WDTPRS Friday in the 4th Week of Lent

Novus Ordo Composition ToolsCOLLECT
Deus, qui fragilitati nostrae congrua subsidia praeparasti,
concede, quaesumus, ut suae reparationis effectum
et cum exsultatione suscipiat,
et pia conversatione recenseat.

Glue - another toolThis prayer today was not in the pre-Concilar Missale Romanum.

It also has me scratching my head. Once I looked up all the references, I knew why. In effect, this is clearly a cut and paste job and it just doesn’t hang together well.

A predecessor (Concede, quaesumus, domine, fragilitate nostrae sufficientiam conpetentem, ut suae reparationis effectum et pia conuersatione recenseat et cum exultatione suscipiat: per.) is in the Gelasianum Vetus in two places, Friday of the 3rd Week of Lent and for Septuagesima. The “et fragilitati nostrae congrua praeparasti subsidia” is in the Veronese in April and references to fragilitas and pia conversatio in a prayer in July.

Subsidium is, you guessed it, military language. It means, “the troops stationed in reserve in the third line of battle (behind the principes), the line of reserve, reserve-ranks, triarii“. Thus, it is “support, assistance, aid, help, protection, etc.”. A reparatio is “a restoration, renewal”. Recenseo is “to count, enumerate, number, reckon, survey” and “to go over in thought, in narration, or in critical treatment, to reckon up, recount, review, revise”. Blaise/Dumas says “recolere, rappeler, célèbrer le souvenir de…”. But there is in the entry no reference to our prayer, which I find puzzling.

Scissors - another toolConversatio is a super-charged word in Christian literature, which has to do with “manner of life”, how one comports himself. This is often used in monastic literature. I now have also at my fingertips the helpful big dictionary of the indefatigable Albert Blaise, the Dictionnarie Latin-Francais des Auteurs Chrétiens reworked by Henri Chirat. This lexical tool is out of print, so I can’t suggest you buy it any time soon. I will have to start distinguishing now Blaise/Chirat from Blaise/Dumas, won’t I! Any way, Blaise/Chirat shows that Patristic sources handle conversatio in a moral sense of conversio as well as “genre de vie”. As I mentioned before, it also indicates “monastic life”, though that is outside of this context.

Pius, in the mighty Lewis & Short is “honest, upright, honorable” and “benevolent, kind, gentle, gracious”. With respect to God it points to His mercy. In respect to man, in much Latin literature, it point to his interior and exterior response to duty, the exigencies he faces.

The suae refers back to something feminine, which leaves a single candidate, fragilitas nostra.

The problem with cutting and pasting a prayer together is that you don’t get much of a unified “vision” from it. This is a good prayer, don’t get me wrong, at least I think it is a good prayer, but it is not in the same league as some of the ancient integral works we have seen, even having endured slight changes from The Redactors.

Father, our source of life,
you know our weakness.
May we reach out with joy to grasp your hand
and walk more readily in your ways

O God, who made ready suitable helps for our fragility,
grant, we beg, that it may both catch up
the effect of its own renewal in exultation,
and sum it up in upright conduct of life.


What on earth does this mean? I think we need …

O God, who prepared the helps proportional to our (sin induced) frailty,
grant, we beg You, that our (
sin induced) frailty
may both take up in joy the effect of its own renewal
(that effect being the Passion and Resurrection)

and also critically express (our sin induced frailty) by means of a proper manner of living.

I can’t tell you how much I look forward to reading your own perfect versions of this very odd Collect. Perhaps I am burning out from work on top of illness, but I am still scratching my head. I think I nailed it, however.

The “effect of our renewal” is the impact of the merits of Jesus’ Passion, Resurrection and subsequent Ascension to the right hand of the Father. The “congruent helps” are the mysteries of the Lord’s Death and Resurrection. These are our two hinges.

The sin of our First Parents opened a chasm between us and God which no mere human being (very limited) could bridge or repair. This reparation or renewal required a human being (because of justice) but no mere human was proportioned to the work of our salvation. So, from unfathomable love, God stepped into and over the chasm. In the fullness of time, the Second Person took our humanity into an indestructible bond with His divinity. Only the God/man could repair the rift. The Passion and Resurrection are the “congruent helps”, proportional to such an effect of reparation/renewal.

Realization of this must have a consequence for our lives. It must transform us. The effect, which is interior, must find outward expression. We feel joy interiorly and this must be expressed outwardly. The reordering of the disorder of our soul is an interior and invisible effect, but that effect must be brought to outward expression in proper conduct of life.

That is, I believe, what is going on in this very odd snipped and pasted prayer.

O God, who have prepared
fitting helps for us in our weakness,
grant, we pray, that we may receive
their healing effects with joy
and reflect them in a holy way of life

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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

    Wow! The ICEL folks really deserve a pat on the back for that one. I think they did a pretty good job, all things considered.

    It’s really a shame, though, that, because of the Cutters and Pasters, we have to deal with such poor Latin. It reminds me of a time that I was preparing translations for the Propers for a NO Nuptial Mass in English and Italian. English is, of course, my native language, and English resources are everywhere for me to find. Not so with Italian. I was forced to “cut and paste” Italian phrases together from scriptural citations and other sources to cobble together a complete text (especially hard with the Gradual, Alleluia, Offertory and Communion since they are rarely a word-for-word scripture citation). I thought: “This is no way to prepare liturgical texts, but what choice do I have?” Certainly, The Redactors had better resources and methods than I did!

    I had someone fluent in Italian check them over. They said everything was fine, but I didn’t believe them.

  2. Andrew says:

    If I was to strip this down to it’s essence I would have:

    Deus, concede, ut effectum suscipiat, et recenseat.

    And it begs the question: who is to receive this effect?

    I don’t know grammar, but the “fragilitas” is a weak candidate: it appears first only as an adverbial sub-idea and somehow it tries to make it as a main idea in the end. The prayer is obscure, at best, but it borders on incomprehensible. It’s like a movie where an actors shows up for a moment in the beginning and in the end you find out that the entire story was about him.

  3. Tom in NY says:

    “Recenseat” ? Etiam oratio recesenda est. Qui recenset et recipit?
    Salutationes omnibus.

  4. A. J. D. S. says:

    More literal:
    God, who has prepared a suitable defense against our frailty,
    grant, we beesech you, that it both support
    the effect of its reparation with rejoicing,
    and examine it with devout behavior.

    Less so:
    God, who has prepared a suitable defense against our failings,
    grant, we beseech thee, that that defense
    support its renewing effect with rejoicing,
    and bring it to conclusion in a holy life.

    I thought originally that the suae refered back to congrua subsidia, but of course it doesn’t since subsidia is neuter plural. Still I thought it made more sense that way.
    Recenseat gave me a lot of trouble.

  5. Not especially easy, is it?

  6. Rowley says:

    Try this for a smooth but rather literal rendering:
    “O god, who hast prepared sufficient defences for our frailty, grant, we beseech [thee], that it might both receive the effect of its renewal with rejoicing, and tell of it by holy living.”

    ‘suae’ does refer back to ‘fragilitati’; but it is a red herring to suggest it needs to refer back to anything feminine – it is fem. gen. sing. because it agrees with ‘reparationis’ – ‘suus’ can refer to anything in the third person, singular or plural, of any gender; it must match the noun it modifies in number, gender and case. The general rule is that ‘suus’ refers back to a third-person subject; which here must be ‘fragilitas’. The use of ‘recenseat’ seems odd at first – but its force here is that of ‘recount’, ‘give an account’: by our ‘pia conversatione’ we recount the good news of the ‘effectum’.

    Possibly the interpretation of the collect can also be enriched by considering its close connection to the Mass itself; the ‘congruent helps’ are the not simply the incarnation and passion, but the sacraments, and particularly the Sacrament, which we then ‘receive with thanksgiving’.

  7. Fr Matthew says:

    I was scratching my head over this one too, but I think Fr Z has a good interpretation of it, and I like the corrected ICEL translation too. Sometimes I hit prayers like this while I’m praying my Liturgia Horarum, and I zip on through at first, then do a double-take and ask, “What did I just pray???” Then I have to go back an try to figure out what the prayer really says…

  8. Fr Matthew: what the prayer really says…


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