The Seraphic Office

Rule, Chapter II, Number 6: Tertiaries among the clergy, since they recite the Divine Office daily, shall be under no further obligation in this regard. Lay members who recite neither the Canonical Hours, nor the Little Office of the Blessed Virgin Mary, shall say daily twelve Our Fathers, Hail Marys, and Glorys, unless they are prevented by ill health.

Constitution, Article 59: They shall fulfill their obligation of reciting the office faithfully, attentively, and devoutly – saying daily any one of the following: the Canonical Hours; the short office granted by the Church in various forms for lay brothers and sisters; the Little Office of the Blessed Virgin Mary; the Our Father, Hail Mary, and Glory be to the Father, recited twelve times. If it is convenient, they shall recite these prayers at different times of the day after the manner of the Canonical Hours. It is commendable to recite them in common and in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament. With the exception of the Canonical Hours, these prayers may be recited in the vernacular.

Gummerman Handbook, Section 197-201: Next to the sacraments and holy Mass, prayer is the most important means of grace. In this regard a special duty is imposed on the members of the Third Order. Leo XIII has greatly mitigated the prescriptions of the old Rule concerning prayer. His Rule enumerates three kinds of prayer or three offices: the Divine Office or the Canonical Hours or the Breviary, the Little Office of the Blessed Virgin or the Marianum, and the recitation of the twelve Our Fathers, Hail Marys and Glorys.  The third kind is also known as the Seraphic Office, so called by Leo XIII. The members may recite any of these three offices. 

As the Seraphic Office is said by most of the Tertiaries, the writer feels that he should give it special attention. The twelve Our Fathers, Hail Marys and Glorys may be said at one time or they may be spread over the day. It is not good to defer the recitation until late at night. The Our Fathers, etc., may be said on the way to and from work, provided recollection is possible. They may be said alternately in the same manner as the Rosary is recited when more persons are together. 

The Seraphic Office May be recited in conformity with the Divine Office. In an audience granted to the Ministers General of the First Order on July 7, 1883, Leo XIII approved the practice of saying five Our Fathers, etc., for Matins and one Our Father, etc., for each of the hours of Lauds, Prime, Tierce, Sext, None, Vespers, and Compline. Matins and Lauds may be anticipated on the previous afternoon from two o'clock on. 

In the same audience Leo XIII strongly recommended meditation on our Lords passion while reciting the Seraphic Office. Tertiaries who have become accustomed to this practice love it and find it a great help in combating distraction and acquiring Franciscan spirituality. Each one may choose phases of the passion according to his inclination and devotion. 

The prayers of which the Seraphic Office consists should fill the Tertiaries with the greatest esteem and love for it.  Of all vocal prayers the Our Father is unquestionably the most excellent and efficacious. The Son of God, the infallible Master of prayer, dictated it, "In this manner therefore shall you pray" (Matt. 6:9).  He knows best what we ought to ask and how we ought to ask. In as few words as possible the petitions are given which we can reasonably address to God. The prayer is so simple that a child can lisp it devoutly, and so profound that the wisest man can never fully understand it.

Next to the Our Father, the Angelical Salutation is undoubtedly the most excellent and useful of our vocal prayers. It is also of divine origin, at least the greater part of it. "Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with thee. Blessed art thou among women." With these words the Archangel Gabriel greeted the Virgin Mary.  "Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit and cried out with a loud voice, saying, 'Blessed art thou among women and blessed is the fruit of thy womb.'" The Church, guided by the Holy Spirit, added the rest. 

The recitation of the Glory is a profession of faith in the mystery of the Most Blessed Trinity, the fundamental dogma of our religion. It is likewise compliance with the duty of giving praise to God. The Church recites this doxology frequently in the Canonical Hours. 

 

There is a great difference between twelve Our Fathers, Hail Marys and Glorys said as Seraphic Office and said as private prayers. If two persons, one a Tertiary and the other not, have the same grace and recite these prayers from the same motives and with the same devotion, the results are not the same.  The one who is not a Tertiary performs a private work of piety of his own choice and in his own name. He certainly does something pleasing to God and will have his reward.  It is otherwise with the Tertiary.  When he recites the twelve Our Fathers, etc., he recites an official prayer, an office, imposed on him by the Church, to whose service he is consecrated in a  special manner. He prays in obedience to the Church and in the name of the Church. As the Church assigns to her ministers and religious a daily prayer which they have to say on account of their position or office in the Church, so she does in regard to the members of the Third Order. The Seraphic Office is a substitute for the Divine Office.  It is public prayer, a part of the prayer service the Church offers continually to God.  When the Tertiary says his twelve Our Fathers, etc., he acts as spokesman of the Church.  Through him the Church praises, thanks, propitiates and petitions God.  He shares in the great liturgical prayer, which finds its full expression in the chanting of the Canonical Hours. Therefore, we may assert that the Seraphic Office partakes of the dignity and efficacy of the prayer of the Church. 

The Tertiary Office as such does not oblige under sin.  No provision of the Rule binds under sin, unless by offending against it the commandments of God or of the Church are also transgressed. 

Note: Due to its ease of use, the Seraphic Office contained in  this website is especially useful for beginners.  However, as stated above, this is not the only form of proper execution. 

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