The Catholic Thing
The New Scriptorium Print E-mail
By Brad Miner   
Wednesday, 07 January 2009

I haven’t made a New Year’s resolution in ages, but in 2009 I’m determined to be a better Catholic – to reacquaint myself with the pulse of our faith. What better way to do that than to dust off the breviary I bought when I became a Catholic in my twenties?

But it’s the “American Interim Breviary” of 1970, and as I held it in my hands again I recalled anew how utterly confusing it is. I’m sure I know people who could explain to me precisely where I’m supposed to put those five colored ribbons each day. For Prime, Terce, Sext, None, and Vespers, I guess. But Prime has been abolished, after all, and surely there must be a newer, more streamlined version of the Divine Office. So I went to the “new scriptorium,” the Internet, and, much to my pleasure, discovered that there is, and Universalis has it.

If you surf over to, you’ll find each day’s office presented: Readings, Morning Prayer (Lauds), Evening Prayer (Vespers), and Night Prayer (Compline). Universalis also gives you mid-morning, noon, and afternoon readings (Terce, Sext, and None), as well as each day’s Mass readings.

What’s really great for me, as a news junkie, is the site’s RSS feeds (the initials stand for Really Simple Syndication). On my desktop is a “news aggregator” – the first program I launch every morning – called RSS Bandit. Many such free RSS readers are available, among them: FeedDemon, Google Reader, NewsGator, and SharpReader. What I like about Bandit is the ease of finding the appropriate feeds – just copy and paste any URL from a given website into its Add Subscription Wizard, and Bandit will ferret out all available feeds. What happens then is this: the aggregator receives updates from each site to which you’ve subscribed (the feeds are always free), as for instance from The Catholic Thing. If I happen to be online when The Catholic Thing is updated, a small screen will scroll up at the bottom right of my desktop, letting me know the title of the day’s essay and allowing me the option of clicking the update and reading whatever has just been posted by one of TCT’s illustrious contributors.

In the case of Universalis, the main Bandit window displays two things: a red link that is today’s date which, if I click it, will retrieve the updated Universalis home page. Below the red link are six blue hot spots: Invitatory Psalm, Office of Readings, Morning Prayer, Evening Prayer, Night Prayer, and Mass. In my email client, Microsoft’s Outlook, I’ve set the calendar to give me four reminders each day: at 0800 for what I’ve labeled Lauds, at noon for Readings, at 1700 for Vespers, and at 2300 for Compline. It’s not like I’m a Trappist monk or anything, but it’s almost the ideal way for this particular layman to begin living that better life.

But it’s not THE ideal way. If you happened to have either of two great Apple products, the iPhone or the iPod Touch, you can download Fr. Paolo Padrini’s iBreviary application. I own neither device, although each of my sons got an iPod Touch for Christmas, and I cajoled my younger son into loading iBreviary onto his.

For a one-time fee of 99 cents you get, as they say, a “killer app.” True, there are some bugs (mistranslations from Italian into English), and I prefer reading on my laptop’s 15-inch screen, although it would be divinely handy on an iPhone, since it is more-or-less permanently connected to the Internet through the wireless network of AT&T. Still, the iPod Touch is all you need if you’re using it in the vicinity of a Wi-Fi hub, which a lot of us now have in our homes – thanks to wireless routers for notebook and laptop computers – and which are also available at coffeehouses, airports, college campuses, and heaven and Steve Jobs alone know how many other places.

Lovely really, since portability was the point of the very first breviaries which were designed for monks whose itinerant and mendicant ways often kept them separated from the prayer life of their communities. Plus ça change, non?

My Inbox also receives a Saint-of-the-Day email from, which as I write this happens to be a profile of John Neumann, the German priest who became an American bishop, organized the first diocesan school system, and, apparently, owned just one pair of shoes at a time.

Thanks to the new scriptorium, I also have news feeds through Bandit for Catholic New Agency, New Advent, the New Liturgical Movement, and Catholic Education Resource. Hey, by this time next year I may just be one of the most well-informed Catholics around. Maybe the Holy Father will call. I’m not sure he has an iPhone, but he does have an iPod.

Brad Miner is the author of five books, including The Compleat Gentleman, a new edition of which will be published this year by Richard Vigilante Books.

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Comments (6)Add Comment
written by Mike Melendez, January 08, 2009
I suggest you try a Magnificat subscription. It is monthly with morning and evening prayers for each day as well as a couple of options for night prayer. It also has Mass specifics for each day with a separate section for the Ordinary. It is a combination hours and missal. Then there is the artwork! On the front cover and in the final section with an article describing the art.
written by eric, January 09, 2009
Stick with the Brevary, Prime is the second best Hour of the day.
written by Brad Miner, January 09, 2009
Mr. Melendez,

It's a beautiful site, indeed, and I'm sure the magazine ($45 per year) is beautiful . . . but I was unable to find any RSS feeds at As a hard-copy substitue for my old breviary, it seems a very good option. But I'm now happily addicted to the free feeds I receive from

-Brad Miner
written by brad, January 09, 2009
Thanks for the resolution and ideas. I told my wife I would write my resolutions down. That hasn't happened. With the exception of daily mass once a week, daily exercise, and weekly date nights, you have written my resolution for me.
written by Hugh, January 10, 2009
I'd also suggest you look at Unlike Universalis (which is where I got my start with the Divine Office too) it is complete in that it has all the antiphons and hymns which are missing in Universalis. However, it does not have an RSS feed. Via iTunes I also listen to Pray Station Portable which is a pod cast of morning and evening prayers.
written by Hugh, January 10, 2009
I the last post I forgot to mention that eBreviary has the complete morning, day, evening, night and office prayers. Friday and Sunday prayers are free as well Night prayers for every day of the week. All the rest are accessible with a $29.00 yearly subscription. All the prayers can be downloaded individually or in a weeks worth (in a zip file.) They can also be printed in such a way that they easily fold into booklets for group prayer.

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