The Suppression of Prime and priestly duties



Vatican II’s Sacrosanctum Concilium Par. 89 subs. D says “Hora Prima supprimatur”, subjunctive mood: “(It is desired that) the Hour of Prime (be) suppressed.”

Since this decree was made before the creation of the “Ordinary Form” (The Liturgy of the Hours), can this suppression of Prime apply to the “Extraordinary Form” (the 1962 Roman Breviary)?

To put in practical terms: if a diocesan priest is to fulfill his prayer duty by using the 1962 office, does this declaration of the Council apply? Does a Priest fulfill his obligation to pray the office if he prays the 1962 while omitting Prime?

I ask because I am a hopeful-seminarian. I want to pray the 1962 BR instead of the LOTH, but I want to know what is required. Thank you.


Any Roman Rite clergy can fulfill their breviary obligations by using the preconciliar Office. That said, there are varying levels of requirement for Office obligations (admittedly, the postconciliar rules are not nearly as cut and dry as the pre-, where it was simply, you do the whole thing).

If you’re in a society that uses the older books more or less exclusively, you’d of course read Prime; you’re going to be doing the entire older Office. If you’re not, then the question is murkier as to requirements. But bear in mind that if you routinely use the older Office and omit Prime, you’re missing psalms, not to mention a very rich hour of the breviary in terms of texts/Martyrology, etc.


Thank you for your reply, Trad Catholic.

Varying requirements present after 1963 do indeed present a big problem with regards to liturgies. Sacrosanctum Concilium 89 also states that the three Minor Hours are to be consolidated into one Hour. This also seems to have been pointed toward the Breviarium Romanum as it was, and not to an ideal office in the future. Things changed, sadly. It’s never entirely clear if those 1963 instructions applied to the Office as it was, or if they apply to the Office as it came to be. Hence my question.

I desire to go against all odds and become a diocesan seminarian. The Societies and Orders do not interest me. Naturally, if a diocesan priest has a secretary or office administrator, he can plan out his prayer-life of the 8 Hours of the Office.

It’s nice to know where the actual Obligation lies. Can a lone diocesan priest pray the E.F. Office and omit Prime? Is it a mortal sin in that case?


No, it doesn’t remotely approach the seriousness of mortal sin…that’s getting scrupulous. Also, keep in mind there were also optional cuts to the Office that were granted later in the 60s (permission to cut Matins nocturns on major feasts, etc.).

The simplest thing is to pick one Office or the other and just use it according to the system therein. If you go 1962, just do the whole thing. But if for some reason you miss an hour like Prime, don’t be scrupulous about it.


Thanks for the advice. I am a scrupulous person. Thanks be to God for patient spiritual directors.

I like liturgical trivia. That’s why this Constitution - and the decrees of paragraph 89 - fascinates me. S.C. was released in 1963. Does that mean this decision of the Council applies to the Office as it existed in 1963? Which liturgical law applies: that of the 1962 Rubrics (“Prime stays”), or that of the 1963 Ecumenical Council (“Prime goes”)? I checked Summorum Pontificum & its clarification document, but they are not clear about this. I guess rules are not entirely cut-and-dry at times.

Where did you get the information about optional cuts to the Roman Breviary in the 1960s? I’d like to read about those. Despite any good intentions or pious ideas bishops had in 1963, we know how things really turned out; instead of a minimally-reformed Roman Breviary, by 1971 we received the “Liturgy of the Hours”. The banality of that Office had led me to the Roman Breviary. It is beautiful.


I would advise not obsessing. The permissions for the free use of the 1962 Office don’t say “except for the following adaptations.” Further, all the so-called Ecclesia Dei communities use Prime as part of their common life in the seminary, etc. And their clergy use the entire 1962 Office.

If you want to experience the spirituality of the preconciliar liturgy, just do so. Be advised of course that in many seminaries, such a preference may easily get you kicked out.


If you are going to be entering a seminary, odds are that you will be saying at least part of the LOTH in community, and as such, you will most likely not be saying the 1962 Office, Prime or no Prime.

However, it is also likely that you will only be saying Lauds and Vespers in community.


Prime made for very crowded mornings, especially in religious communities where the Offices are celebrated in community. An hour for Matins, 30-45 minutes for Lauds, 15-20 minutes for Prime followed by the reading of the Martyrology and meeting in Chapter. Although Prime itself is a fairly short Office, the time between Offices was too short to do anything meaningful.

Matins would be at 3-5 am, Lauds at sunrise, and Prime at 6 or so.

Psalm 118 reminds us that seven times a day we praised the Lord. On this basis the Rule of Saint Benedict required that monks meet 7 times a day to pray in community. The canonical hours were:

Matins (in St. Benedict’s era, this was Vigils + Lauds together)

However in St. Benedict’s day, daily Mass was unheard of, most monasteries had few priests. As daily Mass is now part of the liturgical life, and since Vigils and Matins have become distinct Hours, the abbey I’m associated with does this:

Sext+None (mid-day prayer)

Therefore the “rule” of meeting for community prayer 7 times a day is still respected, as the conventual Mass is also part of the daily liturgy.

Prime has therefore become increasingly redundant and its psalms were distributed elsewhere. Now the monks at our abbey spend an hour and a half in lectio divina between Vigils and Lauds, that is between 6 am (when Vigils ends) and 7:30 am, the hour for Lauds.

Most monks will tell you that lectio works much better very early in the morning, and the time spent in lectio is better spent than it was in Prime, as the constant interruptions for an Office made it difficult to practice lectio effectively; lectio is indispensable for a monk’s inner conversion or “conversatio morum”.

Prime made sense when Vigils and Lauds were the same Canonical Hour, because realistically there was a good hour possible between Matins (combined Vigils and Lauds) and Prime, for lectio.

More important than the hour itself, I think, is that the psalms of Prime have not been neglected and are still part of the LOTH.


OP, Keep this in mind^ that if you’re going the diocesan route, you’re most likely going to use the 1971 Liturgy of the Hours(OF) for public prayer, while in seminary, you could I suppose recite the 1960 Breviary(EF) in private. If you get ordained then you have a little bit more freedom.


My take is that if you’re going diocesan, then you’re bound by diocesan rules. The general rule is that diocesan priests are bound to the Office of Readings, Lauds, one Daytime Prayer, Vespers and Compline. And since the obligation is a matter of Canon Law and not liturgical law, you’re well within the obligation if you pray just Matins, Lauds, then one of Terce, Sext or None, then Vespers and Compline. And I would say, yes Prime would remain suppressed.

Of course if you’re part of a Society or Institute, then you would be bound by whatever the Constitutions require.


This is one of the things you can ask your spiritual director in the seminary how you can proceed. [edited]


I hate attitudes like this.


Understood. However, youth has a tendency for exuberance, which exuberance is not tied to reality. If that attitude maintains going forward, most likely matters will self correct.


For what it’s worth IMHO I would say that, as with the NO Missal. the intentions of SC were applied in the new breviary, itself prepared in response to the desired changes the council fathers expressed in SC

I desire to go against all odds and become a diocesan seminarian. The Societies and Orders do not interest me. Naturally, if a diocesan priest has a secretary or office administrator, he can plan out his prayer-life of the 8 Hours of the Office.

Few parishes I know have a full time secretary or administrator. Of those that do, this is usually because the parish’s level of activity necessitates one. granted, in a smaller parish the priest may well be able to find time in his day to accommodate eight hours of prayer. However in a larger (or simply busier) parish - even finding time for the “regular” hours can be a challenge - for example, a single funeral can take up a large chunk of the day. Similar, if not greater, challenges are faced by priests in other ministries such as hospital chaplains, some of whom also have to look after a parish.


Having read Sacrosanctum Concilium I would have to say that it’s norms have been followed faithfully. Remember it was a general guideline to guide the work of the commission entrusted with the reform of the Divine Office. Incidentally Sacrosanctum Concilium para. 89 says:

e) In choir the hours of Terce, Sext, and None are to be observed. But outside choir it will be lawful to select any one of these three, according to the respective time of the day.

which is not quite what you have written.

Moreover the other guidelines have been observed faithfully:

  1. Therefore, when the office is revised, these norms are to be observed:

a) By the venerable tradition of the universal Church, Lauds as morning prayer and Vespers as evening prayer are the two hinges on which the daily office turns; hence they are to be considered as the chief hours and are to be celebrated as such.

b) Compline is to be drawn up so that it will be a suitable prayer for the end of the day.

c) The hour known as Matins, although it should retain the character of nocturnal praise when celebrated in choir, shall be adapted so that it may be recited at any hour of the day; it shall be made up of fewer psalms and longer readings.

d) The hour of Prime is to be suppressed.

e) In choir the hours of Terce, Sext, and None are to be observed. But outside choir it will be lawful to select any one of these three, according to the respective time of the day.

All of these have been observed by the LOTH. Moreover in other paragraphs:

  1. So that it may really be possible in practice to observe the course of the hours proposed in Art. 89, the psalms are no longer to be distributed throughout one week, but through some longer period of time.

The work of revising the psalter, already happily begun, is to be finished as soon as possible, and is to take into account the style of Christian Latin, the liturgical use of psalms, also when sung, and the entire tradition of the Latin Church.

Again the LOTH respects this: the psalter settled on is 4 weeks; the revision of the psalter also, with the Novo Vulgate.

  1. To whatever extent may seem desirable, the hymns are to be restored to their original form, and whatever smacks of mythology or ill accords with Christian piety is to be removed or changed. Also, as occasion may arise, let other selections from the treasury of hymns be incorporated.

The 1983 Liber Hymnarius in fact did restore the ancient hymns back from the adulterated and ill-considered modifications of Urban VIII.

And this the great treasure given to the laity by the Church (my bold):

  1. Pastors of souls should see to it that the chief hours, especially Vespers, are celebrated in common in church on Sundays and the more solemn feasts. And the laity, too, are encouraged to recite the divine office, either with the priests, or among themselves, or even individually.

I would say that the LOTH fulfills the above exactly and thus perfectly captures the intent of Scrosanctum Concilium.

Morover as SC alludes to, this reform process began well before SC or VII. Pius X took the first major stab at it in 1910 with issue of the breviary that is the basis of the 1960 edition. Many departures from tradition and precedents started with that breviary in 1910. Annibale Bugnini was first appointed to oversee the Divine Office and Mass in the mid 1940s. Experimentation with things like Mass versus populum began in Rome at Sant’Anselmo monastery in the 1940s, with the blessing of the Holy See.

To me, the LOTH, especially since excellent hymnals and antiphonaries now exist to celebrate it in Gregorian chant, is very much not banal. Anybody praying it is not engaged in a banality. It fits the reality of most busy lives. As a professional, husband and father it made the Divine Office well within my reach to do in its entirety. Sometimes I do revert to a monastic version (schema B as at our abbey, but over two weeks instead of 1), when I have a bit more time and want to join my prayer more closely to that of the monks who do need our prayers right now but most of the time the LOTH is it for me.

But most important of all, the fact that more and more laity are now able to join their voices to the clergy and religious celebrating the Divine Office, certainly isn’t a banality and certainly acts as force that draws us closer to the Body of Christ.

I recommend as a good read on the topic “From Breviary to Liturgy of the Hours” by Stanislaus Campbell. Although the author criticizes it for different reasons, it’s a great explanation of the process of how it was arrived at. It’s also important to note that the Holy Father at the time, Paul VI, was keenly aware of the developments and interjected his advice and instructions more than once. In fact it was his insistence that the imprecatory psalms and verses be removed. Whether we agree or not with that decision is immaterial, it was his right to implement that particular change, and the LOTH is the prayer of the Church as the Church currently intends it.


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