Little Devotion, Large Graces

Dominican Friars | June 17, 2024

Further, our Order observes more spiritual exercises in honor of the Blessed Virgin than many other Orders . . . the daily Office begins with her and ends with her, hence her Compline is said last . . . again her daily Office is always and everywhere said standing, while in the other Offices the brothers are sometimes seated.

Bl. Humbert of Romans, Commentary of the Constitutions of the Order of Preachers

When I was in college, I began praying the Divine Office (also called the Liturgy of the Hours), a tremendous devotion that helped me discover my vocation to be a friar. But when I opened a breviary for the first time, it was certainly intimidating. The amount of page-flips were so numerous that I was left dizzied. I had no idea where the psalms were, or how to pray with them, and it was discouraging to pray because of how confused I was. However, once I had a grasp on the layout of the breviary, I was much more comfortable with praying it. But a new problem arose once I was out of college: I had no time to pray the entirety of the Divine Office. Thankfully, that Christmas I was gifted with a wonderful devotional, the Little Office of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

The Little Office of the Blessed Virgin Mary is a devotional that resembles the Liturgy of the Hours. However, it is much more abbreviated and focuses more on the Blessed Mother, with the psalms, antiphons, and hymns taken from the Common of the Blessed Virgin Mary in the larger Divine Office.

The Little Office of the Blessed Virgin Mary has a long history. It is unclear when exactly it was devised, but tradition has it that, in 1095, Pope Urban II made this small office required for all clergy, in addition to their requirement to pray the Divine Office. Later, it was inserted into the back of breviaries for religious orders and clerics. This included those of the Dominican Order, and if you look in the back of the Dominican Breviary you’ll find it there. The obligation was then lifted by Pope Pius V at the Council of Trent. Most recently, the Second Vatican Council reaffirmed this devotion as a public prayer of the Church by stating “They, too, perform the public prayer of the Church who . . . recite any short office, provided this is drawn up after the pattern of the divine office and is duly approved.” To look at what brothers have said in the past about the Little Office, I encourage you to check out Fr. John Sica’s article.

You will find the Little Office much simpler to pray and much less intimidating. As opposed to the current four-week psalter of the Divine Office, the Little Office has either a daily psalter or a one-week psalter depending on the edition you pray with. This translates into much less page-flipping between sections of the book and allows it to be read straight through. 

In my own experience, Mary gives us many graces through praying her psalter. There are even indulgences attached to pious recitation of the Little Office. It is a simple way for the psalms to enter your life in a way that makes them accessible. The psalms are not meant just for priests and religious to pray, but also for the laity. This is a gift of Holy Mother Church, and one that can bring about some incredible graces.


This article was originally published in the dominicanajournal.org and was written by Br. Jerome Masters, O.P..


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