Learning the Benedictine Office - So your new Monastic Diurnal has just arrived!**


This post will give you an overview on how the Diurnal is organised.


The Diurnal has six main sections - the most important is towards the middle, and labelled 'The Psalter arranged for the week'.

If you are using a different edition of the Diurnal, the page numbers might be different, or it may be missing some of the material I mention.

This post provides an overview of what is in the Diurnal.

  • As you work through the book, you might want to place a ribbon at the beginning of each section so you can find them again quickly.

Warning:  Page numbering

The Diurnal is not page numbered consecutively from page 1 to page x at the end of the book.

Instead, it contains a number of separate sections, each starting again at 1, but with brackets, asterisks etc indicating which section of the book you are in.

And don't look for an index, because there isn't one (well ok, actually there is, but it is pretty hard to find, over on page (233)ff, and is more designed to help you find particular psalms, hymns, etc than to help you get a feel for the book).

Front material

Includes the Title page, Preface, Introduction, calendars, conclusions to the collects, etc.—marked with Roman numeral page numbers: numbers actually appear starting at MD xi and go to MD xxx.

Most of this material is for reference only, and you won't need it very often, but some of it is important.

  • Take particular note of the Conclusions to the Collects page - the Diurnal generally just provides the key words (ie the ones in upper case on this page) and expects you to be able to fill out the text using this page.

Proper of the Season

Marked with a page number and an asterisk: pages numbered (pages, or MD) 1* to 487*.

This part of the Diurnal provides the texts that vary according to the seasons over the year.

In some seasons though, such as Advent, you will use this section a lot.

In time after Pentecost though (the current season in July 2016) the main thing that you need from this section is the collect for the week (used at all of the hours each day except Prime and Compline, except when the weekly collect is displaced by a feast). This section also includes the antiphons for the New Testament canticles (Benedictus and Magnificat) for Saturday and Sunday Vespers and Sunday Lauds.

The Psalter 

Marked with plain page numbers: numbered 1 to 269.

This is the most important section of the book, with most of the texts you need each day in it.

Proper of the Saints

Arranged by dates and marked with page numbers in square brackets: numbered [1] to [385].

These are the prayers and special texts used on the feasts of saints, and they are arranged by date.

The Common of Saints, assorted prayers and indices

Marked with page numbers in round brackets (parentheses): numbered (1) to (243).

The 'commons' are used for more important feasts that don't have their own special texts.  They are grouped by types of saints (apostles, confessors, etc).

The key pages you should have a look at are those for:
  • the Office of the Blessed Virgin Mary on Saturday, MD (129), which includes prayers and antiphons used most Saturdays of the year;
  • the Office of the Dead, MD (135) - use it to say an Office for the repose of souls; and
  • the Itinerary, MD (225) - a great set of prayers for anyone going on a major journey.

    Supplement of Saints feasts 

    Feasts celebrated in certain places only—marked with a page number and a double asterisk: numbered 1** to 59**.

    These are saints and feasts that don't feature in the main calendar, but whose feasts may be celebrated in particular places.

    **Note: This post has been revised, 16 August 2016


    Kristen J said...

    Thanks for this timely series of posts and for this new blog! (I found your original blog through the Oblate Spring blog.)

    After learning about the Monastic Diurnal on our new Benedictine Spirituality Forum on Catholic Answers Forums, I literally did just get mine in the mail yesterday and have been making my way as best I can through it. It is a beautiful book (and even smells like it!). This blog should help this hopefully-someday Benedictine Oblate at lot!

    I'll include a link to your blog when I am able to make my own blog post about the Monastic Diurnal.

    Terra said...

    Thanks Kirsten - look forward to reading your blog entry, and I'll take a look at the Catholic Answers forum.

    Please do feel free to ask questions or suggest topics you'd like me to post on - I do have a particular list of topics in mind, but I can easily change the order or add things! In fact I've been debating whether to proceed in a logical order from basics, or mix and match a bit so that those who have already started can see whether they've got it right, and those more advanced can share their insights - so any feedback on this is welcome!

    And if you can't wait to start using the Diurnal, I'd recommend starting with Compline - there are a few tricks to it, but it is the most straightforward of the hours of the Office. Once you have that down, start on Prime (make sure you start on a Monday, or read through the instructions in Monday's text carefully, as lots of them aren't repeated on later days!

    expat said...

    Hi Terra:

    One thing I would really like to see explained in detail is how to do commemorations properly.

    I know they're not supposed to be a big deal, but for some reason, I just don't get it.

    Thanks for these great posts!

    Anonymous said...

    Hi, Terra:

    Thanks so much for these informative and very helpful posts. I'm just starting with the MD and find it a daunting undertaking. With practise, one day I'll say the Office with some ease but until then, I'm grateful that your blog is here.
    Mike H

    Anonymous said...

    Thank you Terra for your great blog! This will deffinetly help with learning the Monasti Diurnal! (which I just ordered)

    (I don't know if someone has already sent you an invitation to this Roman Breviary group here:http://groups.yahoo.com/group/TheRomanBreviaryGroup/ )

    Please join!

    Thanks and God bless!

    Mary Jane said...

    I just found this blog via a comment on Fr. Z's blog. What serendipity! I acquired the Monastic Diurnal from Farnborough and was promptly overwhelmed by any hour other than Compline.

    Now I have some hope of moving into the other day hours as I gradually look to make the office part of my life.

    Thank you, thank you, thank you. There will definitely be a link to this over on my blog, Sacred Miscellany.

    pamelanak said...

    Many thanks for this blog and your hard work.I prayed the revised Liturgy of the Hours for many years but I would like to learn the more traditional method. I am using a copy of the Monastic Diurnal published in 1952 by St. John's Abbey In Collegeville. Are there any differences I should be aware of? Thanks again!


    Terra said...

    Pamelanak - The structure, prayers etc are essentially the same, but there is a difference in the calendar. The biggest difference relates to the calendar. The 1962 version is simpler, and uses terms like class III, II, I - the older calendar talks about doubles, semi-doubles, etc. But if you want to use the 1962 calendar set out in the ordo here, I don't thnk you'll find it hard to work out at all.

    Anonymous said...

    I've been reading through the blog for a while now, as I wait for my Diurnal to arrive (from a priest via another priest...beggers can't be impatient!).

    Thank you for your work in this apostolate. Just don't take the blog down before I'm an expert, or ever!

    Anonymous said...

    How do I use the ribbons in the Farnborough Diurnal? Is it one colour for each office?
    Congratulations on the quality of your blogs and your contribution to the mission of the Church.

    Kate said...

    Thanks for your kind words.

    There is really no particular rule when it comes to the ribbons - just use them as convenient.

    I usually keep one on the seasonal section, for the collect of the day or week, one in the saints section, and then use the others to keep track of the parts of the particular hour I'm saying (so for Vespers, one on the Magnificat for example).

    But you will find it makes sense as you get going...

    Dave said...

    I have just got hold of a 2nd edition 1952 of the St John's Abbey Monastic Diurnal. How different is this from the Farnborough edition? How usable will your instruction be, pagination etc?

    I have wanted to use a more traditional office for some time, the contemporary language now in use always feels wrong. Without your blog I would not have had the confidence to consider using the Diurnal. The friend who obtained it from has even suggested I start looking at learning the Latin at some point!

    Kate said...

    Dave - The page numbers will not be right, and there will be some differences in the calendar/the level of feasts and some instructions in the book.

    But the basic structure and content of the Office is the same, and so I think with a little effort you should be able to apply my notes to it easily enough.

    Dave said...

    Thanks Kate. The differences in the calendar, the level of feasts and some instructions were expected. Pity about the pagination, just means I will have to put a little bit more effort into it.

    Anonymous said...

    Hi. I don't know if you can help me, but I'm trying to find out something about the diurnal and no one seems to know. Do you know what font size is used? I really want to get a copy of the diurnal to use. But I have old eyes and anything too small is really impossible for me to read and the diurnal is just too expensive to take a chance on. I've even emailed the publishers and asked but can't get a response from them. Thanks for any help you can give me.

    Anonymous said...


    It looks to be a usual 12 point font, though some of the directions printed throughout are probably more like 9 points. It does help that the font used has serifs (the little feet on letters and numbers), too. My guess would be that most of it could be done without a magnifying glass, and the beautiful translation of the Psalms and hymns -- and the lovely book itself -- is very worth it. I hope this helps. :)

    Kristen J

    JofIndia said...

    I have been following Divine Office for a couple of years but have only just bought a Monastic Diurnal: it is as if I've discovered a treasure trove!

    To then find this blog, and such a ready source of help, absolutely confirms I am on the right path.

    Thank you so much..

    owen swain said...

    "So your new Monastic Diurnal has just arrived!" Indeed, it has, just today. Ordered from the Monks of Clear Creek Abby to my door here in Canada. I am very grateful for your site and imagine I will be spending many hours on it in the weeks ahead.

    By way of introduction I am a convert clergy (of 18 years) who came into the Catholic Church in 2006. I have been praying the 'new breviary' the LoTH since that year. Out of charity I shall say little more on that edition of the D.O. and simply saw I am so grateful to begin the MD.

    Had hoped to afford the Baronius Roman Breviary but it was too, too dear for me. That lead to me looking elsewhere and over time finally began to see articles on the MD. In my case I need the English. Well, I will leave it there for now.

    Thanks again Tera, for sharing your passion and for the many hours it has taken to compile this site and keep it updated.

    Kate Edwards said...

    You are most welcome Owen.

    Don't hesitate to ask questions, and if you need more help, consider joining the BenOfficeHelp yahoo group for PDFs of Ordo etc (or the tradben if you are a traditionalist!).

    owen swain said...

    Dear Kate,
    Thanks for the welcome. Off to join BenOfficeHelp now. I think I am probably heading in the traditionalist way - though I lack any Latin which is a decided drawback. However, to have converted from Protestant to Catholic my trajectory seems to most naturally move toward what holds the greatest expression of depth of tradition in Christ's Church. :)

    Also subscribed some time back to the very lovely OblatesOfStBenedict yahoo group with daily reflections on the rule by both an Oblate and an Brother.

    As I am here, is there an [English only] edition of the Holy Rule, perhaps with commentary, that you or your readers recommend?

    Kate Edwards said...

    Yes traditionalism is indeed the natural trajectory for all Catholics I think, but especially for converts who can see things afresh for themselves rather than being overly weighted down by what we have become used to (especially those coming from an Anglican/Episcopalian background)!

    In terms of good translations of the Rule, my clear favourite is that by Abbot Justin McCann - there are editions around that are English only, and Latin-English (you can always just ignore the Latin for the moment!).

    In terms of commentaries, the classic not to be missed one is by Dom Paul Delatte; a useful one specifically tailored to Oblates, is that by GA Simon (there are links to their Amazon page on the blog).

    On Latin though, don't be put off by the fact that you don't know any - by all means start with the English. But if you start listening and following along using the Diurnal to one of the monastic websites of the office being sung (Norcia and Le Barroux) you'll find you can slowly pick it up pretty easily without even trying. Adnit is worth the effort I think to pray the same psalms in the same language that has been used for over 1400 years...

    CountrySteve said...

    Hi, I was just wondering after Prime, it says at that most covenant hour, the Commemoration of the Dead is supposed to be made, what is this?

    God bless!

    Kate Edwards said...

    Monasteries generally pray a set of prayers called the chapter that includes prayers for the dead of their monastery. The main part of it is typically the De Profundis (Psalm 129).

    Someone said...

    Here follows a review I wrote for the Monastic Diurnal on Amazon some days ago:

    Pope Paul V allowed the Benedictines to preserve their proper Rite for the Divine Office in his Bull "Ex injuncto nobis" (1 October 1612) according to the ordinance in the Bull "Quod a nobis" of Pope St. Pius V (9 July 1568) that dispensed certain Dioceses and Religious Orders from the obligation of adhering to the Roman Breviary reformed by order of the Ĺ’cumenical Council of Trent. The Congregation of Sacred Rites promulgated the typical edition of the Monastic Breviary on 24 January 1615.

    When Pope St. Pius X commenced the great reform of the Roman Rite by his Bull "Divino afflatu" (1 November 1911), the Abbot-Primate of the Benedictine Order, the Most Rev. Dom Fidelis von Stotzingen, requested the Apostolic See to approve an adaptation of the new reforms for the Monastic Breviary. By authority of Pope Benedict XV, the Congregation of Sacred Rites granted the request on 28 April 1915.

    When the Congregation of Sacred Rites promulgated further reforms for the Roman Rite in the Decree "Novum Rubricarum" (26 July 1960) by authority of John XXIII, the Abbot-Primate of the Benedictine Order, the Most Rev. Dom Benno Gut, followed the example of his above-mentioned predecessor and the same Roman Congregation promulgated a new typical edition of the Monastic Breviary on 15 December 1962. This is the edition from whence the text of this Diurnal was taken, originally published by H. Dessain at Michelin, Belgium, and imported to the States, in six editions (1948-1963).

    The reforms mentioned above did not affect the substance of the Monastic Office, the heart of which is the Psalter. Now that St. Pius X did away with the old Roman Psalter of immemorial origin, the Monastic Psalter is now the most ancient in the Latin Occident, having been ordained by St. Benedict in his Holy Rule (chapters viii-xviii) in the 6th century. The Latin texts of the Hymns predate the recension of Pope Urban VIII, which made the Hymns of the Roman Breviary conform to Classical metre.

    The Monastic Rite had enthusiastically embraced the programme of reform established by St. Pius X for the Roman Rite by giving precedence to the Dominical and Ferial Offices above the Sanctoral Offices. Decades before the reforms of John XXIII, the Benedictines had already eliminated the "Semi-Duplex" rite in the Sanctoral Offices, expunged a great number of Saints' Feasts from the General Calendar of the Order, and had imitated the Ambrosian Rite in reducing all "Duplex" Feasts to commemorations in the Quadragesimal and Passiontide Seasons. The Monastic Rite had anticipated the limitation of the Athanasian Creed "Quicumque" to Trinity Sunday alone (which the Roman Rite did in the simplification of the Rubrics promulgated by the Congregation of Sacred Rites by authority of Pius XII in 23 March 1955) when it conformed to the reforms of St. Pius X.

    [to be continued]

    Someone said...


    A singular aspect of the Monastic Breviary is the prominence of the Dominical Prayer, the "Pater noster," preceded by the Kyries in each Canonical Hour.

    The Monastic Breviary relatively easy to recite when one considers the Roman Breviary: Compline almost never varies, and the Little Hours have the same Psalms Tuesday through Saturday, with Psalm cxviii (Vulgate numbering is used here) divided amongst Prime, Terce, Sext and None on Sunday and also throughout the latter three Little Hours on Monday. This arrangement stays the same even in the Solemn Feasts (except during the Sacred Triduum). Monastic Lauds has almost invariably Psalm lxvi to commence it, with the famous Penitential Psalm L on Ferias and most II Class Sundays, and ending almost always with the three last Psalms in the Psalter (cxlviii, cxlix, cl). Monastic Vespers has only four Psalms or divisions thereof (Roman Vespers has five).

    Monastic Matins has twelve Psalms or divisions thereof, on all Sundays, Ferias and Feasts, having six in two Nocturns (except during the Sacred Triduum) with additional three Canticles at the third Nocturn for Sundays and I Class and II Class Feasts. There are four lessons at each Nocturn for Sundays and I Class and II Class Feasts, making a total of twelve lessons. Ending Matins is always the Ambrosian Hymn "Te Deum" and the recitation or chant of the Gospel lesson that is to be found in the Mass that corresponds to that Office. This is why this tome could not have included the text of Matins, and why Nuns who were involved with teaching and other Missionary activities were dispensed from its choral recitation. Unlike the Roman Rite, the reforms of John XXIII left Monastic Matins intact.


    I cannot recommend this book enough. It contains a precious liturgical heritage that can boast of almost fourteen centuries: almost 1,400 years since the first Benedictines prayed the Psalms exactly the same way as contained in this Monastic Diurnal! Well for the Day Hours anyways...

    David Garcia said...

    Is there a printable version of this entire series? The black and white format of the site isn't working right on my printer.

    Kate Edwards said...

    Apologies David but no. I did start work on an updated hardcopy version at one point, but had to put it aside - will try and get back to it later this year. In the meantime I would suggest copying the text into a word document and printing it from there.

    David Garcia said...

    Hi Kate!

    No worries! Thanks for all your help. This site has been amazing!

    A follow up, do you know the total number of Psalmst that one prays if praying all the offices in the Diurnal? I know it can't be all 150 since there is no Matins in this Diurnal but was wondering if not praying all 150 would be a detriment to 'true' Benedictine spirituality?


    Kate Edwards said...

    You are welcome Dave.

    First, certainly not a detriment to true Benedictine spirituality.

    We have to make a distinction, I think, between monks and oblates: as oblates we certainly participate in the charism of the Order, but we are not as fully Benedictine I think, as someone who can live the Rule in its fullness and say the Office in full every day.

    In the end, it is the job of monks to be formed in that spirituality in total, and share its fruits both directly and indirectly with us; laypeople are certainly cannot expected to say all of the psalms every week.

    In terms of the number of psalms said, depends on how you count it!

    Do you count Psalm 118, for example, as one psalm, or 22 (ie a psalm for each stanza)? And what about the repeated psalms? And do you count the variable (and non-variable) canticles? What about divided psalms?

    All up the day hours use 79 different psalms from the book of psalms by my count, but in fact of course, the repetitions means quite a lot more than that...

    William said...

    Hi Terra,
    just a quick question.
    Have you any idea when the new Ordo 2014/2015 will be available to download?
    Bless you I just love this site it truly is helpful and you are a real blessing to us all,
    God bless

    Kate Edwards said...

    I commend to you the Le Barroux Ordo, link on the web page.

    Ronald Davis said...

    Dear Kate (I think that is the blogger's name.)
    I've used the Liturgy of Hours over many years. Then, with the birth of two grandsons for whom my wife and I have cared as their parents work, the time for this regimen had to cease. Now, we are homeschooling the boys so I switched to praying the psalms each week using a schema from Genesee Abbey in upstate NY. I've recently stumbled over the Monastic Diurnal which I was familiar with years ago when I was a monastic postulant. I would like to purchase the 1963 version Clear Creek Abbey has one on their website. Do you know if this is the 7th edition or not? My main interest is to have the Latin and English side by side. I teach Latin to the grandsons and this would be a good reference to have for school as well as for prayer. Thanks for any help you can give. I would have written Clear Creek an e-mail but they don't seem to have "contact" information for e-mail.

    My best to you and thanks for such an extensive coverage of Benedictine daily prayer.


    Kate Edwards said...

    Sorry Ronald I'm not sure.

    But there isn't a great difference between the editions.

    Luke Zemlick said...

    I have a simple question that I haven't yet found an answer to. When praying the office outside of Lent, do you say the Alleluia after every Gloria Patri at the end of the psalms or just at the very beginning after the Deus, in adiutorium...?


    Kate Edwards said...

    Luke - no, only after the Deus in adjutorium verse

    Valyermo Oblate said...

    This is a treasured possession.