The Roman Breviary
The Catholic Divine Office Online

History of the Divine Office

Public Prayer from the Old Testament to St. Pius X

Reforms of Pius XII

First stepping stone to the New Mass

 The Pius XII reforms began with a complete overhaul of the ancient and venerable ceremonies and texts of Holy Week, introducing the altar facing the people on Palm Sunday, vernacular into the liturgy on Holy Saturday, and the abolition of the most ancient ceremony still in use, the Mass of the Presanctified on Good Friday.  A few years later, most of the vigils and octaves were suppressed, as well as the First Vespers of most feasts, the Preces and many other texts of the Breviary.  The author of the Pius XII reforms was Fr. Annibale Bugnini, a self-confessed freemason, who was appointed by Pius XII as Secretary to the Commission of Liturgical Reform.  The CMRI is the only traditional group we know of that has chosen to use this form of the liturgy based on Bugnini's first assault on the traditional liturgy.

Reforms of John XXIII

Second stepping stone

The second stepping stone across the torrent of masonic liturgical reform was not long in coming, as Rosicrucian John XXIII appointed Bugnini to the post of Secretary of the Pontifical Preparatory Commission on the Liturgy, signalling the approval of his fellow mason's "progressive" approach to the liturgy.  With Bugnini's guidance, John XXIII totally suppressed ten feasts from the calendar (eleven in Italy with the feast of Our Lady of Loreto), reduced 29 feasts of simple rank and nine of more elevated rank to mere commemorations, thus causing the ferial office to take precedence. Almost all the octaves and vigils were now gone, and he suppressed another 24 saints' days, replacing them with the ferial office. Finally, with the new rules for Lent, the feasts of another nine saints, officially in the calendar, (eg. St. Benedict and St. Patrick)  are never celebrated. In sum, the reform of John XXIII purged about 81 or 82 feasts of saints, sacrificing them to principles based on a Calvinist approach to the liturgy.  The next and most startling stage of the John XXIII reforms was to make a change to the canon of the Mass, the first since Pope Gregory the Great in the seventh century.  With John XXIII's addition of the name of St. Joseph to the canon, the precedent was made and the way opened to   a more comprehensive attack on the Mass that would continue after his death.  The so-called Missal and Breviary of 1962 are based on this short-lived stage of the liturgical reforms.  This version of the new and seriously contaminated liturgy, although it lasted less than three years, is celebrated by the Society of St. Pius X, the Fraternity of St. Peter, and most of the other traditional and indult groups today.

A Brief History of the Divine Office



By Divine Office, the Code of Canon Law designates both the canonical hours and the monastic Mass, recited either in cathedrals or collegiate chapters (can. 413), or in religious communities bound to the pray the Office in choir (can. 610). These canonical hours are also prescribed for private recitation by clerics possessing holy orders (can. 155), as well as benefactors (can. 1475) and professed religious, whenever they are unable to attend the common recitation.

As the Divine Office constitutes the objective, public and permanent prayer of Holy Mother Church, its effectiveness functions ex opere operantis ecclesiae, and is thus essentially superior to other private prayers.

The Old Testament

The Book of Genesis (4:26) states that with Enos (son of Seth, grandson of Adam) people began to invoke the Name of the Lord, clearly indicating the beginning of public worship; so the Magisterium of the Holy Church has always understood it.

When King Josiah of Judah (640 BC) centralized the public worship in the Temple of Jerusalem, the prayer of the chosen people was also standardized, thus prefiguring the Divine Office of the New and Everlasting Testament.

At the time of Our Lord

By the time of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Jews already had a well established routine for the worship of God. It was binding on all except women, children, and slaves. This worship consisted of prayers taken from Sacred Scripture, mostly from the Pentateuch and the Psalter. They could be recited publicly, in the synagogues, or privately, in a specially designated and/or the highest place of a house.

Our Lord Jesus Christ himself used to pray. St. Thomas, in his Summa Theologica, proposed the question: "Would it behoove Jesus Christ to pray?" The reply is obviously positive, because our Lord, being true God and true man, was able and duty-bound as man to formally pray to God, in the exact measure as the distinction between the two natures in the one Divine Person generated a true human will hypostatically united to the Word of God. If Our Lord had not been able to pray, he could never have offered himself on the Cross, and restore us to supernatural life.

The Early Church

The first Christians, being outlawed, worshipped publicly in the catacombs, where conditions were still not suitable for composing a specific Divine Office for either public or private recitation. There were, however, already some official preparatory prayers for the Mass, and the Easter Triduum also comes from these ancient times. In spite of this lack of organized, official prayer, good Christians began to encourage the custom of sanctifying the beginning and end of each day by prayer. This developed further by adopting, on a purely private basis, the tradition of elevating the heart to God at the third hour after dawn (9 o'clock), the sixth hour (noon), and the ninth hour (three o'clock). Those who abandoned the cult of the catacombs were considered apostates. The prayers, ecclesial and public, elevated by the Christians thrown to the beasts, constituted—after the infinite merits of Our Lord and the superabundant merits of Our Lady and Saint Joseph—the most esteemed supernatural light of the Communion of the Saints; and even today this treasure radiates mightily upon the earth. By the beginning of the fourth century, fervent prayers were being recited in the ascetic and monastic communities at various times of the day and night, and the Christian laity, under the influence of monks and virgins, began to sanctify their life by adopting these practices. Even the bishops themselves began to preside over these prayers in the church. Since the fifth century, the Office has been celebrated every day in the churches at the canonical hours, with the participation and under the direction of the clergy. Many times, the faithful, although they did not personally attend the Office, demanded that it be celebrated regularly in their churches, despite its being very inconvenient for the clergy, as it implied sacrifices to which they were not accustomed. There was already a perfect awareness of the effectiveness of the public prayer of the Holy Church (Ex Opere Operantis Ecclesiae).

Along with the discipline of celibacy, the fact that the secular clergy was required to recite the canonical hours constitutes a legacy of ascetism.

The Divine Office and the Secular Clergy

In fact, the influence of the ascetics (hermits), both men of God and virgins, was so great that it would have jeopardized the authority of the secular clergy, were they not to join the monks in the practice of celibacy and in the consecration of the day by reciting the Canonical Hours. From this time originates the obligation for the secular clergy to publicly celebrate the Canonical Hours, night and day, in the churches and cathedrals, in towns and villages; this obligation of the clergy is confirmed, under severe penalties, by the (non-ecumenical) councils of Toledo (400), Agda (506), and Orléans (511). Moreover, St. Basil (4th century) had already commanded that any monks unable to attend the common prayer for any reason, must recite it in private. St. Benedict (6th century) did the same; and soon this obligation had extended also to the secular clergy.

After the dissolution of common life within the clergy, the Divine Office was hardly ever chanted in common any more, except in cathedrals, collegiate churches, convents and monasteries; nevertheless the clergymen, at least those with benefits, remained bound to the private recitation of the Hours. The Fourth Council of the Lateran (1215) accused of irreligion the clergymen, who, having spent the night in useless conversations, rise up at daybreak to recite their Matins hastily (can. 17). The Council of Trèves (1227) mandated every priest to possess a breviary so that, even while traveling, he could recite the prayers (can. 9).

Until the eighth century, however, there was no uniformity in the recitation of the Divine Office; the metropolitan churches strongly influenced the subsidiary dioceses, and the provincial councils sought to give the Office a certain uniformity. There was, however, a tendency to recite the entire Psalter within the space of a week.

When some uniformity began to be introduced, it was founded on the Benedictine Rule, on the traditions of the great Roman monasteries and Vatican basilicas, St. John Lateran and St. Mary Major. In these basilicas the chapter (capitulum) in fact began as regular clerics and only later became secular.

The Growing Need for a Breviary

For a complete recitation, several accessories were necessary: the Psalter, the Book of the Prophets, the Book of the Law (Pentateuch), the Antiphonary, the Responsorial and Hymnal, the Passional with the Acts of the Martyrs (later called the Martyrology), as well as the Sanctoral. Now, at a time when literary production was wholly dependent on copyists (there was no press back then), it is understandable how this large compilation of books would be extremely inconvenient in the private and itinerant recitation of the Office. Thus it was that the notion of a Breviary was devised, from the Latin word Breviarium, meaning “summary. And in fact, it did represent a shortening of the Office, as the Office of Our Lady, the Office of the Dead, and the Penitential Psalms were no longer added. It was at this time also that the process began of suppressing the temporal cycle in favor of the sanctoral.

The Breviary of the Curia – a natural outgrowth of the Office of the Basilicas and Monasteries of Rome - was spread under Pope Innocent III (1198-1216), Gregory IX (1226-1241) and was imposed at Avignon in 1337 by Pope Benedict XII.

The Renaissance had detrimental effects on the Breviary's natural development. The so-called Breviary of Quiñonez that was in force for 40 years starting in 1535, gained great popularity; its Offices were all of the same length, each with three Psalms. This was a Breviary better suited for reading rather than prayer, and was more in line with the new Lutheran customs than with Catholic tradition. Cardinal Caraffa, the future Pope Paul IV, a great defender of the Faith, forbade its circulation.

At the Sacred Council of Trent strong complaints were issued against the Breviary of Quiñonez. The council appointed a commission to make corrections, but these were never realized as the Council closed and the matter was handed over to the Popes.

The Council of Trent

The Breviary of the Council of Trent was promulgated by a bull of July 9, 1568; this preserved the tradition of the complete recitation of the Psalter during the week,, while restoring the balance between the temporal and sanctoral cycles. At the same time, the Breviary of Quiñones was outlawed. The same prohibition was enforced for all breviaries that did not have papal approval, or which were less than two centuries old. Pope St. Pius V forbade any modification, suppression or addition, to the Breviary of Trent. However, in 1602, by the Bull of Pope Clement VIII, the same Breviary of Trent appeared with notable additions to the Sanctoral. Pope Urban VIII, in 1631, also promulgated a new edition. Pope Benedict XIV (eighteenth century) also attempted a reform of the Breviary but did not succeed, the same thing happening with Popes Pius IX and Leo XIII.

The Reform of Pope St. Pius X

The reform of Pope St. Pius X aimed to restore the beautiful tradition of the recitation of the entire Psalter in one week, which the earlier Popes had been unable to accomplish.

The multiplication of the feasts of the Saints—136 in 1568 had become 266 by 1911—had as a consequence the repetition of the same Psalms, excluding those that are the most beneficial for the soul. Earlier Popes had tried to solve this by pruning the Calendar. On the other hand, St. Pius X completely restored the Psalter by distributing it differently; moreover, he eliminated patristic texts of legendary character and reformulated the Sanctoral by reducing into a single celebration certain related feasts, eliminating others, or reducing their rank to simple (simplex) or just a commemoration. He also strictly prohibited the introduction of new feasts in the Calendar. In this context, St. Pius X also intended most of Sacred Scripture to be read during the liturgical year. St. Pius X restored Sunday to its ancient dignity, giving precedence to the temporal cycle of great supernatural Mysteries of the Faith over the Sanctoral. All these reforms were promulgated in the Bull Divino Afflatu of November 1, 1911.

 Kalendars of the Breviary

The Breviary contains only the feasts of the Universal Church; however, each diocese may have its own particular Offices, which are administered by and disciplinarily dependent on the respective bishops, while remaining subject to the approval of the Holy See.

The Beginning of the Destruction of the Breviary

The two World Wars of the 20th century inflicted severe suffering on the Christian people. Pope Pius XII promulgated numerous indults by attenuating the Eucharistic fast and making the timing of the Holy Mass more flexible. In this general framework of simplification, the same Pope also made alterations to the Divine Office, reducing all semidouble celebrations to commemorations, decreasing considerably the number of vigils and octaves (maintaining only those of Christmas, Easter and Pentecost), suppressing many of the prayers and preces, and confining the Final Antiphon of the Blessed Virgin to the end of Compline; the Creed of St. Athanasius was maintained only on Trinity Sunday. Although these changes were deliberately designed to remain temporarily within the bounds of orthodoxy, the fact is that they were extremely inopportune, coming as they did as part of a corrupted liturgical movement aimed at destroying the liturgy.  By a process of gradualism (see the reforms of Pius XII, John XXIII and Paul VI elsewhere on this page), the enemies of the Church and the Liturgy, led by Annibale Bugnini, set the Divine Office, as well as the Mass itself, on the inexorable path to destruction.

Reforms of Paul VI

The Final Stepping Stones

Despite its popularity among several traditional Catholic groups today, it is important to note that the 1962 Missal was in force for a mere three years before being replaced by Paul VI's 1965 Missal.  With this, the final onslaught of the Bugnini reforms would begin its final stages.  The Prayers at the Foot of the Altar were reduced to almost nothing, the Latin reading of the Epistle and Gospel was replaced by readings in the vernacular facing the people, and the Last Gospel was suppressed altogether.

The 1965 Missal lasted no longer than its predecessor and, in 1968, the now heavily corrupted form of the traditional Mass was ripe for inspection by Bugnini's liturgical commission, now with the addition of  many Protestant members.  The Commission expunged everything Catholic that remained in the texts of the Mass, and all references to the Mass being a sacrifice were completely abolished.  The New Mass was introduced in 1969, the work of Bugnini was done, and Paul VI rewarded him by consecrating him an archbishop.

Guild Restoration

The Guild of St. Peter ad Vincula categorically rejects all the so-called reforms of modernist and freemason Annibale Bugnini, and has adopted the mission of preserving and restoring the revered and ancient form of the liturgy in use before his first changes to the Missal and Breviary.

Striving to preserve the only authentic form of our traditional liturgy, we refuse not only the final outcome of the series of reforms authored by Bugnini and his masonic henchmen, but also each of the steps he introduced with the intention of leading us to that final and totally non-Catholic end.  We recognize that the side of the river Bugnini led us to is bereft of Catholicism, but we cannot imagine that Catholics are now supposed to make do with balancing precariously on one of the many stepping stones he used to lead us away from the Catholic side of the river.

One of the fundamental elements, therefore, of the Guild's Rule is the exclusive use of the pre-Bugnini traditional rites of the Church for the celebration of Mass, the administration of the Sacraments, and the recitation (both in public and private) of the Divine Office. The Guild defines the Traditional Rites of the Church as “those prayers, rites and ceremonies used for the celebration of Mass, the administration of the Sacraments, and other liturgical rites found in liturgical books approved by the Holy See for use in the Roman Rite of the Roman Catholic Church prior to the year 1950.”

The rubrics of the Missale Romanum of St. Pius V, the Breviarium Romanum of St. Pius X, the Cæremoniale Episcoporum, and the decisions and decrees of the Sacred Congregation of Rites are followed for liturgical worship. Use of the so-called “Revised Psalter of Pius XII” is expressly forbidden to Guild members, even in private devotion. No member of the Guild shall ever, whether publicly or in private, employ the rubrics of any of the liturgical reforms instituted since the 1950s, including the revised Holy Week, or any of the other modifications authored by the liturgical reformers as stepping stones to the Novus Ordo. No dispensation shall be requested or granted in this regard for any reason.

| or Call: 513-435-1726

Tweet Me!