Thursday, July 21, 2022

The Post-Vatican II Reform of the Proper of Saints in the Missale Romanum – As Told by Fr Carlo Braga, C.M. (Part 3)

This is the third part of my translation of Fr Carlo Braga's 1970 article in Ephemerides Liturgicae about the reform of the Proper of Saints in the post-Vatican II Missal. The two previous parts, published over the last couple of days, can be found here: part one, part two

Braga continues with his review of the characterisation of the Saints in the new prayers of the reformed Missal. He then gives some examples of instances where biblical texts have been used in the creation of new orations or the editing of existing ones, as well as where the Consilium took inspiration from the writings and lives/passions of the Saints themselves.

*    *    *    *    *

[p. 411] Other Saints

It is certainly not the case that we will review all the individual Saints of the calendar here. We limit ourselves to choosing some of the more notable figures, for whom new forms have been chosen or created.
    a) Saint Catherine of Siena. The two characteristic notes of her mission could not be passed over in silence: her ardent love for the Church, to which she dedicated all her strength, and her profound devotion to the passion and blood of Christ, which inspired all of her spirituality. Moreover, this second element could not fail to lead to giving a paschal note to the formula:

C: Deus, qui beatam Catharinam in contemplatione dominicae passionis et in Ecclesiae tuae servitio divino amore flagrare fecisti, ipsius intercessione concede, ut populus tuus, Christi mysterio sociatus, in eius gloriae revelatione semper exsultet. [15]

[O God, who set Saint Catherine of Siena on fire with divine love in her contemplation of the Lord’s Passion and her service of your Church, grant, through her intercession, that your people, participating in the mystery of Christ, may ever exult in the revelation of his glory.]

b) Saint Gregory VII. He fought for the holiness and freedom of the Church, to the point of death in exile. The oration emphasises the necessity, also for the Church, of a similar constancy in goodness:

C: Da Ecclesiae tuae, quaesumus, Domine, spiritum fortitudinis zelumque iustitiae, quibus beatum Gregorium papam clarescere voluisti, [p. 412] ut, iniquitatem reprobans, quaecumque recta sunt libera exerceat caritate. [16]

[Give to your Church, we pray, O Lord, that spirit of fortitude and zeal for justice which you made to shine forth in Pope Saint Gregory the Seventh, so that, rejecting evil, she may be free to carry out in charity whatever is right.]

c) Saint Ephrem is celebrated among the Syrians as the “harp of the Holy Spirit” for his works. The text of the prayer intends to underline this particular aspect of his activity in the Church:

C: Cordibus nostris, quaesumus, Domine, Spiritum Sanctum benignus infunde, cuius affiatu beatus Ephraem diaconus in tuis mysteriis decantandis exsultavit, eiusque virtute tibi soli deserviit. [17]

[Pour into our hearts O Lord, we pray, the Holy Spirit, at whose prompting the Deacon Saint Ephrem exulted in singing of your mysteries and from whom he received the strength to serve you alone.]

d) Saint Antony of Padua is one of the most popular saints in many regions. His two characteristic notes are his preaching and the invocation he enjoys among the faithful. The text of the new oration, while highlighting this second aspect, at the same time seeks to correct certain less upright forms of devotion, in order to find God through the Saint who is venerated and invoked.

C: Omnipotens sempiterne Deus, qui populo tuo beatum Antonium praedicatorem insignem dedisti, eumque in necessitatibus intercessorem, concede, ut, eius auxilio, christianae vitae documenta sectantes, in omnibus adversitatibus te subvenientem sentiamus.

[Almighty ever-living God, who gave Saint Anthony of Padua to your people as an outstanding preacher and an intercessor in their need, grant that, with his assistance, as we follow the teachings of the Christian life, we may know your help in every trial.]

e) Saint Bernard is presented as the man full of doctrine and zeal for the Church: knowledge and action that, when implemented for good, still spread their influence on the Christian life, which is also in need of light and apostolic activity.

C: Deus, qui beatum Bernardum abbatem, zelo domus tuae succensum, in Ecclesia tua lucere simul et ardere fecisti, eius nobis intercessione concede, ut, eodem spiritu ferventes, tamquam filii lucis iugiter ambulemus. [18]

[O God, who made of the Abbot Saint Bernard a man consumed with zeal for your house and a light shining and burning in your Church, grant, through his intercession, that we may be on fire with the same spirit and walk always as children of light.]

f) Saint Jerome, whose name is so intimately linked to love of the sacred Scriptures, is offered as an example and encouragement [p. 413] to this love. The collect is inspired by n. 24 of the Constitution on the Liturgy, while in the super oblata the connection between the word of God and the Eucharist is underlined, and in the postcommunion the illuminating effect of the word of God on the faithful is highlighted.

C: Deus, qui beato Hieronymo presbytero suavem ac vivum Scripturae Sacrae affectum tribuisti,[19] da, ut populus tuus verbo tuo uberius alatur, et in eo fontem vitae inveniat.

[O God, who gave the Priest Saint Jerome a living and tender love for Sacred Scripture, grant that your people may be ever more fruitfully nourished by your Word and find in it the fount of life.]

SO: Tribue nobis, Domine, ut, exemplo beati Hieronymi, verbum tuum meditati, ad salutarem hostiam maiestati tuae offerendam promptius accedamus.

[Grant us, O Lord, that, having meditated on your Word, following the example of Saint Jerome, we may more eagerly draw near to offer your majesty the sacrifice of salvation.]

PC: Sancta tua, quae sumpsimus, Domine, de beati Hieronymi, celebritate laetantes, tuorum excitent corda fìdelium, ut, sacris intenta doctrinis, intellegant quod sequantur, et sequendo vitam obtineant aeternam.

[May these holy gifts we have received, O Lord, as we rejoice in celebrating Saint Jerome, stir up the hearts of your faithful so that, attentive to sacred teachings, they may understand the path they are to follow and, by following it, obtain life everlasting.]

g) Saint Francis of Assisi flourishes again in the three prayers with his message of poverty, humility and spiritual joy (collect), as well as his love for the cross (super oblata) and zeal for one’s neighbour (postcommunion). We reproduce here only the collect:

C: Deus, qui beato Francisco paupertate et humilitate Christo confìgurari tribuisti, concede, ut, per illius semitas gradientes, Filium tuum sequi et tibi coniungi laeta valeamus caritate.

[O God, by whose gift Saint Francis was conformed to Christ in poverty and humility, grant that, by walking in Francis’ footsteps, we may follow your Son, and, through joyful charity, come to be united with you.]

h) Saint Charles Borromeo is the Saint of the renewal of the Church at the time of the Council of Trent. His work of rejuvenating the face of the Church is the same that must be done today, after Vatican II, and continually, so that the image of Christ appears ever purer and more inviting to the world. The petition is derived from an expression of Paul VI in the opening address of the second session of Vatican II: [20] 

[p. 414] C: Custodi, Domine, quaesumus, in populo tuo spiritum, quo beatum Carolum episcopum implevisti, ut Ecclesia indesinenter renovetur, et, Christi se imagini conforrnans, ipsius vultum mundo valeat ostendere.

[Preserve in the midst of your people, we ask, O Lord, the spirit with which you filled the Bishop Saint Charles Borromeo, that your Church may be constantly renewed and, by conforming herself to the likeness of Christ, may show his face to the world.]

i) Saint Ambrose is another great pastor of the Church, distinguished for his doctrine, and characterised by the strength with which he was able to battle, two virtues that must inspire those who lead the Church:

C: Deus, qui beatum Ambrosium episcopum catholicae fidei doctorem et apostolicae fortitudinis exemplum effecisti, excita in Ecclesia tua viros secundum cor tuum, qui eam fortiter et sapienter gubernent. [21]

[O God, who made the Bishop Saint Ambrose a teacher of the Catholic faith and a model of apostolic courage, raise up in your Church men after your own heart to govern her with courage and wisdom.]

Biblical Inspiration of the Texts

One of the characteristics of the Roman style is to enrich the text with biblical references, so that prayer becomes, at the same time, a school of life. Here, too, the examples could be multiplied. We give only a few here, which indicate the direction taken.
    a) The figure of Saint John of God cannot fail to bring to mind the episode in the Gospel where the eternal judge gives the reward reserved for workers of charity. Thus, the rather complex text in the previous Missal has been replaced by this one, more straightforward and incisive:

C: Deus, qui beatum Ioannem misericordiae spiritu perfudisti, da, quaesumus, ut, caritatis opera exercentes, inter electos in regno tuo inveniri mereamur. [22]

[O God, who filled Saint John of God with a spirit of compassion, grant, we pray, that, giving ourselves to works of charity, we may merit to be found among the elect in your Kingdom.]

b) For the feast of the apostles Philip and James, the place in the Gospel where Philip asks the Lord to show him the Father, [p. 415] along with the response of Jesus (Qui, videt me, videt et Patrem: John 14:6-10), is echoed in the postcommunion:

PC: ... ut, cum apostolis Philippo et Iacobo te in Filio contemplantes, vitam habere mereamur aeternam.

[… so that, contemplating you in your Son together with the Apostles Philip and James, we may be worthy to possess eternal life.]

Just as the warning from the letter of James finds an echo in the super oblata:

SO: Suscipe, Domine, munera, quae pro apostolorum Philippi et lacobi festivitate deferimus, et immaculatam nobis religionem mundamque largire.

[Receive, O Lord, the offerings we bring for the feast day of the Apostles Philip and James and bestow on us religion pure and undefiled.]

c) The strength of Saint Sebastian in the face of those who ordered him to abandon his faith is linked to the decisive response of the apostles to a similar injunction from the Sanhedrin. For us, too, in the same disposition of spirit, we ask: tibi magis quam hominibus oboedire discamus (see Acts 5:29).
    d) In the former oration for Saint Thérèse of the Child Jesus, the quotation of the Lord’s words occurs: Nisi efficiamini sicut parvuli (Matthew 18:3), in relation to the Saint’s doctrine on spiritual childlikeness. The concept remains, but is recalled indirectly, with regard to the principle that the petition be addressed to the Father:

C: Deus, qui regnum tuum humilibus parvulisque disponis, fac nos beatae Teresiae tramitem prosequi confidenter, ut, eius intercessione, gloria tua nobis reveletur aeterna.

[O God, who open your Kingdom to those who are humble and to little ones, lead us to follow trustingly in the little way of Saint Thérèse, so that through her intercession we may see your eternal glory revealed.]

e) Saint Margaret Mary Alacoque gave the Church the great treasure of the true understanding of the mystery of the Sacred Heart of Christ. In the oration, the Pauline desire for the faithful of Ephesus becomes prayer, which will resound in the lection of the Mass (Ephesians 3:19):

C: ... ut scire valeamus supereminentem scientiae caritatem Christi, et impleamur in omnem plenitudinem Dei.

[… so that we may come to know that love of Christ which surpasses all understanding and be utterly filled with your fullness.]

f) The image of the primitive Christian community, made one heart and one soul in faith and participation in the Eucharist (Acts 2:42), emerges in the postcommunion for the solemnity of the apostles Peter and Paul. Around these two apostles, the foundation of the faith, the Church must be committed to reproducing the same example and the same great reality:

PC: Da nobis, Domine, hoc sacramento refectis, ita in Ecclesia conversari, [p. 416] ut, perseverantes in fractione panis Apostolorumque doctrina, cor unum simus et anima una, tua caritate, firmati.

[Grant us, O Lord, who have been renewed by this Sacrament, so to live in the Church, that, persevering in the breaking of the Bread and in the teaching of the Apostles, we may be one heart and one soul, made steadfast in your love.]

g) And, as a final example, a detail that may perhaps escape many, as the expression can just as well be applied in a general form. In the postcommunion for Saints Simon and Jude, we read:

Perceptis, Domine, sacramentis, supplices in Spiritu Sancto deprecamur…

[Having received this Sacrament, O Lord, we humbly implore you in the Holy Spirit…]

The reference to prayer in the Holy Spirit recalls v. 21 of the letter of Saint Jude: the only personal reference that it was possible to gather for him from the books of the New Testament.
    Other examples have already been cited, albeit indirectly, regarding the characterisation of feasts. We refer to the postcommunion for the memorial of Our Lady of Sorrows, to the orations of the Apostles, etc.

Inspiration from the Writings of the Saints or their "Passion"

Alongside the biblical texts, another source of inspiration and spiritual enrichment for the euchological repertory of the Proper of Saints were the writings of the Saints themselves, or their “passion”, or, for non-martyrs, their “life”. A whole chapter could be drawn from this, full of pleasing cues and nice allusions that give rise to memories and considerations derived from the reading of traditional texts beloved of Christian piety. Still, only a few examples are given here.
    a) For Saints Cyril and Methodius, the prayer that Saint Cyril addressed to God at the end of his life was utilised, invoking for his people the gift of fidelity to the truth and unity in the faith:

C: Deus, qui per beatos fratres Cyrillum et Methodium Slavoniae gentes illuminasti, da cordibus nostris tuae doctrinae verba percipere, nosque perfice populum in vera fide et recta confessione concordem. [23]

[O God, who enlightened the Slavic peoples through the brothers Saints Cyril and Methodius, grant that our hearts may grasp the words of your teaching, and perfect us as a people of one accord in true faith and right confession.]

[p. 417] b) The collect for Saint Polycarp is inspired by the famous prayer recorded in the Acts of his martyrdom:

C: Deus universae creaturae, qui beatum Polycarpum episcopum in numero martyrum dignatus es aggregare, eius nobis intercessione concede, ut, cum illo partem calicis Christi capientes, in vitam resurgamus aeternam. [24]

[God of all creation, who were pleased to give the Bishop Saint Polycarp a place in the company of the Martyrs, grant, through his intercession, that, sharing with him in the chalice of Christ, we may rise through the Holy Spirit to eternal life.]

c) For Saint Justin, not only is his love for Christian truth recalled, but specifically that we possess the first description of the Eucharistic celebration, together with a firm defence of it, in his first Apology:

SO: Concede nobis, quaesumus, Domine, haec digne frequentare mysteria, quae beatus Iustinus strenua virtute defendit.

[Grant us, we pray, O Lord, that we may celebrate worthily these mysteries, which Saint Justin strenuously defended.]

d) The rich doctrine of the Rule of Saint Benedict could not fail to emerge in the texts assigned to this feast.
    The collect refers to the schola divini servitii and the teaching that nothing is to be placed before the love of God; in the super oblata the concept of unity of spirit in charity is taken up, and in the postcommunion the faithful exercise of the opus Dei is recalled. These are all concepts that need no further illustration.
    e) The rich Augustinian doctrine on the Eucharist is beautifully summarised in the super oblata and postcommunion for the feast of Saint Augustine. The super oblata takes up the now classic expressions with which this holy doctor celebrates the Eucharist:

Salutis nostrae memoriale celebrantes, clementiam tuam, Domine, suppliciter exoramus, ut hoc sacramentum pietatis fiat nobis signum unitatis et vinculum caritatis. [25]

[Celebrating the memorial of our salvation, we humbly beseech your mercy, O Lord, that this Sacrament of your loving kindness may be for us the sign of unity and the bond of charity.]

[p. 418] The postcommunion is even more bold, and will certainly create some difficulties for a translation that wishes to be exact and understandable:

Sanctificet nos, quaesumus, Domine, mensae Christi participatio, ut, eius membra effecti, simus quod accepimus.

[May partaking of Christ’s table sanctify us, we pray, O Lord, that, being made members of his Body, we may become what we have received.]

The final expression is taken up literally from Sermon 57.7, commenting on the Pater:

Eucharistia panis noster quotidianus est: sed sic accipiamus illum, ut non solum ventre, sed et mente reficiamur. Virtus enim ipsa quae ibi intelligitur, unitas est, ut redacti in corpus eius, effecti membra eius, simus quod accepimus. [26]

[So the eucharist is our daily bread; but we should receive it in such a way that our minds and not just our bellies find refreshment. You see, the special property to be understood in it is unity, so that by being digested into his body and turned into his members we may be what we receive.]

It is one of Augustine’s great doctrinal expressions: the Christian is a member of Christ through baptism, but the Eucharist must help him to perfect his union with the body of the Church. One never finishes becoming the body of Christ.
    f) The expression with which Saint Ignatius of Antioch, in his letter to the Romans, defines himself as frumentum Christi, to give the world this bread through the trial of martyrdom, remains in the Communion antiphon, as in the previous Missal, but is revived in the super oblata:

SO: Grata tibi sit, Domine, nostrae servitutis oblatio, qui beatum Ignatium, frumentum Christi, per martyrii passionem panem mundum effecisti. [27]

[May this oblation and our homage be pleasing to you, O Lord, just as you accepted Saint Ignatius, the wheat of Christ, made pure bread through his martyrdom and passion.]

g) And, to finish this series of examples, the memory of Saint Martin’s unreserved dedication to his flock, which, combined with the Pauline passage from the letter to the Romans (8:35), offers this sympathetic text:

C: Deus, qui in beato Martino episcopo sive per vitam sive per mortem magnificatus es, innova gratiae tuae mirabilia in cordibus nostris, ut neque mors neque vita separare nos possit a caritate tua. [28]

[O God, who are glorified in the Bishop Saint Martin both by his life and death, make new, we pray, the wonders of your grace in our hearts, that neither death nor life may separate us from your love.]

One can easily read the reference to these texts made familiar by the antiphon of the Office: O virum ineffabilem, nec labore victum nec morte vincendum, qui nec mori timuit nec vivere recusavit! [Such a man exceeds all praise. He was not daunted by his apostolic labours, nor was he afraid of death. He neither feared to die nor refused to live.]


[15] The first part of the collect takes up and applies the collect of Saint Catherine of Genoa (in the Pro aliquibus locis Masses, 22 March): Deus, qui bea tam Catharinam, in contemplanda Filii tui passione, divini amoris igne fiagrare fecisti. The second part is newly composed.

[16] The last line reproduces the ending of the collect for Saints Vitus, Modestus and Crescentia (15 June in the previous MR), and is well suited as a petition to the invocation addressed to God, bearing in mind the record of the life of Saint Gregory VII.

[17] The first part takes up the beginning of one of the collects of Ember Saturday of Pentecost.

[18] The text is derived from the Proper of the Cistercians, with adaptations.

[19] See the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, Sacrosanctum Concilium, n. 24: promoveatur ille suavis et vivus sacrae Scripturae affectus.

[20] Paul VI, speaking at the Council on what the Church intends to do with regard to herself, to renew and make herself ever more capable of presenting Christ to the word, said: Vult, uti diximus, Ecclesia in Christo imaginem suam inquirere… Ut liquet, nihil aliud spectet opus est, nisi ut se renovet… Tunc solum… Ecclesia vultum suum universo munda ostendere poterit, talia fundens dieta: Qui videt me, videt Christum…

[21] The beginning of this collect is also removed, with some variations from the MP: Deus, qui beatum Ambrosium Pontificem, catholicae fidei defensorem, et apostolicae fortitudinis exemplum in Ecclesia posuisti… The conclusion, on the other hand, is newly composed, and it is offered in order to introduce a certain variation of themes in the orations for Pastors.

[22] The reference to the passage in the Gospel of Matthew is evident, of the reward that Christ the judge gives to those who have done charitable works: Percipite regnum, quod vobis paratum est ab origine mundi (Matthew 25:34).

[23] The petition is taken from the dying prayer of Saint Cyril, reported in the Vita Constantini Slavica (ch. XVIII): … et omnes in unitate collige, et fac eximium populum concordem in vera fide tua et recta confessione, et inspira in corda eorum verbum tuae doctrinae… Part of this prayer is also taken up by John XXIII in the encyclical written for the centenary of the two Saints: see AAS 55 (1963), p. 438.

[24] This collect also draws inspiration from the text of the prayer of Saint Polycarp when his martyrdom was imminent: Domine Deus omnipotens… Deus angelorum et virtutum et universae creaturae totiusque generis iustorum in conspectu tuo viventium, benedico tibi, quoniam me hac die atque hac hora dignatus es, ut in numero martyrum acciperem partem calicis Christi tui ad resurrectionem in vitam aeternam animae et corporis in incorruptione per spiritum sanctum (Funk, Opera Patrum apost., vol. II, p. 299).

[25] The expressions in the last two lines recur in the treatise on the Gospel of John (XXVI, ch. VI, n. 13: PL 35, 1613).

[26] The full text of the commentary can be read in PL 38, 389.

[27] See the Epistle of Saint Ignatius to the Romans, 4, 1 (Funk, Opera Patrum apost., vol. I, p. 217).

[28] The text has been taken up, with slight variations (mirabilia instead of miracula), from the MP.

More recent articles:

For more articles, see the NLM archives: