Monday, April 13, 2015


To adore and thank God, to appease His justice and implore His assistance,-in a word, to pray,-is the chief office of the Church, the 'Spouse of Christ. Behold the reason, then, why she is so solicitous that night and day the incense of prayer should ascend before the throne of God; why, out of the ranks of her chidren, many of whom are entirely absorbed with the cares of this life, she has chosen certain ones, namely, the clergy and religious, to perform the sacred duty of official prayer.

To aid these her representatives in their sublime task, the Church, assisted by the Holy Ghost, has composed for them the Breviary, which is an abridgment of the prayers, instructions and exhortations that in the course of centuries were admitted into the official liturgy. But since the Breviary would be too difficult for those whose active life does not allow them sufficient leisure for so long a prayer, the Church has substituted, in the case of many religious congregations and of Tertiaries living in the world, the shorter Office called The Little Office of The Blessed Virgin. This Office is modeled on the Greater Office of the Breviary, having the same number of Hours and the same liturgical components; but it is much shorter, and, unlike the Breviary Office, varies little throughout the year.

While the origin of this or that part of Our Lady's Office may be well known, the same cannot be said of the Office as a whole; for we do not know who it was that first gathered together various psalms, antiphons, lessons, etc., and formed them into this Office. Some writers have held that the Office of the Blessed Virgin goes back to the early centuries of the Church and even to the times of the Apostles, but the best authorities regard such an opinion as unfounded. Devotion to the Mother of God existed from the beginning, but that particular form of devotion to her known as The Little Office was subsequent to the Divine Office on which it was modeled and to which it was intended to be a supplement or substitute. St. Idelphonsus, who lived about the end of the seventh century, is said to have composed an Office in honor of Our Lady, and the Eastern Church possesses an Office of the Blessed Virgin ascribed to St. John Damascene (c. 730). From the time of St. Benedict of Aniane, who died in 821, a number of devotions began to be added to the monastic Office, and among these we hear of various Little Offices, such as those of the Blessed Trinity and of All Saints, the Hours of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Vigils of the Dead. The first appearance of the Little Office of the Blessed Virgin, however, cannot be traced further back than the latter half of the tenth century, when it is mentioned in connection with Bernerius of Verdun (c. 960) and St. Ulrick, Bishop of Augsburg, who died in 973. At the same period a supplementary Office of Our Lady was said by the monks of Einsiedeln on the Saturdays from Easter to Advent. In the eleventh century the practice of reciting the Cursus Beatæ Mariæ Virginis spread to many monasteries, and after the middle of that century St. Peter Damian, the energetic propagator of this devotion, says that the Little Office was already commonly recited among the secular clergy of Italy and France. The new Orders founded in this part of the Middle Ages generally retained the Office of The Blessed Virgin in addition to the Large Office, and finally during the course of the twelfth and thirteenth centuries it developed from a private devotion into a daily duty of all the clergy.

In the Dominican Order the Constitutions required that the Office of the Blessed Virgin should be recited immediately upon rising in the morning; and we find the Little Office inserted in the Breviary of the Order, whose office text goes back to the year 1256. Among the Dominican Saints who were specially noted for their devotion to Our Lady's Office may be mentioned: St. Antoninus, who recited it daily on his knees; Bl. Margaret of Hungary, who found in it one of her greatest delights; Bl. Ambrose of Siena, who knew this Office by heart when he was only seven years old; Bl. Francis de Capillas, who was reciting it when assassinated in his prison.

In 1568 Pope St. Pius V removed the general obligation of saying the Office of the Blessed Virgin as part of the Breviary, though among many religious this Office continued to be said either as a supplement to the Large Office on certain days, or as the daily substitute for it. As a private devotion Our Lady's Hours enjoyed an ever-increasing favor throughout the Middle Ages.

There were current during the twelfth and thirteenth centuries pious stories whose moral was the special blessings that follow from the faithful performance of Our Lady's Office, and from some of these we can see how the practice of saying Mary's Hours observed in the monasteries was being imitated by pious members of the laity who had the necessary education. St. Louis, King of France, and St. Elizabeth of Hungary recited the Little Office daily, and in England the private recitation of this Office had so grown in favor by Caxton's time that he speaks of it as the first morning devotion that might be expected of every piously reared youth. A visitor to England in 1500 was much impressed at seeing the faithful reading the Office of the Blessed Virgin "in the church, verse by verse, in a low voice, after the manner of religious."

The two earliest copies known to us of The Little Office of the Blessed Virgin, found in manuscripts of the eleventh century that are now in the British Museum, seem to have been intended for private recitation. But the great profusion of prayer books for the laity that have come down to us from the fourteenth, fifteenth and sixteenth centuries proves beyond a doubt how widespread among the faithful was the use of Our Lady's Office. Almost invariably the principal part of these prayer books is the Office of the Blessed Virgin, which is preceded by a page richly adorned and bearing the title: "Here begins the Office of Our Lady." In England these manuals of devotion were called "Primers," because they were also used as the first reading books of the children in school. It seems, then, that Our Lady's Office was in those days the first book put into the hands of children, and we can understand why Pope St. Pius V spoke of it as a recognized special devotion of little ones. Down to the time of the Protestant Reformation hardly any other book of devotion seems to have enjoyed great favor among the people, but the demand for the Hours of the Blessed Virgin was so great that the editions of it printed were almost innumerable. The first liturgical book known to have been printed in England was one of these prayer books, which was issued by Caxton in 1477. Unfortunately there began in the sixteenth century a decline in the devotion to the Little Office which has continued to our own times; and while this Office has not ceased to be published for layfolk even down to the present, and while we read that even as recently as 1915 it was recited regularly by the native Christians in some parts of China and Tonquin, the fact remains that today it is all too little known among Catholics at large.

Perhaps one of the reasons for the greater devotion of the people to the Office of the Blessed Virgin during the Middle Ages is the fact that they had been instructed in it from their earliest years. For admirable as are the contents of this Office, their meaning is often far from being obvious; and hence to them can aptly be applied what was said of the words of Holy Scripture by the Ethiopian in the Acts of the Apostles (VIII. 30, 31): "How shall I understand unless some one explain to me?" Even great numbers of religious who recite this Office daily and as a part of their religious duties do not understand the meaning of the most of the words they are uttering, though they have a translation in the vernacular. Of course it is true that since they pray in the name of the Church and have the intention of praising God they fulfill their obligation and gain merit thereby; but for want of understanding what they say, they are deprived of the abundant spiritual nourishment which the Office contains. Moreover those who do not understand the words of the Office they are saying are subjected to additional burdens in the discharge of this duty, for they are not only more exposed to the danger of distractions, but are also under a continual strain in trying to preserve the good intention of prayerful disposition which are necessary to make prayer more fruitful.

In order, therefore, that all who make use of the Little Office of the Blessed Virgin, whether they be religious or people in the world, may derive the utmost spiritual benefit from its recitation, this present work has been produced. What St. Francis de Sales said of the Sisters of the Visitation can be said of all other communities that recite the Little Office, viz. that it is the very soul of their devotions. It is our hope, then, that this explanation of the Office of Our Lady may not only be a positive help to those who are accustomed to say the Little Office, but that it may also contribute to a general revival of interest in this devotion to Mary which was do dear to the faithful in ages past.

                                       C. J. Callan, O. P.
                                       J. A. McHugh, O. P.

Prayers Before The Office

OPEN O Lord, my mouth to bless Thy holy name; cleanse also my heart from all vain, perverse, and distracting thoughts; enlighten my understanding, inflame my will, that I may worthily, attentively, and devoutly recite this Office, and deserve to be heard in the presence of Thy divine Majesty. Through Christ, our Lord.
   R. Amen.

   O Lord, in union with that divine intention wherewith Thou didst offer praises on earth to God, I offer these Hours to Thee.

   Hours that are said separately are preceded by the single prayer, Dómine in unión.


From the Bedroom Window
February, 2016
Photo by Dust Boy

J.P. Kennedy & Sons, New York, 1927

HAIL Mary full of grace, the Lord is with thee. 
   R. Blessed art thou amongst women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus.
   V. O Lord, open my lips.
   R. And my tongue shall announce Thy praise.
   V. Incline unto my aid, O God.
   R. O Lord, make hast to help me.
   Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost.
   As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, world without end. Amen.

From Septuagesima until Easter exclusively, instead of Alleluia, is said:

   Praise be to Thee, O Lord, King of eternal glory.


   The King and Virgin's Son: * come, let us adore.


COME, let us praise the Lord with joy: let us joyfully sing to God our Savior. Let us come before His presence with thanksgiving; and make a joyful sound to Him with psalms.
   R. The King and Virgin's Son: * come, let us adore.
   V. For God is a great Lord and a great King above all gods; for the Lord will not reject His people; for in His hands are all the ends of the earth, and the heights of the mountains are His.
   R. Come, let us adore.
   V. For the sea is His, and He made it; and His hands formed the dry land. Come, let us adore and fall down, and weep before the Lord that made us. For He is the Lord our God, and we are His people and the sheep of His pasture.
   R. The King and Virgin's Son: * come, let us adore
   V. To-day, if you shall hear His voice, harden not your hearts as in the provocation on the day of temptation in the wilderness, where your fathers tempted Me, proved Me, and saw My works. 
   R. Come, let us adore.
   V. For forty years was I offended with that generation, and I said: These always err in heart, and these men have not known My ways: so I swore in My wrath that they shall not enter My rest.
   R. The King, and Virgin's Son: * come, let us adore.
   V. Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost. As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, world without end. Amen.
   R. Come, let us adore.
   The King and Virgin's Son: * come let us adore.


WHOM earth, and sea, and sky proclaim
   The ruler of their triple frame, 
   He unto whom their praises rise 
   Within the womb of Mary lies.

HER womb, the seat of every grace,
   Is now the Lord's abiding place;
   That Lord's to whom the sun by day,
   The moon by night, their service pay

O HAPPY Mother that thou art,
   Close underneath thy beating heart
   Lies thy Creator-God who plann'd
   The world He holds within His hand. 

BLEST by the herald angel's tongue,
   O'er thee God's shadowing spirit hung,
   And fill'd thy womb whence issued forth
   The long desir'd of all the earth.

O MARY, mother of all grace,
   Mother of mercy to our race,
   Protect us now from Satan's power,
   And own us at life's closing hour.

ALL glory be to Thee, O Lord,
   The Virgin's Son, by all adored, 
   And equal praise forever greet
   The Father and the Paraclete.


LORD, our Lord, * how admirable is Thy name in all the earth!
   For Thy magnificence is elevated * above the heavens.
   Out of the mouth of infants and of sucklings Thou hast perfected praise, because of Thine enemies, * that Thou mayest destroy the enemy and the avenger.
   For I will behold Thy heavens, the works of Thy fingers, * the moon and the stars which Thou hast founded.
   What is man that Thou art mindful of him? * or the son of man that Thou visitest him?
   Thou hast made him a little less than the angels, Thou hast crowned him with glory and honor; * and hast set him over the works of Thy hands.
   Thou hast subjected all things under his feet, * all sheep and oxen, the beasts also of the fields;
   The birds of the air and the fishes of the sea, * that pass through the paths of the sea.
   O Lord, our Lord, * how admirable is Thy name in all the earth!
   Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, * and to the Holy Ghost.
   As it was in the beginning, is now and ever shall be, * world without end. Amen.


The heavens show forth the glory of God, * and the firmament declares the work of His hands.
   Day uttereth speech to day, * and night showeth knowledge to night.
   There are no speeches, nor languages, * whose voices are not heard.
   Their sound hath gone forth into all the earth, * and their words unto the ends of the world.
   He hath set his tabernacle in the sun, * and He is as a bridegroom coming out of his chamber.
   He hath rejoiced as a giant to run the way; * His going out is from the highest heaven:
   And His circuit even to the end thereof; * and there is no one that can hide himself from His heat.
   The law of the Lord is unspotted, converting souls: * the testimony of the Lord is faithful, giving wisdom to little ones.
   The justices of the Lord are right, rejoicing hearts: * the commandment of the Lord is lightsome, enlightening the eyes.
     The fear of the Lord is holy, enduring forever and ever; * the judgments of the Lord are true, justified in themselves:
   More to be desired than gold and many precious stones, * and sweeter than honey and the honey-comb.
   For Thy servant kept them, * and in keeping them there is a great reward.
   Who can understand sins? from my secret ones cleanse me, * and from those others spare thy servant.
   If they shall have no dominion over me, then shall I be without spot, * and I shall be cleansed from the greatest sin.
   And the words of my mouth shall be such as may please; * and the meditation of my heart always in Thy sight.
   O Lord, my helper, * and my redeemer.
   Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, * and to the Holy Ghost.
   As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, * world without end. Amen. 


THE earth is the Lord's, and the fulness there of, * the world and all they that dwell therein.
   For He hath founded it upon the seas, * and hath prepared it upon the rivers.
   Who shall ascend into the mountain of the Lord? * or who shall stand in His holy place?
   The innocent in hands, and clean of heart, who hath not taken his soul in vain, * nor sworn deceitfully to his neighbor.
   He shall receive a blessing from the Lord, * and mercy from God his savior.
   This is the generation of them that seek him, * of them that seek the face of the God of Jacob.
   Lift up your gates, O ye princes, and be ye lifted up, O eternal gates, * and the King of glory shall enter in.
   Who is this King of glory? * the Lord who is strong and mighty, the Lord, mighty in battle.
   Lift us your gates, O ye princes, and be lifted up, O eternal gates, * and the King of glory shall enter in.
   Who is this King of glory? * the Lord of hosts, He is the King of glory.
   Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, * and to the Holy Ghost
   As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, * world without end. Amen. 
   Ant. Blessed art thou amongst women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb.
   V. Grace is poured forth on thy lips.
   R. Therefore hath God blessed thee forever.
   Our Father.
   V. And lead us not into temptation.
   R. But deliver us from evil.
   V. We pray thee, vouchsafe us a blessing.


May the tender Virgin of virgins intercede for us with the Lord.
   R. Amen.


O HOLY Mary, Virgin of virgins, Mother and daughter of the King of kings! bestow upon us thy consolation, that through thee we may deserve the reward of the heavenly kingdom, and reign with the elect of God unto all eternity. But thou, O Lord, have mercy on us.
   R. Thanks be to God.
   R. O holy and immaculate virginity, with what praises to extol thee I know not, for thou gavest from thy bosom Him whom the heavens could not contain.
   V. Blessed art thou amongst women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb.
   R. For thou gavest from thy bosom Him whom the heavens could not contain.
   V. We pray thee, vouchsafe us a blessing.
   May the holy Mother of God be our helper.
   R. Amen.


O HOLY Mary, most compassionate of all the compassionate, and holiest of all the holy, make intercession for us. Through thee, O Virgin, may He receive our prayers, who, born for us of thee, reigneth above the skies; that so, of His loving-kindness, our sins may be cleansed away. But Thou, O Lord, have mercy on us.
   R. Thanks be to God.
   R. Blessed art thou, O virgin Mary, who didst bear the Lord, the Creator of the world.
   Thou gavest birth unto Him who made thee, and remainest a virgin evermore.
   V. Hail Mary full of grace, the Lord is with thee.
   R. Thou gavest birth unto Him who made thee, and remainest a virgin evermore.
   V. We pray thee, vouchsafe us a blessing.


May the tender Virgin of virgins intercede for us with the Lord.
   R. Amen.


O HOLY Mother of God, who didst worthily deserve to conceive Him whom the whole world cannot contain, cleanse away our sins by thy loving intercession, that we who have been redeemed, may through thee be able to ascend to the seat of perpetual glory, where, with Him, thy Son, thou reignest forever. But Thou, O Lord, have mercy on us.
   R. Thanks be to God.
   R. Happy thou, O sacred Virgin Mary, and most worthy of all praise for out of thee arose the sun of justice, Christ our God.
   V. Pray for the people, plead for the clergy, make intercession for the devout female sex: let all feel thy helping power who celebrate thy blessed memory.
   R. For out of thee arose the sun of justice, Christ our God.
   V. Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost.
   R. Christ our God. 

   On the Sundays of Advent, the feast of Holy Innocents (Dec. 28), and the Sundays of Septuagesima; not, however, on the feasts of St. Joseph and the Annunciation, repeat:

   R. Happy thou, O sacred Virgin Mary, and most worthy of all praise; for out of thee arose the sun of justice, Christ our God.



   The Te Deum is omitted on all Sundays during Advent; on the vigil of Christmas (Dec. 24); on Holy Innocents (Dec. 28), except when Holy Innocents falls on Sunday; on the Sundays from Septuagesima until Easter, except on the feasts of St. Joseph and the Annunciation; on Ash Wednesday;
throughout Holy Week; on the vigil of Pentecost; and on All Souls' Day (Nov.2).


WE praise Thee, O God: * we acknowledge Thee to be the Lord.
   All the earth doth worship Thee, * the Father everlasting.
   To Thee all angels cry aloud, * the heavens and all the powers therein;
   To Thee cherubim and seraphim * continually cry:
   Holy, holy, holy * Lord God of Sabbath.
   Heaven and earth are full * of the majesty of Thy glory.
   The glorious choir * of the apostles,
   The admirable company * of the prophets,
   The white-robed army of martyrs * praise Thee.
   Throughout the world, * holy Church confesses Thee:
   The Father * of infinite majesty;
   Thine adorable, true, * and only Son:
   The Holy Ghost, also, * the comforter.
   Thou art the King of glory, * O Christ.
   Thou art the everlasting Son * of the Father.
   When Thou didst take it upon Thee to deliver man, * Thou didst not abhor the Virgin's womb.
     When Thou hadst overcome the sting of death, * Thou didst open the kingdom of heaven to believers.
     Thou sittest at the right hand of God, * in the glory of the Father.
     We believe that Thou shalt come * to be our judge.

Here kneel in honor of the precious blood.

   We pray Thee, therefore, help Thy servants * whom Thou hast redeemed with Thy precious blood.

Here rise.

   Make them to be numbered with Thy saints * in glory everlasting.
   O Lord, save Thy people, * and bless Thine inheritance;
   And govern them, * and lift them up forever.
   Day by day * we bless Thee;
   And we praise Thy name forever, * forever and ever.
   Vouchsafe, O Lord, this day * to keep us without sin.
   Have mercy on us, O Lord, * have mercy on us.
   Let Thy mercy be upon us, O Lord, * as we have hoped in Thee.
   In Thee, O Lord have I hoped: * let me not be confounded forever.

The following V. and R. are always said before Lauds, even when the Te Deum is omitted.

   V. Pray for us, O holy Mother of God.
   R. That we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ.