section for the “proper of the saints.”

And more, and more…

You can actually do the readings on line at But they only show the current day.

I’d like to be more help, but it’s pretty complicated to describe.

There’s another version which has mostly the same stuff, but is organized differently to minimize the page turning back and forth. But at the expense of something…which I don’t remember off-hand. I think it is published by the Paulines (but not sure about that).

I primarily pray morning and evening prayer. It has been a wonderful thing for me and other lay people that I know.

BTW - I’d start with this book before venturing into the 4 volume set. It may be what you need, or even much more than you need.


You might love the Customary of Our Lady of Walsingham because it contains the entire Daily Office in two times of prayer, Morning Prayer and Evening Prayer. For those who want to pray more hours, there are the other time slots as well, but these are not needed for praying the entire Psalter etc.

It has the lectionary list in the back, based on the 2-year Roman lectionary (plus options from the 1-year lectionary as well) and doesn’t have the large chunks of Scripture readings printed, so you will need a Bible, and there is some page flipping, but apparently not as much as the LOTH (more than the BCP though). And it is big, although only slightly bigger than the hardback American 1928 BCP.

And from what I understand, it will allow you to pray the liturgical Prayer of the Church, although I may be wrong, and hope someone will correct me if I am.


The approval for the Customary is only for the Personal Ordinariate of our Lady of Walsingham, and only for the interim until Rome approves the final liturgical texts. I personally do not believe that it counts as liturgical prayer outside of that Ordinariate.


Thanks for all of the posts and for clearing things up. It sounds like there are definite advantages to both the Christian Prayer and the Liturgy of the Hours, as well as disadvantages. Considering that I already have a lot of experience with the Book of Common Prayer, I think Christian Prayer would be an easy(ier) transition. However, I do like the fact that the Liturgy of the Hours contains the scripture within them…I always hated having to worry about having a Bible around too and I really love incorporating more than just psalms into daily prayer. I think I may end up going for the Liturgy of the Hours…It certainly isn’t perfect…but it is more complete I think.

Thanks for all of your assistance!


Remember, it’s not just the Scripture. The Office of Readings includes the non-Biblical readings. Not only are they required for the proper recitation of that particular Hour, but they are also in themselves full of saintly wisdom. Christian Prayer won’t give you that; you’ll be stuck with going through a small selection of those readings rather than the full cycle offered by the four-volume set.


Another great point!


Just an update…I made my way to the Catholic bookstore yesterday. After spending about an hour looking over the four volume Liturgy of the Hours and the Christian Prayer book, I decided that Christian Prayer is probably sufficient but I ended up finding other prayer books which I think may end up being a better fit.

At first I wanted something really advanced but if I am going to be realistic about approaching a plan to pray every single day in an organized fashion, I think I need to go in a different direction. Christian Prayer is absolutely doable, but I have found that other prayer books, like this one:

In addition to reading the psalms every day in an organized fashion with some daily readings mixed in is probably my best bet.

I did also want to mention that after examining the LOTH and Christian Prayer myself, all of your descriptions of both books were spot on. Thanks for everyone’s help!


Now, you can also get the the Liturgy of the Hours on the phone or mac. There are many apps, each complete in its own. My preferred one is Universalis, which also contain the Order of Mass, the Missal and the Sacramentary for the day. In addition, you don’t have to work out which day to use (Which week of the year is it? Any which saints day is it?), and you don’t have to flip through the pages to look for the right prayers. Very handy, especially if you are traveling by plane - no weight issue if you have to carry your missals (2 if you are away Sunday) plus your Breviary with you. TheDivine Office app contains audio for you to pray along if you don’t feel like praying alone.

While extremely practical, it loses out on sacramentality. The Breviary is used exclusively for liturgical purposes, like any other liturgical book or the sacred vessels at mass. The phone/laptop is used for other things and by other people, some of which could be naughty.


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