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Reform of the Roman Breviary

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By the Apostolic Constitution "Divino Afflatu" of Pius X (1 November, 1911), a change was made in the psalter of the Roman Breviary. Instead of printing, together with the psalms, those portions of the Office which specially require rubrics, such as the invitatory, hymns for the seasons, blessings, absolutions, chapters, suffrages, dominical prayers, Benedictus, Magnificat, Te Deum, etc., these are now all in due order printed by themselves under the title Ordinary. The psalms, under the title Psaltery, are printed together, so arranged that the entire psalter may be chanted or recited each week, and so distributed, or, when too long, divided, that approximately there may be the same number of verses for each day's Office. This change has been made with a view to restoring the original use of the liturgy, which provided for the chant or recitation of the entire Psaltery each week. It became necessary by the fact that as the saints' days, with common or special Offices, grew more numerous, the ordinary Sunday and week-day or ferial Offices, and consequently certain of the psalms, were rarely recited. In making the change, occasion was taken to facilitate the reading of the Office by the separation of the Ordinary and Psaltery proper, but chiefly by allotting about the same number of verses for each day. It is only a first step in the revision of the entire Breviary, as agreed upon at the Vatican Council. It was proposed by a committee of liturgists appointed by Pius X, adopted by the Congregation of Rites, and sanctioned by the pope to go into effect on 1 January, 1913, in accordance with the new rubrics regulating thenceforth the reading of the Divine Office.

Each day, therefore, has its own psalms, as arranged in the new Psalter, except certain feast days, about 125 in number, viz., all those of Christ and their octaves, the Sundays within the octaves of the Nativity, Epiphany, Ascension, Corpus Christi, the vigil of the Epiphany, and the day after the octave of the Ascension, when the Office is of these days; the Vigil of the Nativity from Lauds to None and the Vigil of Pentecost; all the feasts of the Blessed Virgin, of the angels, St. John the Baptist, St. Joseph, and the Apostles, as well as doubles of the first and second class and their entire octaves. Theirs is the Office to be read as appointed either in the Breviary, or in the Ordo of a diocese or institute, the psalms for Lauds, the Hours and Complin to be taken from Sunday; those for Matins and Vespers from the Common of the Office, unless others specially be assigned. The Office for the last three days of Holy Week remains unchanged, except that the psalms for Lauds are from the corresponding days of the week in the Psalter, and for Complin those of Sunday. For all other feasts and for ferias in Paschal time the psalms are those of the new Psalter; the rest of the Office is from the Proper or Common. When a feast has special antiphons for any of the major hours, it retains them with its own psalms. Except for certain feasts the lessons of the first Nocturn are to be the current lessons from Scripture, though the responsories are to be taken from the Common or Proper. Any feast that has its own proper lessons retains them; for feasts with their own responsories, those with the common lessons are to be read.

The criteria given to regulate the precedence of feasts are: gradation of rite, classification, as primary or secondary, personal dignity of the one honoured, external solemnity, local importance or privilege. Provision is made for the transfer of feasts that must make way for others more important occurring, whether occasionally or perpetually, on the same day, especially for the Sundays. The suffrages of the saints are now invoked in the one prayer "A cunctis". The Athanasian Creed is to be said only on Trinity Sunday and the Sundays after the Epiphany and Pentecost when the Office is of the Sunday; but even on these days, when there is a commemoration of a duplex, or of an octave or day within an octave, the suffrages, prayers and symbol and the third Collect are not to be said. The week-day and other votive Offices granted by the general indult of 5 July, 1883, are no longer allowed. Nor is there now the obligation of reciting in choir the Little Office of the Blessed Virgin, the Office of the Dead, the Gradual, and the Penitential Psalms. The feasts of the dedication of a church, of a cathedral, and of the patrons of dioceses, are to be observed as doubles of the first class, and the feast of the Lateran Basilica and its titular feast of the Transfiguration, as doubles of the second class. Directions are given for conforming the Missal with the Breviary, especially for the Masses of Sundays, Lenten ferias, Collects, and also for conventual Masses. On All Souls' Day, the Office and Mass of the current day are to be omitted, and the Office and Mass of the Dead only are to be recited; on All Saints' Day, the Vespers of the day, and of the Dead, are to be recited as hitherto.

The members of the Revisory Commission were: Mgr. P. La Fontaine, titular Bishop of Carystos, Secretary of the Congregation of Rites (President), Mgr. Scipio Tecchi, Mgr. P. Piacenza, Mgr. J. Bressan (Private Secretary to the Pope), Mgr. A. Gasparri, Father P. Brugnani, O.M., Father L. Fonck, S.J., Father J. d'Isengard, C.M., and Rev. F. Brehm. The complete reform of the Breviary, committed to another commission, involves a reform of the calendar; the revision of the historical lessons; the omission of lessons not authenticated; the correction of texts; the new general rubric; the Common of certain classes of saints, as of confessors, holy women, and others, in order to commemorate them on one day instead of assigning a day for each.


PIACENZA, In Constitutionem 'Divino Afflatu' et in rubricas commentarium (Rome, 1912); IDEM, Guida practica per la recita del divino Officio (Rome, 1912); BURTON AND MYERS, The New Psalter and Its Use (London, 1912); BOUDINHON, Le Psalterium Breviarii Romani et les nouvelles rubriques (Paris, 1912); WELSH, The New Rubrics (Edinburgh, 1912); HETHERINGTON, Notes on the New Rubrics and the Use of the New Psalter (London, 1912); Am. Eccl. Rev. (February and April, 1912).

About this page

APA citation. Wynne, J. (1914). Reform of the Roman Breviary. In The Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: The Encyclopedia Press.

MLA citation. Wynne, John. "Reform of the Roman Breviary." The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 16 (Index). New York: The Encyclopedia Press, 1914. <>.

Transcription. This article was transcribed for New Advent by Herman F. Holbrook. Reverendis Patribus Fraternitatis Sacerdotalis Sancti Petri.

Ecclesiastical approbation. Nihil Obstat. March 1, 1914. Remy Lafort, S.T.D., Censor. Imprimatur. +John Cardinal Farley, Archbishop of New York.

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