Monday, December 02, 2019

How to Incorporate the Traditional Roman Martyrology into Daily Prayer

A brilliant example of manuscript illumination: the Martyrology of Usuard
Earlier today, I posted about four new reprints from Os Justi Press, one of which is a pocket edition of the Roman Martyrology in the English translation of its last preconciliar edition, which is once more in demand as Summorum Pontificum continues its unstoppable progress.

I recommended incorporating the Martyrology” into one’s daily prayer life. But how exactly do we do this?

The Roman Martyrology is an official liturgical book of the Catholic Church that has a simple ritual of its own. While only a relatively small number of saints are celebrated or commemorated with full liturgical honors (so to speak) at Holy Mass and in the Divine Office, a great many other Saints [1] are carefully recorded in, remembered through, and called upon by the reading of the Martyrology each day after the canonical hour of Prime, [2] as part of the so-called “capitular office.” It is a long-standing custom to read the following day’s saints, because the Church is preparing us to celebrate First Vespers that evening, which begins the observance of those saints. (E.g., on the morning of September 13, we announce the Exaltation of the Holy Cross, because its First Vespers will take place that evening, and historically, First Vespers bore even more “weight” than Second Vespers.)

After praying the final oration of Prime (“Domine, Deus omnipotens” / “O Lord God almighty, Who hast brought us to the beginning of this day”) and the “Benedicamus Domino / Deo gratias,” one opens the Martyrology to tomorrow’s date.

In English:
The reader begins forthwith by announcing the day of the month, and the listing of saints. At the end he always says: 
And elsewhere, many other holy martyrs, confessors, and holy virgins.
R. Thanks be to God.
V. Precious in the sight of the Lord:
R. Is the death of His saints.
(Then immediately, without saying “Let us pray”)
May holy Mary and all the Saints intercede for us with the Lord, that we may merit to be helped and saved by Him who lives and reigns forever and ever.
R. Amen.

In Latin:
R. Deo gratias.
V. Pretiosa in conspectu Domini:
R. Mors sanctorum ejus.
Sancta Maria et omnes Sancti intercedant pro nobis ad Dominum, ut nos mereamur ab eo adjuvari et salvari, qui vivit et regnat in saecula saeculorum.
R. Amen.

That’s all there is to it. (If you are looking to do the capitular office in full, I suggest picking up a copy of the Breviarium Romanum or, for those interested in the Benedictine tradition, the Monastic Diurnal, where you will find more information.)

May God bless us, and may all the holy angels and saints of God intercede for us!


[1] Not all Saints are included in the Martyrology; there are a large number of saints on a multitude of Eastern calendars, both pre-schism and uniate, who are not to be found in the Roman Martyrology. On the other hand, there is a surprising amount of overlap between the traditional Roman calendar and many Eastern calendars, a feature that is sorely lacking in the reformed (Novus Ordo) calendar. This article is not the place to go into the question of the neo-Martyrology of 2001/2004 that has been extensively revised in accord with reformist principles. Interested readers may wish to consult a guest article by Dr Jeremy Holmes published six years ago at NLM: “Remembering the Saints.”

[2] Some readers might be wondering: “But hasn’t Prime been abolished?”
       As Wolfram Schrems explains in this important article, neither a pope nor an ecumenical council has authority to abolish a liturgical rite of immemorial tradition. Thus, the fact that Sacrosanctum Concilium “suppressed” the office of Prime (as opposed, e.g., to merely regulating who must say it or when and how it should be said) is sufficient to demonstrate the presence of a radical constructivism at the heart of this document, an authoritarian rationalism that subordinates tradition to the volitions of momentary hierarchs.
       It is therefore fitting that the Office of Prime, together with the capitular office that follows it, be recovered by Catholics today, not only because it is highly practical in its duration and themes, but also because it is a sign of refusing to accept the bad hermeneutic underlying Sacrosanctum Concilium. It goes without saying that Summorum Pontificum’s revival of the preconciliar Roman Breviary (which includes Prime) is a further application of Benedict XVI’s general principle: “What earlier generations held as sacred, remains sacred and great for us too, and it cannot be all of a sudden entirely forbidden or even considered harmful. It behooves all of us to preserve the riches which have developed in the Church’s faith and prayer, and to give them their proper place” (Letter to Bishops, July 7, 2007).
       It bears mentioning that Prime is still part of the Eastern rites (proving once again that the reform moved the Latin Church further away from, not closer to, the East); fortunately, Prime continues to be celebrated by some Benedictines, since the Council did not dare to legislate directly against the Rule of St Benedict.

Visit for articles, sacred music, and classics reprinted by Os Justi Press (e.g., Newman, Benson, Scheeben, Parsch, Guardini, Chaignon, Leen, Roguet, Croegaert).

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