Divine Office – Divinum Officium

The Divine Office

A Study of the Roman Breviary

Part II.—Rules From Moral and Ascetic Theology for the Recitation of the Breviary.

Chapter II. Some Rules Of Ascetic Theology For The Pious Recitation Of The Breviary.

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1. Give God thanks for His goodness in permitting us to join in the great work, for hearing our prayer, and for His helps and graces during its duration.

2. Ask God's pardon for faults committed in the course of this prayer of His Church.

3. Devoutly recite the "Sacro-sanctae et Individuae Trinitati ... Amen. V. Beata viscera....R. Et beata ubera...." This prayer, which is generally printed in Breviaries immediately before the Psalter, is to be said kneeling, where this is physically possible. This is necessary in order to gain the indulgence granted by Pope Pius X. to all persons obliged to recite the Divine Office. It is not of obligation and its omission is not sinful. It forms no part of the obligatory Office. "It must be said kneeling, but at the request of Cardinal Asquini, Prefect of the Congregation of Indulgences, Pope Pius IX. was pleased to make one exception (July 12, 1865) in favour of persons who were not able to say it kneeling–infirmitatis tantum causa. Hence, travellers or persons on a journey are not exempted, for they can say it kneeling at the end of the journey. It is sufficient to say the 'Sacro-sanctae' once only, that is, at the end of Compline, with the intention of obtaining pardon of all the defects a person may have been guilty of in saying the entire Office. Yet it may be repeated after each Hour, e.g., after Matins, and Lauds, after the small Hours and after Compline; in each case one would thereby get forgiveness for the faults committed during the part of the Office recited. This explanation has been given by the Holy Father (Pius IX.) himself. The usage amongst the chapters at Rome, as at St. Peter's, St. Mary's, etc., is to recite it every time they leave the choir" (Maurel, S.J., Le chretien e claire sur la nature et l'usage des Indulgences). The beauty and sublimity of this prayer is not always appreciated. Its translation here may inspire fresh thoughts of fervour. "To the most holy and undivided Trinity, to the humanity of our Lord Jesus Christ crucified, to the fruitful virginity of the most glorious Mary ever a Virgin, and to the company of all the saints, be given by every creature eternal praise, honour, power and glory, and to us the remission of all our sins. Amen. Blessed be the womb of the Virgin Mary, which bore the Son of the Eternal Father. And blessed be the breasts which gave suck to Christ, our Lord."

In connection with this prayer an interesting question is discussed in the Irish Ecclesiastical Record (No. 540. December, 1912). Is this prayer merely a sacramental? Has it an indulgence attached to it at all? The querist quotes The new Raccolta, in answering the second part of his query but wishes to know if it be an indulgence how it produces its effects. "For either the defects committed in reading the Divine Office are voluntary or involuntary. If voluntary they are sins and consequently cannot be touched by an indulgence; if involuntary they are not sinful and therefore stand in no need of an indulgence." In a very long reply Dr. John M. Harty sums up, "For our part we adhere to the view which says that the efficacy of the privilege annexed by Leo X. and Pius X. to the Sacro-sanctae is derived from an indulgence. At the same time we think that these prayers are also sacramentals, since they are official prayers of the Church. Under this aspect, they obtain the ordinary benefits which are attached to sacramentals, and, accordingly lead to a remission of sin and temporal punishment by means of sorrow and satisfaction, which are elicited under the influence of the abundant graces given by God, through the intercession of the Church. They also placate God, so as to render Him willing to grant His favours even though defects exist in the recitation of the Office.... Though these defects are not produced ex opere operato, they nevertheless are real, and are an encouragement to priests, whose human frailty prevents the perfect performance even of the most sacred functions of their priestly office."


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