Blindness makes the recitation of the Office a physical impossibility. Even very defective sight, although not total blindness, exempts from the obligation of saying the Office. In all such cases a formal declaration of exemption should be sought. Some theologians hold that such priests, if they have committed to memory a notable part of the psalms, should repeat that part from memory. The new psaltery makes such memorising an extremely difficult feat and no obligation for such a repetition from memory can be imposed.
Want of a Breviary excuses from the recitation of the Office. For example, if a priest setting out on a long journey forgets to take his Breviary or leaves it in a railway carriage, and cannot procure another, or cannot procure another without, great inconvenience, he is exempt from the obligation of his Office; and the omission being involuntary is sinless. The wilful casting away of a Breviary, as an excuse for not being able to read the Office, is gravely sinful; and unless the sinful desire be retracted there may be question of many mortal sins of wilful omission to fulfil the obligation, as the omissions are then wilful in cause. Priests travelling are unable sometimes to recite the proper Office of the day, as their Breviaries lack something (e.g., the proper prayer or the lessons of the second nocturn). The Sacred Congregation of Rites (December, 1854) decided “Sacerdos peregre profectus cui molesti difficiliorque esset officii recitatio cui et pauca desunt in libro officii praesentis, nempe oratio et legenda, valet de communi absque obligatione propria deinde ad supplementum recitandi... atque ita servari mandavit.” The psalms as arranged in the new psalter must always be said for a valid recitation of the Office (v. Divino Afflatu).
What is a priest bound to do, who from a grave cause cannot find time to recite the whole Office but only a part of it?
St. Alphonsus gives the rule, “If you can recite a part equivalent to a small Hour, you are bound to do so under pain of mortal sin. But if you cannot read or repeat a part equivalent to a small Hour, you are bound to nothing, as a part so small—less than a small Hour—taken separately, is considered inappreciable for the end the Church’s law of recitation has in view.”
Persons who are scrupulous about the recitation of the Hours should have help from their confessors, who should deal specifically with any of the scruples which arise in the daily task. Scruples generally concern the necessary intention, the necessary attention, pronunciation, and the time necessary for a good and faithful recitation of the canonical Hours. How should a confessor deal with scruples about intention? A confessor should tell a cleric, scrupulous in this point, that his fear is groundless and that by the very act of taking up his Breviary he expresses his