Review - Divine Worship: Daily Office (North American Edition) - Part I: Historical Background

Preamble · Part II · Part III · Part IV · Part V

Over the next few posts I will endeavor to thoroughly review the Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of Saint Peter’s new divine office book, beginning with a short history of the events leading up to its publication in November 2020. My copy of the rather clunkily-named Divine Worship: Daily Office (North American Edition) (DW:DO:NAE) arrived about two weeks ago, and since then I have used it to pray Mattins and Evensong every day without fail. Overall, I have genuinely enjoyed using the book; however, that is frankly due more to the nature of the traditional Anglican offices than to any innate property of this publication. Unfortunately, while entirely usable in its current form, DW:DO:NAE is considerably more expensive, of lower quality, and more complicated than alternatives like the Cambridge 1662 Book of Common Prayer (BCP) or the Anglican Parishes Association 1928 BCP. It is my hope that this review, when completed, will enable you, the reader, to make an informed decision regarding whether or not to purchase and pray from DW:DO:NAE.

Enough prayer books for an entire pew!
    Title: Divine Worship: Daily Office (North American Edition). ISBN 978-1-7330293-2-2.
    Publisher: Newman House Press, 2020; second printing, 2021. Printed in the United States of America by WAM Print Mail.
    Specifications: 6” x 9” x 1.75” blue cloth hardcover with sewn binding. 661 pages. Set in Monotype Plantin.

      Paradiso

      A long, long time ago, way back in 2016 (it seems like forever ago now) I, a member of the Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of Saint Peter (OCSP), first heard that our official prayer book was awaiting approval from the Vatican prior to its publication—and that that approval was just around the corner, so we’d likely have our new books within a few months. Sometime prior to this a priest had introduced me to the 1928 American BCP, and no sooner had he given me a copy then I was immediately hooked on those mighty pillars of classical Anglican spirituality, the twin daily offices of Morning and Evening Prayer.

      Thus it was that I and many others like me began eagerly awaiting our future prayer book, which was always forthcoming but never quite here. Certainly, the 1928 BCP was a lovely volume, perfectly typeset, comfortable and welcoming to pray from and hardy enough to last a lifetime—but we wanted an official Catholic prayer book, a BCP with that magical imprimatur stamped inside the cover to signify to our friends and family that we too were praying the official prayer of the Church. Soon enough our Common Prayer would spread like wildfire throughout the broader Catholic sphere, taking its rightful place alongside (and perhaps supplanting) the Roman Breviary, the Liturgy of the Hours, and various other forms and permutations of the Divine Office. The Book of Common Prayer, Archbishop Thomas Cranmer’s genius, his utterly magnificent liturgical masterpiece, had at last been absolved of schism and brought into the welcoming embrace of Rome.

      Purgatorio

      Sadly, month after month passed, and our prayer book never came. “It’s still in Rome”, we heard. “Some bureaucrat has it on his desk but hasn’t gotten around to looking at it.” Or, another time, “Cardinal so-and-so hates the Ordinariates and refuses to approve the book.” A year passed, and then two years, then three. Some of us Americans experimented with quasi-official substitutes, like Walsingham Publishing’s print-on-demand paperback Morning and Evening Prayer and The 1928 Prayer Book Psalter, which was updated every so often to match the latest unofficial draft that may or may not have been circulating. Others used John Covert’s daily offices website. Some, like me, adopted the English 1662 Prayer Book, the standard by which all others are (or should be) judged. The British had an interim office, the Customary of Our Lady of Walsingham; the Australians released a draft prayer book for 2019 that was only meant to be used for that year. The Canadians tended to stick with their 1962 BCP, blessedly free from uncouth psychological difficulties (like the end of Psalm 137). What was jokingly referred to as Divine Worship: The Office (in keeping with the rest of the Ordinariate liturgical franchise’s titles) began to feel like a fanciful hope that perhaps might never become reality.

      And then, at the beginning of November 2020, just when we were ready to abandon all hope, Divine Worship: Daily Office was suddenly announced. This was to be an all-in-one prayer book published by Catholic Truth Society for use in the Australian and British Ordinariates—a bespoke edition for Commonwealth countries, the unhappy Canucks notwithstanding. Coming hot on the heels of this welcome news was the jubilant proclamation that North America, too, would be joining the fun—but our prayer book was already here in the flesh! Secret preorders of Divine Worship: Daily Office (North American Edition) were already shipping to lucky parishes throughout the land. We waited, breaths bated, for firsthand accounts of this long-awaited marvel. Was it everything we had prayed for? Would our collective yearning be satisfied at last?

      Inferno

      The first reports began to trickle in, and there were written therein lamentations, and mourning, and woe. The greater portion of None was missing, along with some collects. Typos and other errors numbered in the dozens, nay, in the scores, even hundreds, littering nearly every page. The book was rumored (incorrectly) to have a weak glued binding. And, perhaps worst of all, almost no one who wanted a copy had one—because demand was estimated to be so light that printing a paltry five hundred copies was deemed sufficient. Someone from the OCSP chancery had sent the publisher an unfinished, unedited draft, and Newman House Press had mindlessly published it.

      Preorders kept rolling in, another printing was ordered—and an eleventh-hour effort took place, spearheaded by the laity, to complete the work of editing and proofreading the prayer book. A hundred serious errors were identified, and a couple hundred lesser ones were painstakingly itemized. Things were looking up; we’d gotten off to a rough start, but soon all would be well. And then, as always, a few more months passed, but no matter. The second printing would certainly make everything right; surely it was better to wait a little while longer than to receive an inferior product.

      But instead we were rewarded with the most unkindest cut of all: The second printing was in no way an improvement over the first. A few errors were fixed, but at least one new major error was introduced (None was made whole, only to be brutalized anew). It seems the carefully-checked errata was not so much as even glanced at by the publishing house. (That’s what I’d prefer to believe, anyway; the alternative is decidedly unflattering.) And now, hundreds upon hundreds of gravely flawed prayer books are flooding the market. It’s a very embarrassing, disappointing situation all round, but hey—at least our official divine office is finally here!

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