p. Th(eodorus Ludovicus Maria) Stallaert, CssR
May 21, 1890 - November 12, 1968
Klein Brevier - "The Little Breviary"

     Father Stallaert was born in SW Holland, in the province of Sealand.  He became a Redemptorist in 1914 and was ordained priest in 1920.  After two years as a missionary in Surinam, and partially due to poor health, he returned to Holland and worked as a parish mission preacher and retreat master for priests, religious brothers and nuns and lay people.

     Somewhere about 1943, a priest associate suggested to Stallaert to compile a breviary in Dutch.  Until his death, he continued his work for the vernacular.


His publishing work began in 1937, with several studies on the Psalter as used in various offices.  In 1939, he published Psalterium, a Latin/Dutch weekly Psalter, which was repeated in 1946 after the appearance of Pius XII's new version of the Psalms were published.


     With the co-operation of the Norbertine Canons of the Abbey of Berne, he compiled Klein Brevier, an all Dutch breviary for the use of religious (who were not priests or nuns bound to the Divine Office) and lay people.  Gottmer published and printed it.  Very early in its production, they received authorization from the Dutch Bishops to offer the text to religious communities in Holland, and also encouragement from Pius XII through his Secretary of State, G.B. Montini (later, Paul VI).

Fr. Stallaert was adept at marketing, though he did not consider his work as that.  Along with his publisher, he traveled and set up meetings to introduce the new books (the Dutch version had 2 volumes).  The publisher made sure the books were beautiful, in the best "breviary" style.  And Stallaert made sure that the books would be useful and user-friendly for those who had seen only the Little Office of the Blessed Virgin Mary or some other devotional work (the rosary, the office of the "Paters", etc.) or text.

Structurally Klein Brevier was similar to the Divine Office, except that Matins always had 3 psalms (or section of psalms) and 3 readings; the other hours maintained the same structure as the Divine Office, except that the psalmody was always shorter; often only portions of psalms were used. The seasonal offices (Sundays of the year, Advent, Christmas, etc.), the Sanctoral (offices of the Saints) and the Common offices were also modeled on the Divine Office.

     A few years later, Stallaert could report that in Dutch religious communities of men and women who were not bound to the complete recitation of the office, there were approximately 20,000 out of 27,000 praying the Klein Brevier .  Lay Brothers in Holland from several traditional orders, including Franciscans, Capuchin Franciscans, Calced Carmelites, etc, .many formerly obliged to the "office of the Paters", had begun to look for ways to develop their liturgical prayer in common, and Stallaert's book was adopted.
     Many of the religious communities which used Klein Brevier were international and had members in other countries.  Gottmer (of Haarlem, the Netherlands), the publisher, decided to publish the text in French, in Italian (prepared by the well known liturgical scholar H. Schmidt, SJ, in English, etc.  The English edition, called The Little Breviary,  appeared in America in 1957 and was co-published with Newman Press.  It had been translated from Stallaert's original Latin by Dame Gertrude Brown, OSB of Stanbrook Abbey in England.  The English Bishops gave permission to the publisher to use Monsignor Knox's translation of the psalms.


(Some pages from "The Little Breviary")  

Double click to see full view.

     For communities which wanted to replace the Little Office of the BVM with Klein Brevier, and which were subject to the authority and oversight of the Congregation of Religious at the Vatican, the book's adoption was a bit more problematic.  The Congregation had decided, for any of the vernacular texts, that three conditions had to be met:
  • the particular tradition of a religious community would not be contrary to the adoption of the text (e.g, a community of Sisters nurtured in a Marian spirituality, and whose prayer life depended on the use of the Little Office would have difficulty with this condition),
  • the majority of the community had voted for the change, so that there would be no discord, and
  • the horarium, or schedule, of the community could not be disrupted because of the new office (e.g., it could not take longer to pray the new office than it did to pray the Little Office).
     Stallaert did not always fare well with the Congregation for Religious, controlled at that time,  in large part, by Arcadio Maria Larraona, CMF, (1887-1973).  Larraona, a member of the Claretian religious community  of Priests and Brothers, ,  was appointed Undersecretary of the Congregation in 1943 and Secretary in 1950.  It was during this period, in the general atmosphere of the liturgical movement, that religious communities voiced their concerns and desires about improving and/or developing their common liturgical prayer.  Larraona, though a well educated canonist with expertise on the religious life, and well known in Roman circles,  was not suited for his position of authority  in the Congregation in this time of great change.  Later, in 1962, as Cardinal, he was made Prefect of the (then)  Congregation of Rites, another position he was not suited for.   Klein Brevier appeared when several other short breviaries (Fleischmann's Officium Divinum Parvum, En Calcat's Livre d'Heures, etc.) also came into existence.  It appeared when Augustin Bea, the Jesuit scripture scholar, produced the "amplior" edition of the Little Office of the Blessed Virgin (1953).  All these books were popular among international communities, and all compilers and publishers had to work with the Congregation for Religious and others in Rome.  For some, like Bea, who was also a personal friend of and Confessor to Pius XII and well known among Vatican circles, this was not difficult, and support for his work came from everyone, including the Pope,  at once.   For others, like Fleischmann and Stallaert, it was often a difficult undertaking.  For example, in the mid-1950's, rumors (which even reached the United States) circulated in Rome that the Holy Father was growing alarmed about the use of the short breviaries, especially the Dutch (Stallaert) and German (Fleischmann) books (see Fenton: The English Monastic Liturgy of the Hours in North America, etc.).
     Stallaert's Klein Brevier, in several languages, was successful in Europe.  And it was highly regarded by many people.  Yet, in England and North America, little marketing was done to cause interest, and the book did not become a popular short breviary in those places.

     However, it is of interest to note that, when the reforms of Vatican II began to take effect, and the vernacular was a fact in nearly every country, it was Stallaert's Dutch translation of the psalms  which became the official version of the Dutch Roman Breviary (1965) published by Gottmer and Desclee.


  Keith F. Pecklers, SJ, in his "History of the Roman Liturgy from the Sixteenth until the Twentieth Centuries", published in the series Handbook for Liturgical Studies, Volume I, Introduction to the Liturgy (Collegeville: Liturgical Press, 1997) makes a curious reference to Klein Brevier.   In a paragraph which discusses some events of the liturgical movement particularly after Pius XII's Mediator Dei, there is this:

"In 1950  a shorter form of the breviary was approved for use in Holland" (p.174).

    [ The "breviary"  is,  of course,  Klein Brevier.  Out of context and standing alone, the statement is true.  In context, it suggests that this was an unusual event of liturgical history, and suggests (to readers not aware of Klein Brevier's intended and actual users), that this approval was made for obligated to the use of the official Roman breviary, e.g., priests, those in vows bound by Canon Law to the Divine Office in choir, etc.]

     Klein Brevier may have been the first Dutch short breviary, but in the larger panorama of the liturgical movement, in Europe and elsewhere, it was not the first or only short breviary approved for use.  Germany had already its Laienbrevier (1928), Austria, its Volksbrevier (1933) and then Officium Divinum Parvum (1947), and the United States had A Short Breviary (1941).  Pius Parsch, the well known Austrian author,  had published several breviaries for lay people from the early 1930's, but each of these was a translation of part or all of the entire Roman Breviary, as Parsch did not approve of the concept of short breviaries.  Several others were published in many countries, before and after 1950, all of them attesting to the desire of many lay people and lay religious communities to share in the prayer of the Divine Office.



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Added March 3, 2000