This is going to be a boring post so bear with me.
In the seminary, the most beloved book isn’t the bible. No, not Dan Brown novels either (it’s just a phase, really). Not even the Pugad-Baboy, Beerkada and the wonderful Kiko Machine series either. FHM and Maxim failed to qualify too because technically, they’re magazines, not books. Beloved friends, the most loved and most used book by a seminarian is the breviary.
If you’ve met a seminarian before, you probably saw a breviary already. But because you’re a heathen, you don’t know it’s called that way. It’s that thick book they’re often holding which many laypeople mistook for a bible. The breviary is the official prayerbook of priests and seminarians, often two-inch thick, but it can be thicker because of a seminarian’s habit of stuffing its pages with countless istampitas (holy cards), novenas and, syempre, pictures of girlfriends, both real and imagined.
The breviary is the book version of one of he official prayers of the Church, the Liturgy of the Hours. Litugy of the Hours is the Church’s traditional way of sanctifying the hours, through prayer and meditation on the psalms and other choice biblical passages. On an ordinary day, according to the Litugy of the Hours, an ordinary Christian should pray seven times a day. While in theory, Liturgy of the Hours should be prayed by all the members of the Church, in reality, it is reluctantly prayed alone by priests, nuns, monks and seminarians. This is simply because these prayers often last from 15 minutes to 45 minutes, a daunting task for a person with busy TV-watching schedule. So, breviary is somewhat a misnomer as its latin root word is “brevis” meaning short. Well… technically, they’re right because the complete version of the liturgy of the hours is composed of four books of similar thickness. Heavy enough to be used as doorstop.
Breviary can test the aptitude of a seminarian in liturgy. One can easily catch who really knows how to open his breviary on the right page, and who is just winging it. Let me give you an example.
Let’s give a fictional situation for you to see how difficult this book is. Say it’s Sunday and you wanted to pray the breviary. So you opened your breviary and asked yourself, Sunday of what week? Good thing there’s only four week to choose from so you find out that for today you are to use Week Four. Then you realized that today is the Feast of St. Thomas. So before you pray, you must find out first look what kind of saint is this particular Thomas: is he a priest? an apostle? a doctor of the church? or simply a holy man? You see there’s twenty Thomases among the Catholic saints, the popular omong them are St. Thomas the Apostle, St. Thomas Aquinas, St. Thomas Beckett, St. Thomas More, St. Thomas of Villanova, etc. Now since this is just an example, let’s say you saw in your breviary that it’s St. Thomas the Apostle.
At this point you will open your breviary to chapter called Proper of the Saints and look for Thomas’s feastday among the calendar of saints. (are you still reading this?) After finding it, it will tell you to please open your breviary to the Proper of Feast for Apostles. So you go to that page and there you’ll be pointed out to use the Sunday of Week One and not Week Four (wow, you’re still reading this!). Then upon opening to Sunday Week One, the prayer leader intoned and you realized that feasts of saints are not celebrated on sundays according to the Table of Liturgical Precedence so you hurry back to Week Four. But then you realized this Sunday celebrates the Solemnity of say, Trinity, so you now go and open your breviary to the Proper for the Feast of the Holy Trinity, which is buried somewhere in there. and then you realized that…. (You probably get the idea now).
Yes, this book may be tough, but still, once you’ve get the hang of it, it’s all a breeze really. We were told during our novitiates that we are to treat them like they’re our wives, just like how soldiers treat their issue rifles with the same affection. I guess their right. The priests who had been faithful in praying their breviaries are the ones that last long in the ministry. It only goes to shopw that for every man, the best way to keep on track is to keep your “wife” close, regularly, lovingly, devotedly be it a prayer book, a gun or a real human being.