WDTPRS – Conversion of St. Paul: Comparison 1962MR & 2002MR Collects

In honor of the Apostle to the Gentiles let us make a rapid comparison of the Collects for today’s feast of the Conversion of St. Paul.

We’ll look first at the 1962 Missale Romanum and then the 2002 edition.

The Collect is nearly the same in both.


Deus, qui universum mundum beati Pauli Apostoli praedicatione docuisti: da nobis, quaesumus; ut, qui eius hodie Conversionem colimus, per eius exempla gradiamur.

This prayer is ancient.  It is found already in the 8th century Liber sacramentorum Engolismensis (Angoulême) and the 9th century Augustodunensis (Autun) as well as the Liber sacramentorum Romanae ecclesiae ordine excarpsus, but with the variation in the Engolismensis multitidinem gentium” in place of “universum mundum”.

Our precious Lewis & Short Latin Dictionary (UK HERE) informs us that the deponent verb gradior is “to take steps, to step, walk, go;” and in ecclesiastical Latin “of the conduct of life, to walk, live, conduct one’s self”.  The French source for liturgical Latin I call Blaise/Dumas (UK HERE) indicates that gradior is “to behave oneself”.

An exemplum is, “a sample for imitation, instruction, proof, a pattern, model, original, example….”

For the Fathers, so steeped in Greek and Roman rhetoric and philosophy, exemplum could mean many things.  First, an exemplum brings auctoritas to your argument, “authority”, inter alia the moral, persuasive force of an argument.  When we hear this prayer with ancient, Patristic ears, exemplum is not merely an “example” to imitate. It brings deeper moral force.  The historic event of Paul’s conversion is a reason for hope. It is an incitement to lead the kind of life which will lead ultimately to being raised up after the Risen Christ, the perfect exemplum.  The core of this exemplum is St. Paul’s response to the call of the Lord to turn his life around, his conversio or in Greek metánoia.

I especially like the word gradior in this prayer.  It invokes the image of St. Paul trudging the byways (without a horse off of which to fall).


O God, who instructed the whole world by the preaching of the Blessed Apostle Paul: grant us, we beseech You, that, we who are today honoring his Conversion, may walk according to his examples.

Many (many many) of the prayers of the pre-Conciliar form of the Missale Romanum, were cut up and changed for the Novus Ordo, if they made the cut at all. Today’s prayer is a case in point.


Deus, qui universum mundum
beati Pauli Apostoli praedicatione docuisti,
da nobis, quaesumus,
ut, cuius conversionem hodie celebramus,
per eius ad te exempla gradientes,
tuae simus mundo testes veritatis.


O God, who instructed the whole world
by the preaching of the Blessed Apostle Paul:
grant us, we beseech You,
that we, walking in life toward You according to the examples of him
whose conversion we are celebrating today,
may be witnesses of Your truth in the world.

Some may argue that the newer Latin version makes the point of “witness” more clearly.

I am not convinced the ancient prayer needed these “improvements”.  Are you?  Were these improvements?  Did the prayer really changing?  Did the good the Catholic faithful really call for that?

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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  1. KateD says:

    Saint Paul was shipwrecked on Malta and being bitten by venomous snakes…experienced no ill effect. One of the signs of His Apostles is that they can handle venom filled snakes without being harmed. Isn’t that interesting?!?

    Happy Feast of the Conversion of Saint Paul!

  2. majuscule says:

    KateD– what an interesting observation!

  3. kneeling catholic says:


    on another note, did you see President Trump put in a plug for this Weekend’s March for Life?


  4. Venerator Sti Lot says:

    Thank you for this fine post – including the splendid illumination! If you can find a moment, would you kindly say something of its source?)

    Is there a sort of ‘positive ambiguity’ in “eius exampla”: in the sense of both ‘exampla to him’ and ‘exampla provided by him (to “multitudinem gentium”)’?

    And, have you encountered ‘gradior’ and ‘vestigia’ use together? An implicit ‘vestigia’ would tie in nicely with the second sense of “euis exampla” – ‘in the footsteps of St. Paul’ – which the 2002 version might been seen as collapsing to that sense alone by explicating with “gradientes, tuae simus mundo testes veritatis.” (Pleasing in its way, while the prayer certainly did not really call for changing. The variants “multitudinem gentium” and “universum mundum” are interesting, in this context: does the plural of “exempla” already implicitly provide the plural of “multitudinem gentium” within the “universum mundum”? Are there implicit echoes of “omnis potestas in caelo et in terra: Euntes ergo docete omnes gentes […] et ecce ego vobiscum sum omnibus diebus, usque ad consummationem saeculi” (St. Matthew 28:18-20) in all this?)

  5. Venerator Sti Lot says:

    Might “gradiamur’ also include a “Quis ascendet in montem Domini? […] Innocens manibus et mundo corde, qui non accepit in vano animam suam, nec juravit in dolo proximo suo” (Psalm 23:3-4) ‘step-by-step’ sense?

  6. jaykay says:

    On first glance, one could say that the two versions do express the same thing, really, albeit the previous version with the verb “colere” uses only 22 words to get across what the 2002 version, with its somewhat clunkingly didactic “ut… tuae simus mundo testes veritatis.”, takes 28 words to do.

    However, on second glance, maybe there’s a deeper level also? Lewis and Short gives (inter multa alia) for colere: “to honor, revere, reverence, worship”. Colere also has the meaning of cultivating and tilling land, to produce fruits. I think this may be intended to convey the sense that we should be active and take his conversion into ourselves so that it can produce real fruits (to mark and inwardly digest, as it were). The newer version with “celebramus” and “simus… testes veritatis”, even if they are worthy intentions in themselves, just seems to me less “intense” than the older.

    So no, I don’t think (a) that there was any need to change and (b) that the change is better.

  7. R. Gregory says:

    Here’s the Collect from the Ordinariate’s Divine Worship Missal:

    O God, who, through the preaching of the blessed Apostle Paul, hast caused the light of the Gospel to shine throughout the world: grant, we beseech thee; that we, having his wonderful conversion in remembrance, may show forth our thankfulness unto thee for the same, by following the holy doctrine which he taught; through Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, ever one God, world without end. Amen.

    [Thanks for that!]

    Fr. Z's Gold Star Award

  8. jaykay says:

    R. Gregory: very interesting. The original 1549 Cranmer translation is:

    GOD, whiche haste taughte all the worlde, through the preachyng of thy blessed apostle saincte Paule; graunt, we beseche thee, that we whiche have hys wonderfull conversion in remembraunce, maye folowe and fulfill the holy doctryne that he taughte; through Jesus Christ our Lorde.

    I thought I might dig down on this a bit. I knew there was a version of the 1662 BCP in Latin, composed for the Universities, I believe, and this is how it renders this collect:

    In Conversione Sancti Pauli. Oratio.

    DEUS, qui universum mundum per beati Pauli Apostoli prædicationem Evangelica luce illustrasti; Da nobis, quæsumus, ut propter ejus admirabilem conversionem quam recolimus, doctrinæ ejus sanctæ obediendo, tibi gratias referamus.

  9. Venerator Sti Lot says:

    R. Gregory & jaykay,

    The Prayer Book Dictionary (1912), as usefully scanned in the Internet Archive, under its systematic “Collects” entry, includes (p. 218), “In 1549, a fairly literal rendering of the Sar[um] Coll[ect] was given, but this was amplified almost out of knowledge into its present shape (1662)”, also giving what I take to be the Latin of the Sarum Collect (q.v.) and suggesting we to compare the Collect for Sexagesima.

  10. jaykay says:

    Thanks, Venerator Sti Lot. I was searching for the Sarum version of the collect, but couldn’t find it online. “Fairly literal”. Hmmm…

  11. jaykay says:

    But stille, canst not love the spellynge of the XVI centurie version, prithee? ;)Yea, verilee.

  12. Venerator Sti Lot says:


    Yes, ‘pre-standardized’ English spelling is delightful – and even (I understand) extended to things like Shakespeare spelling of his own name!

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