The Divine Office sanctifies our lives through prayers, psalms, and readings from Holy Scripture. The Office, which along with Mass and Devotion forms the threefold regula, is an anchor of Catholic, and particularly Benedictine, spirituality.
The basic Benedictine liturgy is to pray the Divine Office. Traditional monks — such as those at St Gregory’s Abbey in Three Rivers, Michigan — use a seven-fold version. The Book of Common Prayer (1979) provides a four-fold version in both abbreviated and full forms.
The abbreviated form is entitled “Daily Devotions for Individuals and Families.” These they can be said in a few minutes. As the title indicates, this form of Office is well-suited for families, especially those with smaller children.
Because these shorter forms, and the full form, are objective prayers provided by the Church, it is a good idea to move slowly. Choose any one you like and say it daily for a month. Morning and Evening Prayer are considered the bookends of the Divine Office, so you might want to choose one of those. It is best to say it at the same time every day if at all possible, but it is never required, and is often difficult to do when first starting out. Still, arranging your schedule to give daily priority to prayer to God is a conscious sanctification of the day and adheres to St Benedict’s teaching to “prefer nothing to the love of Christ!”
At some point, we suggest you try praying the full Divine Office. This is a bit more complicated and may require some instruction from a friend who knows how to do it, or from a cleric. Everyone has questions when they first tackle the full Office.
You can pray the Divine Office from the Book of Common Prayer (1979) and a Bible.
Another manner is to use the Daily Office Book from Church Publishing. This contains all the Bible readings, the Psalms, the collects, as well as special readings for Holy Days. There are two versions, a traditional and a contemporary. We suggest the traditional two-volume edition, which uses the Revised Standard Bible. The contemporary version uses the New Revised Standard Version for its readings and that is not thought by many to be as accurate a translation. The Daily Office Book costs around $120 (from Amazon.com). It’s not particularly cheap, but it’s a two-volume set and can enrich your life enormously. You’ll also use it daily for a long, long time.
Either way, add slowly. The full Morning and Evening Offices are about 30 minutes each. The Noonday Office is 10 minutes, and Compline about 15.
Although the Office may seem unwieldy, when you are ready, praying the Office is not a chore at all, and you will look forward to it as perhaps an island of sanity. Your relationship with God, and therefore your life, will be infinitely richer.