Tuesday of the 5th Week of Lent

Rome is burning, againCOLLECT
Da nobis, quaesumus, Domine,
perseverantem in tua voluntate famulatum,
ut in diebus nostris
et merito et numero populus tibi serviens augeatur.

In the Tridentinum and in the 1962 Roman Missal this prayer is listed for Tuesday after Passion Sunday as the Oratio super populum.  It also has roots in the Gelasian.

The verb famulor gives us famulatus, which in the Lewis & Short means "servitude, slavery".  In Blaise/Chirat there is an additional meaning, which is predictable, "service de Dieu, dévotion" attested to by, for example, St. Augustine of Hippo (cf. conf 10.35.56).

Grant us, we beg, O Lord,
persevering service in Your will,
so that in our days
the people serving You may be increased both in merit and in number.

My instant reaction to this prayer is rather bittersweet.  The Church’s shifting demographics in wealthy countries reveals that, while more people may be identifying themselves as Catholic, the percentage of Catholics going to Mass remains steady or is falling.  This means that we are going backward.   Also, in European countries which were once Catholic countries, such as Italy, the birth rate is far below replacement rate.  Yet "Eur-Arabia" is swiftly muliplying.  Contraception and abortion is killing off one dimension of the life of the Church.  The forces of the "Prince of this world" prevail in some places.   

A lone soul at Mass in a Roman church on SundayWhile Our Lord promised that "the gate of Hell" would not ultimately prevail, He did not promise they would not prevail in some places, such as the United States or Europe.  We can take an example from the fate of North Africa, the land of the great St. Augustine.  Where there was a powerful, vital and thriving Church, to which we in the modern world are so indebted, there are now… well… not much.  The word famulatus is rooted in the ancient Oscan word faama.  In its root, this word for service derives from the house or household and the extended relationships within a household.  As a Church, we are, as the young Joseph Ratzinger explored and contributed to the thought of the Second Vatican Council, the "house and people of God".

The prayer’s force turns on the ut with the subjunctive.  Our increase in merit and number depends on our perseverance in dedicated service to God’s will not our will.  Rather, our will also insofar as it is in conformity with God’s will.  As we have seen in many of these Lenten articles, however, even our ability to persevere is a grace given to us by God.  He begins good things in us and, when we chose to cooperate, He makes us strong enough to bring to completion what He began in us.

A lot of work is to be done to bring people back to regular use of the sacraments.  Perhaps the new vernacular translations now in preparation around the world will help.  I am convinced they will help only if a) they are faithful to the original Latin and b) accompanied by a reclamation of our liturgical traditions.  There are many elements which must be refitted so as to bring about a healthy organic whole.  I am impressed by the recent efforts of Bishop Slattery in Tulsa in writing to his people about these things.  We need a sound and widespread liturgical catechesis as part of a larger effort to present and instill a Catholic identity in many of the last two generations who know nothing of their Church, what she teaches or who she really is.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
This entry was posted in SESSIUNCULA, WDTPRS. Bookmark the permalink.


  1. Henry Edwards says:

    ICEL version:
    Help us to do you will
    that your Church may grow
    and become more faithful in your service.

    Well, these are laudable sentiments, and perhaps this is a somewhat accurate translation. And it’s what I’ll hear this morning. As the opening prayer of Holy Mass, after I drive to church and first spend a preparatory half hour or so before the Blessed Sacrament, lifting up some of the more sublime prayers of our Catholic treasury. So mere accuracy is not quite everything, is it?

  2. Henry Edwards says:

    As we were taught in seminary (and I am not making this up) when “community” goes forward for “bread” the sacrament takes place when you look into each other’s eyes.

    You dropped this in over the weekend (Saturday) when I didn’t have enough time to think about its implications. Now it’s too far down at the bottom for anyone but me to find it, so let me ask here.

    I assume you’re talking about when the minister shows the host to the individual communicant. You mean you were taught what when the two look into each other’s eyes, the Body of Christ is confected right then, in that individual host? Just for that one communicant? If so, was the communicant taught to genuflect immediately in adoration before receiving it?

    And this happened all over again for the next communicant and his host?. Each individual host consecrated one at a time? Surely you’re not serious in claiming this was actually taught in your seminary or any other. I cannot believe it.

    Oh! Silly me. Now I get it. Saturday was April Fool’s day.

  3. martin says:

    I was glad of the Augustinian reference, because I was having a hard time making sense of service “in tua voluntate” which initially struck me as redundant. St Augustine says he owes humble and undivided service to God (“[Deo] humilem famulatum et simplicem debeo”).

    In today’s collect we pray for a “service which persists in [doing] Your will”. But it is of the essence of servitude that it is only the master’s will that has any force or meaning. However, ours is a voluntary servitude, and we need God’s grace to persevere in it: “fiat voluntas tua” which is not only the 3rd petition in our perfect model of our prayer, but also Christ’s own prayer in Gethsemane (Mt.26:42).

  4. As much as I like those forms, I am not avoiding them. I just figured I would use a more standard form is all.

  5. Henry Edwards says:

    And the English translation in a 1962 hand missal:

    Grant us, we beseech Thee, O Lord,
    a perservering obedience to Thy will:
    that in our day the people who serve Thee
    may increase both in merit and in number.

    Avoiding “Thee” and “Thy” today, are we, Father Z?

    [He saith to him: Thou hast said it.]

  6. martin says:

    I, too, have been paging back, and made a (serious) post under 1 April on the topic Henry brought up here and which Fr. Z. confirms was no joke.

    In brief, consider this quote:

    ” ‘Worship’ itself, Eucharistic communion, includes the reality both of being loved and of loving others in turn.”

    Same songsheet as the seminary lecturer? Looks like it. As with most quotes taken out of context, we need to see the whole thing before we jumpt to conclusions. Any guesses where the quote comes from?

Comments are closed.