WDTPRS: “Nobis quoque peccatoribus” and +Joe Bagofdoughnuts, Bp. of Black Duck

Nobis quoque peccatoribusI was working on my weekly article for the paper, for the column that gave this blog its original name and purpose, and turned up something that might interest you.

The column this week is about the section in the Roman Canon called the “Nobis quoque peccatoribus”.  Here are some bits and pieces.

In celebrations of Holy Mass using the 1962MR the priest would elevate his voice with the first three words, which started in about the 9th c., and also strike his breast, which began in about the 12th c.   Raising the voice was probably an indication to the subdeacons and various ministers present to get into the proper position for the fractio panis (“breaking of the bread”).

Deign to give also to us Your sinner servants, hoping from the great number of Your mercies, some part and fellowship with John, Stephan, Matthias, Barnabas, Ignatius, Alexander, Marcellinus, Peter, Felicity, Perpetua, Agatha, Lucy, Agnes, Cecilia, Anastasia and all Your saints: amongst whose lot admit us we beg You, not as the appraiser of our intrinsic merit, but the gracious bestower of forgiveness.  Through Christ our Lord.

In celebrations of Holy Mass with the Ordinary Form there is an option to leave out most of the names of the saints.  Does your priest suppress the names of all those women?

The scholar Pierre Henri Batiffol (+1929) thought this section was composed around the time of Pope Symmachus (+514).  In the opinion of J. Jungmann the final version of this list, as in the Communicantes earlier in the Canon, was by Pope St. Gregory the Great (+604).  There are parallels in the lists: there are two groups of seven, one of men and one of women.  Among the men there is a hierarchical order.  The women come from different parts of the Christian world and suggest an awareness of the Church’s universality.

There is a clear reference in our prayer to Psalm 50(51):3, the Miserere: “Have mercy on me, O God, according to thy steadfast love; according to thy abundant mercy (iuxta multitudinem miserationum tuarum) blot out my transgressions” (RSV) and a less clear reference to Col 1:12: “giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified us to share in the inheritance of the saints (in partem sortis sanctorum) in light” (RSV).  The ancient bishop martyr St. Polycarp (69-155) wrote to the Philippians: “and may He bestow on you a lot and portion among His saints… det vobis sortem et partem inter sanctos suos” (12, 2).  We are dealing here with a very ancient desire and goal of Christians.

(with emphases to show changes from the LAME DUCK ICEL version):
To us, also, your servants, who, though sinners, hope in your abundant mercies, graciously grant some share and fellowship with your holy Apostles and Martyrs: with John the Baptist, Stephen, Matthias, Barnabas, (Ignatius, Alexander, Marcellinus, Peter, Felicity, Perpetua, Agatha, Lucy, Agnes, Cecilia, Anastasia) and all your Saints: admit us, we beseech you, into their company, not weighing our merits, but granting us your pardon, through Christ our Lord.

Whenever we look at a prayer we must consider the one to whom it is being said and who is saying it.

So, who is the nos, the “us” of this prayer?

In the Supplices te rogamus the priest was praying in the name of everyone present.  I do not think that that is the case here.

We may be able to draw a clue from ancient letters, an ancient epistolary usage.

While the nos peccatores famuli can by extension mean everyone present, I think the praying celebrant may be referring to the bishop/priest(s) of the Church.

Peccator or “sinner” was a common term of self-identification for clerics in the early Church.   Priests and bishops would sign their letters with their name and the epithet “sinner”, in Latin peccator, Greek tapeinós (“humbled, abased in power, pride”) which is very much the same thing in this context.

This may be why today bishops sign their names a little “+”, such as “+ Joe Bagofdoughnuts, Bishop of Black Duck”.  In Greek, the epithet tapeinós was abbreviated with the first letter, tau, which is like a little cross. This is the same as the use of peccator, “sinner”, for clerics in the Latin West.

So… when people refer to some bishop or other as “plus Joe”, they are losing sight of what the little mark may really mean.

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  1. Dr. Eric says:

    Our local parish priest ONLY says the Roman Canon on Christmas and Easter. And, on those occasions he drops the “extra” Saints and the multiple “through Christ Our Lord” endings.

    He usually uses EP II and EP IV (ugh) because he says that the Roman Canon is too long. He must have never compared EP IV to the Roman Canon. EP IV bugs me, it seems to ramble on.

  2. Cazienza Puellae says:

    The local bishop here used EP2 at the Easter Vigil once. I don’t even think there are any saints’ names to suppress in that one, are there?

    But…Fr., thanks much for this! Whenever I’d seen the ‘+’ before a bishop’s name, say, on a pastoral letter, I thought it was a reference to the Cross. Which of course it is, but coming to us along an enormously rich route. Thank you!

  3. rtmp723 says:

    At least IV is a real EP. II is so botched from the original and III was made up.
    I would much rather have a priest use I and IV exclusively.

  4. jbas says:

    If the names of these women are being suppressed, then it is surely a misogynistic lack of appreciation for the contributions of women to the Church (!). Surely, we can at least be as sensitive to the role of saintly women in the life of the Church as they were in the Middle Ages.

  5. robtbrown says:

    In celebrations of Holy Mass with the Ordinary Form there is an option to leave out most of the names of the saints. Does your priest suppress the names of all those women?

    The GIRM lists 4 Eucharistic prayers, and, unless I’m mistaken, those names are only found in the 1st (the Roman Canon). According to that, only 1 in 4 masses can we expect to hear those names, but it won’t even be that because the GIRM 322.b says:

    Eucharistic Prayer II has features that make it particularly suitable for weekdays and special circumstances.

    So at best I can expect only 1 mass a week with the Roman Canon.

  6. teaguytom says:

    I would like to reference what other posters have mentioned. Is the option to drop most of the Saints names in both listings of Saints going to remain, or will they be required to remember all of the Holy people. I have only heard Benedict XVI and our Bishop use the Roman Canon with ALL the Saints listed. Plus, wouldn’t the feminists get annoyed that the optional Saints always include the entire group of women?

  7. Fr. Basil says:

    \\The scholar Pierre Henri Batiffol (+1929) thought this section was composed around the time of Pope Symmachus (+514). \\

    In other words, the Pope made a change in the Canon–and actually inserted names into it. >wink!<

    So why do rad trads find it so wrong for Bl. John XXIII to insert the name of St. Joseph a few centuries later?

    **At least IV is a real EP. II is so botched from the original and III was made up.**

    ALL prayers in the Liturgy were made up by SOMEBODY. None of them was dictated from Heaven.

  8. Supertradmum says:

    In the past several years, going to NO as there were no EFs in the region before I moved, I never heard the Roman Canon, but once. In the parish nearby, the priest did not use it either. Nor, was Canon One used at the local monastery. In two years, I heard it once and I noted it, as it was such an unusual occurrence.

  9. Christ-Bearer says:

    What is the episcopal lineage of S.E.R. Mons. Bagofdoughnuts?

    [I believe he was consecrated by Crispin Card. Cream, who in turn had been consecrated by a distant cousin Duncan Doughnuts, Archbp. of Tiger Claw.]

  10. Tim Ferguson says:

    It’s interesting to note the custom – and I believe it to be confined to the Anglican world, but I may be wrong – for archbishops and primates to sign their names with two crosses.

  11. Henry Edwards says:

    Some of these reports mentioning non-use of the Roman Canon and non-invocation of saints are sad if not shocking.

    Assuming no legs broken falling on ice in the meantime, as of this coming Sunday, I will have heard the Roman Canon with ALL saints named on nine consecutive days–at six weekday OF Masses at my residential parish, and at three EF Sunday and Christmas Masses in a nearby parish. (Of course, at the EF Masses I don’t actually hear those saints names, but I know they’re there.) [Still… there ought to be an indulgence for that.]

    Although I live in remote flyover territory and don’t often enjoy really high liturgy and eye candy and splendid polyphony except on TV, I obviously should be thankful that precise and proper liturgy can be found daily within minutes of my home.

  12. Andrew Mason says:

    My parish doesn’t use EP I very often, both of our priests usually use either II or III, but when my pastor uses it (typically on holy days) he always includes all of the names. Considering that my uncle once asked my mom to ask me (some people seem to think I know everything about Church history) where to find the “long Eucharistic prayer with all the names” I think that the priests at his parish probably include them too. I’ve actually never heard it said without the names, and didn’t realize that excluding them was an option. I don’t see why anybody would want to exclude them anyway, personally I think that they make the prayer flow better and (for the liberally inclined) probably include the greatest reference to female saints in the entire Mass.

  13. cothrige says:

    In the parish in which I live the only EP used is III. There is never a change to this. It is used at all Sundays and holy days, including Easter and Christmas, as well as weekday Masses. We have been here for four or five years and to this day I have never heard it done differently.

  14. Girgadis says:

    I’m fortunate in that I get to hear the Roman Canon at Masses in the OF on a regular basis. In fact, I was pleased to hear the priest use it today for the feast of the Holy Innocents. I have never heard the names of any of the saints suppressed, including the women. Sadly, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard a collective groan come from the congregation when a priest has used the Roman Canon at any time other than Christmas or Easter. One of the priests I know uses it every Friday for the votive Mass of the Sacred Heart This, sadly, annoys some people.

  15. Jacob says:

    Is it true that the + in front of bishops’ names was their privilege and was a sacramental for those receiving the message from the bishop? [I seriously doubt it.]

    Growing up and attending several different parishes on a near-weekly basis, I never heard EP I in twenty-five years of Mass-going.

  16. bookworm says:

    How far back does +Bp. Bagofdoughnuts’ episcopal lineage extend? Which Apostle does it go back to? [This is a trick question, isn’t it. Ummmm…. Judas? No. That doesn’t seem right.]

  17. Cath says:

    At my former parish, the priest said the Roman Canon, with all the names, so often that my CCD kids could rattle off the names like clockwork. When he moved to another parish, the new priest only said it once or twice a year and left the names out. At my new parish, the priest says it often, sometimes with names, sometimes without.

  18. edm says:

    Tim Ferguson,
    Anglicans sometimes use ++ to denote Archbishops and +for Bishops. This is only done as a convenience, a form of shorthand in informal writing. Archbishops would use only one cross, like other bishops, often substituting the name of the diocese, in Latin, for their last names. For example, the Archbishop of Canterbury would sign +___ Cantuar.

  19. Maxiemom says:

    Our pastor uses EP I as often as possible and doesn’t miss a name, including our current bishop, recently retired bishop and long time retired bishop and the patron saint of the parish. He also tries to use ethnic pronunciations with out much luck.

  20. AlexE says:

    I am fortunate, I have heard the Roman Canon used so often I almost know it all. I know some priests who use it regularly for daily Mass

  21. Frank H says:

    Our associate pastor says the Roman Canon on some solemnities and I have never heard him truncate the lists of saints.

  22. Fr. Basil says:

    \\Is it true that the + in front of bishops’ names was their privilege \\

    Orthodox Priests likewise put a cross before their names, except when writing to a bishop or other priests.

  23. q7swallows says:

    Our pastor in the libby LA diocese scores again! He does not truncate the list of saints in either the EF or the OF. (Latin, English, or Spanish).

  24. Joan M says:

    Unfortunately, in my parish I only ever hear EP II and sometimes EP III. In about 8 years attenting Mass in this parish I have never heard EP I or EP IV. The same thing prevailed in my previous parish (there for 17 years).

    The only times I have heard EP I or EP IV were at Mass in an Opus Dei Study Center. No saints names were ever omitted. I really wish the priests at my parish would use EP I, but I suspect that it is too long for them. They submit to our itchy footed parishioners in ensuring that no Mass (other than Holy Thursday or the Easter Vigil) goes over 60 minutes on Sunday or 30 minutes on a weekday.

  25. Banjo pickin girl says:

    At my very orthodox NO parish (communion kneeling at the rail, served by priests, male altar servers and lectors, etc.) we usually hear the Roman Canon. However, the bracketed sections have usually been omitted, unlike another parish in town where the bracketed parts are always used but we have to suffer numerous liturgical abuses. Go figure.

    Recently, our priests have been sometimes reading the bracketed parts and when they do I tell them I love hearing the names of the martyrs and saints. And how many people know that Linus, Cletus, Clement, and Sixtus were popes? (I’m just a convert and am learning as I go).

  26. pberginjr says:

    EP I is rarely used at our parish (rarely enough that the invocations of the saints are usually included). EP II (by the antipope Hippolytus, right?) is what is usually said, because it is the shortest.

    Two interesting notes about Eucharistic Prayers:
    At my childhood parish (in the 90s), my pastor informed me when I began serving (~1994) that he rotated prayers through the month (EP I first Sunday of month x, II second Sunday, etc.). Is this a common distribution at other parishes? It seemed very practical and added variety while removing any “preference” toward one or another EP’s

    A priest (who celebrates EF masses several times a week in an OF/EF parish) once told me he was told by one of his priest-mentors thathe (the mentor) never omitted the bracketed names, because he didn’t want to get to heaven and face the apostles, deacons and early saints, having not invoked their names. Interesting, I thought.

  27. mibethda says:

    Our pastor utilizes the Roman Canon on major feasts and on all feast days of those commemorated in the Communicantes and the Nobis quoque peccatoribus – and on some other occasions for reasons that are not easily discerned. He recites the Canon from memory and includes all the named saints in both prayers. On occasions when the Mass is concelebrated, however, the concelebrants (either the parochial vicar or a visitor) almost always use the truncated form of the Nobis quoque.

  28. Robertus Pittsburghensis says:


    The story that St Hippolytus wrote the EP2 is an urban legend. This is easy to see by reading the anaphora that he (probably, maybe) really did write and noting its lack of resemblance to EP2. EP2 is a modern invention.

    Someone above mentioned that EP4 was a “real” eucharistic prayer. What is its provenance?

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