Wonderful Collect for St. Lawrence

St. Lawrence the deacon and martyr is beloved of the Romans. He has many churches in the City, which is a sign of how deeply he was venerated in centuries past.

Today in the traditional form of the Roman Rite we have a wonderful Collect:

Da nobis, quaesumus, omnipotens Deus:
vitiorum nostrorum flammas extinguere;
qui beato Laurentio tribuisti
tormentorum suorum incendia superare.

I’ll let you all have at and comment!

I limit myself to these observations. This prayer is in a vast array of the more ancient manuscripts we possess. Its style has the elements of Roman prayers. It is terse. It is not reticent. It has an elegant verbal and conceptual parallels (the genitive – accusative – infinitive in synchesis).


About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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  1. Archicantor says:

    Fun! The parallels:

    do (give) / tribuo (bestow, grant); here, imperative vs. 2nd pers. perfect.
    nos (us) / beatus Laurentius (blessed Laurence); datives.
    flammae (flames) / incendia (fires); accusative plurals.
    vitia nostra (our vices, sins) / tormenta sua (his tortures); genitives.
    extinguo (quench) / supero (conquer); infinitives.

    Give to us, we beseech you, Almighty God:
    that we may quench the fires of our vices;
    (you) who granted to the blessed Lawrence
    that he might conquer the fires of his tortures.

    I’m interested to see that the flames that tormented Lawrence are compared to our sins: are we to understand our sins, not so much as something that we do, but as something that is, as it were, done to us? Various early theologians saw Satan as the instrument of God’s punishment on humanity for the fall: temptation to sin is itself a punishment for sin (one leads to the other). So the faithful endurance of temptation is here likened to a kind of martyrdom, which is necessary to break out of the cycle of sinfulness.

    And something for you, Father, a Matins responsory from a late tenth-century fragment of an Anglo-Saxon Benedictine chant book in the Bodleian Library (which I give in its original orthography):

    Meruit esse hostia leuita laurentius qui dum assaretur non negauit dominum et ido inuentus est sacrificium laudis. V. In graticula positus te deum non negauit et ad ignem applicatus cristum confessus est . et ideo

    Is Lawrence here united to another, and greater, sacrificium laudis?

  2. Archicantor says:

    Sorry, in the responsory it should have been “ideo”.

  3. Archicantor says:

    And heck, I meant “flames of our vices”. I’m going to give Vox Clara a pass on their inconsistencies :)

  4. Plain and without adornment… I might take a more poetic crack at it later:

    Grant to us, we pray, almighty God,
    to extinguish the flames of our vices,
    as you granted blessed Lawrence
    to overcome the fires of his torture.

    [It’s good to have the plain and literal version first, so that it can serve as a crow bar to pry open the riches of the prayer. Might I suggest “torments” for “tormentorum”? I think the plurals of vices and torments form a good parallel.]

  5. Charlotte Allen says:

    @Archicantor: Great minds think alike, and you beat me to the translation I would have made. Although I would have retained the author’s elegant variation in the Latin and translated “flammas” as “flames,” not “fires.”

  6. tealady24 says:

    ” O Almighty God, strengthen us!”

    All in all, isn’t it beautiful this Catholic faith of ours! So ancient, so needed for today!
    Pray for us, St. Lawrence.

  7. Marius2k4 says:

    Here’s a poetically literal version:

    Give to us, we beseech, almighty God:
    our vices’ flames to extinguish;
    Oh, who to blessed Laurence granted
    his torments’ blazes to overcome.

  8. Consilio et Impetu says:

    Grant us, almighty God,
    who gave blessed Laurence the power to overcome his fiery torments,
    that we may extinguish in ourselves the flames of our vices.

  9. 1962 Angelus Missal version:
    Quench in us, we beseech thee, O Lord,
    the flame of vice,
    even as Thou didst enable blessed Lawrence
    to overcome his fire of sufferings.

    Older St. Andrew Missal version:
    Grant us, we pray Thee, almighty God,
    to quench the flames of our vices:
    even as Thou gavest blessed Lawrence
    grace to overcome his fiery torments.

    Both hand missals use the fine word “quench” (as does Archicantor above).

  10. Margaret says:

    Please forgive me for not contributing to the translation, as it is far beyond my skills.

    My only question is whether it is impious, or entirely in keeping with Lawrence’s sense of humor, to grill out every year on August 10. My house sides with the latter. Still need to figure out what’s going on the bbq tonight…

  11. Fr. Z – Right, of course. I missed the plural on tormentorum. What is your opinion on the translation of two different Latin words (flammas and incendia) by a single English word (fire or flame)? I’d tend toward translating them differently to respect the Latin’s abundance of vocabulary, but I could see why one would translate them both the same, to make the link plain.

  12. Jeffrey: Yes, to make the point plain, use the same word. But just as the Romans worked from their copia verborum shouldn’t we as well?

    Flammae – flames
    Incendia – fires

    We are faced with the same problem in da and tribuisti, both of which could be done with “grant”.

    Da nobis, quaesumus, omnipotens Deus:
    vitiorum nostrorum flammas extinguere;
    qui beato Laurentio tribuisti
    tormentorum suorum incendia superare.

    Also, there are a couple ways to come at that gentle imperative with the infinitive. We could see it as asking God to quench the fires or to allow us to quench them.

    Let’s try this…

    Almighty God:
    who granted to blessed Lawrence
    to overcome the fires of his torments;
    now allow to us to snuff out the flames of our vices.

  13. Novum Eboracense says:

    Grant to us, almighty God that we might put an end to the destructiveness of our misdeeds, just as you permitted blessed Lawrence to overcome the fires of his torments.

  14. For quite a change of pace, the OF collect for today:

    2011 Corrected English translation:
    O God, giver of that ardor of love for you
    by which Saint Lawrence was outstandingly faithful
    in service and glorious in martyrdom,
    grant that we may love what he loved
    and put into practice what he taught.

    Still less hint that St. Lawrence was roasted on the griddle until he said, “You can turn me over now; I’m done on this side.”

  15. Henry: I don’t know about you, but it is a rather … uninteresting prayer, no? It is wordy, generic – in that you could change the name to any other martyr. The only hint at the “fire” dimension is in “ardor”, in the Latin original: ardor, which is “a flame, fire, heat, burning heat, lit. and trop.” I think I would not have stuck with English ardor and would have gone with a more explicit fire word.

    “Outstandingly faithful”?

    Deus, cuius caritatis ardore beatus Laurentius
    servitio claruit fidelis et martyrio gloriosus,
    fac nos amare quod amavit,
    et opere exercere quod docuit.

    How about this, off the top of my head:

    O God, in whose burning charity shone Blessed Lawrence,
    faithful and, in martyrdom, glorious,
    make us to love what he loved,
    and to carry out by work what he taught.

    You decide.

  16. Pachomius says:

    My (Latin) grammar was always a bit dodgy, so I may have horribly misread the second line and not noticed, but I got:

    Grant, we implore you, All-Powerful God,
    the extinguishing of the flames of our sins,
    which you granted to Blessed Laurence,
    to overcome the blazing of his torments.

    I realise “the extinguishing of the flames” is wildly inaccurate grammatical speaking, but my ‘literal’ stab gave me “to extinguish the flames of our sins”; is this (and my version of qui beati… etc.) a correct reading, or is my Latin worse than I thought?

  17. Pachomius says:

    Or playing around with the English a bit more:

    Grant, we implore you, Almighty God,
    the quenching that you granted to Blessed Laurence
    to overcome the blazing of his torments,
    that we may extinguish the flames of our sins

    I know ‘vitiorum’ really means defects, faults or vices, but ‘sins’ just seems to fit better.

  18. Mike says:

    Every year on this day I remember my deceased Uncle Lawrence–wounded in the Battle of the Bulge, winner of a Bronze Star, after encountering some Panzers with his unit. He died aged 80; never spoke about his time in WWII.

    May St. Lawrence boldly intercede for all our loved ones who have fallen or served defending our country and liberating others from tyranny.

  19. This was a good thread. It is nice to see how other people tackle these translation challenges.

  20. Trad Catholic Girl says:

    This is truly a guess Fr. Z:

    Grant us Almighty God the power to extinguish the flames of passion within us and undo the damage bestowed on the blessed Lawrence so that he might overcome the flames of torment.

  21. bookworm says:

    “My only question is whether it is impious, or entirely in keeping with Lawrence’s sense of humor, to grill out every year on August 10. ”

    I say the latter. I recall that some years ago there was a parish named St. Lawrence in central Illinois whose men’s club sponsored a steak fry every year on that date. I presume the irony was intentional. (Didn’t he allegedly say to his torturers, “Turn me over, I think I’m done on this side”?)

  22. irishgirl says:

    I agree with bookworm on what he said–that it’s appropriate to grill out on St. Lawrence’s Day.
    In one of my issues of The Latin Mass magazine, there was an article about Catholic customs in the summer time. I’m pretty sure St. Lawrence was mentioned.
    The holy deacon certainly had a ‘crackling good’ sense of humor, didn’t he? (pun intended, Father Z!)

  23. pattif says:

    The celebation at San Lorenzo fuori le Mura ended with a firework display, the culmination of which was a gridiron that burst into flames, spelling out the words “SAN LORENZO”.

  24. pattif says:

    Sorry – celebration.

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