A hearty thank you to fellow Catholic Jonny, for sending over this great review of the 7th Edition of the St. Michael's Abbey Monastic Diurnal. For my review of the previous edition, click here.
Here is a great little prayer book! My name is Jonny, and I first
ran across the Monastic Diurnal on this very blog, while browsing
through the Book Review section. I knew at once it would be a great
devotional tool for me, so I ordered it right away (through Amazon.)
I was so pleased with the book that I decided to write a review to
share my thoughts.
First of all, for those who are unfamiliar with the pre-Vatican II
Breviary, I might do well to mention a few things. The hours are
arranged as follows, Prime (6 am), Lauds (Dawn), Terce (9 am), Sext
(12 noon), None (3 pm), Vespers (evening prayer), and Compline (night
prayer.) The hours are arranged in a one-week cycle, and the hours
are of varying lengths. The longest hour is Lauds, then Vespers, and
the rest are pretty short. They consist of Psalms with antiphons,
hymns, Bible readings, and canticles. This method of prayer dates
back to the early centuries of the Church, but especially refined by
St. Benedict in the 6th century. The name “Monastic
Diurnal” refers to its use in monasteries as daily prayer. The
only hour missing from this book is Matins, which is actually the
longest hour of all, traditionally recited at midnight.
This MD is published through a Benedictine Monastery, St.
Michael’s Abbey, Farnborough, UK. The edition previously reviewed
on this blog was the Sixth Edition, copyright 2004, whereas this
Seventh Edition is copyright 2011. The first five editions were
published between 1948 and 1953, and the seventh is a reprint of the
fifth edition, which was granted an imprimatur by the Bishop of St.
Cloud, Peter W. Bartholome, Oct. 4th, 1963. This Breviary
is authorized under Summorum Pontificum, although the Latin text is
what is officially approved. The Monastic Diurnal includes both the
Latin (the Vulgate in the case of the Scripture readings) and an
English translation thereof.
What really attracted me to the MD was the formal language, as in
the Challoner Douay-Rheims Bible, as well as the use of the Vulgate,
including the Gallican Psalter. I am by no means proficient in
Latin, but this will be an aid for me to learn more. The Scripture
readings in English are not quite as literal as the DRC Bible, but
that is mostly to make it easier to understand. After praying out
loud with my family, I began to appreciate that a lot. Also, I was
hoping that the hymns would include music, but since they did not I
just had to recite them. I also came to appreciate that as well, in
that the English translation is majestic, poetic, and even rhymes.
Overall, I must say that the English translation makes an excellent
prayer book. This is especially for those who like the traditional
prayers… you will be praying “O God, come to my assistance” and
“Glory be to the Father, and to the Son and to the Holy Ghost.”
Now about the book: it is one of the nicest leather-bound books
that I own. It has soft Moroccan leather wrapped over two semi-stiff
boards. The six ribbon bookmarks are nice but will need a single
loop knot at the end to keep them from unraveling. The type is in
red and black, and I find it very easy on the eyes, not too cramped
or busy. And last but not least, it has a sewn binding. Amazon
lists the dimensions as such: 5.9 x 4.1 x 2.1. I measured with a
ruler and it looks about right as the measure including the covers.
It sits open comfortably in the palm of your hand.
The other great thing about the book is that with all the options
for hours, it is easy for one to integrate it into his daily prayer.
I am still praying Christian Prayer early in the morning, but now I
can also pray Prime (being short as it is) with my wife before I
leave early for work. I also look forward to None when I get home
from work, and possibly Vespers and Compline depending on our
schedule limitations. If you especially like the Vulgate and
language of the Douay-Rheims Bible, you will love the Monastic
Diurnal from St. Michael’s Abbey Press!