The Abbot’s Lodge

This page is for discussions of spiritual matters and questions on the use of a breviary (Roman, Monastic in Latin or English, etc.). I have often had the idea of some kind of community based on the ideals expressed in the Rule of Saint Benedict. I am not a monk or someone who is good at organising things. If anyone wants to come and stay in France for a little while and sing the Sarum Office with me in the chapel, he or she would be most welcome. Apart from the chapel, it’s an ordinary “lay” way of life.

That being said, most of my readers will not be travelling half-way round the world just to sing the Office or attend Mass.

It needs to be kept simple. Discuss and comment freely, but please refrain from subjects that are more appropriate in the various “blow-out” departments or the articles that appear on the blog. I suggest practical issues of using a breviary and spiritual questions that are not confidential (as between a confessor and penitent). Comments on this blog are public and visible to all.

If I can be helpful to you as a priest in a confidential way, then you may write to me privately on

I don’t want to organise anything. I’m not good at it. Keep it free and respect others in their spiritual progress and aspirations as Christians.


25 Responses to The Abbot’s Lodge

  1. Timothy Graham says:

    Thanks for setting this up. I am a working man with a family, and have been trying to say the traditional Breviary in English more steadily for over a year now. I appreciate the chance to hear other people’s wisdom.

    I use an English translation of the pre-Pius X Lauds & Vespers, and also the other Hours with the Psalmody cut down drastically. I admit to forcing myself to keep it up pretty rigorously, because even if it doesn’t always feel rewarding, it is the only thing that keeps my eyes on Christ and keeps at bay the attraction of sordid sins against which I struggled in vain for years. I really like the Vultus Christi blog from Silverstream Priory in County Meath – something I read there once resonated: praying the Office makes the all of the political struggles within the church, (including those of one’s “own party”), and also anxiety for the day-to-day, seem more remote. What matters is being rooted in the sacrifice of praise, across time and place. I see the spread of lay-prayer of this kind, among people who then go out to do their mundane work, as the return to the desert with the monks of Egypt; the atomistic mentality of modernity – as Blake and Coleridge prophesied – has made the world a desert. What I hope this can be is a place to go, like the desert monks, from our solitary prayer, to encourage each other.

    I discovered the meaning of the Office in Thomas Merton’s Bread in the Wilderness; another huge help since then has been the work of Dr Margaret Barker (Temple Theology etc.). She shows the remarkable symbolic continuity between OT and NT in the symbolism and liturgy of the Temple, which is a huge help if you are going to pray the Psalms. Her work is a wonderful supplement to Merton: one finds the Temple/Christological symbolism popping out all over the Psalter.

    I have a couple of questions that might be relevant only for me:

    1) The Benedictine Monastic Diurnal that you mention, from Lancelot Andrewes Press – what kind of distribution of Psalms does it use? My reason for asking is that I have the Anglican Breviary, an Anglican version of the secular Breviary after the Pius X reforms. As I’m sure you know well, after the 1911 reforms, the final Psalms at Lauds 148-150 were no longer said daily and Psalm 119 was no longer the only Psalm said through the Little Hours. So the question is – does the Monastic Diurnal has a major reform of Psalm distribution or is it more traditional? (This is important to me as I like to stick to the pre-1911 Lauds, that’s all.)

    2) Do you & other contributors use Coverdale for the Psalms? And if so, do you chant them? And if so, what form of chant? I find chanting makes a big difference, and anchors one’s mind and soul. I use a simple plainchant for the Psalms themselves, but I’d be interested in finding out if there are any resources with chant settings for e.g. the Antiphons in English.

    • raitchi2 says:

      “what kind of distribution of Psalms does it use?”

      Most likely (I haven’t seen it myself) something like this ( The Rule of St. Benedict laid out a psalter that puts most of the psalms in Matins/lauds/prime so that the monks could have the rest memorized (and ergo easily work).

      “Do you & other contributors use Coverdale for the Psalms?”

      I do. I try and say the BCP 1662 at the very least on Sundays. Here is a link to the Coverdale translation of the psalter ( It’s a nice translation. IDK how much more you’ll ‘get’ out of one translation vs another (i.e. how different is the Knox vs KJV vs Coverdale psalter?) . I think just picking one and sticking with it is going to be more beneficial to you (memorizing etc.) than finding a technical translation.

      “do you chant them? And if so, what form of chant?”

      I’m terrible at chant, so no (I don’t want to offend the angels). I have seen a good plain chant setting online for free ( of the Coverdale Psalter. There are not any antiphons since the BCP 1662 doesn’t use them.

    • 1. The monastic schema of psalms was unaffected by the reforms of the Roman Breviary of the early 20th century. The Lancelot Andrewes Press version in English is a reprint of an earlier edition. Lauds has psalms 148, 149 and 150 each day. It is the monastic breviary and not the Roman.

      2. It uses the Coverdale psalter like in the Book of Common Prayer. This makes it popular with Anglicans. Personally, I use the Latin breviary. I have seen that there is an English diurnal with chant. It uses Gregorian notation.

      Thank you for your mention of Blake and Coleridge – exactly my own affinity with the Romantics in their world view and aspiration to give value to humanity, not only the intellect and technology.

      • Rubricarius says:

        Fr. Anthony,

        Your first point is not quite correct. During the pontificate of Benedict XV the Monastic Breviary was revised. WRT the Psalter it adopted the new Roman praxis for the last three days of Holy Week and the Office of the Dead i.e., the Laudate psalms were excised. There is also the peculiarity of having the ferial scheme of Lauds, with Miserere, in Paschaltide. The calendar was substantially reformed at the time.

      • Thank you for this point. You are right. It would be good to look at the English monastic breviary and see what needs to be put in to revert it to its pre-Pius X form. Indeed, Tenebrae in particular.

    • Alan Robinson says:

      Question for Timothy Graham : [sorry that it is so late] eager to be in contact. Which edition (publisher) do you use for the pre-Pius X Offices in English ? I would like to know ! Thank you.Alan Robinson

      • Timothy Graham says:

        Alan: it has been a bit of mix-and-match! At the time, when I wrote the above, I was using a mixture of an old 1888 Latin Breviary & the Anglican Breviary. The Anglican Breviary (still available for order, I can give you details) follows the post-Pius X Psalter, but the Matins Lessons and many of the Antiphons are the same, so one can follow the unreformed Psalter scheme and pencil in a translation of the Antiphons where the new departs from the old. This may all sound like hard work as one ends up using two books until one has pencilled in all the necessary changes to have a pre-reform Anglican Breviary, but I found it worthwhile.

        In the last year I have been using the Sarum Diurnal – it has a traditional Psalter scheme of course – which I will probably stick with for the day hours. I use Dr William Renwick’s website for Sarum Matins, but unless one can read off the internet this means another set of pencilled-in Antiphons for Matins in one’s Coverdale Psalter, or a lot of printing from his site. Also, Renwick hasn’t quite completed the whole Temporale/Sanctorale in English as yet so I have been supplementing Matins from a cheap re-print of Wordsworth’s and Procter’s 3-vol Sarum Breviary. If anyone asked me about the Sarum Diurnal, I would advise a cheap modern re-print, as my original is now a sheaf of papers – the spine is hopeless.

        What one needs is a good quality book like the Anglican Breviary (runs to around 2000 pages) that would supply the traditional pre-reform Roman and/or Sarum office in a single volume, using the Coverdale Psalms & KJV or decent liturgical translation – but as far as I am aware, there is no such thing. Maybe other readers know better.


  2. Justin says:

    Anybody here have the Lancelot Andrewes Press Matins? I use the Farnborough Monastic Diurnal for Lauds- Compline but have been praying Matins from the Divinum Officium website, either the 1570 version of the Roman Office or the Benedictine Office but I’d love a hard copy book version for Matins, preferably in Latin/English but English is fine as well.

    I agree with you Mr. Graham, there is something special and deeply rewarding about the Office even when praying it can be tedious at times. There’s a beauty to being immersed in the rhythm of the liturgical year, the cycle of feasts and fasts, psalms, hymns and the like. I too have only been at it for a year or more but it’s been very enriching. I find that more than attendance at a daily or even weekly Mass the Office is what sustains me.

    As for the chant, what I do is listen to the Benedictine Office sometimes as chanted by the monks of La Barroux or Norcia and try to follow along. I don’t read chant notation or regular notes so for me it’s just a matter of listening and trying to sing what I hear. Sometimes I’ll just read silently parts of the hours while chanting others. I’ve heard its a good rule to start small and build your way up. The chanting and singing can enhance things though.

  3. Timothy says:

    Dear All,
    Thanks for suggestions & links.

    Of the two Psalters I am familiar with, I think Coverdale is usually better than the KJV for recitation & then it has already has musical settings. Thanks to raitchi2 for the plainchant link, looks manageable for the stage I’m at. I’ll possibly try to brush up on Greg. chant through Fr Anthony’s suggested sites a bit more before I attack the (presumably) more complex notation of the Diurnal!

    Re: Justin’s point, absolutely, I find that the Mass means a lot more with the Office, as the pinnacle to which the Office is the ascent.

    Fr Anthony: I am very into Coleridge’s thought & that of his best modern interpreter Owen Barfield. Coleridge is the bridge between the ancient & the modern, mythical & scientific modes of understanding, individualism & tradition – if only we knew how to read him. Greater as a philosopher than as a poet, I think.

    I’d be interested a bit in other people’s biographies as to how they ended up praying the Office, if that isn’t too personal.

    • Stephen K says:

      Timothy asks how we ended up praying the Office. My introduction took the form of being invited by a traditional priest to say one of the hours with him using a Latin breviary with the Pius XII psalm translation. Later, he obtained for me a 4 volume set of the same edition, and I began to say Matins and Lauds and other hours variously when I was able.

      Then, just before and at the beginning of seminary training, I bought a 2 volume 1961 breviary, again with the Pius XII psalms and I still have that today, and sometimes use it, although the type is smaller and harder to read. In the seminary we used the 1962 Vulgate breviary equivalent and I regret not having it anymore: I gave away a number of books and other things at the time as part of a process of leaving a particular personal epoch behind.

      Of course, it was at the seminary that I came to have an actual experience of the office as a daily, collective, prayer, although it was only a partial, not the full, horarium. It was in doing so however that its rhythm penetrated my psyche, so to speak. On a journey through France, I visited the monastery of Melleray, and I heard the monks singing what may have been Gelineau psalm settings. That was another influence. Later, as a postulant at a Benedictine monastery, I sang Gelineau office settings using the Pauline Office of Hours. When later participating in retreats at a Carmelite friary, I would again use the Pauline Office with the Grail psalm translation, and it is to this that I now generally turn. For a short period I used the Book of Common Prayer.

      So, whilst I don’t say the whole office daily, it is the office rather than anything else that keeps alive my tenuous expressive links with my formation or faith in God. Only recently, after the death of a priest who served my little village leaving the congregation (of about 8-12) without assurance of being able to continue, I gave a copy of the “Daily Prayer” to one of the women and explained how she might find spiritual context and religious continuity by saying simple parts of the Hours.

      There is a part of me that loves language, learning, translating, and I still enjoy turning to Latin and Greek texts to “keep the brain working”. When I read the Latin prayers, I naturally bring to mind past associations, and I appreciate the sound the words make. But I unhesitatingly now prefer to pray or meditate or communicate in English. For me, it is more natural, one step more revealed/exposed to God, one step less barriered. But of course, I’m expressing simply a very personal view.

  4. There was an edition of Monastic Matins done by the nuns of Holy Cross in Tymawr (?????) not a beautiful publication, but all in Old English (Prayerbook style). If you can find The Call of the Cloister by Peter F.Anson, there is a very useful appendix about Anglican adaptations of the Monastic (and other) offices as used by Anglican Religious Orders. All out of date but all the better for that.

    • Dale says:

      The Tymawr Mattins according to the Benedictine rule is the reprint made by Lancelot Andrews press. You are correct that it is not a “beautiful” edition in that it is only in one colour print, black; but for the price it is excellent and contains everything needed for the monastic morning office. The same press has reprinted The Monastic Diurnal as well, and it is an exact copy, in two colours, black and red, throughout, the same as the original. Once again the prices cannot be beat. The only real difference, at least in the Day Hours, of which also have an original copy, is that the reprint has a velor soft-cover; quite nice actually.

  5. raitchi2 says:

    IDK if anyone says the 1662 BCP and the 1662 lectionary, but I made a calendar for the 2015 year. My notes are based off the Annotated Book of Common Prayer by Blunt. Side notes are: C=Athanasian Creed, P=special psalms, B=Benedicite, J=Jubilate, Comin=Comminution Against Sinners, E=Ember days, R=Rogation days. Here’s the link to the 4 page pdf (

  6. Patricius says:

    I’d be very interested to know what the readers here thought of this proposal of mine:

    • My own take is that it would be a good proposition for a large monastic or canonial (regular or secular) community. The point of the missale plenum and the breviary from about the 13th century was to enable the liturgy to be accessible to very small groups or individuals. It was the Franciscan influence in the liturgy of the Roman Curia. You want to reverse that tendency.

      I would suggest finding or founding a large community of clerics with a big building and a nice church.

      • Patricius says:

        The reason I want to reverse the tendency is because it is completely aliturgical.

        Money is the chief problem, and then interest. I have (seemingly) made too many enemies through Liturgiae Causa. It’s interesting that people in America, to name just such a place, are willing to cough up millions to fund these televangelists, who are probably laughing all the way to the bank; whereas if I proposed that someone might fund this project I might scrape together £50. It’s taken me all my adult life, and money that cannot be got back, to gather from book fairs, second hand book shops and the internet all the liturgical books I currently own, and they are no match for your own library…although I may say, respsectfully, that the age gap might have something to do with that! Plus, 20 years ago liturgical books were much more easily obtained and cheaper. And all my liturgical books, not counting the Henry Bradshaw Society stuff, are in the Roman Rite post-1570. My oldest book is a Gavantus edition from 1750. I have always been poor, and never quite able to afford that one book that would complete the collection. Plus, I spent many years devoted to collecting old Tolkien books too, which cost money.

      • According to some bits and pieces I have been reading, atheism is increasing in popularity in the US. There are greater numbers of people some call “nones” (religion: none) according to some people interested in statistics.

        Indeed, when I was your age I found quite a lot at the SPCK bookshop in Marylebone road and Thornton’s in Fulham. There are more and more second-hand bookshops doing orders by internet like You can sometimes pick up good bargains or sacrifice a bit more dosh for that book you have been looking for for years. A Sarum missal for £100 can cause your heart to miss a beat! They are rarer than hens’ teeth!

        I have a 1640 Roman missal knocking around somewhere…

      • Stephen K says:

        A propos of speaking of things as ‘a-liturgical’, and breviary or Holy Week reforms, I think this is such a fertile ground for many considerations and opinions. If we accept that all these things are man-made, and meanings will be (by definition) what we think they are (i.e. whether as author or reader/interpreter) – at least at any given time – then we enter perilous waters if we start to think that liturgy – “people’s work” can never change or admit of diverse forms. With your permission, I will recount an illustrative anecdote.

        I was once a member of a choir serving an inner-city parish called, so it turns out, “St Benedict’s”. The priest was conservative in most, and all relevant, senses and had from an early stage insisted on continuing solemn Masses, or at least Missae cantata in Latin according to the Novus Ordo. On Wednesdays, the choir sang a Compline, with priest and minister in the sanctuary. The choir sat in quasi-choro in opposing pews outside the altar rails.

        On this particular Wednesday, namely, Ash Wednesday, I prevailed upon the choir master that we should lend a more sombre tone to the office by wearing only our black cassocks, that we should process formally in, in silence, etc. The minister (someone I knew) was most put out. He delayed the commencement of the service – to the distress and consternation of the priest – until it became clear we were indeed settled in place. Later he came round to remonstrate with the choir master, and me in particular. We should have worn our suplices!

        I defended our action of course, although it was not a do-or-die thing for me. I meant no malice; I was merely moved by my experience of community (monastic and seminary) Compline and thought the penitential theme of Lent would be symbolised and underscored by the unadorned black of the choir, just as for example, someone somewhere decided that Lenten chanting should be unaccompanied, or vestments should be violet and flowers should be banished. It was, I thought at the time, fitting that the service, in a church dedicated to the patron of monks, be ascetic in tone.

        All the choir understood the rationale. No doubt the minister did, too, although he rejected it absolutely. I appreciate that the worst kinds of innovation and adaptation are painful and destroy the atmosphere of worship, and that I will be a Crusoe without a Man Friday on this forum in maintaining that nevertheless local and occasional adaptation may be consonant and tasteful and liturgically coherent. Now, I don’t relate this anecdote to argue that it did not offend some rubrical guideline nor to impugn any such guideline or older practice. I relate it simply to illustrate how liturgy is a thing of meanings, not stone tablets.

        As a post-script, the little core of people attending said later that the service had been very soulful and reflective.

    • Stephen K says:

      The idea of having all the aspects of liturgical prayer in separate codices sounds a very attractive idea. You would want to avoid choreographic difficulties or absurdities if different books had to be used within the one ritual, I imagine. And, of course, the benefit of compendiums like the Liber Usualis and Daily Missals, is of course facility for all those outside the sanctuary, which I think remains an important consideration.

      • Patricius says:

        Stephen K,

        What you say about the retention of compendia for the use of the laity is a good point. I have no objection to the retention of missals and breviaries for the laity and as aides memoire in seminary training but, as liturgical books, I find their use on the sanctuary totally unsuitable.

      • Stephen K says:

        Yes, Patricius. I think the sanctuarial or choral choreography needs to be carefully thought out so that where different books are required their presentation is done so smoothly that it is as if they appear by magic in the hands or before the minister. If this is done, separate books sounds much better.

  7. Stephen K says:

    Thank you, Timothy, for your mention of “Bread In the Wilderness” in an earlier post, which I had not ever read but now, prompted by this review at I am determined to do. I love the Psalms and the Office, although I do not say it every day. There is something very rooting, very grounding, in them at the very same time that they make one think of God. I always thought that the regular collective recitation or chanting of the Psalms set up a kind of mantric rhythm that led one into a wordless contemplation level, something that solitary recital never quite achieves. I too agree with sentiments expressed that it doesn’t matter too much fussing over particular translations, the point being to use the one that seems to one the most congenial to say. In my case, there is something familiar and easy about the Vulgate due to my years in a seminary and my being part of the select Schola (Cantorum), but on the other hand I love to hear the English of the King James in their great collegiate choral tradition, and when it comes to private recitation, I’ve come to prefer the Grail translation.

    I’d hardly call myself a Latinist but that said, I do love Latin but I love it for its own sake and not as a religious weapon: I am conscious for example that its merit or appeal depends very much on the fact that I understand it and can use it and write it myself. If I did not understand it, it would not have that merit or appeal. In my view, there is no such thing as a “sacred” language: what people have come to mean by that is a largely inaccessible or incomprehensible language. In my view, the idea that divine mysteries should be further obscured by the language in which they are spoken about is spurious, except insofar as the primaeval instinct of humans seems to be that when they don’t understand something they fear it! No, it’s true I’ve come to thoroughly endorse the use of such language as a person actually understands: after all worship is the conscious expression, in words and gesture and action, of a range of sentiments, thoughts and values, to and about the object the worshipper conceives of as the worshipful God. It’s patently absurd for a person to pick up a ritual composed in a language about which one knows nothing; it seems only slightly less unsatisfactory for a ritual celebrant to utter words incomprehensible to observers or passive participants. I think the adoption of the vernacular was one of the great insights of the Reformation and an inevitable development in the post-Vatican II RC Church. (The unfortunate collateral damage that occurred was not the vernacular itself, but the sudden loss or abandonment of musical repertoire, when there was little to replace it.)

    My memories of northern hemisphere Easters is long faded, but here in the Antipodes, there is a delicious autumnal crispness at this time of the year and it evokes for me memories of retreats at a Carmelite friary during Holy Week where I and some companions would, year after year, accompany the services and liturgies. These were, of course, reformed rituals unlikely to receive the approval of most readers here, but the meaning and the imagery of the Psalms shone through, while through the windows of the chapel one could see the still canopy of leaves and branches from the eucalyptus trees outside, and the perching of the occasional bird before flying away again. Outside, in the paddocks, the cows tended by elderly Brother Kieran would graze no doubt with our singing in their ears.

    Well, enough of my musing. Thanks for your own thoughts that prompted them. I wish all my co-readers a holy and renewing Triduum.

    • Timothy Graham says:

      Stephen: you can get Bread in the Wilderness quite literally for a few pennies on Amazon. It is brief but fertile of thought. I am not sure what I think of Merton, he was very flawed by all accounts, but he seems to have had a true gift for communicating the charism of monasticism. Would be interested to hear what you make of it. Timothy.

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