The Liturgy of the Hours is the official prayer of the Catholic Church. If you desire to order your own devotional life and bring your own soul into harmony with the souls of the Pope, bishops, priests, monks, nuns and laymen throughout the world, pray the Liturgy of the Hours!
Step 1. Purchase the Liturgy of the Hours
There are many options for praying the Liturgy of the Hours, but only one allows you to learn how to pray the hours: that is the four volume set of prayer books. It is a significant investment, but this provides for everything you need to fill your entire day–every day–with Catholic prayer.
If you buy the one volume version of the Liturgy of the Hours, you will find it much more confusing, and you will not have access to the Office of Readings, which is one of the most valuable parts of the liturgy. You will also not have the simple instructions provided in the four volume set, which I will discuss below. Buy the four volume set.
Step 2. Select the Correct Volume
The Liturgy of the Hours consists of four volumes, with each volume prepared for a particular part of the Church’s liturgical year. The four volumes divide as follows:
- Volume 1: Advent & Christmas
- Volume 2: Lent & Easter
- Volume 3: Ordinary Time, Weeks 1-17
- Volume 4: Ordinary Time, Weeks 18-34
Thus, to begin, select the volume appropriate for the current season. I recommend purchasing a book cover in which you can keep your current prayer book, while leaving the others safe on a bookshelf at home.
Step 3. Mark the “Ordinary” Section
The order that is followed for the Liturgy of the Hours is scripted for you in the “Ordinary” section (p. 612*) of the prayer book. Place a ribbon or bookmark at the beginning of the Ordinary. This is where your daily prayers will always begin.
* Note that page numbers in my prayer book may not exactly match yours, but they should be close.
Step 4. Prepare for the Week
Praying the Liturgy of the Hours unites us to the liturgy of the Catholic Church throughout the world. Therefore, we need to begin by finding our place in the Church calendar. To do this, visit the USCCB calendar using the link below:
Look at Sunday of the present or coming week and identify the week of the liturgical calendar the Church is currently in. For example, today is Saturday October 22, 2022. Tomorrow will be the Thirtieth Sunday in Ordinary Time.
Mark the Proper of Seasons
Open your prayer book to the first section, titled “Proper of Seasons” (p. 31). Here you will find the prayers and readings “proper” or peculiar to the current season of the Church year. Find the current week and set the first ribbon in this place.
Mark the Current Psalter Week
On the top of the page where you find the current Proper of Seasons, you will find the current week of the Psalter noted. Use a ribbon or bookmark to mark the week in the Psalter (p. 639).
Step 5. Prepare for the Day
With your prayer book prepared for the week, you are ready to begin your first day of prayers. First, look at the Church calendar (see above) to see if there is any special celebration for the day. If there is not, then you will simply follow the Ordinary instructions and pray through the Psalter as directed.
Note: All the instructions you need are provided in the Ordinary. Simply read the red text.
If there is a Memorial, Solemnity or Feast celebrated on the current day, you will see that the Ordinary instructs you to turn to the “Proper of Saints” section (p. 1263) in your prayer book and find the current day. There, you will find instructions peculiar (proper) to that day. You will likely be directed to the “Commons” section (p. 1593), where you will find prayers and readings “common” to saints belonging to a certain class — the Blessed Virgin Mary, Apostles, Martyrs, Pastors, etc.
Remember: Simply follow the instructions in the Ordinary and Proper of Saints.
Step 6. Recite Your Daily Prayers
Once you have prepared your prayer book for the day, you are reading to recite your daily prayers. The normal daily order of prayers is as follows:
- Invitatory Psalm (start the day)
- Office of Readings (anytime)
- Morning Prayer (sunrise)
- Daytime Prayer (midday)
- Evening Prayer (sunset)
- Night Prayer (bedtime)
Of these hours of prayer, Morning and Evening prayer are considered to be the most important. Therefore, if you cannot pray all of the hours, do your best to pray these two hours. Always begin with the Invitatory Psalm to open the day.
This guide is simple, but it provides you with everything you need to know how to pray the Liturgy of the Hours. If you use the prayer books of the four volume set and follow the instructions in the Ordinary, you’ll learn how to pray the hours daily and, over time, become comfortable praying daily.
If, after reading this, you have any questions, please let me know. I’m happy to help with any particular questions that remain.
Mr. William C. Michael, Headmaster
Classical Liberal Arts Academy