Hastening with a loving heart on St. Benedict’s feast day

St. Benedict, Sadao Watanabe

Kneeling in the back of my favorite abbey church yesterday, I followed in my bright and shiny new CTS Daily Missal as the monastery’s abbot chanted the collect of Saint Benedict in Latin:

Deus, qui beatum Benedictum abbatem
in schola divini servitii praeclarum constituisti magistrum,
tribue, quaesumus
ut, amori tuo nihil praeponentes,
viam mandatorum tuorum dilatato corde curramus.

Imagine my shock, felt the more intensely for being in an abbey church that is the very heart of the Order, upon reading what the English-speaking world is praying today:

O God, who made the Abbot Saint Benedict
an outstanding master in the school of divine service,
grant, we pray,
that, putting nothing before love of you,
we may hasten with a loving heart
in the way of your commands.

amori tuo nihil praeponentes: “putting nothing before love of you”? Really? Does not every English translation of the Rule of Saint Benedict render that text from chapter 4 of the Rule literally: “to prefer nothing to the love of Christ.” Adapted for this prayer, should the text not read “that, preferring nothing to your love”?

“In a similar way” – to coin a phrase – the petition of the prayer is adapted from the end of the Prologue to the Rule: dilatato corde . . . curritur via mandatorum Dei: The heart is expanded or enlarged and the monk runs in the way of God’s commandments. Curritur is not from the verb festinare (“to hasten”), it is, simply and literally, from the verb “to run.” Dilatato is not “loving.” Mandatorum is “commandments,” not “commands.”

I consulted 2008, the ICEL text canonically approved by the world’s English-speaking bishops before someone – Vox Clara? the Congregation for Divine Worship? – took hatchet and pick-axe to it:

O God,
who established the Abbot Saint Benedict
as a renowned master in the school of divine service,
grant, we pray, that we may prefer nothing to your love
and run with open hearts
in the way of your commandments.

St. Benedict, Fra Angelico

Perhaps someone can clarify: were there not an OSB Abbot and an OSB monk on Vox Clara? Any explanation as to how the Rule evaporated between the 2008 text and the editio typica?

by Xavier Rindfleisch



  1. The Rule
    “to prefer nothing to the love of Christ [you]”
    CTS Daily Missal
    “putting nothing before love of you”

    The same “of” meaning. But

    ICEL 2008
    “prefer nothing to your love”

    is different in meaning (irregardless of which is the better translation of the original Latin).

  2. I confess I used this collect for yesterday morning’s staff prayer, but I see I should have edited it more than I did. So much for a treasury of spiritual prose. Somehow, Adam Sandler channeling The Cure for comes to mind …

    Speaking of cures, what’s up with MR4 these days? If VC/CDWDS are too busy slamming down a few bottles of vino in celebration of the manglement that is the new Roman Missal, we could get something slipped past them, eh?

  3. Here are some considerations:

    1. I don’t find anything particularly troubling about the translation of “amori tuo.” Possessive adjectives in Latin may fill in for many uses of the genitive, not only possessive and subjective genitives, as in English (my dog, my hope), but also frequently objective genitives, which are much less common in English (my destruction). Translating it “your love,” i.e. Christ’s love for the beloved, may not be what is intended, as Mr. Edwards points out, nor is it the only possible translation of the Latin. “Of you” does a better job of capturing this “objective” relationship.

    2. I agree with both criticisms of “dilatato” and “curramus,” more with the former than the latter. When we hear “run with” our stereoyped expectation is the “with” expresses accompaniment rather than manner, so “run with opened hearts” might sound a little weird to some (think Tom Lehrer’s Masochism Tango: “My heart is in your hand. Ecch!”). My own instinct is the “hasten” is used a little more frequently with manner expressions in English, making the figurative meaning of “with” less unexpected. Would I prefer “run?” Yes, but I can see how “hasten” might be attractive to a translator. As to the 2008 translation of “dilatato,” surely a participial “opened” is preferable to “open.”

    3. I fail to see the material difference between commands and commandments. “Commandments” strikes me as referencing only the Decalogue, which may be the way that those only hearing the collect might understand it, especially if they cannot see that the word is not capitalized. Commands may be better here, as I’m not sure that the Decalogue is what is being referenced in the collect or in the Rule (glancing only briefly at the Rule).

  4. Thank you for your great analysis, as usual, Fr. Rindfleisch. My insignificant observation:

    As you note, “Dilatato is not ‘loving.’ ” Certainly that’s true. Is the 2008 translation “with open hearts” that much better a translation of dilatato corde than 2010’s “with a loving heart”?

    The 2008 version adequately preserves the passive voice of the participle dilatato. The passive to active flip in 2010’s “with a loving heart” is a further distortion of the meaning of dilatato. However, dilatato, though passive, connotes a process of gradual expansion and not the absolute condition of “open”. Thank goodness the translator(s) did not try “with an enlarged heart” (quite pathological!), even if one might argue that “enlarged” captures the sense of gradual movement better than “open”.

    I am convinced that a participle such as dilatato cannot be translated into English without paraphrasing. However, paraphrases are often just as controversial as the “literal translations” of the newer missal. No way out, really.

  5. “run with open hearts”: a well-known, well-loved expression. But the traditional prayers of our faith are not valued by the iconoclasts of the Roman Curia.

  6. As a Benedictine Oblate (who got her days and dates mixed up and missed mass), I can say that those phrases highlighted by Xavier Rindfliesch are near and dear to the hearts of all who love the Rule. Regardless of the formal accuracy of the current translation, the pre-Vox Clara version should have been allowed to stand, it seems to me, based on the familiarity of the phrases in the vernacular; otherwise, the echo of the Rule is clearly lost.

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