Collect Varieties

The issue of translation will always be current in Catholicism.  We will never have a “perfect” translation of the Roman Missal.  There have been many translations of various parts and I am sure that there will be many more.

I was looking at the Collect, or Opening Prayer, from last Sunday (23rd Sunday of the Year).  Admittedly this is not the easiest prayer to translate.

The original Latin (Missale Romanum, Editio Typica Tertia 2008) reads:

 Omnípotens sempitérne Deus, qui abundántia pietátis tuæ
et mérita súpplicum excédis et vota,
effúnde super nos misericórdiam tuam,
ut dimíttas quæ consciéntia métuit,
et adícias quod orátio non præsúmit

The 1973 Sacramentary translated it in this way:

your love for us
surpasses all our hopes and desires.
Forgive our failings,
keep us in your peace
and lead us in the way of salvation.

This translation is a little over-simplified, but it is easy to understand and proclaim. It served the Church well for about 40 years. There was also an alternate opening prayer in the 1973 edition:

Almighty and eternal God,
Father of the world to come,
your goodness is beyond what our spirit can touch
and your strength is more than the mind can bear.
Lead us to seek beyond our reach
and give us courage to stand before your truth.

This prayer is a paraphrase, but still does a good job of communicating the heart of the Latin oration.

The 1974 Irish edition of the Divine Office, translated in Glenstal Abbey and a rare example of an approved non-ICEL liturgical translation, has a different translation of the same prayer in the Morning Prayer (Lauds) of the same Sunday:

 Almighty, ever-living God,
whose love surpasses all that we ask or deserve,
open up for us the treasures of your mercy.
Forgive us all that weights on our conscience,
and grant us more even than we dare to ask.

This is also a fine translation and can still be used today without any difficulty. It is also currently approved for use in the Liturgy in countries where The Divine Office is in use.

The ill-fated 1998 Sacramentary renders the prayer in this manner:

Almighty and eternal God,
whose bounty is greater than we deserve or desire,
pour out upon us your abundant mercy;
forgive the things that weigh upon our consciences
and enrich us with blessings
for which our prayers dare not hope.

This is a fine rendering and, I must admit, that personally it would be my own favorite of the translations I give here. The virtue of the 1998 is that it is easy to proclaim. The importance of the aural quality of the prayers cannot be overemphasized.

The current 2011 translation of the Roman Missal translates the prayer in this way:

 Almighty ever-living God,e
who in the abundance of your kindness
surpass the merits and the desires of those who entreat you,
pour out your mercy upon us
to pardon what conscience dreads
and to give what prayer does not dare to ask.

From a technical point of view, this is a good translation.  However it is more a literary translation that can be read carefully and slowly.  But it is more of a challenge to pray it out loud at Mass. Additionally, I would guess that it went over the heads of the vast majority of churchgoers last Sunday.

In summary we can note that all of these translations have positive aspects, and show the complexity and some of the issues involved in preparing translations for use in the liturgy.


The cover picture is available as a Creative Commons License from Flickr. from Holy Mass to Celebrate the Centenary Re-Establisment of Diplomatic Relations Between UK-Holy See © Mazur/


  1. Perhaps opening up this much treaded area of discussion is a bit tedious, but we do need to keep nibbling away at this issue. Clearly, the Glenstall and 1998 versions are the best. As for the current English Missal rendering of this Collect, the less said the better (in all respects).

    I wish someone would publish The 1998 ‘Sacramentary’ in a usable format.

    If the new English version of the Liturgy of the hours comes out in my lifetime, I think I shall stick to The 1974 ‘Divine Office.’


      1. The PDF files are avaiable at various Dropboxes, but you have to print them out yourself.

  2. So we can use the 1998 Sacramentary for celebrations of Liturgy but NOT the 1962 Missal of St. John XXIII? Hmm.

    1. Well, 1998 is compatible with Vatican Ii in a way that 1962 is not!
      But to be clear, I don’t use the 1998 or any other unapproved translation in the liturgy.

      1. While agreeing with you, I would point to the danger of the phrase “unapproved translation”. The 1998 translation was approved — by the English-speaking bishops of the world, in many cases unanimously.

      2. I think we can say it was un-endorsed. I do use it from time to time, just not in the way it was intended. For example, the alternate collects are a nice source of material for liturgies of the word, for concluding prayers of intercessions, and the occasional act of worship.

  3. While it is not an approved translation – it’s the American Episcopal equivalent collect – I find it interesting to compare the version from the Book of Common Prayer.

    Almighty and everlasting God,
    who art always more ready to hear than we to pray,
    and art wont to give more than either we desire or deserve:
    Pour down upon us the abundance of thy mercy,
    forgiving us those things whereof our conscience is afraid,
    and giving us those good things which we are not worthy to ask,
    but through the merits and mediation of
    Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord; who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.

    I wish there were a Catholic translation that read as well as the BCP (the first liturgical church I attended was Episcopal), and kept clear the distinctions that are clear in Latin (gender, number, “Father” vs “Almighty and eternal God”, and so forth.)

    1. Actually it is approved, and prescribed for Trinity XII in “Divine Worship: The Missal” (prom. Francis PP, 2015) for the three Ordinariates under Anglicanorum coetibus.

  4. Almighty, everliving God,
    in your overflowing love for us who pray to you,
    you go further than we deserve,
    further even than we know how to desire.
    Pour out on us your mercy,
    forgiving those things our conscience dreads
    and heaping upon us what our prayer does not venture
    to ask.
    We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.

    Maria Boulding, OSB

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