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Ordained in 2011, Father Friel served for five years as Parochial Vicar at St. Anselm Parish in Northeast Philly. He is currently studying toward an STL in sacred liturgy at The Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C.
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"It's good that you are in the USA, otherwise who is going to—in the best sense—make music?"
— Ignaz Friedman writing to Josef Hofmann (4 January 1940)

Praying the Divine Office This Lent
published 15 February 2015 by Fr. David Friel

ENT IS JUST around the corner. During this holy season, the Church invites us to strengthen what should be our year-round regimen of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. Personally, I have sometimes made very specific plans, and other times I have set out into Lent with just a few rather general desires. Without question, the more fruitful Lents have been those in which I’ve made specific plans—not necessarily big plans, just specific.

The desire to “pray more,” for example, is unhelpfully general (although I suspect it is among the most common of Lenten resolutions). You could specify this good desire in any number of ways: attend Mass certain extra days of the week, attend weekly Eucharistic adoration, pray the rosary daily, study a particular book of the Bible, etc. Another praiseworthy way to “pray more” would be to join the universal Church in reciting portions of the Divine Office (also called the “breviary” and the “Liturgy of the Hours”). This “official prayer of the Church,” after all, is intended not only for priests & religious (who are bound to pray the Office), but for all Christians.

Do you like the idea of praying Lauds and Vespers in the morning and evening, but you have no idea how to begin? Luckily, in this age of websites & apps, there are plenty of tools to assist you in getting started. I thought this week would be a good opportunity to introduce a few of the resources that are available for your smartphone.

IRST, one of the finest Catholic apps available is Divine Office. This app does have a cost ($24.99), but it offers both text and audio versions of the official breviary texts, packaged in a sleek and trim design. It operates from the US liturgical calendar. The hymns included in the audio version, as well as the voices used for the recited elements in the recordings, are sometimes excellent and sometimes horrid. The audio is still an interesting feature, though, especially for those just trying to learn how to pray the office. (This app has recently released an upgrade, so search for “Divine Office 2.”)

Another very popular app is iBreviary. This app is free, and it also has an attractive layout. Also included is a complete Roman Missal, which can be helpful for following Mass. The content of iBreviary is also available in a host of lanaguages. In the breviary component, iBreviary does not seem to favor the US liturgical calendar.

Universalis is an app that has been around for quite a while and has a cost ($13.33). It includes both the breviary and the Missal, along with a full liturgical calendar and Lectionary. Its prayer texts and Psalms very often do not match what is found in the USA editions of the breviary.

Laudate is another great free app, offering the complete Liturgy of the Hours according to the British version. There are many other features, too, including a tool for praying the Rosary in Latin.

For printing booklets to be used by groups, E-Breviary is the way to go. An annual subscription ($29.95) gets you accept to .pdf downloads for Lauds, Vespers, and Matins. These downloads are especially nice because they follow the same formatting as the print breviary. They have certain prayers available in Spanish, still in beta for now.

The FSSP has developed a fine resource called iMass, offering a variety of traditional Latin breviaries (Tridentine Monastic, Tridentine 1570, Tridentine 1910, Reduced 1955, etc.). It also includes the Roman Missal, and both breviary & Missal are formatted with Latin on the left and English on the right. You can also watch Mass via live stream.

Finally, if you are looking for a free version of the current Divine Office in Latin, check out Liturgia Horarum. This is a website, not an app, so the content can only be viewed, not downloaded.

HIS IS JUST a sampling of what’s available. I personally still prefer to use my actual, printed breviaries to pray. Nevertheless, I understand that many of the lay faithful either do not own a print set of breviaries or fear the ribbons. I hope the above list of apps will help some readers to find the tools they need to start praying the Liturgy of the Hours this Lent.

Let’s not forget, of course, that Lent is not the great Catholic Ironman; it’s not the season for proving what we can do for God. It is, rather, the season for opening ourselves to whatever God should want to do in us.