Liturgy of the Hours no longer free

Liturgy of the Hours no longer free

It looks like bureaucracy has shut down another good online apostolate. The very fine Liturgy of the Hours apostolate offered the Divine Office online in a convenient format.  The complete breviary in printed format is expensive and a bit complex to figure out, but the online version was free and put the daily prayers in a simple to understand format so that all Catholics could join in prayers once said only by clergy and religious. Notice I said “was.”

As of November 26, all of the English-language versions of the prayers will be available only with a subscription. (The other four languages in which it is offered will remain free.) The subscriptions will range in cost from $30 per year up to $90 per year. Why the change?

My guess is that the copyrights caught up to them. The copyright for the English-language translation of the Liturgy of the Hours themselves is held by ICEL, the infamous International Committee on English in the Liturgy. The readings and New Testament Canticles are from the New American Bible, whose copyright is owned by the US bishops’ conference. Recall that a few months ago the USCCBureaucracy shut down a podcast that featured readings from the daily lectionary for those Catholics who would like to pray the readings of the daily Mass, but couldn’t attend.

Once again the good of spreading the Gospel and encouraging the faithful to pray is trumped by bureaucratic control and the almighty buck. It’s a shame.

Update: I heard back from the eBreviary people with the following explanation:

Creating 5 daily prayers, for 365 days per year, that change every year, is very expensive. We can’t carry the burden alone any longer.

Our copyright fees are very fair, and a small part of our costs. We did not switch to a subscription service because of copyright fee

Melanie says in a comment below that they also told her independently that they offer a “pay-what-you-can” subscription hidden a few links inside.

  • ICEL has traditionally produced some of its income from the publishing of its translations. Apparently the member bishops’ conferences got tired of carrying them more than they had been when the translations were being spit out at a regular pace.

    It should come as a surprise to no one who has seen recent events bring out the worst in certain prelates. At these prices, I’d sooner download a text file from the CD-ROM “Welcome to the Catholic Church” and convert it to use on my Palm Pilot.

    Any bishop that has a problem with that can kiss MY ring.

  • Scripture says you can’t serve God and mammon.  This appears to be another example of that truth.

    They are hardly improving their image with such decisions.

  • Apparently Universalis is based in the UK. Doesn’t look like they’ve been hit yet, and that may be why. It’s only a matter of time. (Unless of course they’re paying for the copyright and are able to keep from passing on the cost to the consumer.)

  • Isn’t Universalis using an unofficial English edition? 

    Maybe the old anti-Catholic canard is coming true: we’ve got bishops forbidding lay people to distribute even an approved Bible if they don’t pay for the privilege!

    Just to speculate: if somebody were to put the texts on web servers in Russia or (irony!) China and run the whole thing anonymously, he might get away with it.

  • Yea, I was thinking, how can I get a web server in Tajikastan?

    These guys are really a bunch of idiots. ICEL and USCCB I mean., yea right. I really used to check on Holy days since I stopped buying the St Joseph guide.

    I cannot tell you how many non-catholics I got to look at that site, and be very impressed with what they saw as all of the “Christ and Bible centered teaching and praying”. Teaching, yea duh, ICEL and USCCB. Idiots.

  • This made me so sad, I tried to find something on the site confirming it. 

    But I couldn’t find any indication they’re moving to a paid format, just a line saying “The test website will be closing on November 26, 2005.” 

    May I ask what your source is?

  • My source is the site itself.

    Go to the first link I have up above. On that page, click on the first link “Morning, Daytime, Evening and Night Prayer plus the Office of Readings.”

    On the next page it says:

    “# November 26, 2005 will be the last day that the Liturgy of the Hours Apostolate offers English language prayers.
    # After November 26, [url=][/url] will offer English language prayers.”

    When you go to the ebreviary site, the only option for getting the prayers is through paid subscriptions.

  • Folks, here’s where it pays to go totally Trad. [url=][/url] provides the entire – vastly better and richer – traditional Roman Divine Office fully in Latin with excellent public domain or original English translation. It would be a vast education for ordinary ‘con’ Catholics to read only the Martyrology entries for each day….

  • I own the full set of books and only use the site when I am away from home and don’t have the proper volume with me. I have also recommended it to friends as a good introduction to this form of prayer.
    I don’t necessarily mind paying for the service, I just think $29.95 a year is a bit steep if you only use the site occasionally.
    I’ve written to them to ask if it would be possible for them to offer the readings on some sort of graduated scale so I could buy them for just a day or a week.
    I hope they respond positively.

  • update: they do offer reduced price subscriptions, set your own rate according to what you think is fair. Also a free 20 day trial subscription. This info is on a separate page from the subscription info page, which I think is poor page design. Evidently they don’t yet have all the links up and running yet and are asking people to print off pdf forms and fax them in.

    Charles A.,
    Thanks for the link to the Latin breviary, but I have to say it is daunting to navigate. One of the criticisms I often hear is that it is hard to learn how to pray the office because there is so much flipping in the books. One of the things that makes the site so nice is that all the prayers for each day are on one easy to access page. The Latin site seems to require quite a bit of virtual flipping. I think it will take me some time to figure out how to use the site.

  • Folks,
    2005-11-15 15:07:27
    2005-11-15 19:07:27
    The single volume of the Liturgy of the Hours is available from the publisher,Catholic Book Publishing Company for $33.00.  The annual guide that tells you which prayers to use is about 2 bucks.  It’s not that expensive and not that difficult to do.  I don’t believe there’s a penalty for making mistakes.

    As far as paying for the on-line version, I can’t see how they’ve managed to keep it free as long as they have. Personally, I think it’s a bargain at for less than a dollar per week.

    BTW, how does the Apostolate asking for financial support make our Bishops idiots?

  • There is a qualitative and quantitative difference between the one-volume Christian Prayer and the multi-volume complete Liturgy of the Hours. The annual guide is only 2 bucks but it can be confusing, especially when you have a complicated feast day that requires lots of page flipping. It can be learned, but having it all done for you lowers the barrier for some and makes it less intimidating and easier to begin.

    There is also a difference between the bishops and the bishops’ conference, which is why I am always careful to use the right term.

  • Michael Shea, the ‘form of the Divine Office’ that you refer to is/was in fact prayed by the Church – the saints over the centuries. The Church is now only NOW but also THEN. The crippled, truncated ‘form’ that exists NOW is only a minor thing in comparison.

  • Melanie wrote –

    “but I have to say it is daunting to navigate. One of the criticisms I often hear is that it is hard to learn how to pray the office because there is so much flipping in the books.”

    Yes, but that is exactly the thing that makes the traditional Office so excellent – you have to MASTER it. It makes one conscious of an objective obligation, not just a personal experience. Flipping around (or rather marking the book carefully beforehand, and spending time studying and learning the rubrics) becomes part of the effort, which becomes part of what you are attempting to master, which becomes part of what you are GIVING.  Prayer is not just MENTAL and EASY. An effort is good because it makes you work. Traditional Catholic liturgy is WORK. Which is as it should be.

    And this is the form of all mature liturgy—look at the complexity and difficulty of the Eastern rites.

  • Charles A.

    I think you missed my point. I’ve been praying the Divine Office for a while now (albeit in English). I appreciate all the aspects that you mention. I was merely offering a commentary on the website design, which I thought was poor, not user-friendly as those in the tech world say.

    One thing I have apprectiated in is that the site presents the liturgy in a format that is easy for novices to pick up and learn the basics before wading into deeper waters.

    Not all of us are fortunate enough to have a community nearby that prays the office from whom we can learn. Some people require a little more direction. I was lucky when I was learning to pray the office that my father, a third order Carmelite, could help me with some basic pointers. However, I have spoken with many people who tried and got frustrated and gave up. Is it really so bad to give people a little help in getting started? Most adult Catholics haven’t even heard of the divine office, couldn’t tell you what it is. If this is supposed to be the universal prayer of the Church wouldn’t it be better to present it in an inviting format to get more people to pray? Then they can work up to learning how to do the set up for themselves once they’ve got hold of the basics.

    One thing I’ve learned as a teacher is that some people do well understanding complex processes from written instructions, others not so well. You have to start somewhere and you can’t expect novices to master intricate liturgy without some guidance. I think the internet can be a wonderful resource and we should take advantage of it’s capabilities.

    Your attitude, and that of the designers of, seems to be: if you can’t figure it out, don’t do it. That seems to me counter productive.