To pray the Divine Office you need to access it somehow. What books should you buy? How do you use them? This is an overview of the resources available which I personally would recommend (for English speakers).
Laymen who decide to include the Divine Office in their prayer life immediately hit a major obstacle. Navigating the liturgical prayer books causes many, probably most, to give up on this tradition. In order to pray from a traditional breviary one must flip back and forth between the ordinary, psalter, and proper of the day; and that’s after you have consulted the calendar and determined what gets precedence. You’re already confused, aren’t you? Well, I suggest the beginner circumnavigate these pitfalls via 21st century technology. There are apps and websites which eliminate the problem of figuring out what your supposed to be praying.
Now, I should quickly add that I feel there is a place for books. I do not think digital books should replace real ones in public liturgy (I am not alone). The electric light bulb didn’t, thank God, replace liturgical candles in the last century. Digital displays shouldn’t replace prayer-books in this one. Private prayer is a different matter. For the laymen who carries a smartphone the prayer-books can be placed in their hands and accessed anywhere, anytime without confusion.
My first recommendation is the app ‘Breviarium Meum’ from the Franciscan Friars of the Immaculate. This is an absolutely stupendous resource. It makes available the 1962 Roman office in Latin with parallel translation available in English, German, Italian or Hungarian. Additionally one can choose from a number of pre 1962 versions of the Office (I use the Monastic). Included in addition to the office, are a number of other prayers. As well as some excerpts from the Roman Ritual. I have had priests bless things for me using excerpts from the app. While vernacular is a provided option, the base language is Latin and there are some things un-translated (such as titles in navigation panes and the calendar), but I don’t feel they are anything overly problematic for users.
‘Breviarium Meum’ is an apple app. What about non apple users? It’s all good. The source of texts for ‘Breviarium Meum’ are the outstanding, and painstaking years of work done by Laszlo Kiss (Eternal rest grant unto him O Lord). His project, continued and maintained after his death, is accessable to all here http://divinumofficium.com/ .
I really do recommend beginners start with something that sorts and arranges things for them.
Ok, now lets look at what physical books are in print.
1962(1960) Roman Office
Editions of the Extraordenary form Office entirely in Latin are readily available from the various publishers associated with religious orders and priestly society’s dedicated to the traditional liturgy, being entirely in Latin these are generally useless to the average layman.
There are 2 publications which come to mind. I do not have experience with either of them but mention them for those who want to go this route. First, is the 3 volume Latin/English set published by Baronius press. People waited years for them to produce it. it’s fairly expensive. There are reviews out in internet land for those considering buying a copy. More affordable, is the complete one volume Anglican Breviary. It is one volume, containing the entire 1955 Roman Breviary in English, for about $90. This was produced by Catholic minded Anglicans and uses the standard Anglican translations (Coverdale translation of Psalms, King James Version for other scripture, Book of Common Prayer for Collects).
The Monastic Breviary
Those wishing to have a physical copy of the Monastic Breviary, in print are 2 different editions of the Monastic Diurnal. A Diurnal contains only the ‘Day Offices’, in other words everything except Matins. St. Michaels Abbey in Farnborough England has reprinted the 1963 Diurnal. It can also be purchased from Our Lady of Clear Creek Abbey in the USA. It is a beautiful and well made book, with creamy paper and decent leather cover. My copy is older, they have since gone to a heavier paper making the book thicker (if it reduces ‘ghosting’ I’m all for it).
Also in print is an all English Anglo-Catholic version. The contents are essentially the same but it uses the standard Anglican translations.
Learning to use- the website http://saintsshallarise.blogspot.com/ exists to help people learn to use the Monastic Diurnal.
Perhaps you prefer to do as Medieval Laity, and use a simpler unchanging ‘Book of Hours’. The Little office of the blessed Virgin Mary (contents are the same as a Medieval book of Hours) is in print from here or here.
If the Anglican use is your preference… well I’m not up to speed on what the Ordinariate is up to as far as getting their liturgical books together. The historic Book of Common Prayer will be the source, but with what changes? Anyway St. Dunstan’s Plainsong Psalter is a very nice book containing the Coverdale psalms, as well as orders for morning and evening prayer, various canticles (and an axillary order of Compline) all with chant settings.
I hope this series has been of help to laity who want to, in some way, join in this ever ancient ever relevant form of prayer.