Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Guest Review: Monastic Diurnal 7th Edition

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!


Raul v said...

Hi, Matt. I could not find the contact info. so unfortunatley I'll use this mean. Could you please provide more information about the wide margin nkjv bible you have? isbn number, publisher. Thank You so much.

Jonny said...

I forgot to mention there is a blog listed in the introduction of the Monastic Diurnal:


It is from a group of lay devotees to the traditional Benedictine office, and is helpful for beginners to find their way around the diurnal. Check it out!

Paul said...

Thanks for this. I have the previous edition and I love using it - I can see some differences from the pictures you've taken. The book appears thicker (and wouldn't fit my Byzant case) and pages "whiter" if that makes sense! My edition has square page corners and the print not as crisp although it's difficult to tell without the real thing. I've managed to hold the ribbons by dipping the ends into sealing wax but I've heard you can do it with clear nail varnish(?!).

For those who want a diurnal I think this is the best - it is compact, squeezes a huge amount into a small space, and the hours are very managable. I also own the Antiphonale Monasticum (1934) and have learnt some of the hymn tunes and Psalm tones by heart. It's also available from St Michael's Abbey.

I too cannot recommend this book highly enough!

Jonny said...

This book is also available through Clear Creek Abbey:


There is also a Latin/English Matins book available from them:


I just ran across this yesterday, and and I am considering getting the Matins book too!

yoyomama said...


I am a bibliophile, recent convert, and layman in the Diocese of Madison (where Morlino Magnus reigns in glory).

I just found your site today, and I am loving it! This is just wonderful, and I get a kick out of your humor, insights, and all of the neat books you review.

Juts a quick question: do you think you will ever review "The Original and True Rheims New Testament (1582)"? You mentioned it in an older post, but I haven't seen anything about it since.

Thanks again for this great blog, and I look forward to many more excellent posts!

Ian Chamberlin said...

I just ordered my copy from Amazon. This is a great review. I am an Episcopalian of Anglo-Catholic persuasion and I was looking at praying a more traditional Divine Office. I had looked at the Baronius BR, but $360 was just a bit steep, considering I don't plan to pray Matins at least as of yet.

"The whole truth is generally the ally of virtue; a half-truth is always the ally of some vice." - G.K. Chesterton