Friday in the 4th Week of Lent

Novus Ordo prayer composition toolsCOLLECT
Deus, qui fragilitati nostrae congrua subsidia praeparasti,
concede, quaesumus, ut suae reparationis effectum
et cum exsultatione suscipiat,
et pia conversatione recenseat.

Glue - another toolThis prayer today was not in the pre-Concilar Missale Romanum.  It also has me scratching my head.  Once I looked up all the references, I knew why.  In effect, this is clearly a cut and paste job and it just doesn’t hang together well.  A predecessor (Concede, quaesumus, domine, fragilitate nostrae sufficientiam conpetentem, ut suae reparationis effectum et pia conuersatione recenseat et cum exultatione suscipiat: per.)  is in the Gelasianum Vetus in two places, Friday of the 3rd Week of Lent and for Septuagesima.  The "et fragilitati nostrae congrua praeparasti subsidia" is in the Veronese in April and references to fragilitas and pia conversatio in a prayer in July. 

Subsidium is, you guessed it, military language.  It means, "the troops stationed in reserve in the third line of battle (behind the principes), the line of reserve, reserve-ranks, triarii".  Thus, it is "support, assistance, aid, help, protection, etc.".   A reparatio is "a restoration, renewal".  Recenseo is "to count, enumerate, number, reckon, survey" and "to go over in thought, in narration, or in critical treatment, to reckon up, recount, review, revise".  Blaise/Dumas says “recolere, rappeler, célébrer le souvenir de…”.  But there is in the entry no reference to our prayer, which I find puzzling. 

Scissors - another toolConversatio is a super-charged word in Christian literature, which has to do with "manner of life", how one comports himself.   This is often used in monastic literature.  I now have also at my fingertips the helpful big dictionary of the indefatigable Albert Blaise, the Dictionnarie Latin-Francais des Auteurs Chrétiens reworked by Henri Chirat.  This lexical tool is out of print, so I can’t suggest you buy it any time soon.   I will have to start distinguishing now Blaise/Chirat from Blaise/Dumas, won’t I!  Any way, Blaise/Chirat shows that Patristic sources handle conversatio in a moral sense of conversio as well as "genre de vie".  As I mentioned before, it also indicates "monastic life", though that is outside of this context. 

Novus Ordo prayer composing toolsPius, in the mighty Lewis & Short is "honest, upright, honorable" and "benevolent, kind, gentle, gracious".  With respect to God it points to His mercy.  In respect to man, in much Latin literature, it point to his interior and exterior response to duty, the exigencies he faces. 

The suae refers back to something feminine, which leaves a single candidate, fragilitas nostraGiotto - Crucifixion

The problem with cutting and pasting a prayer together is that you don’t get much of a unified "vision" from it.  This is a good prayer, don’t get me wrong, at least I think it is a good prayer, but it is not in the same league as some of the ancient integral works we have seen, even having endured slight changes from The Redactors.

O God, who made ready suitable helps for our fragility,
grant, we beg, that it may both catch up
the effect of its own renewal in exultation,
and sum it up in upright conduct of life.


What on earth does this mean? I think we need …

O God, who prepared the helps proportional to our (sin induced) frailty,
grant, we beg You, that our (
sin induced) frailty
may both take up in joy the effect of its own renewal
(that effect being the Passion and Resurrection)

and also critically express (our sin induced frailty) by means of a proper manner of living.

I can’t tell you how much I look forward to reading your own perfect versions of this very odd Collect.  Perhaps I am burning out from work on top of illness, but I am still scratching my head.  I think I nailed it, however.

The "effect of our renewal" is the impact of the merits of Jesus’ Passion, Resurrection and subsequent Ascension to the right hand of the Father.  The "congruent helps" are the mysteries of the Lord’s Death and Resurrection.  These are our two hinges.

The sin of our First Parents opened a chasm between us and God which no mere human being (very limited) could bridge or repair.  This reparation or renewal required a human being (because of justice) but no mere human was proportioned to the work of our salvation.  So, from unfathomable love, God stepped into and over the chasm.  In the fullness of time, the Second Person took our humanity into an indestructible bond with His divinity.  Only the God/man could repair the rift.  The Passion and Resurrection are the "congruent helps", proportional to such an effect of reparation/renewal.

Realization of this must have a consequence for our lives.  It must transform us.  The effect, which is interior, must find outward expression.  We feel joy interiorly and this must be expressed outwardly.  The reordering of the disorder of our soul is an interior and invisible effect, but that effect must be brought to outward expression in proper conduct of life.

That is, I believe, what is going on in this very odd snipped and pasted prayer.  Not bad, but it is not user friendly.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. Henry Edwards says:

    ICEL version:
    Father, our source of life,
    you know our weakness.
    May we reach out with joy to grasp your hand
    and walk more readily in your ways.

    I don’t think we can say that ICEL “nailed it”.

  2. Henry: Are you sure you posted the correct day’s prayer?

    “May we reach out with joy to grasp your hand..”


  3. Tim Ferguson says:

    I saw the construction paper and Elmer’s glue and had a traumatic flashback to religion classes in my youth and childhood. Now I’ve got the shakes. Man, that was a long, strange trip…

  4. Henry Edwards says:

    Henry: Are you sure you posted the correct day’s prayer?

    An altogether excellent question, Fr. Z. Exactly what I wondered when I first saw it in my daily Magnificat. Double-checked the day of the week and the week of Lent printed at the top of the page. Then re-read the prayer a couple of times to make sure I’d transcribed it correctly.

    So of course I was listening pretty closely at Mass this morning when the priest read it from the big red Lectionary.

    Yup, that’s it. You just never can tell with lame-duck ICEL, whose unique insights the current USCCB BCL allegedly is doing its best to preserve for our posterity.

    Incidentally, Jon has pointed me by e-mail to the site where an Australian Dominican friar with alleged connections to Cardinal Pell reports the following two bits of gossip:

    1) that the new translation of the Roman Missal will be out sooner rather than later – this year or next.

    2) the French Benedictines are about to publish, under the authority of the Pope, a new edition of the 1962 Missal which will include the additions to the sanctoral cycle since 1962 and some of the praefationes from the 1969 Missal. A Benedictine Missal in both senses!

    It seems to me that some (though not all) of the new Novus Ordo prefaces are quite beautiful and could well be aptly inserted in the traditional missal. You will recall my occasional suggestions that you put these new prefaces under the WDTPRS microscope, since I note significant deficiencies in their ICEL translations.

  5. CaesarMagnus says:

    I rarely ever use the ICEL translations when translating the prayers.
    Mainly because they get me so mad, but the other reason is that they are just
    worthless anyway.
    The prefaces are usually just as bad. I too would like to see Fr. Z translate
    the prefaces so I can compare mine to his.
    (I am finding the 2nd preface of Lent to be rather challenging in one clause).

  6. martin says:

    Father God, you who have prepared the very supports we need for our weakness,
    grant, we pray, that our frail nature may with exultation absorb the effect of its renewal,
    and by dutiful behaviour keep the same in mind.

  7. Martin:

    suscipiat = absorb
    recenseat = keep in mind


    I think conversatio goes beyond “behaviour” but, all in all, a pretty good solution. This was by no means one off the easier prayers to render.


  8. Tim: I was rather reminded of the level of the some of (U.S.) seminary classes I had.


  9. martin says:

    I was sorry to read that you have been under the weather, Fr. Z.
    Im sure all the regular followers of your blog unite in prayer for your speedy recovery.

  10. martin says:

    I wish I could claim the credit of being creative, but “absorb” comes from OLD which cites Lucretius 3.405 where he speaks of how the soul lives after death: “vivit et aetherias vitalis suscipit auras”.

    On “keep in mind”, I first thought of “mull over”, but discarded it as too colloquial. OLD has only the strict meanings of “recenseo”, and so I took up the reference you gave in Blaise that it was synonymous with “recolo”: a secondary meaning of which is “go over in the mind/ bring to mind”.

  11. Martin: In this blog, there is nothing wrong with using colloquial phrases. There is something seriously wrong in being “colloquial” when preparing translations for liturgical USE. Here, we are trying to get at what the prayers really say.


    PS: I suppose you are leaning on the OLD because you must. GD&R

  12. Here’s what the UK/Ireland Brevbiary Translation has:

    Lord God,
    you have prepared fitting remedies for our weakness;
    grant that we may reach out gladly for your healing grace,
    and thereby live in accordance with your will.

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