ASK FATHER: Resources to explain Collects in parish bulletin.

page_orationsFrom a deacon:

Let me begin by thanking you for your vocation and ministry. You have been a tremendous resource over these past few years, especially as I was in formation. The main reason I am emailing your today in light of a discussion I had with my pastor about the recent motu proprio. The priest I serve with dislikes the collects for all the reasons you have outlined and argued against for years. [What reasons are those?] Nonetheless, he said the people can’t understand the collects. I responded, let me write in the bulletin to explain the weekly collect. Here is the question, what are some resources I can use to explicate the collects? I just purchased Collects of the Roman Missals: A Comparative Study of the Sunday and and thinking of buying a book by Christopher Kiesling Before His majesty: A study of the spiritual doctrine in the Sunday orations of the Roman Missal (English and Latin Edition). [I don’t know that.  I’ll put it on my list.] Do you recommend anything else?

Right now, while there is a great deal that can be said about each and every prayer, I think that the most accessible explanations are probably my own.  I guess that means that I have to get those books out.  Right?  I project three volumes: Advent/Christmas cycle, Lent/Easter cycle, Ordinary Time.

Meanwhile, you can search up all sort of stuff on this blog using the search box on the sidebar.

That said, I don’t get the claim that people “can’t understand” the current ICEL translation.  Dumb the translation down any more and, well, it would be insulting, just as it was insulting for decades before the new translation came into effect.

Anyone who wants to understand the prayers, will get something from them.   Different people will gather different things from the content of the translated prayers according to their capacity, education and present concerns.

Another component is: How are they being proclaimed aloud?

If the priest has a facility with language (a think not automatically to be assumed), and his takes a little care to read them aloud thoughtfully, they are fine and comprehensible.

If many people can’t understand, perhaps Father could adjust his own style?

Also, even if a translation is little bit clunky – and they are not all clunky!  not by a long shot! – that’s just fine with me.  Why?  BECAUSE THEY ARE TRANSLATIONS!  I don’t care if translations sound like translations.  Let everyone remember that our worship should be in Latin. LATIN is the official language of prayer of the Latin Church, after all.


About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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  1. Joseph Mendes says:

    Do you think that chanting the Collect would help?

  2. Mike says:

    A thought from a layman, husband, father of four: why doesn’t Father make the prayers the subject of his homily?

  3. ajf1984 says:

    I remember a visiting priest at a Novus Ordo Sunday Mass a couple years back drawing attention during his homily to the number of commas in that morning’s Collect (I think there were 7). Instead of explicating the meaning of the prayer, he was bemoaning the complex syntax of such a prayer that would necessitate 7 whole commas!

    Naughty me–I went home and pulled out my old Daily Roman Missal and compared the prayers; the new one only had 1 or 2 more commas than the old one IIRC. Sheesh.

  4. Kathleen10 says:

    People are lazy. There is no excuse for not understanding the Latin. I did not grow up with Latin, I am not well versed in Latin, have taken no class in it, etc. But I have now attended enough Latin Masses from the last three years to be able to pull out meaning from the Latin that I read and hear. There are many words in prayers that are repeated, and soon a vocabulary of Latin will build in your dense little noggin. You start to realize that you are picking it up, and even if you do not know all the meanings, enough of the familiar words start to appear that you DO know, that you get the “sense” of what is being conveyed. Even if you only know a few words in Latin, when you hear them, what they are jumps out at you, you can ruminate on those even though the discourse continues to flow, you do not need to know every single word! It is the same as reading something in any other foreign language. You do not have to know every word to get the sense of it.
    The beauty and the depth of meaning in a Latin Mass cannot be beat. We attend a Low Mass, and you will “get out of it” precisely what you “put into it”. Get a Missal, learn how to follow the Mass. Learn to love the Latin, we have, and become truly active in your faith by diving into Roman Catholicism as it has been practiced for 2000 years. If you are tired of changes and tired of the world, get out of the world for an hour by going to the Holy Mass in the Extraordinary Form. Get the Propers for the week ahead and read them. We love the Latin Rite! There is no going back for us now. It’s too good.

  5. Cantor says:

    Several years ago I conducted an experiment, asking fellow choir members what they thought of that Sunday’s Collect. I did the same thing in my new parish a few months back. Of the thirty or so people I asked, not one person could even identify what this “Collect thing” was. The closest guesses were the celebrant’s welcoming remarks.

  6. Tony Phillips says:

    Spirit of V-2 types like to rail against “clericalism” (by which they seem to mean birettas and cassoks), but it strikes me that this deacon’s PP, like many other PPs, don’t realise that most of us ordinary folk don’t pay a lot of attention to these prayers. In fact, I confess that I pay more attention to them in the EF, where I like to follow along in the missal, than in the EF, where I never bother to consult the pew misallette and barely listen to the priest in the vernacular. But that’s only because I like Latin. (I’ve been in Berlin this week, and was able to assist at EF masses at the Institut St Philip Neri as well as the SSPX’s Priorat St Petrus.)
    Look, it’s great that the priest is praying up there on the altar. We don’t need to follow along like puppy dogs. It’s hard to pray when I’m listening to someone else.

  7. frjohnt says:

    In response to “The people cannot understand the collects,”
    we should first of all remember that the collects are NOT addressed to the people. They are addressed to God.
    And “God can understand the collects!”

    Fr. Z's Gold Star Award

  8. Mike C says:

    Responding the priest’s comment “the people can’t understand the collects”

    English is my second language. I can understand the English translation. I won’t say I completely understand it, as I won’t say I completely understand the prayers in Chinese… One example is that I can’t say I understand completely what “consubstantial” in the Creed means, regardless the language used in Mass.

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