WDTPRS 3rd Sunday of Lent – Prayer over the people (2002MR)

Historically, this was the Sunday in the ancient Church when, in Rome, catechumens underwent examinations.  They would come in their penitential garments in a procession across the City to be "grilled" as it were near the tomb of this famous martyr.  There were exorcisms at this time as the catechumens began their series of "scrutinies" before baptism at Easter.

Imagine the sense of mystery with which they proceeded through these weeks of trial and preparation.

The Station was and remains the St. Lawrence outside-the-walls.   The older form of Holy Mass retained a very ancient formulary for this Sunday.

A great new feature of the 2002 Missale Romanum in Latin is that for Lent the "Prayer over the people" or Oratio super populum has been revived as an option.

Priests can use this prayer NOW at the end of Mass, but still only in the Latin.

Today we enter into the second stage of Lent.

Let’s have a look at today’s:

Rege, Domine, quaesumus, tuorum corda fidelium,
et servis tuis hanc gratiam largire propitius,
ut in tui et proximi dilectione manentes
plenitudinem mandatorum tuorum adimpleant

I think this is a new composition for the 2002MR.

This prayer is used on a day when the Preface De Samaritana is used… at least once in a while.

Direct, O Lord, we beg, the hearts of your faithful,
and propitiously grant this grace to your servants,
that, remaining in the love of you and neighbor,
they may bring to fulfillment the fullness of your commandments.

Notice the use of adimpleo, “to fullfil”.  “Fulfillment” in various senses – to complete and to be satisfied by being filled – seems a major point for Holy Mother Church this week, given the final positions of those “filling” verbs in the two final prayers of Mass this Sunday (cf. the Post communionem*).

If you recall the description of this “prayers over the people” which I presented a couple weeks back, these prayers are spoken to God by the priest for the sake of the people.  Thus, he is not speaking for the people present at Mass, he is rather speaking for himself and asking God to do something for the people for whom he is alter Christus.  

The two prayers at the end of Mass (this and the Post communion) remind me of the statement of the great N. African bishop and doctor, St. Augustine of Hippo (+430) on the anniversary of his ordination.  He refers in his sermon to the heavy weight of his duties as bishop, which he calls a sarcina – the heavy Roman soldier’s military backpack – and of the how his vocation and that of the people are intertwined.   In his anniversary sermon, Augustine describes the dutiful living out of their respective vocations in connection with what Christ does for us, the aid and strength he gives us together with the heavy task we are to fulfill in His service.  He says,

“This burden (sarcina) of mine, about which I am speaking, what other is it than you yourselves?  Pray for me strength, as I pray that you not be heavy!  For the Lord Jesus would not have spoke of his burden (sarcinam suam) unless He was going to carry the one carrying it. But if you would sustain me, that we may bear our burdens for each other according to the precept of the Apostle, then thus we will together and for each other be fulfilling (impleamus) the law of Christ” (cf. Gal. 6, 2).  If He does not carry it with us, we will sink under its load (succumbimus); if He does not carry us, we die (occumbimus).  In the times when I am frightened that I am for you, I am then consoled that I am with you.  Vobis enim sum episcopus, vobiscum sum Christianus… I am a bishop for you, I am a Christian with you” (s. 340, 1 – date uncertain).

In speaking of the Church, Augustine distinguishes Christ the Head, Christ the Body, and the whole Christ (Christus totus).  In this sermon, we can see how Christ the Head (in the person of the priest) and Christ the Body (in the people gathered around the priest) form one Christ (totus).   They are with each other and for each other, with quite different roles but with one single aim: the salvation of souls – their own and of their neighbors.  Augustine says in another homily, when he is taking his people to task, “I do not want to be saved without you” (s. 17, 2). 

The priest and the people must sustain each other each in their own way, according to their proper roles, and form one Christ in doing so. 

These realities can also be a starting point for consideration of what it means to participate at Holy Mass. 

Perhaps in the years to come, when people far and wide will have also the benefit of the Oratio super populum, accurate translations will support the reality of different roles in the liturgy, of the priest, of the congregation, and help them not to be respected and not confused.   They are complimentary and not interchangeable.

*My rendering of the Post communionem:
Taking the down payment of the sacred heavenly mystery,
and, placed on earth, having been filled already with bread from on high,
we kneeling in entreaty beseech you, O Lord,
that, what is being accomplished in us by the sacramental mystery, may be brought to fulfillment (
impleatur) by work.


About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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


  1. Tom in NY says:

    Two different areas:
    Ad+im+pleo – a double compound. It appears the liturgists have liked to make compounds to add an emphasis. Your L & S will have a “pleo.”
    In re “sarcina” – Miles romanus carried his tools and shelter. His equipment, the best of its time, helped make him successful. But he paid for this part of his strength as he marched.
    Did Augustine mention that his burden could be a weapon for saving souls or shelter against danger? Can we consider our own burdens the tools for our salvation?
    Salutationes omnibus.

  2. Luke says:

    Father Z,

    Thanks for posting this excerpt from Saint Augustine. Its subject matter has deep meaning in my life and its imagery is a beautiful consideration.

  3. Athanasius says:

    If the segue can be allowed, I thought I’d mention that while the Roman soldier carried the full kit in St. Augustine’s time, he looked nothing like that. While hollywood has kept the Roman soldier stagnant, the Roman army continued to develop and had been reformed several times by Diocletian and Constantine.

  4. LuraV says:

    [Aside] Hey, that picture is my friend Sheridan, aka Gaius Hibernicus.

  5. An American Mother says:

    Roman Re-enactors? Gracious! All we get around here is the boys in grey.

Comments are closed.