WDTPRS: Wherein Fr. Z rambles about the Collect for the 4th Ordinary Sunday, or, “All you need is love”.

Today’s prayer was not in the post-Tridentine editions of the Missale Romanum but it does have its origin in the Leonine Sacramentary or, as it is better titled by its editor, the scholarly L. Cunibert Mohlberg, the Veronese Sacramentary.

Were you to hear this prayer intoned in Latin, or at least in an accurate translation, you would be thereby transported back 1500 years to our most Roman of Catholic roots.

Concede nobis, Domine Deus noster,
ut te tota mente veneremur,
et omnes homines rationabili diligamus affectu

ICEL (1973 translation of the 1970MR):
Lord our God,
help us to love you with all our hearts
and to love all men as you love them.

Is this what the Latin really says?


Grant us, O Lord our God,
that we may venerate you with our whole mind,
and may love all men with rational good-will

“Affection” just doesn’t cut it for affectus and something more pointed than “love” is needed too.  I came up with “rational good-will”.  We mustn’t reduce all these complicated Latin words to “love”.  Why not?  Note in the prayer the contrast of the themes “reason” and “mood”, the rational with the affective dimension (concerning emotions) of man; in short, the head and the heart.   The fact is, a properly functioning person conducts his life according to both head and heart, feelings under the control of reason and the will.  The terrible wound to our human nature from original sin causes the difficulty we have in governing feelings and appetites by reason and will.

Today’s prayer aims at the totality of a human person: our wholeness is defined by our relationship with God.

We seek to know God so that we may the better love Him and His love drives us all the more to know Him.  Furthermore, possible theological and Scriptural underpinnings of this prayer are Deuteronomy 6 and Jesus’ two-fold command to love God and neighbor: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment.  And a second is like it, You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the law and the prophets” (cf. Matthew 22:36-38; Mark 12:2-31; Luke 10:26-28).  In Deut 6:5-6 we have the great injunction called the Shema from the first Hebrew word, “Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God is one LORD; and you shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might….” Jesus teaches the meaning and expands the concrete application of this command in Deuteronomy 6.

There is no space here for the subtle relationships between the Latin words St. Jerome chose in his translations and the Greek or Hebrew originals of these verses.  Suffice it to say that in the Bible the language about mind, heart, and soul is terrifically complex. However, these words aim at the totality of the person precisely in that dimension which is characteristic of man as “image of God”.  Heart, mind and will distinguish us from brute animals.  We are made to act as God acts: to know, will and love.  Thus, “mind” and “heart” in man are closely related faculties and cannot be separated from each other.  Mind and heart are revealed in and expressed through our bodies and thus they point at the “real us”.

Love is at the heart of who we are and it the key to our prayer today.

We are commanded by God the Father and God Incarnate Jesus Christ to love both God and our fellow man and God the indwelling Holy Spirit makes this possible.  But the word and therefore concept of “love” is understood in many ways and today, especially, it is misunderstood.  “Love” frequently refers to people or stuff we like or enjoy using.  Bob can “love” his new SUV. Besty “loves” her new kitten.  We all certainly “love” baseball and spaghetti.  But “love” can refer to the emotional and affections people have when they are “in love” or, as I sometimes call it, “in luv”.  Luv is usually an ooey-gooey feeling, a romantic “love” sometimes growing out of lust.  This gooey romantic “love” now dominates Western culture, alas.   The result is that when “feelings” change or the object of “luv” is no longer enjoyable or useable, someone gets dumped, often for a newer, richer, or prettier model.

There some other flavors of “love” you can come up with, I’m sure.  But Christians, indeed every image of God in all times everywhere, are called to a higher love, the love in today’s prayer, which is charity: the grace-completed virtue enabling us to love God for His own sake and love all who are made in His image.  This is more than benevolence or tolerance or desire or enjoyment of use.  True love is not merely a response to an appetite, as when we might see a beautiful member of the opposite sex, a well-turned double-play, or a plate of spaghetti all’amatriciana.  True love, charity, isn’t the sloppy gazing of passion drunk sweethearts or the rubbish we see on TV and in movies (luv).  Charity is the grace filled adhesion of our will to an object (really a person) which has been grasped by our intellect to be good.

The love invoked in our prayer is an act of will based on reason. It is a choice – not a feeling.

Charity delights in and longs for the good of the other more than one’s own.  The theological virtue charity involves grace.  It enables sacrifices, any kind of sacrifice for the authentic good of another discerned with reason (not a false good and not “use” of the other).  We can choose even to love an enemy.  This love resembles the sacrificial love of Christ on His Cross who offered Himself up for the good of His spouse, the Church.  Rationabilis affectus reflects what it is to be truly human, made in God’s image and likeness, with faculties of willing and knowing and, therefore, loving.

Knowledge and love are interconnected.

The more you get to know a person, the more reason you have to love him (remember… love seeks the other person’s good in charity even if a person is unlikable).  Reciprocally, the more you love someone or (in the generic sense of love) something, the more you want to know about him and spend time getting to know him.

For example, Billy is fascinated by bugs.  From this “love” for bugs Billy wants to know everything there is to know about them.  He works hard to learn and thus launches a brilliant career in entomology.  Given Our Creator’s priority in all things, how much more ought we seek to know and love God first and foremost of all and then, in proper order, know and love God’s images, our neighbors?  He is far more important that the bugs He created.  Even spouses must love God more than they love each other.  Only then can they love each other properly according to God’s plan.

We also have a relationship with the objects of both love and knowledge.  What sort of relationship?  With bugs or spaghetti it is one thing, but with God and neighbor it is entirely another.

In seeking to understand and love God more and more we come to understand things about God and ourselves as his images that, without love, we could never learn by simple study.  The relationship with God through love and knowledge changes us.  St. Bonaventure (+1274) the “Seraphic” doctor wrote about “ecstatic knowledge”. This kind of knowledge is not merely the product of abstract investigation or analytical study (like Billy with his bugs).  Rather, it comes first from learning and then contemplating. According to Bonaventure, by contemplation the knower becomes engaged with the object. Fascinated by it, he seeks to know it with a longing that draws him into the object.

Consider: we can study about God and our faith, but really the object of study is not just things to learn or formulas to memorize: the object of our study and faith is a divine Person in whose image and likeness we ourselves are made.  To be who we are by our nature we personally need the sort of knowledge of God that draws us into Him.  Knowledge of God (not just things learned about God) reaches into us, seizes us, transforms us.  To experience God’s love is to have certain knowledge of God, more certain than any knowledge which can be arrived at by means of mere rational examination.

Bring this all with you back to the last line of our prayer and the command to love our neighbor, all of them made in God’s image and all individually intriguing – fascinating, in a way that resembles the way we love God and ourselves.  This we are to do with our minds, hearts, and all our strength.

Grant us, Lord our God,
that we may honor you with all our mind,
and love everyone in truth of heart

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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


  1. muckemdanno says:

    Great post Father.

    Will the new translation replace the word “love” with the word “charity” in the various prayers and readings where appropriate? For example, wherever the Latin word is actually “caritas”.

  2. StClair says:

    Not that you need my validation (hopefully), but here it is. A little while ago I said vespers, and prayed this very collect. And sure enough, it left me feeling all mushy about how God loves everyone and how I should too. It never occurred to me that I need engage my mind at all. I guess that wasn’t the what the ICEL had in heart.

    Thanks and have a joyous Sunday.

  3. RichR says:

    I enjoy these translation posts.

    I also wanted to share this academic paper I found online that researches some particular changes and nuances you find between the older Collects and the ones created/altered during the liturgical reforms of the 60’s. It’s very well done, and only 25 pages.



  4. Girgadis says:

    For me, this is a timely post because I was just thinking about the word love tonight when my husband did something that drives me insane but which he continues to do anyway. Love is a choice, or a decision, certainly. I think for some of us who are married, there may be a time when feelings of affection or infatuation that were present during courtship flame out. Some people might be tempted to bail when that happens, but to me, that’s when true love comes into play. That’s when two people realize that they took a solemn vow in the sight of God to endure all that He wills to send them. That’s when they should realize that love means helping the other person overcome their struggles, especially those that might cause separation from God. Many, many times during marriage and child raising, we are asked to set ourselves aside for the good of the other? How many marriages end in divorce because couples don’t understand what love really means?

  5. Supertradmum says:

    Thank you, Father Z, for another great meditation. Love is in the Will. Several years ago, when I was teaching St. Augustine’s Confessions in a Great Catholic Thinkers class, one of the students said, “I get it-it is all about the will!” Your slavishly literal translation is truly beautiful. And, did not the angels sing to the shepherds, “Glory to God in the highest; and on earth peace to men of good will.” To me that means that those who love God with their entire will, mind and heart have God’s peace.

  6. Tom in NY says:

    The Vulgate usually brings αγα&piη as caritas; φιλια comes through as amor. Perhaps you have a citation for affectus in the Vg.
    Rationabilis affectus would mean that among adult mortals, love is returned; otherwise the relationship could mean that one partner is taking advantage of the other. Of course, the Deity always loves you back. Time to read more Bonaventure.
    Ut semper, causa sapientiae RP Moderators gratias agamus. Salutationes omnibus.

  7. Tom in NY says:

    Ad corrigendum: αγαπη Moderatoris.

  8. Gaz says:

    A friend once said to me (well before I was married so this would have to be 15 years ago), “Love is an act of the will”. I didn’t understand what he meant then but I have a fair idea now.

  9. teomatteo says:

    This post Father Z. harkens back to an event that i like to tell my children. It comes up when we hear on T.V. that someone “loves this or that”. Sister Francis, a fiery little Italian dominican, once asked me in class, “Matteo, do you like Spaghet?”, “No Sister”, I said, “I LOVE spaghet!” She then explained to me (and the other 3d graders) that one cannot love a thing because it cannot love you back. This always stuck with me and only know, with your help do i put it into perspective. I try to teach my kids that words have meaning and the word love needs to have more respect than what the world will give it. God is Love…..

    Also, you said, “There is no space here for the subtle relationships between the Latin words St. Jerome chose in his translations and the Greek or Hebrew originals of these verses” . I have always wondered what Hebrew word our Lord used when speaking to the learned rabbi. It always seemed to me that when the rabbi said that Jesus spoke rightly then the word he used for love must be very important for the whole thing to make any sense for us today. Your explanation goes a long way in helping me.
    Thanks again Father for all you do.

  10. abiologistforlife says:

    @muckemdanno: I don’t know if ‘charity’ is really much better — though the problem is opposite. ‘Love’ means too many things; but in modern English ‘charity’ usually means simply ‘giving to the poor’.

    Caritas simply does not really have a good English translation anymore, since ‘charity’ is so watered-down.

  11. Henry Edwards says:

    It seems to me that “in truth of heart”—instead of Father Z’s “in rational good-will”—is the furthest from a strict literal translation that I’ve seen in any of these final corrected translations.

    I’d be interested in anyone’s thoughts on how well “truth of heart” works here, in distinguishing our love for everyone from lame-duck ICEL style luv.

  12. Supertradmum says:

    Henry Edwards,

    The truth of the heart thing has to do with a theological/Scriptural decision on the part of the translators. For a Hebrew, love and will were in the heart, not the mind. We are classically trained to see the will in the brain, or mind, or spirit, rather than in the heart, which is very different from the Jewish theological and Scriptural traditions. In modern times, when more translators compared the Hebrew usage to the Latin (as in Roman) usage of the term, the idea has changed in exegesis and, therefore, in translation and in teaching.

    There is not a “right or wrong” about this. It is a matter of philosophy and theology. Both our most recent Popes have used these differences to suit the encyclicals or statements they have made. If you follow these writings, you will see how both John Paul II and Benedict XVI have employed the two traditions of heart and mind-truth in the heart or truth in the will. These differences allow for rich discussions and some saints fall into one or the other emphases. I imagine that for the great Mystics, such as Bernard of Clairvaux, John of the Cross, Teresa of Avila, the two ideas of truth in the will and truth in the heart become unified at the stage of the Mystic Experience of Unity. I highly suggest Garrigou-Lagrange for help on this, if you have not read him already.

  13. Gail F says:

    “love all men with rational good-will” — I love that. And when I say “love” I mean “really really like.”

  14. Andrew says:

    “Rationabilis affectus” is latinspeak for something like “appropriate emotion”. “Diligere” is kind of “love” but more formal, closer to “venerate” or “respect”.

Comments are closed.