PARTICULAR EXAMEN ON THE RECITATION OF THE DIVINE OFFICE.
I. How preparation for saying the Hours is to be made:–
(a) Have we before commencing to recite the Breviary made a fervent act
of faith in the presence of God and in the sovereign majesty of Him to
Whom we are going to speak?
Have we endeavoured to
purify our hearts by an act of contrition, in order that we may escape
the terrible reproach which God addresses to the sinner—"to the sinner
God hath said, 'Why dost thou declare my justices and take away
covenant in thy mouth?'" (Psalm 49, v.16)?
Have we taken
particular care to clear off from our souls everything which can
distract us, and above all others these things to which we are
attracted and to which our minds may return during our prayer?
"Ante debes facere quod ait propheta: scopebam spiritum meum donec
incalescat spiritus tuus ex devota meditatione et affectum et
desiderium concipiat" (D. Gerhard Zutp. de spir. Ascen.). "Studeat
oratione devota et recollectione animi interna divinum praevenire
officium" (St. Bona. spec, di., p.2, c.7).
recollected ourselves and remained silent for a time, particularly when
passing from study or from a secular business, in order to banish vain
or worldly thoughts, and to make ourselves ready to receive the Holy
Have we united ourselves to Jesus Christ, Who is
the perfect praise of God, the Father? Have we united ourselves in
spirit to the Church, in whose name we are going to praise God? "In
unione orationum ac meritorum Christi Jesu gratiam ad officium debite
persolvendum petat" (St. Bona. ibid.)
begged the Holy Ghost by the intercession of the Blessed Virgin and the
saints, whose offices we read, that we may be allowed to join our
praises to those which they give God?
Have we always
formed intentions general and particular, not forgetting to form
intentions embracing the intentions of Christ and His Church?
Have we adopted some pious thought prior to our reading, so that
distractions may be excluded and fervour fostered during our
recitation? Have we chosen suitable time and place to pray?
Have we taken pains to mark the places in the Breviary and looked over
the rubrics? Has not negligence in these matters caused innumerable
II. Dispositions which we should have in saying the Office:–
Let us find out with what dispositions we recite the Divine Office, and
if we say it in the manner in which the Church wishes it to be said,
digne, attente, ac devote. (Orat. rec. ante offic.).
Have we considered well that God is present and that we speak to Him?
Do we look on ourselves as instruments which need to be animated with
God's holy spirit in order to bless His holy name? Have we said the
Office with all the respect and all the veneration which His almighty
majesty calls for? Cum timore et humilitate, tanquam Deo visibiliter
presente, psallant (S. Bona, spec, discip., p. 1, c. 15).
2. In order to say it attentively have we taken great pains to put away all kinds of distractions?
"Munda cor meum ab omnibus vanis perversis et alienis cogitationibus" (ibid.).
Have we rejected even good thoughts which were unsuitable for the time
of recitation, and above all have we banished idle or indifferent ones?
Have we tried, following the example of the saints, to excite in
ourselves the different sentiments expressed by the Psalms, or to dwell
on some perfection of God, or on some mystery of our Lord, or on some
virtue of the saint whose office we read? Have we piously dwelt on
these, or on some other subject proper to the Church's season or
according to our needs?
"Si orat psalmus, orate; si gemit, gemite; si gratulatur, gaudete; si timet, timete" (St. Aug. in Ps. 30).
In order to say the Office devoutly, have we said it with love, having
our hearts and souls fully alive to the advantages and the excellence
and the beauties of the Divine Office?
Have we said it
with fervour, abandoning ourselves to a good emotion, to holy
affections, and to joyous transports, which the Holy Ghost usually
works in fervent souls? Have we done this work with joy, taking a
peculiar pleasure in this holy labour, recognising the great honour it
is to be a partaker in the songs of praise offered to God by the
heavenly company, whose hosts are filled with His glory?
III. How we must keep watch over ourselves in reading the Office:–
Let us examine ourselves to find out if in reading the Breviary we keep
the rules of good recitation, as laid down by the saints—Distincte,
integre, continue, reverenter, ordinate (St. Bonav., spec. discip. p.
1, c. 16).
1. Distincte. Do we recite
distinctly, observing the ordinary pause at the middle and at the end
of each verse, not hurrying the one on the other? Do we articulate
every word, not adopting a careless or too speedy pronunciation?
"Non in gutture vel inter dentes, seu deglutiendo et syncopando dictiones vel verba" (Con. Basil, sess. 22).
Do we say the Office in its entirety, being scrupulously careful not to
omit the smallest part, and taking great care that a part that we
should wish or try to say by heart shall not slip out of our recitation
altogether or be mutilated?
"Integre, ut de dicendis nihil omittant" (St. Bona., spec, discip., p. 1).
3. Continue. Do we say our Hours without interruption? Do we love this
holy exercise? Or do we easily interrupt our prayer on any trifling
pretext, and on the first opportunity?
"Interruptiones in eo non fiant, nisi urgente necessitate" (ibid.).
Do we say our Office with order, that is, order both in substance (not
substituting one Office for another) and in manner, according to the
rubrics arranging the several hours?
"Ordinate in substantia, tempore et modo" (St. Bona. spec., ibid.).
5. Have we said our Hours piously, with all the modesty and all the
reverence which so holy an action demands? With becoming attitude, not
lying prone, not crossing our legs; without saluting or speaking to
those passing by?
"In officio curando magnopere reverentia et honestas, cum ubique sit eadem cui tune loquimur et adstamus Deitas et majestas" (ibid.). (From Examens Particulers sur l'Office Divin, par M. Tronson).
SECTION: Note C. Bibliography.
Note A. The Breviary Hymns.