The Liturgy Series: Word on Fire’s The Liturgy of the Hours monthly prayer resource

Note: For consistency, the term breviary is used in this post to refer to the hardcopy four-volume Liturgy of the Hours.

The Liturgy of the Hours is the Prayer of the Church – prayed around the clock by members of the Church all around the world. Some may think it is a prayer reserved for the clergy and religious, but the Catechism of the Catholic Church has affirmed that, “The Liturgy of the Hours is intended to become the prayer of the whole People of God.” (1175, emphasis added) However, the hard-copy breviaries that you sometimes see priests and religious carry around in leather cases with several ribbon markers may seem daunting to the lay-person. Where do you start? Perhaps the lay-person just wants to pray without the stresses of ribbons, of Commons and of page-flipping… sometimes 3-4 page flips at some hours on some days. It is with these sentiments in mind that Word on Fire Ministries (WOF) has recently started publishing a monthly subscription simply titled The Liturgy of the Hours.

I think many readers of our blog is familiar with WOF – a Catholic evangelization ministry founded by Bishop Robert Barron. The ministry has published numerous books written by Bishop Barron, by also a variety of books in theology, evangelization and apologetics by world-renown theologians and scholars. Most notably, the WOF Bible volume I (which has been reviewed on our blog) and subsequently volume II has been very well received by people all around the world, not only for its commentary, but its quality and beauty. Producing beautiful books and publications has always been something WOF has strived to do because beauty is a way of evangelization. Moreover, The Liturgy Series on our blog has always mentioned that beauty reminds one of the author of beauty, which is God.

Therefore, WOF’s The Liturgy of the Hours instilled in me high expectations for a booklet that was simple, practical, but also beautiful – and it does not matter if this was a mere monthly subscription booklet. Evangelization & Culture, the journal of the WOF Institute serves as testament to high-quality of subscription pieces published by WOF.


Opening the plastic, you find yourself holding in your hands a simple, handsome, orange-red cover book, embossed/debossed gold foil depicting the symbol of the Holy Name of Jesus (IHS) and a monogram, and white calligraphic text. The symbols are embossed/debossed without gold foil on the back. Personally, I am not a big fan of the red-orange – simply because when I think of a design of a liturgical publication, even if it were a monthly missalette or devotional, orange is not a colour that comes to mind. My mind often turns to a dark red, or a dark green, as seen with many classic liturgical book bindings. But maybe, the orange was chosen because WOF wanted to allow the book to stand out on your night stand, allowing it to remind you to “Pray it!” morning and evening.

The booklet’s paper is not newsprint like the Canadian Living with Christ monthly missalette. The paper is thin cream-coloured bible paper, which resembles closer to the Magnificat monthly missalette and devotional. I never liked newsprint missalettes or annual missals found in the pews of some parishes. Even if a resource were to be replaced monthly or annually, I think it should in no way resemble a copy of the daily newspaper like the Toronto Star, where you read through it once, and tossed into the trash. The Liturgy of the Hours‘ paper provides this sense of dignity to the content of texts that will be prayed – ultimately these are Liturgical Prayers, drawn from Scriptural passages, and thus I think it is rightful that a paper besides newsprint is used.

There is just a sense of reverence when you hold and pray using a printed copy of The Liturgy of the Hours that a movile device app just can’t achieve. Not only does the cover and paper merit attention, but the use of fonts, calligraphy and optimization of two-colour printing elevates the contents of the booklet. WOF seems to stick to two colours for the booklet: black and an orange-red font, which complements the elements of the cover, and gives a sense of cohesiveness to the booklet as a whole. Scattered throughout the book are full pages of calligraphic text of Bible verses in the orange-red ink – simply beautiful. These one-pagers of Bible verses, though seems rather trivial, or like ‘space-filler’, provokes further thought and reflection at times.

WOF’s website states, “The booklets include special artwork to mark and celebrate solemnities throughout the year, helping you to better enter the Church’s liturgical life.” Unfortunately, I did not get to see that – I asked for a review copy in May for the June issue, which never came. I received a review copy for July, and sadly July had no Solemnities… guess just bad luck, because June had many Solemnities and August at least has the upcoming Solemnity of the Assumption. I would have loved to see the art for June’s Solemnities, especially that of the Solemnity of Sts. Peter and Paul, and the Solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, simply because WOF has always had great artwork in so many of their publications.

The size of the booklet is of a good, user-friendly, and portable size, measuring about 5″x7″x0.75″ – that is less than half the size of a classic breviary. I set aside my copy of the breviary for the month of July to fully immerse myself into the experience of the booklet, and was quite happy with the ability to bring this copy of The Liturgy of the Hours along with ease during my pilgrimage to Québec at the end of the month.

“Bare Bones”, Easy to Pray

The content is “bare bones”. Whether this is the first time praying the Liturgy of the Hours, or you are very familiar with the breviary, WOF’s The Liturgy of the Hours makes praying the Prayer of the Church with ease. I think the first thing that needs to be clear is that The Liturgy of the Hours booklet unlike the full-breviary, only contains Morning, Evening and Night Prayer. I often pray the Office of Readings as well and I had to supplement that segment with a copy of a now, out-of-print The Office of Readings published by St. Paul’s Editions.

The Liturgy of the Hours provides the “bare bones” to facilitate the most straight-forward praying experience of praying the Liturgy of the Hours. For every hour, the Introductory is printed, the Psalms and Canticles are provided with the antiphons in bold at the start and end of each Psalm/Canticle (without the Psalm-Prayers found in the breviary), and proper formulae of dismissal for either layperson or clergy.

For every hour, there is only one instance of page-flipping, and that is ironically the hymn. Why do I say “ironic”? Because in the breviary, at least for the Ordinary Time season, the hymn is already printed after the introductory – that is unless you want to choose a different hymn. I often use the hymn provided for that hour. Therefore, having to flip for that portion of the hour seemed a little unusual for me, but totally understandable. Unlike the breviary, WOF provides notation for the hymns which really allows the Liturgy of the Hours to be prayed in its fullest sense possible. I know a number of people who have difficulty singing with breviary because of lack of notation. Unless you are familiar with the tune, it is difficult to follow along. WOF eliminates this questioning of, “how does this tune go?” and provides the notation which makes singing the hymn a lot easier.

In keeping with the “bare bones” user-friendly structure, I like how the headings are not printed in the text block itself, but rather, in the left margin. This is helpful for new users to know what is to be recited and what not, because I think “say the black, do the red” is unfamiliar among lay-people. I know the breviary even has some quotes from the saints or another source before some of the Psalms and Canticles, and those are printed in black and italicized, which might make things even more confusing for someone new to the breviary.

Some Critiques

An American Liturgical Calendar: While the Liturgy of the Hours is the Prayer of the Church, like the Mass and Lectionary texts, there are some adaptations in terms of the liturgical calendar in each country. While it was not surprise to me, it might be to some Canadian subscribers, and those outside of the United States, that The Liturgy of the Hours is reflective of the United States’ Liturgical Calendar. This was evident in July in two instances for me. The first was on Thursday July 14, 2022, which had the memorial of St. Kateri Tekakwitha. Canada does not celebrate St. Kateri’s memorial on this day, but rather on April 17. Another instance was on Tuesday July 26, 2022 in which in the United States the memorial of Sts. Joachim and Anne was observed, while in Canada, this day is observed as a feast. Therefore, not only would one of the Commons was to be utilized for most of Morning and Evening Prayer, but Morning Prayer was supposed to utilize Sunday Week 1’s Psalms and Canticles, as is the case with Morning Prayer of Feasts and Solemnities.

This is understandable on the part of WOF, because WOF is based in the United States, and it seems that Americans are their largest recipients of their materials, compared to Canada. Even the current breviary fails to acknowledge Canadian saints and the Canadian Liturgical Calendar, which makes praying the breviary on days like the memorial of St. Kateri Tekakwitha or the feast of Sts. Jean de Brébeuf and Companions even more difficult with the extra work to locate prayers, inserts and commons. On these days, I find praying with the Universalis app all the better, because the app has reflected these Canadian adaptations. The only bummer with that is the use of a mobile device, rather than a printed book.

I think WOF should address the use of the American Liturgical adaptations in their FAQs. They have an FAQ on their site that states:

On saint/feast days, will you give people options or just pick one set of prayers?

The booklet includes one set of prayers for each day, choosing the highest ranking feast or celebration. Our goal is simplicity. We want to reduce the number of choices so that people can just read and pray without worrying about extra decisions.

I think this is a perfect place to mention the American Liturgical Calendar adaptations. It is just unfortunate that the Canadian market is just too small to justify the making of a Canadian version of The Liturgy the Hours subscription program. Even the popular Magnificat has a version with American Lectionary translations and no Canadian version. But overall, you will only find these adaptations on a handful number of days of the liturgical calendar.

Recordings for the Hymns: I am glad that WOF chose to include musical notations for the hymns. For someone who can read musical notation, I can find my way through the hymns easily, but I do not think that is the case for many users. To facilitate the learning of some of the hymns, I recommend adding a page with recordings for the hymns on the WOF website. Perhaps there are permissions that must be sought, but even if these recordings are made available to subscribers only, it might be of great help to many who wish to learn these hymns.

Reconsidering Gospel Canticles and Night Prayer: I know WOF wants to have the prayers in proper sequence laid out for every day, even duplicating prayers every day as necessary, but is there too much dupication? I questioned this while praying using the booklet, especially for Gospel Canticles – I wonder if it is better to have the Benedictus, Magnificat, and Nunc Dimittis or at least just the Benedictus and Magnificat on the inside front covers, epsecially since as of now, the two inside front covers are blank.

I do not think it is difficult, or of inconvenience to have to turn to the front or back cover for these Canticles. That means that only the antiphon would need to be printed once at the point these Canticles are to be recited. Moreover, I have found the Gospel Canticles easy to learn by heart after frequent praying of the Liturgy of the Hours.

Some consideration might also be given to Night Prayer which is less complicated than Morning and Evening Prayer, and I think, better suited to have just a section dedicated to Night Prayer in the back with the Night Prayer from Sunday to Saturday. This is a better alternative, I think, than printing four-weeks worth of the same prayers. The only extra effort required is turning to the back section each night, but that is very simple, given that you know which day of the week it is. For the day’s prayer after Evening Prayer, some note to turn to page # for Night Prayer might be an option.

Adding the Invitatory Psalm: I was a bit disappointed to not see the Invitatory Psalm included in The Liturgy of the Hours, especially since the Introductory for the Invitatory is so meaningful, “Lord, open my lips. And my mouth will proclaim your praise.” The Invitatory Psalm, often Psalm 95, but Psalm 100, 67 or 24 can serve as alternatives, is said at the first hour of the day. I often pray it at the Office of Readings, but for users of The Liturgy of the Hours, it is most appropriate to include it at Morning Prayer. I hope some consideration will be given to including the Invitatory Psalm in future editions of The Liturgy of the Hours booklet.

For WOF’s Future Consideration

WOF has provided a wide range of resources in theology and apologetics, and it seems with The Liturgy of the Hours, WOF is entering a different field – of liturgy. Seeing the quality that WOF puts into their publications, I have questions as to what other types of publications may publish, especially in the area of Liturgy. Coming out in a couple of years, is the second edition of The Liturgy of the Hours, and I wonder if WOF will consider a more permanent resource, of publishing a user-friendly breviary for use by the lay-faithful that is not subscription based.

Moreover, the artistic beauty makes me wonder if WOF has any plans to publish high-quality liturgical books. I would love to see one-day the possibility of an edition of the Roman Missal printed with the highest standards, similar to the WOF Bible. Since the promulgation of the third english edition of the Roman Missal in 2011, there has been no new editions (i.e. new bindings, printings) of the Roman Missal in the english market, and I hope that WOF can introduce something new, worthy for use at the altar. These are just some possible liturgical projects, that I hope WOF might consider down the road.


The Liturgy of the Hours is a wonderful subscription that will help one be introduced to the hours. For a mere $7USD/month (at Special Founder’s Discount), one can have the chance to immerse one’s prayer life with the Prayer of the Church. I recommend it for individuals, families or prayer groups and chaplaincies in educational institutions so that many more people will be introduced to this wonderful prayer of the Church.

To learn more about WOF’s The Liturgy of the Hours subscription and subscribe, click here.

Disclaimer: Vincent Pham was provided a review copy of The Liturgy of the Hours – July 2022 to provide an honest review of it on this blog. The Catholic Man Reviews thanks Word on Fire for the opportunity for us to review this subscription on our blog and look forward to future reviews. All thoughts and opinions expressed in here are our own and reflect our sincere thoughts about the title.

The Liturgy Series: Sacred Oils, by Fr. Paul Turner

In the last installment of The Liturgy Series, The Catholic Man featured a title by liturgist Fr. Paul Turner, Ars Celebrandi – Celebrating and Concelebrating Mass. Shortly thereafter, he wrote a book of a less complex title, Sacred Oils. I think by the title, you can already tell what the book is already about. But honestly, how many Catholics really understand the significance of the oils that are used in the sacraments? I think one can reduce the Sacred Oils merely as an association of a liturgical action and boom, done. However, Fr. Turner wants to point out in this book that there is so much more than a liturgical-action aspect to the oil, more than just rubrics and anointing.

How many of us readers have ever attended the Chrism Mass? Honestly, I think very few. At least where I reside, in the Archdiocese of Toronto, it is celebrated the morning of Holy Tuesday. As the Chrism Mass is celebrated in my Archdiocese, elementary and high school students are in classes and majority of people are at work. I question why not a lot of dioceses if they were to celebrate the Chrism Mass on a day outside of Holy Thursday, why they would not celebrate it in the evening so that many of the lay faithful can attend as well. This past Chrism Mass was my first one, and reading Fr. Turner’s Sacred Oils helped inform me of the significance of the Chrism Mass in connection with the oils used in the Sacred Liturgy.

Oil bears biblical, theological and liturgical significance in the Catholic Church. Yet, the use of oil in the Church: Sacred Chrism, Oil of the Sick and Oil of the Catechumens are often taken for granted by the lay faithful. Combining the biblical, theological and most prominently the liturgical significance of the Sacred Oils, Fr. Turner offers a thorough, yet easy to understand Catechesis for those who would like to further their understanding on Sacred Oils and the sacraments in which they are used in.

For all Catholics, at infant baptism and confirmation – these ‘one-time’ sacraments, in which one can only receive once in their lifetime, the effects of the sacrament, and the significance put in place by Sacred Chrism is a lifetime. These outwards signs though seemingly miniscule, speak volumes to the very lives that we live. At a time of sickness, understanding the significance of the Oil of the Sick helps grounds one in what they are to be anointed with from a sacramental view, and dismiss a rather perhaps superstitious conception of Catholicism.

Reading Sacred Oils it becomes clear that Catholicism is not faith that remains enclosed in the heart. We are a sacramental people which uses sacraments, defined by St. Augustine as “an outward and visible sign of an inward and invisible grace.” In understanding the use of the oils, to the origins of them at the Chrism Mass, and its theological and biblical roots, we come to understand these outward signs better and therefore, also what we receive in the reception of the sacraments. That is our faith – a faith in which outward signs reflect the interior essence.

Fr. Turner divides the book into five sections:

  • Introduction: The Chrism Mass
  • Chapter One: The Oil of the Sick
  • Chapter Two: The Oil of the Catechumens
  • Chapter Three: Sacred Chrism
  • Conclusion: The Care of Oils

All chapters consists of a very thorough analysis, and answers the questions I lay out here:

  • What is the biblical and theological significance of the oil?
  • When is that type of oil used?
  • Who and what things are the ‘recipient’ of the specific oil?
  • Why are specific references made in both the formula of blessing/consecration of a specific oil, and in the formula of anointing someone/something with that oil?
  • How is that type of oil used in biblical times, throughout Church history and today in the liturgy?

As I mentioned before, Sacred Oils is a catechesis on the use of the oils, and the sacraments and liturgy in of itself. The sub-headings seemingly reference the W5H of Oils. It is important to know the origins and use of these oils because through that, we are able to see how oils connect an individual with the life of the local Church, the diocese, and ultimately with the Universal Church both past, present and future.

What is one thing missing from the book? I honestly think the big thing missing from the book is an appendix containing the formulae of Blessing the Oil of the Sick and Oil of the Catechumens, and the fomula of Consecration of the Sacred Chrism. The reasoning for this is: Fr. Turner references these texts so often in all three chapters. While he has the citation for the text in the actual ritual book, the ritual book is quite inaccessible by the lay faith. Unless one is a liturgist, I think not many Catholics would be willing to chip out $30USD or $142.95CAD (yes, you read that right) to spend on a 32-paged ritual book. Therefore, having the prayers in their entirety, in some appendix like this handout from the Liturgy Office England and Wales would be immensely helpful.

Overall, once again, Fr. Turner does it again, this time with an engaging, comprehensive catechesis on Sacred Oils. I look forward to possibly stocking my liturgy library with liturgical commentaries by Fr. Turner. This, however, will not be the last of Fr. Turner on The Liturgy Series this year. To know which book that is, you will jsut have to wait and see!

You can check out Sacred Oils here at Liturgical Press.

Disclaimer: Vincent Pham was provided a review copy of Sacred Oils to provide an honest review of it on this blog. The Catholic Man Reviews thanks Liturgical Press for the opportunity for us to review this title on our blog and look forward to future collaborations. All thoughts and opinions expressed in here are our own and reflect our sincere thoughts about the title.

Review: Đồng Tâm Bilingual Music & Prayer Resource for Vietnamese Youth

This month, for The Liturgy Series, I’m reviewing something fairly interesting – a “bilingual music & prayer resource”. As Catholic who have grown up in a Vietnamese parish, it is often difficult to introduce English hymns for youth to follow along because that would leave older generation out. It is unfortunate – but that is the reality in which we live in. The Vietnamese came to USA, Canada and scattered all throughout the world, bringing with them the beauty of Viet culture and Viet piety, but some things just don’t speak to the Vietnamese Catholic youth.

For years, I’ve been struggling to find a bilingual hymnal in English and Vietnamese geared for youth. Thankfully, very recently, Oregon Catholic Press (OCP) has published a simple but beautiful compilation called Đồng Tâm. While their bilingual hymnal Thánh Ca Dân Chúa was another fine example of a bilingual hymnal, that hymnal was geared for a general Vietnamese Catholic Community of all ages. Đồng Tâm is geared towards Catholic youth, and is a resource that I would use for Vietnamese youth Masses and with my local Vietnamese Eucharistic Youth Movement Chapter.

I am not going to speak much about layout or physical elements of the hymnal – on that note OCP has produced many great examples in terms of quality and practicality. However, I really want to speak about the content itself – what makes a simple and resourceful bilingual hymnal?

Let me note first, the hymnal comes in two formats: one is the congregation booklet with prayers and lyrics with musical notation. The other format is the guitar accompaniment with all the sheet music and guitar chords, but no prayers.

The Order of Mass

Now I’m going to be speaking mainly on the congregation booklet since that is where a bulk of the content is and what people would use. Besides the title pages and table of contents, the first thing I see is the Order of Mass (Nghi Thức Thánh Lễ) – presented with English on the left, and Vietnamese on the right. Very clean, readable format and easy to follow along, containing the people’s responses – so don’t expect rubrics or full texts of the Eucharistic Prayers in here – bare minimum for people to follow.

Mass Settings

There are three in here: Mass of Seraphim (Vietnamese), Mass of Renewal (Bilingual) and Mass of a Joyful Heart (English). I cannot complain at all with their selection of Mass Settings.

Mass of Seraphim (Bộ Lễ Seraphim) is the most common Vietnamese Mass Setting. Most often, if a Vietnamese Parish is not singing Mass of Ca Lên Đi 3, then they would be doing Mass of Seraphim by the late bishop Paul Hòa Văn Nguyễn. While more “chant-based” I’d say than Mass of Ca Lên Đi 3, it is easy to sing and used universally.

Mass of Renewal (Bộ Lễ Canh Tân) by Curtis Stephan now comes as a bilingual Mass Setting – one I’ve been wanting to integrate into our parish community but haven’t been able to yet. I think this Mass Setting is fairly easy to sing and learn and brings English and Vietnamese into at Mass.

Mass of a Joyful Heart is one of my favourite English Mass Settings. Though perhaps less known here in Canada, when given the chance, I would love to use this Mass Setting, especially for an English Youth Mass as it is upbeat and like the other Mass Settings in this resource, easy to learn.

Hymns and Songs

With about 60 hymns and songs, Đồng Tâm provides a great selection for use a bilingual Catholic youth events. The number of songs also means that the hymnal is fairly thin, easy to pack into a suitcase or backpack anywhere you need to go.

There are some beautiful Vietnamese selections such as Lắng Nghe Lời Chúa and Lời Thiêng and some interesting English selections including Enter the Journey and In this Place. However, my favourite feature of this hymnal are the Bilingual hymns, some from Vietnamese to English and some English to Vietnamese. It is so beautiful to hear Vietnamese hymns sung in English and fascinating when I hear Vietnamese people singing English hymns as common as Here I am, Lord in Vietnamese. Some bilingual selections include, Tâm Tình Hiến Dâng (A Gift of Love), Immaculate Mary (Ave Maria), Hành Trang Người Trẻ (Compassion of Youth), Con Đường Chúa Đã Đi Qua (The Way of Love), In Every Age (Trải Qua Mọi Đời) and Jesus Christ, You Are My Life (Giêsu Kitô, Chúa ở cùng Con) to name a few. You can view songs on OCP’s website on their Đồng Tâm page. Also included are the common hymns for Adoration including Tantum Ergo (in Latin and Vietnamese) and O Salutaris Hostia (in Latin and English). I wish they included Holy God, We Praise Thy Name – maybe possible in future editions? I would also love to see that hymn translated into Vietnamese one day as well.

The only concern is whether or not all the songs are permitted for use in liturgy, especially with the use of the heading, “Hymns and Songs”. Most of the songs I know are permitted for use in the liturgy. However, there are songs such as Gặp Gỡ Đức Kitô I’ve been told is not to be used in the liturgy as they are “Ca Sinh Hoạt” – in other words, songs used for recreational purposes or prayer outside of liturgical functions. I hope that in future editions, OCP will clarify on this point.

Devotions and Prayers

There are a good selection of common prayers and devotions in this resource in facing bilingual pages in the assembly edition including:

  • Prayers of the rosary
  • The mysteries of the rosary
  • Prayer to the Holy Spirit
  • Closing Litany (Ba Câu Lạy)
  • Eucharistic Adoration outline and Benediction
  • The Chaplet of Divine Mercy
  • Prayer to Our Lady of La Vang
  • Prayer to the Martyrs of Vietnam

The guitar edition only contains the headings of these prayers and devotions. Overall, I have to say, a fairly comprehensive selection of prayers. Maybe the Angelus and the Regina Caeli would be nice to have in future editions?

One thing I would like to point out are spelling errors inside Đồng Tâm. For example, the bold heading 71, “Prayer to the Holy Spirit” is misspelled as “Prayer to the Goly Spirit” in the guitar edition. A smaller mistake is found in song 66 in Immaculate Mary where “Lourdes Hymn” is spelled as “Lourds Hymn” in both editions. While not really major mistakes, I do hope that both editions will be thoroughly reviewed before the next printing.

Final Remarks

I am very pleased with this first edition of Đồng Tâm. It is a resource that I have been hoping to see for quite some time. This resource could help bridge the two generations of Vietnamese Catholics, the older which grew up in Vietnam and the young which grew up outside of Vietnam. That is really the spirit of the reforms of the liturgy after Vatican II – an active participation in the liturgy (see Sacrosanctum Concilium 14). Đồng Tâm and other Catholic bilingual hymnals are certainly good investments for cultural Catholic youth groups.

Check out Đồng Tâm here on the OCP website!