Tom’s Digest critiques the proposed Divine Offices

Tom B. over at his blog Tom’s Digest has begun a series critiquing the proposed draft of the Divine Offices for the Personal Ordinariates to replace the Book of Common Prayer.

He writes:

Rome should take its time, and the three ordinaries, the Congregation for Divine Worship, as well as anyone else involved in the official drafting process, should seriously consider ironing out some real problems that make the draft as it currently stands, in my opinion, unfit for prime time.


One of the weakest points of the Ordinariate’s draft is that it (understandably) wants to have the best of all worlds — the Anglican Prayer Books, and both classical and modern forms of the Roman Rite — but goes about it in such a clumsy way that it ends up potentially falling short of them all.

The most evident symptom of this in the divine office drafts is the abundance of one powerful little word, “may,” in the rubrics.

Archbishop Cranmer understood that in order for his Prayer Book offices to achieve their goal of being the largely unchanging platter on which substantial daily portions of the Psalms and Scriptures could be served up in a systematic fashion, options at the celebrant’s discretion had to be kept to a minimum.


Divine Worship by contrast has lost the strongest feature and driving purpose behind Cranmer’s project and the whole classical Prayer Book tradition: a mandatory and relatively uniform simplicity.

Here is why: from beginning to end, the draft offices are full of, “The celebrant may” do this, omit that, add the third thing, choose between the following options…

This post got shared on the Anglican Ordinariate Forum and other similar discussion groups on Facebook and some interesting discussion ensued.

Part of the reason why the proposed offices have so many options is they combined practices from former Anglican jurisdictions using different versions of the Book of Common Prayer.  I hope, though, once the offices are approved, that each Ordinariate can publish its own Catholic Book of Common Prayer with its regional variations, such as the collects praying for the Queen in Canada and the U.K. but leaving out all the options never used in that area, or, as Tom’s Digest suggests, putting the options into an appendix.

Several months ago, I interviewed John Covert, creator of the

This site offers the Morning and Evening Prayer (plus Midday Prayers and Compline) with the opportunity to choose the Psalms from the lectionary or from the daily BCP cycle of daily readings; plus the readings and collects for the day.   Covert said he tried to make it as close as possible to what he was able to piece together about the draft office books.

But he, too, seemed to hope whatever Prayer Book gets published is simple and easy to use.  He told me it must “pass the Grandma test,” so Grandma can use it on her own without a lot of explanation.  

While many are eager to see the Office Books published, we continue to use the 1962 Canadian Book of Common Prayer for our Mattins and Evensong and our offices are very close to what Covert has on his site.  We add the Angelus and for Evensong, the Phos Hilarion, and the Marian Anthem.

On the Forum, Christopher Mahon offered some opinions that I thought were worth passing on here. Included is some of the discussion:

Christopher Mahon The author is correct to say the Holy See should take its time with the office. The important thing is for ordinariate communities to simply pray mattins and evensong as we have always done.

It’s not like the apostles went out after the Ascension and got all worked up about praying daily until Peter had gotten around to reviewing, editing, and promulgating formal books. They just prayed as they were accustomed. The books followed.

In other words, the books are meant to reflect the received tradition. In the case of evensong and mattins, that tradition is already given to us.

  • Steven Rabanal Basically, do what’s patrimonial and don’t worry about it, right?
  • Christopher Mahon Exactly. Here’s an interesting thought experiment. People sometimes worry that if the Holy See issues a book that modified a prayer or custom, we might have to give up the customary way of doing it. But what if the Holy See instead issues a book that adds options to what we usually do? That’s not a bad thing if it’s trying to capture and reflect received patrimonial tradition, but it could easily cause confusion and entice some local folks to changing their custom.

    Bottom line is we should keep calm and carry on patrimonially.

  • Claudia Brown It’s very important to work at it until a version “for the ages” is produced. Amongst us Romans, the Post-Vatican II work of the ICEL (International Commission on the English Liturgy) was an ongoing food-fight for years, producing “interim” versions of texts which would be deemed official for some number of years (like three) until something “definitive” could be agreed upon. This was a mess for all the obvious reasons, but its most singular achievement was the absolute destruction of what had been the UNIVERSAL use by the Congregation of a personal Missal.

    Except for such pockets as the FSSP, this former custom has never really recovered. So much for the vaunted “Age of the Laity”!! The loss of the Missal, in my view, was a strategic act of hyper-clericalism. Get it right the FIRST time, no matter how long it takes.


8 thoughts on “Tom’s Digest critiques the proposed Divine Offices

  1. Deborah, I think it might be worth sharing Dom Andersen’s comments to Tom’s blog post. They’re extraordinarily astute, and Dom Andersen is someone whose input here is extremely valuable.

    Over time, I’ve found myself slowly becoming a member of the straight-1662 camp. (It’s worth noting that I’m an American, and my first Prayer Book was the 1928 BCP.) The 1662 has much more of a noble simplicity to it than any other Prayer Book save the 1549, and has over three centuries’ more use than any of the other BCPs (such as the 1928 American, used for half a century, or the 1962 Canadian, virtually used only by Catholics now–a Canadian Anglican friend of mine told me recently that he’d never even heard of the Book of Common Prayer. How incredibly sad is that?!).

    The 1662 embodies the venerable tradition that is the Anglican Patrimony. So why then do we reject it, choosing to combine bits and pieces of every other Prayer Book in our mishmash hodgepodge Office? Ours (speaking as an OCSP member) is an embarrassing development of the Book of Divine Worship, in itself a rather sad downgrade from the 1979 BCP, which is well-known for being perhaps the worst Prayer Book ever made. I don’t think anything from the 1662 BCP even made it into the OCSP office, unless it came by way of another, later book (I’m happy to be corrected here).

    I want to pray the prayer of my Church. But if it’s a terrible mess, why bother? Given the choice between the Liturgy of the Hours and, say, the Monastic Diurnal, the ancient monastic office wins hands-down. Given the choice between the OCSP office and the 1662? There’s no question which one is superior. The Ordinariates’ office needs serious work, and is nowhere near fit for publication as it stands. I truly hope that it’s revised to align with the 1662 prior to receiving Rome’s approval. That would go a long way towards curing its terminal optionitis.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. 1979 the “worst Prayer Book ever made”? We’re all free to like it or not, but I think it’s far better than a lot of others done since then.


  3. Get it right for all ages??? It strikes me as rather arrogant to suggest that any group of people — even a papal commission — has the capacity to do that. Liturgical rites, and the use thereof, have always evolved to meet the circumstances and cultural expressions of various times and places. This liturgical variation finds its fullest expression in the plethora of sui juris ritual churches that are part of the Catholic Church. Most hard-core Traditionalists seem oblivious to the fact that Pope John XXIII issued a revision to the Tridentine missal while the Second Vatican Council was in session in 1962.

    Of their very nature, liturgical rites must lend themselves to celebration in very diverse situations. Ordinary situations range from two or three faithful and a presbyter celebrating a weekday liturgy in a small chapel to a congregation of thousands, with hundreds of concelebrants, in a grand cathedral, basilica, or abbey church with the bishop or abbot presiding and full ceremonial of a pontifical mass on a major holy day. Extraordinary situations that arise fairly frequently are even more extreme, ranging from an Army chaplain celebrating mass in the field, using the hood of his Jeep as a makeshift altar, to a papal mass in a sports stadium with congregations numbering into many tens of thousands when the pope travels abroad. If the liturgy is to be united, it can’t consist of fifty different versions of the Rite of Mass to accommodate these extremes and everything in between. Rather, a single rite must provide flexibility in the form of options to accommodate these extremes and anything in between. The principal celebrant, being on the scene, is clearly the person who is in the best position to make the call as to which of the options are appropriate for each celebration.

    And yes, the “Grandma Test” is critical if we, the lay faithful, are going to participate fully in the celebration of the liturgy.

    Finally, I’m reminded of the warrior’s maxim that a good battle plan today is better than a perfect battle plan next week. The ordinariates need their own rites for the divine office that conform to the Anglican patrimony now — not thirty years from now — so that they don’t lose contact with that patrimony while awaiting a final product. There’s nothing wrong with publishing an interim rite for use ad experimentum, with those who use it providing feedback that assists in the development of a final rite.



    • “There’s nothing wrong with publishing an interim rite for use ad experimentum, with those who use it providing feedback that assists in the development of a final rite.”

      You’re exactly right, and this is exactly the problem: The OCSP has failed to publish an interim rite since its founding in 2012. What’s the problem here? “It’s in Rome awaiting approval” is only a valid excuse for so long. It isn’t even a valid excuse, since an interim office could easily have been published with this disclaimer that it doesn’t have Vatican approval yet.

      OOLSC evidently got sick enough of the situation that they took the draft office, modified it into a prayer book that’s only good for one year (2019), and published it. OOLW has had their Customary since 2012. OCSP has nothing but Mr Covert’s website and office booklet, and those aren’t very like the OCSP draft, nor do they have any sort of official status.

      Bp Lopes should just come out and say that the 1662 or 1928 prayer book office is acceptable for use until an official OCSP prayer book is published. Until then, I suppose the OCSP parishes will continue using a cornucopia of homemade offices to suit their various tastes. The Cathedral of Our Lady of Walsingham uses the 1662 BCP for Evensong last I heard (that may have changed since I was last in Houston), so make that our de facto standard and call it good.


      • Actually, the Vatican promulgated the Book of Divine Worship (BDW) — which was essentially a Catholic version of the American Book of Common Prayer — as an interim liturgical use for the congregations received into the full communion of the Catholic Church under the so-called “Pastoral Provision” here in the States, pending development of a final version, in 1983, then apparently put the development of a final version on the proverbial back burner — or perhaps took it off the stove completely. AFAIK, the rites of the BDW that have not been supplanted by the new Divine Worship missal and “occasional services” — and this includes the rites for the divine office contained therein — remain authorized for all of the ordinariates.

        But, unfortunately, the BDW is now out of print and electronic copies have disappeared from the World-Wide Web, so I don’t know how one can obtain a copy of the divine office promulgated in the BDW.



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