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This is particularly confusing and the wikipedia entry is not helpful. I've worn a scapular since going to World Youth Day in 2005, but I've never asked a priest to consecrate my devotion. The reason is, I don't know what the "Little Office of Our Lady" is in connection with the Scapular, it appears to be both a psalter (a book that repeats a lot) or 3 Hail Marys to pray daily.

Hail Mary's I can handle, another prayer book would be a stretch and I'd rather just pray the Liturgy of the Hours.

In the Handbook of Prayers, which contains the rite of consecration, it says that the devotion requires devotees to pray the Little Office of Our Lady daily, but it doesn't specifically say what it is and I've heard priests say it's just 3 Hail Marys. Some times these devotions let distracted laymen like myself off the hook easy, so maybe it's both. But if I had a definite answer I'd be a happy dude.

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The Brown Scapular devotion is one thing, and the Little Office of Our Lady another. To practise the Brown Scapular devotion, and benefit from Our Lady's magnificent promise, one must be enrolled in the Scapular by a priest and persevere in wearing it. On this website you will see the difference between the Scapular promise and the Sabbatine Privilege. It is with regard to the latter that the condition of praying the Little Office comes in as one of several possibilities, including abstaining from meat on Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays.

By far the most common way to gain the Sabbatine Privilege, however, is to have that condition commuted (changed) to praying the Holy Rosary daily - that is to say, the five decades we all should pray daily anyhow - by your confessor. So I hope that you will now become enrolled in the Brown Scapular without worrying about taking on the added burden of the Little Office.

God bless you, a Catholic Priest.

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Welcome to Christianity.SE, and thanks for your answer. It is great to have people like you weighing in with the expertise you have by training. I hope to see you around more in the future. As a side note, SE sites generally frown on signature and taglines. However identifying your role seems like a valuable piece of information lending credence to your answer. I have opened a meta discussion about this issue. Perhaps we can find a way to edit it into the body of your answer. –  Caleb Sep 20 '11 at 9:29
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Here's a little more info about the Little Office of Our Lady. Hope it helps fill out the Wikipedia article. It's a truncated form of the Divine Office which, in its traditional form, consists of the eight traditional canonical Hours (Matins, Lauds, Prime, Terce, Sext, None, Vespers, and Compline). Each hour is much like the Roman Office in its structure -- psalms with antiphons, a hymn, a Scripture reading (three at Matins), a versicle and response, a Gospel canticle at some hours, and a closing prayer.

Overall, though, the Little Office of Our Lady differs markedly from the Roman office in that it is basically the same every day. Here are the variations (I'm working from memory here so this might not be completely accurate):

  • There are three nocturns (i.e., sets of three readings or "lessons") given at Matins, but only one nocturn is used each day, and the choice of nocturn is determined by the day of the week.
  • The psalm antiphons and the readings and versicles/responses vary during Advent and again during Christmas
  • There are minor variations throughout during the Easter season

Perhaps needless to say, the psalm antiphons, lessons, versicles, and orations are very pointedly Marian -- and sometimes very intriguingly so, since they're frequently direct quotations from Scripture, but not necessarily from a part of Scripture one would immediately associate with Mary.

The psalms themselves don't change from day to day, or seasonally as far as I'm aware, so the entire Little Office of Our Lady includes only 20-30 psalms.

If you happen to be interested in older forms of the Western Liturgy of the Hours, this little office is an excellent introduction because it's so simple.

It seems to have been hugely popular among the literate laity in medieval England (pre-Reformation), and AFAIK it's still prayed daily by Carthusians "in cell" as an adjunct to the great Office. E.g., before singing "great" Vespers in choir, a Carthusian will pray the Vespers of Our Lady alone in cell.

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