Praying the Liturgy of the Hours

Recently I spoke to a couple of people who are praying the Divine office or the Liturgy of the Hours. I was not sure what that was exactly so I looked up Liturgy of the Hours on one of my iPhone apps. I noticed that the first prayer is at 3am and the last is as 9pm…Do religious only sleep maximum 6 hours a day?

the times of the hours are variable. which liturgy of the hours site are you looking at? Monks have kept many types of sleep schedules over the centuries and there is plenty of variety still. some rather hardcore monasteries wake up in the middle of the night to pray matins such as the carthusians. most simply wake up somewhat to incredibly early and pray the first office of the day. on the flip side of that though, plenty go to bed before nine in the evening or even earlier. in the earlier benedictine centuries the course of the day was simply shifted several hours earlier than the average flow of life we know in the world today. so in other words sometimes they do pray that early but it does not necessarily have anything to do with a harsh or burdensome denial of sleep.

Rasbat is correct.

It’s interesting to note too, that in the early monastic days, the hours were fixed not by a clock but by the sun. The prayers were arranged as such:

Vigils in the night
Lauds at sunrise
Prime at the “first hour” of the day, about an hour after sunrise
Terce at the “third hour” about 3 hours after sunrise
Sext at the “sixth hour” etc…
None at the “ninth hour”
Vespers at “the lighting of the lamps” (or sundown)
Compline before Grand Silence.

As you can imagine, the day was longer in summer and shorter in winter. To accommodate the shorter summer nights, the Rule of St. Benedict prescribed shorter readings at Vigils (which has migrated to become today’s Office of Readings in the secular Liturgy of the Hours).

With time these hours became fixed to a clock; and after Vatican II, Prime could be omitted from the Monastic Office and was definitely abolished from the Roman (secular) Liturgy of the Hours.

I’m an oblate of a Benedictine abbey and their schedule is:

Vigils 5 am
Lauds 7:30 am
Terce 9:45 am
Sext+None (weekdays) noon
Sext+None (Sundays and feasts) 3:45 pm
Vespers 5 pm
Compline 7:45 pm
Grand Silence (9 pm until Terce).

I follow more or less the same schedule except for Compline and I pray None separately (unless I have to be out for the afternoon) at 3 pm.

If you go on various monastery web sites, you’ll find as many schedules as there are monasteries; each has the authority to fix its own schedule. The only requirement is that the verity of the hour be respected. In practice, that means that Lauds, for instance, is a morning prayer that can be said at any time from about sunrise until roughly 8:30 am, and Vespers from 4 pm to 8 pm; it wouldn’t do, for example, to celebrate Lauds at mid-day. Most monasteries do ensure that monks get a full 8 hours sleep so they also tend to go to bed very early. Some will have interrupted sleep, or allow for a siesta after lunch (the Rule of St. Benedict allows for a siesta mid-day). The Carthusians tend to be the most rigorous with their schedule although they don’t meet in choir for all hours; Vigils is however always in community, some hours are always said alone in the private oratory of their cells.

As a Discalced Carmelite Secular we pray the Liturgy of the Hours, but only Morning and Evening prayers, though we are urged to say night prays also. Some like me also pray the other hours but the thing is since it is the prayer of the Church when one starts can be at anytime as around the world these prayers are said at different times, but be as that may, one can pray Lauds whenever one wakes up and go from there, and Evening prayer at night. One can also follow a set time if one wishes, or pray the Hours as it is done in monasteries What is important it seems to me is that one prays them with love for God and not because someone says one has to or because its something to do. I do think from personal experience that the more one prays the Hours the more wants to out of love for God and nothing else.

Monks at the monastery near me are in the choir stalls at 4:00 AM to pray Vigils. They do 15 minutes of prayer, shut out the lights and meditate for a half hour and then finish the prayer.

Lauds is right before Mass at 7:00 AM
Vespers is 4:30 PM
Compline is at 7:00 PM

Bedtime is at 8:00 for most monks unless they are assigned to close the gate or some other work requiring them to be up later.

They sleep six or seven hours and usually take a nap sometime during the day. I sometimes enjoy this particular detail of the monastic life when I work from home. :slight_smile:


And then there are those of us lay people who just pray the invitatory and laudes in the morning sometime (normally I try and do this before 7:30am) and then vespers just before I go to bed.

God bless,


So many very informative answers! Thank you. I am going to look into the Lay Oblate.


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