WDTPRS: 21st Sunday of Ordinary Time – When “virtues” are replaced by “values”.

Let’s look at the Collect for the 21st Sunday of Ordinary Time:

Deus, qui fidelium mentes unius efficis voluntatis, da populis tuis id amare quod praecipis, id desiderare quod promittis, ut, inter mundanas varietates, ibi nostra fixa sint corda, ubi vera sunt gaudia.

A master crafted this prayer.  In the 1962 Missale Romanum we use it on the 4th Sunday after Easter. It is also in the ancient Gelasian Sacramentary.  Listen to those “eee”s produced by the Latin “i”. Savor those parallels.

Varietas means “difference, diversity, variety.”  It is commonly used to indicate “changeableness, fickleness, inconstancy.”  I like “vicissitude”.  The adjective mundanus is “of or belonging to the world”.


O God, who make the minds of the faithful to be of one will, grant unto Your people to love that thing which You command, to desire that which You promise, so that, amidst the vicissitudes of this world, our hearts may there be fixed where true joys are.


O God, who cause the minds of the faithful to unite in a single purpose, grant your people to love what you command and to desire what you promise, that, amid the uncertainties of this world, our hearts may be fixed on that place where true gladness is found.

Let us revisit that id…quod. We can accurately say “love that which you command,” or “love what you command”, but that strikes me as vague.  Can we be more concrete and say “love the thing you command… desire the thing you promise”?

We are called to love and desire God’s will in concrete situations, in the details of life, especially when those details are little to our liking.  We must love God in this beggar, this annoying creep, not in beggars and creeps in general.  We must love Him in this act of fasting, this basket of laundry, this ICEL translation. I said it was a challenge!  We must not reduce God’s will to an abstraction or an ideal. “Thy will (voluntas) be done on earth as it is in heaven”… or so it has been said.

Lest we forget why we needed new translation….


Father, help us to seek the values that will bring us lasting joy in this changing world. In our desire for what you promise make us one in mind and heart.

Good riddance!  “Values”.  Very slippery.  Typical of the obsolete translation.

To my ear, “values” has a shifting, subjective starting point. In 1995 Gertude Himmelfarb wrote in The De-Moralization of Society: From Victorian Virtues to Modern Values that “it was not until the present century that morality became so thoroughly relativized that virtues ceased to be ‘virtues’ and became ‘values.’”

In this post-Christian, post-modern world, “values” seems to indicate little more than our own self-projection.

John Paul II taught about “values”, but in contradiction to the way “values” are commonly understood today.  For example, we read in Evangelium vitae 71 (emphasis added):

“It is urgently necessary, for the future of society and the development of a sound democracy, to rediscover those essential human and moral values which flow from the very truth of the human being and express and safeguard the dignity of the person: values which no individual, no majority, and no state can ever create, modify, or destroy, but must only acknowledge, respect, and promote.”

In his 1985 letter to young people Dilecti amici 4, John Paul II taught:

“Only God is the ultimate basis of all values…. in Him and Him alone all values have their first source and final completion… Without Him – without the reference to God – the whole world of created values remains as it were suspended in an absolute vacuum.”

Benedict XVI taught about the threats we face from the “dictatorship of relativism”, from the reduction of the supernatural to the natural, from caving in to “the world”.

Christ warned His Apostles about “the world”, saying said: “The world cannot hate you, but it hates me because I testify of it that its works are evil” (John 7:7).  He spoke about this world’s “prince” (John 12:31; 14:30 16:11).  St Paul wrote: “Do not be conformed to this world but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that you may prove what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect” (Romans 12:2).

If what “the world” offers gets priority over what God offers the world through His Holy Church, we produce the situation Paul VI described on 29 June 1972, the 9th anniversary of his coronation:

“Through some crack the smoke of Satan has entered into the temple of God.”

Our Collect today asks God to grant that His will be the basis of our “values” in concrete terms, not in mere good intentions or this world’s snares.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
This entry was posted in Liturgy Science Theatre 3000, WDTPRS and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.


  1. Supertradmum says:

    Excellent post. Years ago, a priest made this distinction at a retreat, as you do today, between “values” and “virtues”. He was stressing the narcissism and relativism of the word “values” as opposed to the classical and theological definitions of virtue.

    The problem for many Catholics, again, is that they have had no catechesis on virtue, despite the great many books and commentaries on this subject.

    I have many posts on virtues and virtue training for children on my blog. Some people have told me that they have never heard a sermon on this subject.

    Thanks for the post–write a book, please, on the collects.

  2. Elizabeth D says:

    Values could mean anything. I had an interesting experience today at the farmer’s market that even “pro-choice” activists seem to know what virtue means. To women claiming to be “Pro-Choice Wisconsin” had a table set up. I stopped and smiled and said “I’m Pro-Life Wisconsin.” After some confusion, a conversation ensued. One of the women is a “reproductive rights attorney.” I said, that explains why you are doing this. I said I am in favor of virtue. One of the women said women should be able to get an abortion if they get pregnant but can’t afford the child. I said that I think someone who does not want to have a baby should not have sex. Then, they both decalared they do have sex and bounced around celebrating fornication enthusiastically in a way that was both sad and funny. I said that I am celibate and said something like “It’s a matter of living up to your dignity as a person to practice virtue,” and one of them, I think the attorney, said “but what I do with my vagina is my own choice.” I said, “are you saying that is a virtue-free zone?” Startled, she said, more or less: “Well, my soul is one thing, what I do with my body is another!” “But you are a unity of soul and body, that is what a human being is. It is a matter of our dignity as women, a matter of the dignity of motherhood, that we care for the lives of babies.” The attorney began to not want to talk to me and contrived something else to busy herself with; I kept talking to her friend. Clearly we were not in agreement about the wrongness of abortion, and although the conversation went on for a while eventually she wished me a good day and health and happiness or something like that, and I wished her all that and also virtue–“all of you!” I said, indicating with both hands her whole body. She looked down kind of sadly. I asked her name so I could pray for her, and told her mine. I said God bless you. She really did not know what to say and the conversation ended.

    I have been doing a book group study on Peter Kreeft’s “Back to Virtue.” Asking people to aspire to virtue is sometimes a more helpful “frame”.

  3. benedetta says:

    I know very well what Satan and his agents teach. But, I do not agree. I can understand why people cow to his teachings, I can see why they feel compelled to conform to his agendas, and I can see why they feel they ‘have’ to have things that way, and the impulse to cover up or heap pride or rationalization with the cherry on top.

    The modernist way is to justify that people can and should wallow in the mire of all the worst that Satan has to offer, and that somehow their ultimate coming to terms with faith and God will be that much more glorious. The big assumption is that eventuality at all.

    Whereas, others, a creative minority perhaps, a persecuted one, for certain, come to discover the joy of the Gospel and the freedom of the truth at an earlier age, almost by a twisted turn of events, even to some onlookers what seems like accident. And they would not for a moment trade that joy for the comfort of the cesspool of conformity, not for anything in the world. It’s the pearl of great price, it’s the discovery and the bought the whole field and played in it, with persecutions, for a little while, even while the adversary prowls about…What it is very like is the way in which the perplexing and confounding Innocent Smith swoops down upon the bourgeoisie and comfortable and freaks them out, nonplussed, sputtering their elitist scorn and craving, coveting that very freedom all at the same time. It’s like my 13 year old said a couple years back when we read Manalive with our homeschooler coop, that Innocent Smith showed the “glory of a person fully alive” and relished the notion of the absolute and utter freedom to play and be happy and not be redirected by others’ insults or ridicule or sermonizing or judgementalism that living in a state of grace, yes, a state of grace, implies for a human being. You know, I feel sorry for the kids at the elite high schools, even some “Catholic” ones, who lack for that vista — they are impoverished, starved, living like animals in perpetual defense mechanism mode. They parrot all the acceptable opinions of the day dogmatically spouting them without any clue as to their implications or the horizon that lies beyond it. God is good, but His grace doesn’t come cheaply. You can get most all of what you think you need in this world through certain means, but ultimately it only goes so far.

    In ipsa hora exsultavit Spiritu Sancto, et dixit: Confiteor tibi Pater, Domine cæli et terræ, quod abscondisti hæc a sapientibus et prudentibus, et revelasti ea parvulis. Etiam Pater: quoniam sic placuit ante te.

  4. Bea says:

    “Through some crack the smoke of Satan has entered into the temple of God.”

    Guess who opened the windows and let him in.

  5. Kerry says:

    In the mind’s ear I hear Dennis Prager’s deep voice,with disdain say, “Hitler had values”.

  6. Kerry says:

    Elizabeth, Viva Christo Rey! You told her the truth. She did not want to hear the truth, and now she has. (I half expected you to tell us she called you a ‘hater’.)

  7. DanielG says:

    Thank you for posting this, Father. That 1973 ICEL is, of course, the concluding prayer for today’s Offices in the LOTH and when I was placing my ribbon for the Proper of Seasons, the prayer caught my eye immediately and I groaned in disgust upon reading “values”.

    I usually look up the 2011 translation of the Collect for Sundays to conclude the different offices of the day but I always at least read the old ones and many of them upset my interior prayer disposition when I do. What were those people thinking?

    Elizabeth, what you did was heroic. God Bless you.

  8. benedetta says:

    It has been said that at the end of life that the only syllabus we will be judged upon will be charity. Not high political opinions or our own self esteem in our social abilities. Time was when a priest or parish serving lay people could be relied upon to if not impart this at least uphold the integrity of it.

    Here’s one for the alleged culture (read big politics) war: at least in a Christianized society young people had something to “rebel” against. Nowadays they garner sentiments that are beyond mere rebel and are psychologically on the level as sociopathic, extremely violent, in some cases especially towards women, internet hate that says get your neighbor, attack your fellow man, before they can get you first, with breeds paranoia, enthusiasm for federal programs as if messianic, and they celebrate them as if mainstreamly normal, social, of “society”, and indulge to horrific proportions, and may never have the happy accident of encountering goodness, love, beauty, caritas, in true form and speaking with power and undisguised. If they do encounter it, a battle of epic proportions is waged, even if one does nothing, that could go either way — it’s 50-50.

    At least in a previously “Christianized” society, even with the dread hypocrisy (of which there seems no less predominantly nowadays) one had the bulwark and foundation of truth and a civilized way of interacting with one’s fellows, even a decorum, an expectation of civility, with human foibles included, as the default. The Church with the smoke of Satan does not permit this level of humanist and civilized existence for the littlest. It dictates that they get to the animal level, and to hell with them, and that what is important is me, mine, and my political agenda for this year, and if they all suffer horribly that is just a necessary evil, the cost to be exacted, for triumphant civil liberties, for some.

  9. benedetta says:

    Of course this is just of the “culture wars” — you know, a parlor game, a frivolous waste of time symbolizing nothing, but the fact is that when young people are held hostage or captured in their thoughts, emotions, minds and actions, in their being entirely, to not just the occasional baser passions or low instincts but in fact much worse than that (think what we see examples of in media more frequently than daily now as the prevailing norm) they are easily given over to whatever proposes to dominate them. It could come through “government” but it can also come from a whole array of quarters promising beneficence and “peace”. Of course when one is given over like that one cannot see clearly, and one cannot think or reason carefully or clearly either. That is when he gets you. One who is unable to exercise reason for himself is the one most vulnerable to being sacrificed to the agenda of greed and power. Obviously one given over cannot exercise himself as a man for others in the sense of sacrificing his own near term gratification of these currents raging in his being for someone weaker, for someone needing protection, for the poor, even for worthy or dubious political gain on behalf of the planet or populus. Instead, he is only really ready to be dominated by the dictatorship of relativism. For that he has been made perfect and available. Too bad the dictatorship of relativism is far from humanist. A Christianized culture is truly authentically humanist. Young people taught to sympathize with the agenda of Big Abortion have been lobotomized and neutered and made incapable of standing up for justice for fellow human beings. But hey, they will get into the best colleges!

Comments are closed.