WDTPRS Tuesday 5th Week of Lent: bittersweet

Da nobis, quaesumus, Domine,
perseverantem in tua voluntate famulatum,
ut in diebus nostris
et merito et numero populus tibi serviens augeatur.

In the Tridentinum and in the 1962 Roman Missal this prayer is listed for Tuesday after Passion Sunday as the Oratio super populum.  It also has roots in the Gelasian.

The verb famulor gives us famulatus, which in the Lewis & Short means “servitude, slavery”.  In Blaise/Chirat there is an additional meaning, which is predictable, “service de Dieu, dévotion” attested to by, for example, St. Augustine of Hippo (cf. conf 10.35.56).

Help us to do you will
that your Church may grow
and become more faithful in your service

7 months… 12 days….

Grant us, we beg, O Lord,
persevering service in Your will,
so that in our days
the people serving You may be increased both in merit and in number.

Grant us, we pray, O Lord,
perseverance in obeying your will,
that in our days the people dedicated to your service
may grow in both merit and number

My instant reaction to this prayer is rather bittersweet.

The Church’s shifting demographics in wealthy countries reveals that, while more people may be identifying themselves as Catholic, the percentage of Catholics going to Mass remains steady or is falling.

This means that we are going backward.

Also, in European countries which were once Catholic countries, such as Italy, the birth rate is far below replacement rate.  Yet “Eur-Arabia” is swiftly multiplying.  Contraception and abortion is killing off one dimension of the life of the Church.

The forces of the “Prince of this world” do prevail, will prevail in some places.

Pope Benedict has called for a “New Evangelization”.

How is that going to happen?

While Our Lord promised that “the gate of Hell” would not ultimately prevail, He did not promise they would not prevail in some places, such as the United States or Europe…. or your home town.

We can take an example from the fate of North Africa, the land of the great St. Augustine.  Where there was a powerful, vital and thriving Church, to which we in the modern world are so indebted, there are now… well… not much.  The word famulatus is rooted in the ancient Oscan word faama.  In its root, this word for service derives from the house or household and the extended relationships within a household.

The prayer’s force turns on the ut with the subjunctive.  Our increase in merit and number depends on our perseverance in dedicated service to God’s will not our will.  Rather, our will also insofar as it is in conformity with God’s will.

Even our ability to persevere is a grace given to us by God.

He begins good things in us and, when we chose to cooperate, He makes us strong enough to bring to completion what He began in us.

A lot of work is to be done to bring people back to regular use of the sacraments.  Perhaps the new, corrected translations around the world will help.

I am convinced they will help only if they are accompanied by a reclamation of our liturgical traditions.  There are many elements which must be refitted so as to bring about a healthy organic whole.

We need a sound and widespread liturgical catechesis as part of a larger effort to present and instill a Catholic identity in many of the last two generations who know nothing of their Church, what she teaches or who she really is.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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

    It’s interesting because I just had an extended conversation with 10 year old son concerning times past, times as they are in the Catholic world. No use denying that churches are closed, schools, closed, lack of Catholic culture, discouragement in the life of the faith, widespread. So, what’s to be done. If we do nothing, then we can always certainly partake of the culture now, such as it is — that’s always offered and totally available. But, if we aim to meet those hopeful signs that still exist, just as steadily offered though may require some seeking out, well, what about that. To be ready to follow whatever it is that God has in store, on the best terms, to be a part of that, to be “ready to serve”. Also happened to watch Apollo 13 over the weekend as well, had a nice discussion of the different styles of leadership…”Gentlemen, what are your intentions…”

  2. Random Friar says:

    Say, how about a “Countdown to New Translation” applet on the site?

    “24” tv-show sound effects optional.

  3. kellamr says:

    Fr. Z,

    What books would you recommend to start a personal liturgical catechesis?

    Bob Kellam

  4. Random Friar: There is one, very discreet.

  5. JayneK says:

    An example of a bishop who is doing something right is Bishop Fabbro of London Ontario. He is promoting the Sacrament of Confession in his diocese with a Confession Campaign. (The campaign originated in the archdiocese of Washington.) This includes opportunities and instruction on the Sacrament.

  6. Random Friar says:

    Ah, yes! I seem to need new glasses.

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