What Did Last Thursday’s Collect Mean?

Regarding the Collect of Thursday last week, Xavier Rindfleisch writes,

 “I heard from about a dozen priests by noontime, asking, What the hell did today’s Collect mean?”

O God, by whose grace,
though sinners, we are made just
and, though pitiable, made blessed,
stand, we pray, by your works,
stand by your gifts,
that those justified by faith
may not lack the courage of perseverance.

Here’s the Latin:

Deus, cuius gratia
iusti ex impiis et beati efficiamur ex miseris,
adesto operibus tuis,
adesto muneribus,
ut, quibus inest fidei iustificatio,
non desit perseverantiae fortitudo.

And here’s what the world’s English-speaking bishops approved, before Vox Clara and the Congregation for Divine Worship changed it:

O God, by whose grace we sinners are made just
and from our misery made blessed,
stand by your works,
stand by your gifts,
that those in whom there is the justification of faith
may not lack the strength of perseverance.

Xavier comments:

In the Vox Clara version, “though sinners” becomes a kind of dangling modifier hanging between grace and sinners. At the very least, the text should read, “we, though sinners, are made just.”

There is no “we pray” in the Latin. What happened to “translate in the most exact way” (Liturgiam authenticam)? And surely, if one felt the need to add to the prayer (remember the “paraphrase” accusation against the old ICEL), the non-existent-in-Latin “we pray” should have gone after the first complete phrase: “stand by your works, we pray, stand by your gifts.” The conclusion is paraphrase, pure and not so simple; 2008 is “exact” and superior both in rhythmic cadence and comprehensibility.

60 comments

  1. It would help greatly if the translators were familiar enough with the scriptures, which echo throughout the liturgy and which for that reason have been Vox Clara’s avowed excuse for rewording. In “operibus tuis” I hear an echo of the ending of Psalm 90: “Prosper the work of your hands.”

    1. “Prayers over the Gifts”?

      “Gifts”?

      Surely there are much more elevated names for such things these days!

      And while on the subject of elevated names, surely when a phrase begins with “stand by your . . . ” in the southern part of the USA (for instance, Macon GA) there’d be a reasonable expectation that the next word would be “man” and not “works” or “gifts” . . .

      Bru-Bru had his comedic side after all.

      1. I thought that the ‘prayers over the gifts’ were now to be called the Orations Superincumbent upon the Oblations. But I may have been reading the wrong blogs.

    2. In the spirit of the reform of the reform or in mutual enrichment, though it is the ordinary form, perhaps, we pray, that your priests could borrow from the extraordinary form and take these prayers in secret, thus causing them not to harm offended ears and returning the name to something less grand, namely, “the Secret.” 😉

  2. Father Allen tends to say polite things here, then go to his own blog and discuss the same topic with rather more vitriol. The comments on his blog tend to heartedly endorse his opinions. I think he is increasingly getting responses to what he says over there rather than what he says here.
    It may be uncharitable, it may be righteous anger, or it may simply be calling his comments here into question because of what he says on his blog. It may be some of those, or all of those. I tend to focus on the particular comment rather than the person, myself.

    1. Brigid, my full-blooded and very Italian mother who is almost 93 taught me very Italian things about formal and familiar ways of behaving around others. When you are in someone else’s home or territory, you are most polite, but in your own home, you let it rip and in the most verbal of ways, with hand and arms flying! On this blog, I do try to respect my formal Italian upbringing; at my own blog, I act Italian in the most familiar way I know. My mom would be proud.

  3. I’m still astounded that my blog is even read! And even more shocked that it makes some people see red since reading it is not mandated of anyone, much less making comments. I’m even more amused that my blog is constantly brought up on this blog by those who hate it but read it nonetheless. God has to have a sense of humor as do I! 🙂

    1. You call it a “sense of humor” – whereas Charles (above) uses words like “indecency” and “derisions” – but don’t worry, Allan – I’ve never read it.

  4. When I asked if anyone in the congregation could recall the collect, I was thinking to myself that the wave after wave of pious phrases tends to make me tune out into my own private prayer. It is difficult enough to recall the readings at Mass (both lay lectors and clerics tend to fall into an affectless monotone) without surrounding them with background noise.

    1. I have the opposite experience. The phrases usually build on one another, and leads me into a deeper experience of the Liturgy.

      But I don’t think there is anything wrong with praying in your own words at Mass. In the Extraordinary Form of the Mass, we are encouraged to join in the Canon as one possible way.

  5. Chris, answer my question first if you want to talk honestly.
    No, VC didn’t. As you and many others have cheerfully admonished me, I am verbose, so what?
    As far as advice from you, Chris….how’s this for brevity?-
    Pot calling the Kettle “black.”
    Neither Fr. Allan nor the Southern USA invited or provoked your stereotypical derisions.

  6. Might I suggest that “love one another” is NOT the same as “always be nice to one another”?? I’m not explicitly defending the criticisms of Fr Allen, but simply suggesting that confrontation is part of love, as is honesty. Caritas in veritatis, to be sure — truth is NOT a battering ram, but love does not mean backing off from sometimes rough-and-tumble confrontations.
    Sometimes we are the Body of the *wounded* Christ. Even the resurrected Christ bore the wounds of his sufferings.

    1. Understood and point taken, Ann.
      Might I suggest delving further into the mandate of our Lord, as I mentioned, which stipulates “as I have loved you.” That doesn’t pre-empt “Caritas in veritatis,” yes, but it does not give license to mock or challenge one’s integrity. May I illustrate? There were two “thieves” crucified alongside the Suffering Servant. Each of them spoke to our dying Lord, but He responded in ultimate love and made a covenant with only one of them. Precision of thought and discourse is of some value, but it is ultimately about attitude and disposition by which we are recognized. What I am failing to accomplish here is that we ought to err on the side of true charity and avoid any occasion to further inflict wounds on the still Suffering Jesus Christ. Is that so difficult to comprehend?

  7. O God, by whose grace,
    though sinners, we are made just
    and, though pitiable, made blessed,
    stand, we pray, by your works,
    stand by your gifts,
    that those justified by faith
    may not lack the courage of perseverance.

    Since I didn’t pray it on Thursday due to a wonderful saint who ministered in Hawaii, sometimes called Paradise, I have now prayed it and after reading comments here, find it most urgent and apropos to pray.

    1. That’s an interesting comment, but Allan

      1) do you find it a “most exact” translation per the directives of Liturgiam Authenticam?

      2) do you find it grammatically correct?

      3) do you find it any improvement whatsoever – in terms of fidelity to the Latin and to the rules of English usage – over the 2008

      Or did Vox Clara – YET AGAIN – violate both LA and English usage to give us something clearly inferior to what the bishops approved?

      1. Fr. Allan J. McDonald :

        I’m not a fundamentalist with it comes to LA and I’m glad those who gave us this prayer weren’t either.

        Ah, a cafeteria LA-er? Picking and choosing what’s ok and what’s not!

      2. I didn’t write any of these prayers, I’m speaking of those who did. But keep in mind, Italians like the law, but Americans and others of English decent think they have to be slaves to it.

      3. The general European Mediterranean culture of law is that the law is nice and beautiful, and there’s there’s life, and they don’t strictly correlate, and the lack of correlation is not something to loose much sleep over so long as the beauty of the ideal is given due notional reverence. The lack of correlation is governed by discretion on the part of the legislator-executive-judge, as it were. The Anglosphere distrusts the abuse potential in that kind of discretion (for example, the Roman way of discretion historically is a great respecter of persons – that is, greater deference is is given to the most noble and most powerful, shall we say), and therefore crafts laws with the expectation of nearly perfect congruence between law and life; this creates its own set of problems.

      4. So, Fr. Allan, do you accept the Vatican’s critique of the 1998, that it took too much liberty with the Latin, or do you think liberties are OK both in 1998 and in 2010? Consistency?
        awr

      5. Fr. Anthony, I accept the fact that I have no control whatsoever over any of this, EF Mass being allowed, OF Mass being reformed, translation guidelines being changed mid course–There are many things I would have thought would have been done better, but no one asked me and I didn’t offer any suggestions until blogs came about and put my little ideas out in the open for praise and critique, which is actually fun. Fortunately, at the risk of offending more Italians than just my immediate family there (and here) I have thick Italian skin that tans nicely.

  8. Well, if you ever want to know what a prayer or text in RM3 means, just go back to the Sacramentary. : )

  9. Charles – let’s make sure that we at least try to be objective and even handed here:

    From a past blog post and subsequent comments:

    The Preaching of the Sisters on April 27th

    Posted on April 28th, 9:24 AM by Brigid
    Posted on April 28th, 9:52 AM by Fr. Allan – note that his comment is a “not so subtle” personal attack at a frequent commenter whose earlier post asked good, sincere questions

    To quote: “Brigid, your problems with the Church, her hierarchy, her priesthood, her discipline, her canon law and her own problems really need to be hashed out with a confessor and/or spiritual director and not on a blog. Just some friendly advice.”

    (Has anyone here to date done the same to Fr. Allan?)

    Posted on April 28th, 9:57 AM by Fr. Ruff –

    “Fr. Alan, I appreciate your gentle advice to Brigid, and I’m sure you want the best for her. But I wouldn’t stifle these concerns of hers at Pray Tell, as long as she or any commenter follows our guidelines. I say this because Brigid’s concerns are the concerns of many – not necessarily of me in all cases, but certainly of many, many people I know. We’re in one of those era when there are many voices calling for a “reform of head and members,” and I think it best that Pray Tell try to be a forum for constructive discussion forum for questions that won’t go away anytime soon.
    awr”

    To be fair – Fr. Allan suggests that “problems, etc……. need to be hashed out with a confessor and/or spiritual director and not on a blog”.

    I can’t think of better advice for Fr. Allan and his Southern Orders blog than what he directed at Brigid – especially his point that the “hashing out” should not be done on a blog!

    To be fair, he is entitled to his opinions and his alternate universe of the “mutual enrichment” reform of the reform in continuity but this also means that his opinions are fair game. Am more concerned for Fr. Allan given the increasing vitriol of his blog.

      1. Allan – you ever hear of an IT malfunction in which the blog entry locks up and the same person or entity keeps accessing the blog (but it really is only one person).

        You might want to verify that? Sure that Fr. Z can help on this issue – he has the same problem from time to time!

  10. When you are in someone else’s home or territory, you are most polite, but in your own home, you let it rip

    I know Paul recommended being all things to all people to bring them to Christ, but I don’t think he meant to present a jovial face to people at one place while saying nasty things about them at another.

      1. Are any other Italian Americans besides me starting to feel this heavy presentation of Italian culture to explain why Fr. Allan is nasty on his own blog and nice on this one is

        (a) a poor excuse for a double standard?
        (b) unfair to Italians?

        I know, I am.

        Sorry Allan, but this has gone on long enough. Please don’t keep this up. I ask you to desist, in all sincerity, as a favor to me, and to any other Italians who may be reading. These stereotypes are offending my relatives and a good many of my friends. I am sorry that you have been put so much on the defensive. But don’t you think it’s time to leave the Italians out of it, and perhaps just focus on the topic of the thread?

        Besides, no blog is your living room. Whatever gave you that idea? You’re on the internet. There are thousands of people watching! Or hundreds. Or at least more than will fit in your living room, unless you live in a stadium. 🙂

        Now, as to the text, plainly it’s atrocious. Really, it actually feels disrespectful to address the Almighty in such gibberish. God must have a sense of humor in order to not just stop listening to such prayers.

        As for the people, after suitable study, they will learn to ignore them too. What a mess we are in!

      2. Rita, while I disagree with your caricature of “my nastiness on my blog” you are entitled to that opinion. But really the focus should be on the nastiness on this blog’s comments. My foray into Italian cultural aspects of which I am very well acquainted as an Italian American are in good fun and not nasty. Now if I wrote those things as a non-Italian, that would be quite different.

  11. Fr. Allan J. McDonald :

    Brigid, my full-blooded and very Italian mother who is almost 93 taught me very Italian things about formal and familiar ways of behaving around others. When you are in someone else’s home or territory, you are most polite, but in your own home, you let it rip and in the most verbal of ways, with hand and arms flying! On this blog, I do try to respect my formal Italian upbringing; at my own blog, I act Italian in the most familiar way I know. My mom would be proud.

    Blaming two-facedness on an aged mother, Tsk Tsk.

  12. Fr. Allan J. McDonald :

    I’m not a fundamentalist with it comes to LA and I’m glad those who gave us this prayer weren’t either.

    Ah, Allan, so you can just throw out the requirements of Vatican Instructions like LA as it suits – you’re a classic Cafeteria Catholic!

    You like prayers that mistranslate the Latin, add to the canonical text, and do it all in ungrammatical and poorly phrased English?

    You like mediocity (when it suits your agenda) when it comes to Divine worship!

    1. It’s tiring that almost every comment thread here becomes a critique of Fr. Allan’s character. Especially since it’s usually the pots calling the kettle black.

      Maybe they should rename this blog “What Does Fr Allan Really Say?” with an EF complaint section where those who bring up the EF most complain about how every comment thread is hijacked by traditionalists.

      1. Jack, I could rename my blog that, as it is very intriguing to me, except for the last 8 years in my current parish assignment I am known now as Fr. McDonald, although technically it should be “MacDonald” but the US Government didn’t care about that tiny detail when it came to the correct spelling of my father’s Scottish surname when he became a naturalized citizen in 1941 at the age of 32. This little detail has caused great consternation in the MacDonald’s extended family in Canada, New York, New Jersey and North Carolina not to mention Detroit and I presume Scotland!
        For the first 25 years of ordination I was known as Fr. Allan, double L, A,N! I changed it to Fr. McDonald when I started in this assignment for it took me 25 years to realize that the majority of parishioners thought Allan was my last name!

  13. Thank you, Brigid. And know nothing I put forth in this thread contended with your original proposal.
    Done.

  14. Fr. Allan J. McDonald :

    I didn’t write any of these prayers, I’m speaking of those who did. But keep in mind, Italians like the law, but Americans and others of English decent think they have to be slaves to it.

    How do YOU interpret, oh I dunno, let’s say “Thou shalt not kill (the English language)?”

  15. Personally, I think the collect (or is that the Protestant spelling?) …I think that the Collect reads, sounds, and prays terrible. My apologies to those clerics (or is it Clerics?) who had to pray it and those parishioners who had to hear it. My chief apologies to the gentle, sweet English teachers who educated the men (and women?) who brought forth this new translation?

    Also, Brigid, thank you for allowing your wisdom to go between threads. I always delight in seeing your name in the comments.

  16. I rarely approach the Roman Missal for preparation of the prayers without pencil in hand. At this point I expect that, as often as not, the LA requirements will have resulted in translations that are frequently awkward and in need of tweaking for use by American ears, minds, and spirits.

    Maintaing in English translation the sentence structure and phrase order that are appropriate to Latin syntax does not make the prayers more majestic or more “churchy.” Nor does it offer the hearer – and this is the important part – an opportunity to be drawn into the meaning and the mysteries spoken of in the prayers.

    The first sentence of the Collect in Question contains 38 words and 10 (!) commas. To be honest, my first reaction was “Oh no, not again…” There simply HAS to be a better way to translate the thoughts and ideas in this prayer into useful English. Not pedestrian, not banal, but useful English.

  17. So a number of priests wondered ‘what the h…’ the collect meant? Perhaps part of the problem is the sort of trash that seems to come from the mouths of these ‘holy men’. Would this, perhaps, be indicative of the type of English whose meaning is readily apprehended by them? I read the collect above, and, while it is not a literary masterpiece, its meaning is clear as crystal. It seems to me that what is in order here is a toothbrush and soap.

    1. “Not a literary masterpiece”? That’s an understatement, which is to say, a rather inaccurate assessment.

      From a literary standpoint the prayer is a piece of garbage, and you know it. Just look at any edition of the Book of Common Prayer, in cases you’ve forgotten what good English looks like, and the comparison will show how bad this text is.

      The Catholic authorities had a chance to give us beautiful, sacred, accurate texts. They blew it. Why not admit it?

      A number of priests, including me, think this is a bad text. No need to get so angry at them for saying so – especially if you’re an advocate of high aesthetic standards.

      awr

      1. But other examples of not getting mad at people is when those people might want the Latin Mass exclusively for the very same reasons and point that out and are angry that the revisers of the reformed Mass blew it too. But as Scarlet says, “Tomorrow’s another day!” Maybe it will be perfect tomorrow.

      2. Judgments differ. Here’s mine:
        Paul VI and the reformers after Vatican II didn’t blow it.
        Vox Clara and the CDW did.
        awr

      3. But of course that is only a pious and respected opinion in terms of the reformers of the post-Vatican II Mass but may be fact in terms of the translation of the Latin Mass into English with either texts of the Roman Missal 1973 or 2011. You’ve got a point there. But again, tomorrow’s always another day.

      4. A number of priests, including me, think this is a bad text. No need to get so angry at them for saying so – especially if you’re an advocate of high aesthetic standards.

        Except that it’s not actually difficult to figure out what it means despite what the headline says.

      5. Yes, Fr Ruff – you are right: I DO know it. But I am still happy, nonetheless, that what we had has been seen the last of.
        And no, I haven’t, nor will I ever, forget what good English looks like. I have the uncommonly good fortune to worship at Walsingham in Houston with the Anglican Use’s Book of Divine Worship. As a convert friend on the Musica Sacra Forum related that her priest was often wont to say to her: ‘you can take the girl out of Anglicanism, but you can’t take the Anglicanism out of the girl’.
        And, I still say, as I did above, that priests who use such trashy language about any sacred text are in need of a toothbursh and a bar of soap. The topic of concern, after all, is ‘good’ English… do those who speak thusly know what good English is? They obviously don’t speak it themselves!

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