Before the ending of the day,
Creator of the world, we pray:
Protect us by your love and might,
And keep us safe throughout the night.

Let every heart rest free from fear,
At peace, to feel your presence near;
Our souls, through night hours veiled in sleep,
In your blest light, their vigil keep.

Let peaceful rest the strength renew
Of all who place their trust in you;
Let evil never have its way;
Preserve us for another day.

This lovely text, a translation of the 7th-century Te lucis ante terminum, is from the pen of Rev. Peter J. Scagnelli, lover of texts. He passed away yesterday, July 12, in hospice care in Framingham, Massachusetts, after having suffered from a brain tumor for approximately 16 months. He was 68.

Peter Scagnelli was ordained a priest of the diocese of Providence, Rhode Island, in 1976, where he had served a stint as director of the diocesan worship office. He was author and translator of numerous English hymn texts.

Scagnelli was long associated with the International Commission on English in the Liturgy (ICEL) before the reorganization of that commission in the early 2000s. He composed a number of the alternative Opening Prayers for the 1974 Sacramentary. He also wrote some of the Scripture-based Opening Prayers for the 1998 Sacramentary, a monumental project decades in the making by leading English-speaking translators, authors, liturgists, and bishops. He stated, however, that he was not simply a champion of either the 1974 or the 1998 sacramentaries, and he welcomed a revision of the 1998 text that promised to be both faithful to the Latin and elegant. It pained him, then, to witness the unfolding of a process taken over at the end by bureaucrats with little sense for the English language which led to the Roman Missal of 2011.

John Page, longtime executive secretary of ICEL before its reorganization, said of Scagnelli,

I first met Peter in the mid-1970s. He was kind, gracious, generous, humorous, self-effacing. A brilliant Latinist, he was first consulted by ICEL in 1966. I think he was twenty. He is then truly the last of the ICEL pioneers. He was always eager to help, no matter how great or small the task.

He greatly admired ICEL’s founders, especially Fred McManus, to whom he dedicated his doctoral dissertation, done under [Protestant liturgist] Horace Allen, on the Scripture-related opening prayers intended for the great [1998] Sacramentary.

Scagnelli was the person behind Xavier Rindfleisch, the pseudonymous writer at Pray Tell who took delight in unmasking the most humorous, if painful, missteps and infelicities in the bungled 2011 Roman Missal. The name was inspired by Xavier Rynne, the famous reporter during the Second Vatican Council who in fact was Fr. Francis X. Murphy, but given a German twist (Rindfleisch = “beef”) as befits the historic origins of Saint John’s Abbey and University.

As Xavier Rindfleisch, Scagnelli emerged as a central persona dramatis in a bizarre ecclesiastical drama. Beginning in the early 2000s, the Holy See had micromanaged every step in the translation process by which the world’s English-speaking bishops were given the vernacular texts they were to submit to Rome for approval. But rather than approve the texts whose creation they had supervised, the Roman officials made over 10,000 changes to the submitted text and sent that altered text back to the bishops for implementation. Many of the changes were in the direction of awkwardness, inaccuracy, and incomprehensibility. A listing of the Pray Tell posts authored by Rindfleisch/Scagnelli follows this notice.

Scagnelli had a particular affinity for the Benedictine order, and he often stated that he had a Benedictine heart and soul. It was fitting that he passed away so close to the Feast of Saint Benedict of July 11.

We pray that his “heart rest free from fear, at peace, to feel [God’s] presence near.”


A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the 2010 Received Text” (Oct 17, 2010)

Beauty & the Beast: 2008 vs. 2010, Page One” (Oct 27, 2010)

A Tale of Two Prefaces: I and II Advent” (Nov 3, 2010)

Bending slightly: The Prayers of Advent Sundays II, III, and IV” (Nov 6, 2010)

Preface of the Annunciation: 2008 and 2010” (Mar 25, 2011)

Whoops! Heresy in that “your”? The Collect for Trinity” (Jun 18, 2011)

What Did Last Thursday’s Collect Mean? (May 15, 2012)

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