WDTPRS 16th Ordinary Sunday: The Enemy is seeking you!

The Collect for the 16th Ordinary Sunday, not in any pre-Conciliar Missale Romanum, has its antecedent in a 9th century manuscript.  Enjoy the fine clausula (rhythmic ending).

We have been cheated of the beauty of our Catholic worship in Latin, which is our common patrimony. After such a gap of time, it will be difficult to grasp these tightly woven ancient Latin Collects with their lovely rhythms, their clarity of thought, their force.  After many centuries they still communicate the profound intellectual formation and the faith of their composers, our Christian family ancestors.

Propitiare, Domine, famulis tuis, et clementer gratiae tuae super eos dona multiplica, ut, spe, fide et caritate ferventes, semper in mandatis tuis vigili custodia perseverent.

Famulus and feminine famula appear frequently in our prayers.  Famulus is probably from Latin’s ancient cousin, the Oscan faama, “house.”   A Latin famulus or famula was a household servant or hand-maid, slave or free. They were considered members of the larger family.

Custodia is “a watching, guard, care, protection” and has the military overtone of “guard, sentinel”.  Vigil is “wakeful, watchful”, and, like custodia, can also be “a watchman, sentinel”.  Liturgically, a “vigil” is the evening and night before a great feast day.  In ancient times vigils were times of fasting and penance.  Men who were to be knighted kept a night’s vigil. They were watchful against the attacks of the world, the flesh and the Devil.  They fasted, prayed, and examined their consciences in order to be pure for the rites to follow.


Look propitiously on Your servants, O Lord, and indulgently multiply upon them the gifts of Your grace so that, burning with faith, hope and charity, they may persevere always in your commands with vigilant watchfulness.


Lord, be merciful to your people. Fill us with your gifts and make us always eager to serve you in faith, hope, and love.


Show favor, O Lord, to your servants and mercifully increase the gifts of your grace, that, made fervent in hope, faith and charity, they may be ever watchful in keeping your commands.

Scripture often gives us images of watches during the night.  At the birth of the Lord shepherds “were keeping watch over their flock by night (vigilantes et custodientes vigilias noctis)” (Luke 2:8).  Jesus said, “Watch (vigilate) therefore, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming. But know this, that if the householder had known in what part of the night the thief was coming, he would have watched (vigilaret) and would not have let his house be broken into. Therefore you also must be ready; for the Son of man is coming at an hour you do not expect” (Matthew 24:42-44).   Our Lord explains that servants should keep watch in order to open the door for the master of the house even if he returns in the dead of the night (cf Luke 12:37-39).  St Paul constantly urges Christians to be “watchful”.  In 1 Peter 5:8 we read sobering, “Be sober, be watchful. Your adversary the Devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour”.

The Enemy is seeking you!  (1 Peter 5:8)

In the ancient Roman countryside there were great estates (latifundium) having many buildings for family, household servants, the various workers, storage, etc.  These dwellings were often self-sufficient, and were surrounded with walls against attacks by brigands.  Even into Renaissance times, a great house in a city (domus) might be fortified with watch towers.  The householder or the lord of the estate was the head or father of the larger “family”.  Kind or cruel, the paterfamilias was judge, protector and provider to everyone under his care.

Simple ancient famuli had to work to produce good fruits in order to survive with a good quality of life and a safe place to belong.  Sophisticated modern famuli, marked with the family name “Christian”, marked permanently with the family seal through baptism and confirmation, must produce fruits according to our vocations.

When life’s reckoning comes, will we be like the foolish virgins? They watched all night for the arrival of the Bridegroom, but they didn’t have enough oil for their lamps.  They were locked out of the house in the dangerous night with no place to go, no work to do, no purpose to fulfill. They no longer belonged.

Vigilate… Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour” (Matthew 25:13).

When you hear the priest pronounce this Collect, beg our Lord – so gracious and patient with us even when we are lazy and sinful – to continue giving us gifts of faith, hope and charity we need for the very survival of our souls.

If people prepare for bad times and disasters that can occur in respect to worldly things, how much more important is it to prepare for hardship or attacks or even that final moment of reckoning in the spiritual plane?

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About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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9 Responses to WDTPRS 16th Ordinary Sunday: The Enemy is seeking you!

  1. James Joseph says:

    St. Joseph is my Custodian of Redemption.

  2. This particular series of posts has long been my favorite. “Wherein Fr. Z rants” runs a close second but the philological study and history found in this series can’t be beat…especially for the money!

    I noted in today’s post—and was jolted when I read the revised Collect in English—the phrase “hope, faith, and charity.” Having expected “faith, hope, and charity” I thought something awry. However, I noted the Latin is “spe, fide et caritate.”

    I don’t think this a big matter, but why does the Church pray “spe, fide et caritate” and not “fide, spe et caritate”? Is there some theological rationale for this particular ordering of the theological virtues of which I am completely unaware?

    I have a similar beef with Eucharistic Prayer III which states “Be pleased to confirm in faith and charity your pilgrim Church on earth….” I have always wondered by the Church doesn’t pray “Be please to confirm in faith, hope, and charity your pilgrim Church on earth….” Is there some theological rationale of which I am completely unaware for dropping the theological virtue of “hope” in this instance?

  3. Supertradmum says:

    Fantastic and please write a book with all these meditations.

    In the TLM today, in the Intriot, Ecce Deus, adjuvat me, et Dominus susceptor est animae meae. For many of us, our only protector is God and our guardian angels. Thanks for this meditation.

  4. Jamie says:

    When I was at Ordinary Form High Mass this morning, I heard this collect. I always kind of smile when I hear certain rhythmic patterns or odd sounding words, for example I think they use a word that sounds a bit like ‘nonenosque’ in the canon, and when Father sang it I kind of noticed a sort of rhythm and natural feel to it, which of course is lost in the translation.

    I really enjoy these little philosophical/historical passages, always very interesting and they give me a greater insight to the meaning of the Latin, which I love so dearly in the Novus Ordo Missae. It’s funny how many ruptures that the New Mass presented, whilst giving us insight into many more ancient texts and traditional practices.

    Supertradmum, the introit you mention was very well rehearsed this morning by my schola; we sang the introit in procession for the first time, vested in appropriate choir dress with our trusty Gregorian Missals in hand! Very beautiful text and melody, the flex and intonation came very naturally too, makes me cringe to think one time my schola members would have once sang Shine, Jesus, Shine in its place… Uhhh….

    Motley Monk, you questioned why EP3 said“Be pleased to confirm in faith and charity your pilgrim Church on earth….” Without the mention of hope. I say just forget about all the other Eucharistic Prayers. If, God-willing, I’m a priest myself one day, the Roman Canon will hopefully be a good apprentice of mine, for obvious reasons. The other EPs are a bit lame and lifeless, and questionable. Completely valid and licit of course, but in my mind they are associated with rainbow stoles and Velcro albs…

  5. LauraKazlas says:

    Thank you Father Z for clearing this up!

  6. RobW says:

    Father, thanks for being a shepherd…you’re appreciated!

  7. Poustinik1 says:

    Thank you Father Z for being a true shepherd. Even though I attend the EF Mass now, I know very little Latin and have everything to learn. This is so beautiful. We are blessed to have you!

  8. Kathleen10 says:

    Often, when reading these discussions of the collect, there is a bit of a disconnect, because we don’t usually hear what you are all talking about, during our Holy Mass. We just don’t.
    But I am very excited, because today, we did hear what you are talking about! I was at a local church I don’t always attend, and, it was a very holy and reverent Mass, and Father spoke in Latin, sung in Latin, and explained the Latin. His homily was oriented toward the collect as Fr. Z. just mentioned it. How wonderful. I can’t wait til next week.

  9. HighMass says:

    This is what our Dear Sweet Benedict XVI was talking about after being Elected Supreme Pontiff in April 2005……I must say I didn’t read the entire article….so I might be off base here…..Still like others are having a difficult time dealing with Him no longer being Pope…..not to Sell Papa Francesco Short….it was Benedict’s quiet style….and just being Pope Benedict…..I pray GOD grants him more Earthly years as he deserves his quiet time……

    It is great to see Papa Francesco praying, talking, respecting Papino Benedetto.

    Bottom line here is this….it is horrid what the “wolves” inside the Curia, and others Did to Pope Benedict…..even his closest Cardinals…..who turned on him……….