Tuesday, December 20, 2011

The Competition

Admit it: you want to buy a copy of Odd Hours, our Latin-English prayer book. You think it sounds cool, right? We agree! After a week or two of use, we're pretty happy with the way it turned out. So move your mouse over to the sidebar, and click the link to learn more.

But ... wait! Maybe you shouldn't. Let's talk about this, shall we?

First off, let us give you some good reasons not to buy our book. The truth is that it could use some proofreading. We wanted to get the thing out by Christmas, and we may have rushed a bit. So far, we've only found minor typos, but there are a lot of them.

Second, and more seriously, the English psalter is hard to use. It's the Coverdale translation, in the original spelling, which is both very beautiful and historically important. But in early printed books, some letters were omitted, and replaced by a horizontal line, called a macron, over nearby letters. Our version lacks the macron, so words that are already spelled strangely are made to look stranger still. For example, "womb," spelled "wombe" in those days, looks like "wobe." The good news is that, since the Coverdale psalter was used in the Book of Common prayer, the odds are that you already know every word in it by heart. Without knowing that you know. Still, the spelling takes some getting used to.

Third: it's not a true breviary! There are a few brief lessons offered, to use if you're stuck somewhere without a Bible, but no lectionary (which one would we use?) and certainly no daily lessons printed out. That would have been a much bigger book.

And fourth, there may be other books that you would enjoy more. Not all that many, mind you; this is a niche market. But we have a couple of ideas:

For All the Saints. Years ago, Fred Schumacher put together a 4-volume breviary based on the Lutheran Book of Worship. It includes complete daily lectionary readings and a generous selection of devotional readings from ancient and modern writers. We used it ourselves for a long time, and can recommend it highly for somebody who just wants to say Matins and Vespers, and likes modern modern language.

What FATS lacks, compared to Odd Hours (and apart from a better acronym) is ... well, the oddity. No Latin, no "thee" and "thou" -- those are the main things. But it also lacks the selection of seasonal hymns, the Litany, the Small Catechism prayers, Suffrages and Compline. Not to mention the Angelus and Marian antiphons! This is a good choice, though; it offers much that ours lacks, and lacks some that ours offers.

In the same general vein (i.e., all English, and starting with the "official" prayer book), there are many Anglican Daily Office books, some of which look very good. Here's a one-volume Anglican Breviary, reprinted from a 1955 version. We might pick that one up ourselves. Here's an American version, in two volumes at Amazon, from 1986. As you might expect from our Anglican cousins, they look quite nice, and don't come cheap.

The Brotherhood Prayer Book, put together by the Lutheran Liturgical Prayer Brotherhood. We've never seen a copy, but it looks great on their website. Again, it lacks some of the quirky features of Odd Hours, but it more than compensates with something else: musical notation. The daily office begs to be sung, and BPB makes it a little easier. (The hardbound edition has notes, the paperback is text-only.)

Now, it's English-only, but there is a way to work around that. Benjamin Mayes has put together a Latin companion the Brotherhood Prayer Book, which is available (only? let us know) as a free downloadable PDF. We haven't really looked at it, but the idea seems simple enough. Print it, staple it, and hold it next to your BPB. On second thought, that doesn't sound simple; it sounds awkward. And we're not sure how to staple a 250-some page book. Still, just looking at the table of contents, it seems like a very impressive piece of work.

The Baronius Press Breviarium Romanum. This is going to be great, if it's ever actually published. The 1961 Roman Breviary, in Latin and English; 3 volumes, bound in leather; lots of illustrations; rubrics printed in red. They have been teasing us with this baby for years; it was supposed to come out last year, then last summer, and right now the website says maybe Christmas, which of course is six days away.

But good things are worth waiting for. Given the delays, we assume the proofreading and other quality-control matters will be nearly perfect. Frankly, if you don't object to any of the underlying theology, it might be the best thing going.

The BR is easily ten times the book that Odd Hours is. Of course, at $350, it is easily ten times the price, too. Heaven forbid that a few pages get crumpled in your bag, or that it falls into the snow when you are hurrying in to see Mrs. Olafsson at the nursing home.

Of course, none of these books offers much for people whose spiritual lives require the modern-day comforts of, for example, inclusive language. Neither does ours; that is one of the costs of using liturgical language from an earlier era. For that, you can (of course) use Evangelical Lutheran Worship. Or, for something a bit more user-friendly, there is Common Prayer: A Liturgy for Ordinary Radicals, put together by Shane Claiborne and some of his "New Monasticism" pals. Phyllis Tickle's four-volume The Divine Hours is similar. Apart from their modern language and lefty leanings, these are books intended largely for the sort of people who aren't used to a traditional liturgical style, and need some hand-holding. Nothing wrong with that, and much right with it. They represent another take on structured daily prayer, and are probably just right for some sensibilities.

So, seriously, take a look at some of these, and see what you think. Meanwhile, we'll be at the prie-dieu, mispronouncing the versicles.


Anonymous said...

One of the great disappointments of Vatican II was that no Office appeared that could actually be celebrated in real Catholic churches by actual priests and people. Lauds and Vespers, and Compline. Instead we got a four volume work chock full of words, without an ounce of music: just another breviary to be read.

The lost opportunity for a ONE VOLUME Office, an actual liturgy designed for singing by a congregation and clergy...alas.

Father Anonymous said...

A shame -- and, frankly, inexplicable.

Try the Brotherhood Prayer Book. It's meant for Lutherans, but I think it comes pretty close to what a Vatican II Office for congregational use would look like.

Neil said...

Father A - I did purchase the hard copy of this on Lulu and have one question. Is there an electronic version of this available? Many of us find that we are replacing our devotional materials more and more with formats that can be loaded on iPads, Kindles, and the like. It is, frankly, much easier to do this, and I would find it so very helpful if your book was available in this format.

A pdf would be perfect, and easily loaded on to any platform. It clearly already exists in this format, as that is required by Lulu. Could I purchase a pdf version of this from you?

Father Anonymous said...

Purchase? Not if you own the hard copy, no, because I'm happy to just send you the PDF I used for Lulu. Send me a comment with your email, which I won't publish.

BUT -- and it's a big but -- you may not find that it meets your needs. Remember that this is a heavily formatted document, which means that it won't display well on small screens, and will not convert to other formats conveniently.

Worse yet, there are no links, so that finding your way from Matins to the Psalter is a lot more work than it should be.

But for viewing on an iPad or Kindle DX with a Bible open beside you, I imagine it will work just fine. You're welcome to try.