22nd Sunday of Ordinary Time: POST COMMUNION (1)

What Does the Prayer Really Say?  22nd Sunday of Ordinary Time

ORIGINALLY PRINTED IN The Wanderer in 2003

JR of KY writes: “I really enjoy your weekly WDTPRS column in The Wanderer, especially the first few paragraphs.  I am 56, a former altar boy, and an amateur Latin enthusiast and devoted to the Latin Mass.  One thing I rarely hear but know to be true, certainly in my case, is that I actually, genuinely look forward to attending the Latin Mass and for the first time in my life I don’t look at it as just a way to meet my Sunday obligation.  Thank you for your wonderful ministry!”   JR, thanks for the great note.  It is a goal of these articles to spur people to greater love of what Almighty God, through the Church, wants to give to us in Holy Mass.

LATIN (2002 Missale Romanum):

Pane mensae caelestis refecti, te, Domine, deprecamur,
ut hoc nutrimentum caritatis corda nostra confirmet,
quatenus ad tibi ministrandum in fratribus excitemur.

This prayer is an entirely new composition for the Novus Ordo Missae of 1970.   Whoever wrote it had a sense of style, for he provided us both with a spiffy alliteration on the “k” sounds of  “caritatis corda nostra confirmet, quatenus" and (when you pay attention to the lengths of the syllables) with a snappy cadence at the end: in frátribus éxcitémur.  That quatenus lends to this prayer a bit of an exotic sound, for it is not a high frequency word in liturgical prayer so far as I can tell.  As a matter of fact, when I saw it I suspected that this week’s prayer might be of new composition, as least in part.  We will cope with quatenus later.

True to form we reach for that delightfully comprehensive volume, the big blue Lewis & Short Dictionary for help with our vocabulary.   We have some old friends today, which we may greet briefly before looking at some newer words.   Reficio is the verb which gives us refecti (and also “refectory”, a room where meals are taken in monasteries).  Reficio means “to make again, make anew, put in condition again; to remake, restore, renew, rebuild, repair, refit, recruit” and thence refectus, a, um, is “refreshed, recruited, invigorated”.   The deponent verb (having a passive form but an active meaning) deprecor signifies “to avert, ward off (from one’s self or others) by earnest prayer; to deprecate; also to pray, to intercede for the averting of any evil, or to obtain pardon for any transgression” and also “to pray for, intercede in behalf of (that which is in danger)”.
L&S says that nutrimentum means “nourishment” and, by extension, “support”.   In the plural, it can signify “a bringing up, rearing”.   Ministro in its basic meaning is “to attend, wait upon, serve, esp. at table, to serve up, pour out, hand food or drink” and thus also “to take care of, manage, govern, direct; and, in gen., to provide, furnish, supply, give, afford.”   This verb takes a an accusative or a dative object (it is dative in our prayer today – tibi).   Quatenus can have a range of meanings.  This adverb is fundamentally (when used in indirect questions), “until where, how far”.  In a transferred sense it is “how far, to what extent” and also “where”.  Excito means “to call out or forth, to bring or send out, to wake or rouse up”.

Notice in the last line what I call a verbal nd, the major clue for recognizing gerunds and gerundives.   The Latin gerund is a form of a verb functioning as a noun and it is declinable.  So, the gerund of amare (“to love”) has the typical nd element and then an ending indicating case and number.  The singular gerunds from amare are the genitive amandi (“of loving”), dative amando (“by, for (etc.) loving” and accusative amandum (something like “the act of loving”).  So, ars scribendi  is the “art of writing”.  A gerundive is a verbal form used as an adjective.  Thus, a man who amandus is “a man to be loved”.  A woman might be name Amanda.   Gerundives are also used as passive verbal adjectives.  They can form purpose constructions since they imply a sense of necessity or obligation.  Thus during the autumn of 30 B.C. when the defeat of Anthony and Cleopatra was announced in Rome, the poet Q. Horatius Flaccus (“Horace” – 65 to 8 B.C.) wrote in the first line of Ode I.37: “Nunc est bibendum…Now it is time to drink!” or, in a far more colloquial way, “It’s Miller time!”  Literally this is something like “drinking is now to be done (nobis…by us)” and therefore we say more smoothly “Now we must drink!”   By the way, did you know that the perhaps the most recognizable product images/character in the world, the bulging white pile of tires referred to as “The Michelin Man”, is named Bibendum?

Having been refreshed by the bread of the heavenly table,
we beseech You, O Lord,
that this nourishment of charity strengthen our hearts
to the point that we are roused up to serve you in our brethren.

ICEL (1973 translation of the 1970MR):
you renew us at your table with the bread of life.
May this food strengthen us in love
and help us to serve you in each other.

Allow me to say that I often hear some traditionalists attack the Novus Ordo on the grounds that there are new (and thus automatically bad) prayers in the 1970 Missale Romanum.  Though our prayer today is of new composition there is nothing second rate about it.   We have at the heart of this prayer an urgent petition by the priest that the people who have just received Holy Communion will be so transformed by its graces that they will become active in the performance of concrete works of charity for the sake of others.  Caritas, charity, is at the very center of this Post Communion.   The Eucharist itself is called the nourishment of sacrificial love, the sort of love which always concerns itself with the good of the other and which calls forth even heroic acts of self-denial or self-oblation.  The perfect model of effective charity is Our Lord upon His Cross, which sacrifice we will have just renewed moments before this prayer is uttered.   This petition by the priest today is framed in terms of meal and eating vocabulary: panis (bread), mensa (table), reficio (to refresh), nutrimentum (nourishment) and finally ministro (to serve food and drink at table).    Even though the practice of the “family meal” has broken down in recent times, this is still a good image for the sort of cooperation, interaction, division of roles, and good manners that we need to employ as Christians in this modern world.   I am reminded of the beautiful ancient Chinese custom of lifting with chopsticks the choicest morsels of food from the serving bowls and platters on the table and placing them in the eating bowls of the people nearby.  Such gestures demonstrate a respect for the dignity of those with whom you are eating.  You are seeing to their needs before your own.

Just as what we are given at Holy Communion has given us what we need, we in turn must be conscious and active in going out and making sure that others have what they need.   So, knowing how hard this can be, the Church in the priest asks God to strengthen and toughen people all the way to the point that they are roused up, perhaps even shaken up out of their laziness and lethargy, to actually act according to sacrificial love for loved one and stranger alike and truly minister.   The word “minister” is probably over used in the Church today.  It seems today as if there are “ministers” of just about everything.  This is creating, to a certain extent, a bit of confusion in the Church at large about who has what role in the Church.  Turning everyone into a “minister” of something or other effectively waters ministry down to nothing. 

Application of the term “minister” to many different people functioning in service roles, in the context of liturgy or not, is contributing to a blurring of the way in which the ordained priest is a minister by virtue of his ordination and the way all Christians are ministers by reason of their baptism.  Use of the term and confusion of roles have not gone unnoticed in Rome.  We must always remember that all authentic ministries in the Church are gifts of the Holy Spirit.  They are directed to and they complete each other.   They all have dignity, but they are not all the same.  In his 1988 encyclical Christifideles laici the Pope taught about how the Holy Spirit “lavishes diverse hierarchical and charismatic gifts on all the baptized, calling them to be, each in an individual way, active and coresponsible” (CL 21) and that “in a primary position in the Church are the ordained ministries” given “to form and to rule the priestly people” (CL 22).   The ministry of the ordained is one of service.  

Lay people have ministries of their own.  As the Holy Father teaches, “because of their Baptismal state and their specific vocation, in the measure proper to each person, the lay faithful participate in the priestly, prophetic and kingly mission of Christ.”   This means that pastors of souls ought “to acknowledge and foster their ministries, the offices and roles of the lay faithful that find their foundation in the Sacraments of Baptism and Confirmation, indeed, for a good many of them, in the Sacrament of Matrimony.”  (CL 22).   When necessity truly requires, “pastors, according to established norms from universal law, can entrust to the lay faithful certain offices and roles that are connected to their pastoral ministry but do not require the character of Orders. (CL 23)  However, the exercise of such tasks does not make the lay faithful into pastors: in fact, a person is not technically a minister simply by performing a task, but through sacramental ordination.  However, in supporting and fostering their legitimate ministries any “clericalization” of the lay faithful is to be avoided.
This has not always been attended to, however.  The Holy See has tried to apply correctives.  In 1997 nine dicasteries (offices) of the Holy See issued a document entitled Instruction on Certain Questions Regarding the Collaboration of the Non-Ordained Faithful in the Sacred Ministry of Priests.  This document seeks to uphold the dignity of lay people by making the proper distinctions about ministries and especially liturgical roles of the ordained and those of the baptized in general.   I suspect that the next document coming in October will do the same.

I think it is important to emphasize that when the Vatican or most decent priests make distinctions about what lay people can or cannot do, say in the context of Mass or in the realm of moral theology, they are not simply being mean or oppressive.  The principle at work is this.  Lay people have a great dignity of their own.   To uphold that dignity, sometimes it is necessary to say “no”, and it is not “clericalism” to say it.  When the inherent dignity of lay people is underappreciated the mistake is often made of imposing on them a false dignity by “clericalizing” them.   Much of the clericalization of lay people has come from a truly “clericalistic” attitude.  It is a common error to think that priests (and religious) are the “real” members of the Church and therefore, in order to bring lay people up the ladder of dignity, they need to be made be act like ordained priests and do the things priests do.  Some priests have shuffled off their own proper roles onto the shoulders good-hearted willing volunteers whom Father is seeking to actualize.  This does untold damage to both lay people and priests alike, since by this process neither of them are able properly to attend to their true vocations.  At the same time it must be recognized that many of the things that priests are being required to do today are often best handled by lay people.  The extremes of Father doing everything and Father abandoning even his own roles must both be avoided.   And if people make the mistake sometimes of thinking that priests, etc., are the real Church, similarly we must avoid the error of thinking that priests don’t belong to the Church.  The Church is both lay and ordained, each complementing and building the other.

Our prayer today reminds us that being a real minister of sacrificial love, according to our proper vocations, is tough business requiring the most potent of help.   For us to do what we must do, we need all the refreshing and strengthening that the Eucharist can provide, and we must be willing to suffer.  We must be willing even at times to say “No!” and hear “No!” said to us.   As the English Baptist preacher Charles Haddon Spurgeon (1834-1892) once said, "Learn to say no. It will be of more use to you than to be able to read Latin."

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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

    Hmmmm . . . anyone ever heard of Latinolatry? It’s my own neologism.

  2. Cornelius: Nope. Never heard of it.

  3. Pes says:

    I’ve never heard of it either. A Pelagian coinage, perhaps?

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