02 February 2008

Little Office of the Blessed Virgin Mary

As another Lent begins in a few days we are often left struggling with, "what can I do for Lent, what can I give up; candy, dessert, coffee (NO)?" "Maybe I'll pray more." Well in addition to fasting and alsmgiving I want to suggest a wonderful form of liturgical prayer that is easy to say and fit into a busy schedule although hopefully we'll have a little more time after turning off the t.v. and/or cutting back on other activities. The Little Office of Mary is an ancient devotion in the Church.

Historical Background
The Little Office of the Blessed Virgin Mary which appeared in the 9th or 10th century and is a shortened form of the Common of the Blessed Virgin Mary in the Liturgy of the Hours (Divine Office). It may have originally been put together to be prayed in connection with the Votive Masses of Our Lady on Saturday, which were written by Alciun, the liturgical master of Charlemagne’s court. Saint Peter Damian (d. 1072) revised it and recommended it. It was adopted by two religious communities, the Cistercians and the Camaldulensians. Later the secular clergy also used it.
The Little Office varied in different communities and locations, but was standardized by Pius V in 1585. It became part of the Books of Hours in Mary’s honor and was used by many lay people. Beautifully decorated Books of Hours were the pride of many a noble. The Marian Library has examples of such books. Women’s congregations and Third Orders often made it mandatory for their members to pray the Little Office.
In 1952, it was revised with many additions to the prayers according to the six periods of the liturgical season. Vatican II designated the revised office as part of the public prayer of the Church.
As it is a liturgical prayer of the Church it is more beneficial to us then our personal private prayer. St. Alphonsus said that he preferred one prayer of the Breviary to a hundred private prayers. As mentioned above this Little Office was obligatory for many Third Orders. The Knights of Malta would say the Little Office as they rode off into battle.

Baronius Press has re-printed a new copy of the Little Office of the BVM and I have linked to it under My Favorites.

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