Collect Comparison: Twenty-Ninth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Roman MissalIn this post, we continue our weekly analysis of the differences between the 1970 translation of the collects and the 2011 translation. Here are the two translations of the collect for the Twenty-Ninth Sunday in Ordinary Time:


1970 Translation
Almighty and ever-living God,
our source of power and inspiration,
give us strength and joy
in serving you as followers of Christ,
who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever.

2011 Translation
Almighty ever-living God,
grant that we may always conform our will to yours
and serve your majesty in sincerity of heart.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who live and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever.

First, consider the second line of the 1970 translation, which reads “our source of power and inspiration.” This phrase is nowhere to be found in the original text and raises the question of just what “power” God is supposed to be supplying to us. This ambiguity is heightened further by comparing this translation to the 2011 translation, which begs God to help us always “conform our will to” His. This supplication is nowhere to be found in the 1970 translation. Just as concerning is the lack of acknowledgment in the 1970 translation of the need to serve the Lord with “sincerity of heart.” This phrase is instead rendered as a lackluster request for “strength and joy” in serving God, which is hardly the same thing. Overall, the 1970 translation, while maintaining the general idea of the original Latin, fails to communicate these subtle distinctions that are so critical to the Catholic faith. Indeed, as we continue this series, it will become fairly obvious that the 1970 translations are, more often than not, centered around a man-centered view of the world, in which God is merely an agent of man’s desire to effect “social justice,” rather than a God-centered one, in which man acknowledges his defects and begs for the altogether necessity of God’s intervention in order to have any hope of saving his soul.

Philomena, My “Little Saint”

Peace be with you, Philomena.

Peace be with you, Philomena.

Over this past summer, I was browsing various Catholic websites, as I am wont to do when I am trying to refine my understanding of dogma. I cannot remember which site I ended up stumbling upon, but I can remember the event as clear as day: I suddenly came upon the portrait of a young woman, purportedly a saint, with long, dark hair and eyes that seemed to stare into my soul, filled with love and compassion. Something about that image—I don’t know how else to describe it—compelled me to investigate just who this young girl was and why I had never heard of her before.

My research revealed that this young girl was a 13-year-old Grecian princess, martyred in the early days of the Church because, having taken a vow of perpetual virginity and consecrated herself to Christ, she refused to marry the Roman Emperor when he demanded her parents give her to him as his wife. Enraged, the Emperor cast this brave princess into the dungeon, chaining her like an animal, hoping to break her will. But the Blessed Mother would not allow this brave young woman to falter, for she appeared to the princess and assured her that her struggle would not be in vain.

Seeing that the princess would not yield, the Emperor subjected the princess to numerous tortures, each of which she miraculously survived, converting thousands of witnesses to Christianity in the process. Humiliated, the Emperor had her beheaded, whereupon her soul ascended to Heaven as her reward for her fearless witness to the Faith. Her remains were sealed within the Catacombs of Rome and, somehow, forgotten for nearly 1600 years, until in 1802, an excavation team discovered her remains, and Saint Philomena (Latin: Filumena, “daughter of light”) was revealed to the world.

Saint Philomena is truly unique among the saints, for she is the only person recognized as a saint by the Church solely on the miracles wrought by her intercession. All we know of her life has come to us through private revelation to three separate sources, each revealing the same details. In my view, this makes her story even more incredible, for to believe in Philomena is to submit oneself entirely to faith.

Of course, in this modern era, Philomena has been the subject of controversy. The 1961 edict issued by the Vatican removing her from the liturgical calendar—she had never been placed on the universal calendar (the calendar applicable to all Catholics), but merely those in certain places—was interpreted by many to mean that she was no longer a saint, or, worse, that she had never existed. The issue comes from an investigation of her tomb in the early part of the 20th century, in which the investigators claimed there were too many inconsistencies in how the body was buried for the remains to have belonged to this person known as Philomena. (Modern scientific techiniques, however, have proven that these arguments are fundamentally flawed and have vindicated those who have maintained their devotion to her.) Those opposed to her veneration argue that Philomena was never formally canonized; therefore, she is not a saint. It is true: she was not canonized, but, then, neither were any of the Apostles or the many heroic martyrs and confessors of the early Church. Pope Gregory XVI, although he did not formally canonize her, granted her a proper Mass and office, an act that could not have taken place unless he effectively recognized her as a saint. In addition, the same Holy Father granted Philomena the title of “Wonder-Worker of the 19th Century” because of the undeniable power of her intercession.

Anyway, back to my story. As I learned more about her, as I studied her life and the many miracles attributed to her intercession, I could feel something connecting me to her in a way I have never felt with any other saint save for the Blessed Mother. No matter how much I tried to ignore it, no matter how much I tried to focus elsewhere, I felt compelled somehow to acknowledge her as my personal patron. Unsure of what to do, I bought her chaplet at a local Catholic gift shop and prayed it for the first time that same evening. The moment I began reciting the prayers, I knew, in a way I cannot describe in words, that this was what I supposed to be doing. It was as if in the very center of my soul I could hear a voice speaking to me, not in words that I could transcribe, but a voice nonetheless that welcomed me and reassured me that everything was going to be all right . . . like our Heavenly Father had intended me to come to her.

Since then, I have asked every day for the intercession of my Little Saint. She has become my constant companion, always ready to intervene on my behalf when I am tempted to fall into sin. When I find myself about to say something I know I shouldn’t . . . When I find myself struggling with confidence . . . Whenever I am overwhelmed by the struggles of life, I beg the Little Saint to come to my aid and speed my prayers to Christ and his Mother. Without fail, Philomena is there for me and my family, for no request is too great or small for her.

For more information on the Little Saint, see here and here.

Sunday Dose of Douay: Twenty-Eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A

I firmly believe that the Douay–Rheims Bible, the traditional translation of the Bible used by English-speaking Catholics, remains as relevant today as it was for those who have gone before us in faith. True, it is translated in a style of English no longer spoken in today’s world, but so is the King James Version, a Protestant translation that still maintains a devoted following to this day. And yes, it is translated primarily from the Latin Vulgate rather than directly from the original manuscripts, but the Vulgate is not an inherently inaccurate text. Saint Jerome, the priest who translated the majority of the Vulgate, had access to ancient manuscripts no longer extant that in some instances contained important textual variations from the manuscripts available today. Therefore, I believe it is still a useful spiritual exercise to review the readings for the coming Sunday in this translation.

Reading 1: Isaias 25:6–10a

And the Lord of hosts shall make unto all people in this mountain, a feast of fat things, a feast of wine, of fat things full of marrow, of wine purified from the lees.
And he shall destroy in this mountain the face of the bond with which all people were tied, and the web that he began over all nations.
He shall cast death down headlong for ever: and the Lord God shall wipe away tears from every face, and the reproach of his people he shall take away from off the whole earth: for the Lord hath spoken it.
And they shall say in that day: Lo, this is our God, we have waited for him, and he will save us: this is the Lord, we have patiently waited for him, we shall rejoice and be joyful in his salvation.
For the hand of the Lord shall rest in this mountain.

Reading 2: Philippians 4:12–14, 19–20

I know both how to be brought low, and I know how to abound: (every where, and in all things I am instructed) both to be full, and to be hungry; both to abound, and to suffer need.
I can do all things in him who strengtheneth me.
Nevertheless you have done well in communicating to my tribulation.
And may my God supply all your want, according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.
Now to God and our Father be glory world without end. Amen.

Gospel: Matthew 22:1–14

And Jesus answering, spoke again in parables to them, saying:
The kingdom of heaven is likened to a king, who made a marriage for his son.
And he sent his servants, to call them that were invited to the marriage; and they would not come.
Again he sent other servants, saying: Tell them that were invited, Behold, I have prepared my dinner; my beeves and fatlings are killed, and all things are ready: come ye to the marriage.
But they neglected, and went their ways, one to his farm, and another to his merchandise.
And the rest laid hands on his servants, and having treated them contumeliously, put them to death.
But when the king had heard of it, he was angry: and sending his armies, he destroyed those murderers, and burnt their city.
Then he saith to his servants: The marriage indeed is ready; but they that were invited were not worthy.
Go ye therefore into the highways; and as many as you shall find, call to the marriage.
And his servants going forth into the ways, gathered together all that they found, both bad and good: and the marriage was filled with guests.
And the king went in to see the guests: and he saw there a man who had not on a wedding garment.
And he saith to him: Friend, how camest thou in hither not having on a wedding garment? But he was silent.
Then the king said to the waiters: Bind his hands and feet, and cast him into the exterior darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.
For many are called, but few are chosen.

Collect Comparison: Twenty-Eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Roman MissalIn my previous post, I described the function and structure of the collect and why it is so important to Catholic liturgy. In this post, I begin my weekly analysis of the coming Sunday’s collect to look for the important elements of Catholic doctrine presented in these prayers. I will first present the 1970 English translation of the Latin original, followed by the 2011 translation.

Our series begins with the collect for this Sunday, the Twenty-Eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time:

1970 Translation
our help and guide,
make your love the foundation of our lives.
May our love for you express itself
in our eagerness to do good for others.
Grant this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever.

2011 Translation
May your grace, O Lord, we pray,
at all times go before us and follow after
and make us always determined
to carry out good works.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever.

First, let’s take a look at the key word missing from the 1970 translation: grace. The word “grace” is the English equivalent of the Latin gratia (as in Ave Maria, gratia plena, or “Hail Mary, full of grace”). But in the 1970 translation, gratia has been rendered as “love.” Unfortunately, “love” is a terribly vague word in English, as it can connote various degrees of affection depending upon its context (e.g., the love—the deep, marital love—one feels for one’s spouse is most certainly not the same type of love one feels for his children or for his parents).

Grace, on the other hand, is a very specific word in Catholic theology, defined in the glossary of the American edition of the Catechism of the Catholic Church as “the free and undeserved gift that God gives us to respond to our vocation to become his adopted children.” This is far from the generic “love” mentioned in the 1970 translation! Rather, “grace” connotes that great gift we receive from God that we could never merit to deserve on our own, yet are welcome to receive nonetheless should we choose to do so. Furthermore, the glossary goes on to define three specific types of grace: sanctifying grace (through which God “shares his divine life and friendship with us in a habitual gift”), actual grace (through which God “gives us the help to conform our lives to his will”), and sacramental grace (defined as “gifts of the Holy Spirit to help us live out our Christian vocation.”) Look at just how much theology has been stripped from the 1970 translation through the use of “love” instead of “grace”!

But that’s not all! Look at how the word “love” is used in the 1970 translation: “. . . [M]ake your love the foundation of our lives.” While the sentiment is not inherently poor, this translation obscures the fact that man can only have God’s “love” at the center of our lives by placing Christ at that center. Again, the word “love” is just too milquetoast and vague in English to function as an acceptable term in this context.

In contrast, the 2011 translation expresses this beautifully as it reveals how we are praying for God to permit His grace to “at all times go before us and follow after” us. Think for a moment on the imagery called to mind by the thought of God’s grace going before and after us. It hearkens back to the days of Moses and the ancient Israelites’ exodus from Egypt, when God made His presence manifest for all to see as a cloud leading His people by day and as a pillar of fire burning before them at night. Once again, the dynamic equivalence approach to translation, in an effort to express the meaning of the prayer as succinctly as possible, completely eliminates any reference to this metaphor.

Finally, look at the final supplication in the 2011 translation: “. . . [A]nd make us always determined to carry out good works.” This is a clear and unambiguous reference to the Catholic doctrine that both faith and good works—which serve as outward manifestations of true faith in Christ—are necessary for salvation [cf. James 2:17–18]. Indeed, the Catechism (CCC 1815–1816) states:

The gift of faith remains in one who has not sinned against it. But “faith without works is dead” . . . The disciple of Christ must not only keep the faith and live on it, but also profess it, confidently bear witness to it, and spread it. . . . Service of and witness to the faith are necessary for salvation.

The use of the term “good works” in the 2011 translation makes this important doctrinal point perfectly clear. Now, let’s look at how it is rendered in the 1970 translation: “May our love for you express itself in our eagerness to do good for others.” While it captures the general idea of the supplication, the word choices employed are ambiguous at best. “Doing good for others” could be as simple as getting the mail for my friend so he doesn’t have to, or helping my grandmother unload her groceries from the car. While admirable acts, these are most certainly not the type of “good works” the Church teaches are necessary for salvation. Rather, we as Christians are expected to perform works of true charity through which our devotion to Christ—yes, Christ—is made clearly manifest, so that our acts serve to convert unbelievers to the Faith. For if we fail in this important task, then we are disobeying Christ’s final command to the Apostles: “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations” [Matthew 28:19a, RSVCE].

What in the World is a Collect, Anyway, and Why Should I Care?

The collect is one of the most important prayers in all of Catholic liturgy. During the Mass, it is the prayer said by the priest at the conclusion of the Gloria in excelsis (sung or recited on most Sundays and all solemnities and feasts) and before the proclamation of the Scripture readings of the day. But this prayer is not limited its place in the Mass; it is also recited by all who pray the Liturgy of the Hours—as many as six of the seven liturgical hours of the day on Sundays and other high feast days.

But just what is it that distinguishes a collect from any other prayer? And why does it matter? For starters, the form of the collect arose from the early Church as a form of “collecting” the prayers of the people and presenting them to God during what ultimately became the Mass. Over time, the structure of the collect was refined and formalized; moreover, specific collects were codified and assigned to different days of the liturgical year according to the supplication presented in the prayer.

In the official Latin text of the Missal, on which all vernacular translations are based, each collect is a single, unbroken series of text presented in (roughly) this order:

  • Invocation of the Person of the Holy Trinity being addressed (almost always the Father, but, on rare occasions, the Son)
  • Recognition of an attribute of the Person being addressed (often indicated by the Latin qui [i.e., “who”])
  • A specific petition invoked by the priest on behalf of the people
  • Specification of the desired result or statement of an extended purpose of the petition (begins with the Latin ut [i.e., “in order that”])
  • Conclusion utilizing a specific form of the Trinitarian formula (if addressed to the Father: “Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever”; if addressed to the Son: “Who live and reign with God the Father in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever”)

In addition to the above, the collects serve a higher purpose. Their purpose is to express the liturgical focus of the day into a single prayer. Thus, anyone who wishes to obtain a deeper understanding of what the focus of the day’s Mass should begin with an analysis of the proper collect for that day. An astounding wealth of Catholic doctrine can be gleaned from these powerful prayers; they are most certainly not just empty words recited to transition from one section of the Mass to another.

With regard to translation of the collects: The beauty and structure of the Latin language is difficult to express in languages such as English, for it is considered poor grammar to write a single sentence in English containing the number of clauses and commas present in the Latin text. Consequently, when the 1970 edition of the Roman Missal was translated into English for the first time, an approach to translating known as “dynamic equivalence” was utilized, in which, rather than providing a formal, fairly literal rendering of the English text, the entire Missal was paraphrased into modern English for the sake of clarity. (Additionally, the collects were mislabeled “Opening Prayers” in the old translation, which led to even more confusion of the collect’s purpose; the collect does not “open” anything, but rather closes the Introductory Rites of the Mass.)

Unfortunately, what was lost was much of the subtlety of doctrine inherent in the Latin text. An excellent article on this matter, from the November 2010 issue of the Adoremus Bulletin, can be found here.

Now, however, with the 2011 translation of the Roman Missal, it is possible for the laity to study much more accurate translations of these important prayers. Over the coming weeks, I will be providing a look at both English translations of the collects for each Sunday. First, the old, dynamic equivalent translation will be provided and analyzed, to be followed by the current translation, which also will be picked apart for its doctrinal content. My goal of this undertaking is to develop a more mature understanding of the rich treasure of these prayers and how their content remains relevant in this “postmodern” world in which we live.

The Chaplet of Saint Philomena

I must admit: I have never felt comfortable—or even adequate, for that matter—improvising my prayers on the fly. Some have a natural gift for finding the right words to speak to our Lord. I, on the other hand, continue to struggle mightily in this regard. That is why I am such a fan of structured prayer, such as the Liturgy of the Hours, the Rosary, or the many chaplets developed over the years in honor of the lives of Christ and his Mother and of many of the Church’s greatest saints. The set formularies of these prayers, rather than being stifling and inhibiting, instead permit me to focus my attention solely upon Christ. Indeed, I am comforted by the repetition and familiarity I have developed with many of these prayers that I use in my daily life, and I find myself looking forward to my prayer time, rather than dreading it as I once did for fear of not knowing what to say.

As I mentioned in my last post, I have found the saints to be powerful intercessors on my behalf. The Blessed Mother receives pride of place in my heart, but, next to her, the saint I find myself praying to the most for her intercession is Saint Philomena. In the interest of full disclosure, I must admit that I had been unaware of the existence of this incredible saint until this year. However, since I discovered her and her story, I have developed an intense and passionate devotion to her and her role as Thaumaturga (“wonder-worker”). Her many devotees over the years have testified that no request is too insignificant for the Little Saint, and I have most certainly found this to be true, for no matter what needs I place before her, she never ceases to respond to them in some manner, even if the manner in which she does so is not exactly what I expect.

Her chaplet is the prayer I use when praying to Christ through the Little Saint. A chaplet is much like the Rosary in that a series of repeated prayers are offered in a structured sequence; in fact, many chaplets are prayed on ordinary rosary beads. Some of the more well-known chaplets include:

  • the Chaplet of Divine Mercy
  • the Chaplet of Saint Michael
  • the Chaplet of the Seven Sorrows of Our Lady
  • the Chaplet of Saint Dymphna
  • the Chaplet of the Immaculate Conception

The Chaplet of Saint Philomena, if one chooses to use prayer beads, is prayed on a series of beads like those pictured below:

philomena chaplet

The chaplet is capped with either a crucifix or a Saint Philomena medal, followed by three white beads and 13 red beads. The chaplet is prayed as follows:

  • On the crucifix or Saint Philomena medal, pray the Apostles’ Creed.
  • On each of the three white beads—white to commemorate Philomena’s virginity—pray an Our Father in honor of each Person of the Holy Trinity.
  • On each of the red beads—totaling 13 in honor of the number of years the Saint lived in this life prior to her martyrdom—pray the following: Hail, O holy Saint Philomena, whom I acknowledge, after Mary, as my advocate with thy Divine Spouse, intercede for me now and at the hour of my death. Saint Philomena, beloved daughter of Jesus and Mary, pray for us who have recourse to thee.
  • Once you have prayed the above prayer on all 13 red beads, conclude with the following prayer: Hail, O illustrious Saint Philomena, who shed so courageously thy blood for Christ! I bless the Lord for all the graces He has bestowed upon thee during thy life, and especially at thy death. I praise and glorify Him for the honor and power with which He has crowned thee, and I beg thee to obtain for me from God the graces I ask through thy intercession.
  • Here, briefly state your intention(s) and conclude with “Amen.”

If you have never prayed this chaplet before, I encourage you to give it a try. I am certain you will find, as I have, that the wondrous Thaumaturga is still very much beloved by Christ and that, no matter what you may ask of the Little Saint, she will offer her petition to our Lord on your behalf.

Why the Rosary?

rosary 3It stands as a symbol unlike any other. No matter one’s background, one’s social status, or one’s religious beliefs, the moment someone sees another person holding a rosary, an implicit, understood message is being sent: I am Catholic.

“But why?”, the objector asks. “Why pray to Mary? Why don’t you Catholics pray directly to God? And why pray a fixed series of prayers instead of praying ‘from the heart’? And why do you worship Mary, anyway? Don’t you know that violates the First Commandment?”

First, some clarification. Catholics do not pray to anyone but God Himself, for it is God alone who can answer our prayers. He alone is Alpha and Omega, the Beginning and the End. He alone has the power and authority to work as He deems fit in answering our prayers. Whatever He wills will be.

However, this does not mean that He will ignore the pleas of His beloved children who stand in His presence, bowing before Him in adoration. The intercessory power of the saints is strong indeed, for—having already obtained their eternal reward—they can unite their prayers to our own in this life. Both the Apostles’ Creed and the Nicene Creed—creeds that virtually all Christians profess—make specific mention of the “communion of saints.” One of the definitions for the word communion according to Merriam-Webster is “intimate fellowship or rapport.” Taking that into account, Catholics maintain this fellowship exists not only between the saints in heaven, but with their still-living brethren as well.

Now, with regard to Mary’s intercessory role, as the mother of the God-man, the Word made Flesh, of Christ Himself, she therefore holds a place of highest honor among all created beings. For she alone was conceived without sin—the Immaculate Conception—and lived a sinless, pure life of perpetual virginity. So great was her Son’s love for her that He would not permit her body to be corrupted by the grave, but instead assumed her body into His heavenly kingdom. Even if the objector denies these Catholic dogmata, it is difficult for him to escape this logical conclusion: If Mary was the mother of Christ, who is both God and man, then, logically, she was also the Mother of God. As such, how prized her arguments on our behalf must be in the eyes of her Son! For just as Christ obeyed Mary’s request to alleviate the embarrassment of the host of the wedding at Cana when he ran out of wine for his guests, so too will He listen to His mother’s pleas for her beloved children living today.

If the objector persists in denying the validity of the Rosary and the ability of our Blessed Mother to intercede on our behalf, I cannot help him. What I can say is that the Rosary brought me back to the Church after years of wandering in the abyss of atheism and self-centered stupidity. It was the gentle touch of my Mother’s hand upon my shoulder, her soft voice ringing in my mind as I picked up the beads I had not touched for so many years that convinced me that I had to come home once more. When my children were in the hospital after being born eight weeks early, I prayed fervently to Christ through His Mother that their fragile bodies would gain the strength to not only survive but grow into His healthy, happy servants. And when I held my children in my arms at home—not connected to tubes in a hospital, but at home—I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that the power of the Rosary was undeniable.

Deo Gratias. 

Welcome to My Blog!

Hello, and welcome to anyone who may have stumbled upon my new blog. I have been thinking about blogging for quite some time, but have finally taken the initiative. My hope is to post my thoughts, facts, and any other information I think my readers will find interesting with regard to Catholic liturgy, prayer, and Scripture. I am excited about this project, and I ask that you give me a chance to find my way as I work on becoming comfortable with the blog format.

Pax tecum.