Let’s have a look at the…
Protector in te sperantium, Deus, sine quo nihil est validum, nihil sanctum: multiplica super nos misericordiam tuam; ut, te rectore, te duce, sic transeamus per bona temporalia, ut non amittamus aeterna.
There is a pleasant alliteration in lines 2-3 of the collect. We can find a pair of pairs: nihil validum, nihil sanctum and some great ablative absolutes te rectore, te duce.
Where does this prayer really come from?
The first part, Protector in te sperantium deus, seems to be a fairly common introductory phrase in ancient Roman prayers. But after that, we find the whole prayer as it appears in the 1962MR in the Liber sacramentorum Gellonensis or Gellone Sacramentary, one of the Frankish “newer Gelasian” type sacramentaries, an attempt at a complete service book in the late 8th century, and in the Liber sacramentorum Romanae ecclesiae or Book of the Sacraments of the Church of Rome, which is another “Gelasian” type book. However, the snipping and pasting experts employed by the Council’s Consilium hacked off the end of the “Pian” edition’s ancient prayer and for the “Pauline” version of the Missale Romanum, glued on a chunk of another ancient prayer in the Veronese Sacramentary or Leonine Sacramentary or for good measure Codex sacramentorum vetus Romanae ecclesiae a sancto Leone papa I confectus, for the month of July, perhaps on the 13th of the month, and perhaps as part of a preface formula: Vere dignum: qui mutabilitatem nostram ad incommutabilia ita iustus et benignus erudis, ut nec fragilitatem destituas et coherceas insolentes: quo pariter instituti pia conversatione et caelestibus sacramentis, sic bonis praetereuntibus nunc utimur, ut iam possimus inherere perpetuis. They even tinkered with that.
Tinker tinker tinker!
In the Novus Ordo Missale this prayer – sort of – is used on the 17th Sunday of Ordinary Time.
Protector in te sperantium, Deus, sine quo nihil est validum, nihil sanctum: multiplica super nos misericordiam tuam; ut, te rectore, te duce, sic bonis transeuntibus nunc utamur, ut iam possimus inhaerere mansuris.
Many people don’t realize that very few of the prayers of the 1962 Missale made it into the Novus Ordo without alterations. Sometimes those alterations took the prayers back to an more ancient version. Mostly, they just fiddled around with them.
Let’s have some vocabulary.
Protector is, according to our always valid Lewis & Short Dictionary, from protego, meaning “to cover before, or in front, cover over” and obviously also “to shield from danger” as well as things like “put a protecting roof over”. Amitto is “to lose” in the sense of “let slip”. A Latin dux is a “leader, guide”, and also “commander, general-in-chief”. This is why Benito Mussolini was in Italian called “il Duce”. A rector is pretty much the same as the first sense of dux, but it can also be a “helmsman” or “governor”. Interestingly enough, gubernator means “helmsman” also, while an English “governor” is a moderator.
St. Andrew’s Bible Missal (1962):
O God, guardian of those who trust in you, without whom nothing is strong, nothing holy, increase your mercy towards us. With you as our ruler and guide, may we pass through the good things of this world, so as not to lose those of the world to come.
LITERAL VERSION (1962MR):
O God, protector of those hoping in You, without whom nothing is efficacious, nothing holy, multiply Your mercy upon us, so that, You being our guide and leader, we may pass through temporal goods in such a way that we do not lose the eternal.
We have the image of a people asking God to cover them over abundantly with mercy. We are acknowledging how we need a roof over our heads to protect us, so we want God’s mercy upon us. Also, since a protector is something or someone that covers us in front, God is our shield before us. In His mercy He guards us from the attacks we face as soldiers in the Church Militant.
We must never forget that we are members of the Church Militant, the part of the Church which is in the world, on the march, as a pilgrim people. We must be clear in our minds that the Lord says this world has its prince (cf. John 10:31 and 14:30). Satan and his fallen angels desire our everlasting damnation and agony with them in Hell. Jesus broke their power over us, but for a time we are still in this world which they dominate. We are living in a state of “already, but not yet.”
As soldiers, traveling through enemy territory, we need strong shields. We need a sure leader to set our feet on the right path out of the danger zone. We need a sturdy roof over us when we rest. We need some way to grasp what is holy and what is deception.
God is the one without whom nothing is worthwhile or holy. He must provide for us all that we need on the march.
Because of the wounds to our nature from the Fall, we are susceptible to the passing things of this world and vulnerable to the attacks of hell. We need shielding, protection, so that we are not overly mired or stained, lest we lose track of our pilgrim route to heaven.
LITERAL TRANSLATION (2002MR):
O God, protector of those believing in You, without whom nothing is efficacious, nothing holy, multiply Your mercy upon us, so that, You being our guide and leader, we may so use things that pass away as to be able to cleave to those that endure.
Notice the slightly different emphasis. This version also contrasts the passing things of this world with those that do not pass away. This version also stresses that we must cling to, or not let slip, eternal things, so that we lose heaven. However, whereas the older version seems to take a position of suspicion about the dangerous nature of worldly, temporal things, the newer version indicates that we use them correctly. The structure is ita with a result following in the subjunctive: in such a way that…. Lest anyone get their shift all in a twist about how the Novus Ordo version obviously reflects the dangerous modernism of the Second Vatican Council’s Constitution on the Church in the Modern World, Gaudium et spes, remember that the final two lines are also essentially from an ancient prayer. After all, our ancestors also were concerned actually to use the things of the world, which remain good. They are bona temporalia.
OBSOLETE ICEL (1973):
God our Father and protector, without you nothing is holy, nothing has value. Guide us to everlasting life by helping us to use wisely the blessings you have given to the world.
This is so bad that one might laugh, if it weren’t for the fact that God’s people were so cheated for so many years.
CURRENT ICEL (2011):
O God, protector of those who hope in you, without whom nothing has firm foundation, nothing is holy, bestow in abundance your mercy upon us and grant that, with you as our ruler and guide, we may use the good things that pass in such a way as to hold fast even now to those that ever endure.