Q: I received this question from a friend in religious life. Can you help me answer it for her?
“I have a question for you about the Divine Office. We pray Morning, Evening, and Night Prayers together as a community. I thought that I understood the various Church Seasons and the Propers and Commons, etc., but now I am confused. Since Easter, we have been treating Memorials and especially Optional Memorials as if we are still in a Privileged Season. All the directives I have seen and read refer to the Privileged Seasons as December 17-31 and during Lent. Even the Ordo that we all have indicates Memorials should be observed rather than the Easter propers. However, a couple sisters read the directives as also including the Easter Season as a privileged season. In fact, today one sister told me that anything outside of Ordinary Time is Privileged Season. So, like I said, I am confused. I will be leading Office soon and want to pray the right thing. So if I am not understanding this correctly, maybe you can “straighten” me out!)”
A: I believe I’ve uncovered the reason for the confusion about privileged days. The General Instruction of the Liturgy of the Hours treats the directions for memorials in chapter IV, Variations Celebrations throughout the Year. It opens with the mysteries of the Lord and then moves to celebrations pertaining to the saints, first solemnities and feasts, and then memorials. I’ll quote the pertinent paragraphs below. You’ll see that 235-236 are under “Memorials During Ordinary Time” and 237-239 concern “Memorials During Privileged Seasons.” It appears that Easter Time is not directly treated under either group. But in fact the heading for the first group is translated incorrectly. Here are the two headings in Latin:
a) De memoriis diebus ordinariis occurrentibus
b) De memoriis tempore privilegiato occurrentibus
As you can see, the first one should be translated “Concerning Memorials occurring on ordinary days,” and the second should be “Concerning Memorials occurring in a privileged time.”
The distinction is not between Ordinary Time and Privileged Seasons, but between privileged times and ordinary days.
Easter Time falls under the first heading.
Your correspondent’s understanding of the observance of memorials is correct.
Memorials During Ordinary Time
235. In the office of readings, at morning prayer, and at evening prayer:
a. the psalms and their antiphons are taken from the current week and day, unless there are proper antiphons or proper psalms, which is indicated as the case occurs;
b. the antiphon at the invitatory, the hymn, the short reading, the antiphons at the Canticles of Zechariah and of Mary, and the intercessions must be those of the saint if these are given in the proper; otherwise, they are taken either from the common or from the current week and day;
c. the concluding prayer from the office of the saint is to be said;
d. in the office of readings, the Scripture reading with its responsory is from the current cycle. The second reading is about the saint, with a proper responsory or one taken from the common; if there is no proper reading, the patristic reading for the day is used. The Te Deum is not said.
236. At daytime prayer and night prayer, all is from the weekday and nothing is from the office of the saint.