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Psychological Healing
in the Catholic Mystic Tradition

A Guide to the
Liturgy of the Hours


Learning How to Pray  |  Spiritual Counsels  |  Books  |  About CSF

Introduction | Preliminary Remarks: Sections of the LOH, Glory to the Father, Postures, Sign of the Cross, Signs of Reverence, Languages | Complete Instructions

OUR LORD Jesus Christ told us to pray constantly (Luke 18:1). The Liturgy of the Hours (or The Divine Office) provides one way to fulfill this obligation in a structured format. Moreover, the mandate of the Liturgy of the Hours applies not only to all bishops and priests, other sacred ministers, and the religious, but also to the laity. But, for the laity especially, without clear and unambiguous instructions, praying the Liturgy of the Hours can be confusing and difficult.


Actually, everything you need to learn the format of the Liturgy of the Hours can be found in the volumes themselves.

The General Instruction of the Liturgy of the Hours (GILH) can be found in Volume I of the four-volume set. It can also be found online: General Instruction of the Liturgy of the Hours.

The section called the Ordinary in each volume provides complete instructions for the entire office.

Nevertheless, “digesting” all this information can be difficult for someone without a liturgical background, and this fact alone can prevent many persons from learning a beautiful form of Catholic prayer. Still, everything is really much more simple than it seems. Once you have “walked through it” a couple times and catch on to the basic concepts you will find yourself moving through the Hours with ease and confidence.

It can be helpful to use the St. Joseph Guide for the Liturgy of the Hours, a small booklet that serves the entire calendar year. You should be able to buy the guide in any good Catholic bookstore, or direct from the publisher’s website. It’s available for both the four-volume set and the one-volume Christian Prayer.


Preliminary Remarks

Note that the Liturgy of the Hours has been designed to be sung in community; however, the words recited, said, and sung can be interchanged, and so it is allowable to “recite” the hours by “saying” them without singing. In individual recitation, the hours can simply be read—that is, “said”—silently.

Each volume of the Liturgy of the Hours has several basic sections:

The Proper of Seasons is found at the beginning of each volume. It follows a one-year cycle beginning with Advent and progressing through Christmas, Ordinary Time, Lent, Easter, and another period of Ordinary Time. It contains material specific to each day of the current season.

A short description of
Liturgical Seasons


The Ordinary contains the basic instructions for each celebration: the invitatory, the Office of Readings, Morning Prayer, Daytime Prayer, Evening Prayer, and Night Prayer.

The Psalter contains all the basic psalms, readings, and intercessions.

A common-sense guide to
Reading the Psalms


Night Prayer follows a simple daily cycle through the week.

The Proper of Saints contains material specific to celebrations of various holy days (memorials, feasts, and solemnities) throughout the year.

The Common of Saints contains material common to celebrations of various kinds of saints: martyrs, pastors, virgins, and so on.

Locate each section of your volume and place a ribbon there to mark the place for daily reference. I keep the ribbons for the Ordinary and Night Prayer fixed, since, when we need to go to those sections we always start at the beginning of them, but I move the other ribbons as I progress through each day of prayer.

Beginners often ask, “How do I know which week of the Psalter we are in?” To find out, just go to the Proper of Seasons and find the Sunday of the current liturgical week (e.g., 9th Sunday of Ordinary Time) and right there it will tell you which Psalter week to use. (If the Sunday of the week is a special solemnity such as Christ the King that does not use the Psalter, then look to the following Monday.)

Throughout the Liturgy of the Hours, every psalm and canticle is concluded with the Glory to the Father unless otherwise indicated.

Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit:
As it was in the beginning, is now, and will be for ever. Amen.

The recitation of each psalm (or canticle) therefore takes this order: antiphon, psalm, Glory to the Father, psalm prayer, and antiphon.

Postures during the Office:

All taking part stand (a) during the introduction to the Office and the introductory verses of each hour; (b) during the hymn; (c) during the Gospel Canticle; (d) during the intercessions, the Lord’s Prayer, and the concluding prayer (GILH 263).

All should sit to listen to the readings (GILH 264).

When the psalms and canticles are said, the assembly either sits or stands according to local custom (GILH 265).

In individual, private recitation you may use whatever posture(s) you prefer, including sitting through the entire Office.

Making the Sign of the Cross during the Office:

All make the sign of the cross, from forehead to breast and from left shoulder to right (a) at the beginning of the Hours, when God, come to my assistance is being said; (b) at the beginning of the Gospel Canticles of Zechariah, of Mary, and of Simeon (GILH 266).

The sign of the cross is made with the thumb on the mouth at the beginning of the invitatory, at the words Lord, open my lips (GILH 266).

The sign of the cross can be made at the dismissal/final blessing. (The GILH does not say anything specific about this.)

Sign of reverence during the Office:

A bow of the head is made when (a) the three Divine Persons are named (e.g., Glory to the Father and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit), (b) at the name of Jesus, (c) at the name of the Blessed Virgin Mary, and (d) at the name of the Saint in whose honor the Liturgy of the Hours may be celebrated that particular day. (See Ceremonial of Bishops, 68; General Instruction of the Roman Missal, 275).

Languages during the Office:

Different languages may be used for various parts at one and the same celebration (See GILH 276) (e.g., saying the Gospel Canticle of Mary [Magnificat] and the Lord’s Prayer [Pater Noster] in Latin during a celebration otherwise in English).


Who wrote this web page?



The Richmond Guide to
Praying the Liturgy of the Hours

THIS BOOK has organized all the information you will need to learn to pray the Liturgy of the Hours using the four-volume set, step-by-step, as simply as possible. (The single-volume Christian Prayer follows the same basic format, but with simplifications.)

This new third edition contains comprehensive instructions for praying the Office of Readings, Morning Prayer, Daytime Prayer, Evening Prayer, and Night Prayer on weekdays, Sundays, Memorials, Feasts, and Solemnities; plus, this edition contains the following material not in the first edition:

Detailed information about how celebrations differ in ordinary time, in Advent, and in the Easter season.

Detailed graphic charts for all of the celebrations as they vary by liturgical season.

“Walk-through” examples to lead you step-by-step through the celebration of a Memorial, a Feast, a Solemnity, and a Sunday in Advent.

5" x 8"  Softcover, 172 pages

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