Traditional Breviary vs Current Breviary

I just wanted to know what the difference is between the traditional breviary (used in the Church before Vatican II) and the current breviary (used in the church since Vatican II).

well… its a bit more complicated than just before and after the council. The breviarium romanum and the old monastic office are two that come to mind. Whichever type you are thinking of the main difference is going to be that they are much more time consuming (weekly rather than monthly psalter cycle). The long night or dawn office of matins instead of the office of readings, the inclusion of the little hour of prime which is no longer in there etc. many differences yet still sort of the same in many ways.

And isn’t the traditional breviarium romanum prayed exclusively in Latin?


There are many pre- and post-Vatican II breviaries. Post-Vatican II most are familiar with the Liturgy of the Hours, with the psalmody on a 4-week cycle. Less familiar to some are the Monastic breviaries, with the psalmody on either a 1- or 2-week cycle. What many don’t know is that the current Monastic Schema A, is essentially the breviary designed by Saint Benedict 1500 years ago, and adapted to the post-Conciliar liturgical year, and harmonized with the LOTH (collects, etc.).

Then comes the Breviarum Romanum was proclaimed by Pius X in 1910, that was the breviary of the Roman Church from 1911 to 1970 and was superseded by the LOTH, except that it is still licit for use (Latin Only) following the issuance of Summorum Pontificum. But it’s not very "traditional’ in that it is only 104 years old. The current Monastic Breviary is in fact far more traditional as its basic schema is 1500 years old. The Breviarum Romanum of Pius X in fact superseded the Breviarum Romanum of Pius V proclaimed in 1568.

Then there’s the pre-Conciliar Monastic Breviary. It is essentially the same as the post-Conciliar Monastic Breviary except for the liturgical year and the pre-conciliar classes of feasts. There are still some Benedictine monasteries using it.

Basically, in terms of length:


Monastic Schema A: about 250 psalms per week with many repetitions
Monastic Schema B: 150 psalms per week with no repetitions
Monastic Schema C and D: 75 psalms per week
LOTH: 4 week cycle (number of psalms varies depending on how they’re divided, but quick count about 80 psalms or psalm sections of more or less equal length)

Plus various OT and NT canticles.


Breviarum Romanum (1910-1970 and 2007 to present), 150 psalms per week.
Breviarum Monasticum (circa 500 AD to present) about 250 psalms.

In short:

Pre-conciliar, the Roman Office is much longer than the LOTH; it must be prayed in Latin; the LOTH may be prayed in either Latin or an approved vernacular translation

The standard Monastic Office is the same length both pre- and post-Conciliar, the pre- must be prayed in Latin and the post- is also usually prayed in Latin; the newer monastic schemas are prayed both in Latin and the vernacular.

This site gives an interesting précis of the development of various breviaries. You can see from it that there have been ruptures with tradition in the past; the LOTH is not much of an innovation in that sense except for spreading the psalter over more time; the practices of dividing psalms and reserving some psalms for specific Offices though, has precedents, and the basic structure remains the same.

An interesting quote from that page:

The 1911 breviary was a major rupture in the psalter schema as it had been known by the Roman Rite for centuries. In order to provide for an actual complete psalter, the schema was changed and divisi were used for the first time. The emphasis was placed on the week and its days and taken off the celebrations of saints. When saints’ feasts were celebrated, adjustments were made so that the weekly psalter could be used, and not a particular set of festal psalms, which, by then, had become overused and abused.

So far from being traditional, the 1911 breviary was very innovative in many ways and it also set precedents that were carried over into the 1970 LOTH. Among the precedents: dividing psalms to keep Offices of more or less equal length, breaking up the “laudate” sequence of psalms at Lauds (148, 149 and 150), the use of the ferial psalms for many saint’s feasts (a precedent for the “memorials” of the LOTH that use the ferial psalms)

I’m sorry if in trying to clarify things I muddied them up a bit, but I wanted to show that it’s not a simple matter of “traditional vs. current breviary” :stuck_out_tongue:

In fact if you were to pray the current *post-*Conciliar Monastic Schema A, you will be praying a far more traditional psalter than the pre- Conciliar Roman Breviary.

This needs some further clarification:

Then comes the Breviarum Romanum was proclaimed by Pius X in 1910, that was the breviary of the Roman Church from 1911 to 1970 and was superseded by the LOTH, except that it is still licit for use (Latin Only) following the issuance of Summorum Pontificum.


32. Art. 9 § 3 of the Motu Proprio Summorum Pontificum gives clerics the faculty to use the Breviarium Romanum in effect in 1962, which is to be prayed entirely and in the Latin language.

Universae Ecclesiae does not state all are held to the “Latin Only” rule, just clerics. In the case of the laity, unless some other rule is present (i.e., third order), I am not aware of any restrictions as to the type of breviary one can use for private devotion, Assumptions made here that it’s “Latin Only” need to be expanded to include more than just, say, priests.

Also, for those that may be drawn to the spirituality of the one form of the Mass versus the other, why would it matter how old or how “traditional” a given breviary may be, especially for the laity?

By and large, it seems to me that if one typically finds oneself assisting with the Ordinary form of the Mass, one will more likely than not be attracted to the LOTH. Conversely, if one typically attends the Extraordinary form, one would likely be attracted to the BR especially due to the fact that the calendar of the BR lines up with the missal of the Mass they attend.

I know that is not always the case (I would be an exception to that thought process), but I fail to see the need to consider the age of the BR as a reason to be against it.

I think you are misreading the Latin obligation. If you read the statement in the Motu Proprio, it says two things: one, that clerics may use the older Breviary. Two, that this breviary must be prayed in Latin. For those wanting to be part of the public liturgy of the Church, whether lay, religious or cleric, Latin is a must for the 1960 Breviary as there is no official or translation in any other language. If you read the statement in French, it is much clearer, the second part of the sentence actually being divided into a second sentence leaving no equivocation possible, it must be prayed in Latin.

The older breviary was never intended for private use by laity, though there’s nothing wrong with doing so. The LOTH is intended for private prayer by the laity. Either, when said in private according to the rubrics, is the public prayer of the Church even when recited in private. The LOTH can be said in an approved vernacular as well as Latin. The previous breviary, in Latin only.

You misconstrued my comments about the age of the 1960. I am not suggesting that it is wrong to pray it on those grounds. I’m merely suggesting that calling it “traditional” is in fact a misnomer. It was the main breviary of the Church for a certain brief period in Church history, and remains licit for use today, but it is not “traditional” in any normal sense of the word other than the fact that its general structure follows the outline of older breviaries. I agree with you that those who regularly attend the EF should use a pre-conciliar breviary, and those the OF, the current LOTH or one of the modern Monastic variants if monastic spirituality is part of their charism (oblates, associates, or regularly attend Offices in a monastery).

Breviaries have come and gone in Church history and have lasted for various periods. If one wants to truly dip into the wellspring of tradition for liturgical prayer, then the traditional Monastic breviary, of either pre- or post-Vatican II variants, should be the choice as it is indeed a 1500 y.o. tradition that was founded on the prayer of the Desert Fathers; use the one according to whether one regularly attends the EF or OF Mass.

But if one wants to merely have relatively accessible breviary to be consistent with the EF Mass, the Breviarum Romanum is perfectly fine, and indeed licit.

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit