Friday, July 22, 2022

The Post-Vatican II Reform of the Proper of Saints in the Missale Romanum – As Told by Fr Carlo Braga, C.M. (Part 4)

This is the fourth 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 previous three parts, published over the last few days, can be found here: part one, part two, part three

Here, Braga writes about the "aggiornamento" ("updating") of the prayers in the Proper of Saints, apparently demanded by Vatican II, which entailed changing various prayers for theological and ecumenical reasons, for the supposed benefit of modern man and his "new spiritual situation".  
Likewise, he then gives some examples of the suppression of "secondary elements" in the Proper of Saints, such as references to historical and "legendary" elements, as well as literary features such as wordplay, imagery and symbolism. As Braga writes, rather revealingly, "Poetry is perhaps a little too much for our rather practical spirit" (p. 424).

*    *    *    *    *

[p. 419] Updating [Aggiornamento] of Theological Language

The revision of pre-existing texts becomes more delicate when it comes to the need for an update of their content or language, and when all this affects not only the form, but the doctrinal reality. We have already mentioned the new perspective of human values considered in relation with and almost as a way to supernatural goods: Vatican II clearly proposes this, and it was kept in mind for the revision of the Proper of Time. It could not be ignored in the revision of the Proper of Saints. At other points, the opportunity for a revision of language is dictated by ecumenical needs: expressions that recall positions or struggles of the past are no longer in harmony with the new positions of the Church. Devotional aspects, or particular ways of venerating and invoking the Saints, have been superseded by a whole new approach to Eucharistic theology: here, too, it was necessary to retouch the text to highlight new values and new perspectives.
    a) A classic example of the different evaluation of human things in relation to God and to eternal things, is the oration for Saint Albert the Great, the illustrious scholar of the human sciences as well as the theological ones:

1962 MR: Deus, qui beatum Albertum pontificem tuum atque doctorem in humana sapientia divinae fidei subicienda magnum effecisti, da nobis, quaesumus, ita eius magisterii inhaerere vestigiis, ut luce perfecta fruamur in caelis.

[O God, who made the Bishop and Doctor Saint Albert great by his setting of divine faith above human wisdom, grant, we pray, that we may closely follow the truths he taught, and thus come to enjoy perfect enlightenment in heaven.]

1970 MR: Deus, qui beatum Albertum episcopum in humana sapientia cum divina fide componenda magnum effecisti, da nobis, quaesumus, ita eius magisterii inhaerere doctrinis, ut per scientiarum progressus ad profundiorem tui cognitionem et amorem perveniamus.

[O God, who made the Bishop Saint Albert great by his joining of human wisdom to divine faith, grant, we pray, that we may so adhere to the truths he taught, that through progress in learning we may come to a deeper knowledge and love of you.]

Two substantial changes are evident. First, it is not a question of simply submitting human science to faith, but of coordinating these two fields, so that together they lead to an ever-greater knowledge of the truth. Then the sciences, in each field, can and must lead man to God, that is, to the knowledge and love of him. Creation is the way by which one can and must reach God.
    b) Another example, rather significant, can be seen from the orations of the ‘lay’ Saints, those engaged more directly in temporal matters, such as kings. While the previous texts [p. 420] tried to highlight the detachment of the Saint from the regales delicias or illecebras mundi, to seek despicere terrena (Saint Casimir) or to blandimenta huius mundi vitare et ad te puris mentibus pervenire (Saint Henry), or simply spoke of the exaltation from the passing glory of the world to the eternal glory of heaven, asking to be consortes Regis regnum Iesu Christi Filii tui (Saint Louis of France) or eiusdem gaudere consortio (Saint Wenceslaus), the new Missal is more positive, even if, in reality, the texts do not differ much from each other. The new texts offer a vision of the earthly office occupied by these Saints as a basis for the elevation to the supernatural, and, in comparison, view the various states of earthly life as ways to reach God and build his kingdom on earth.
    Let us compare, by way of example, the old and new collects for Saint Henry:

1962 MR: Deus, qui hodierna die beatum Henricum, confessorem tuum, e terreni culmine imperii ad regnum aeternum transtulisti, te supplices exoramus, ut, sicut illum, gratiae tuae ubertate praeventum, illecebras saeculi superare fecisti, ita nos facias, eius imitatione, mundi huius blandimenta vitare, et ad te puris mentibus pervenire.

[O God, who on this day transferred Saint Henry your Confessor from the summit of earthly empire to an eternal kingdom, we humbly beseech you that just as, by the abundance of your grace, you gave him strength to withstand the enticements of the world, so after his example you will make us shun the pleasures of this life and come to you in purity of mind.]

1970 MR: Deus, qui beatum Henricum, gratiae tuae ubertate praeventum, e terreni cura regiminis ad superna mirabiliter erexisti, eius nobis intercessione largire, ut inter mundanas varietates puris ad te mentibus festinemus.

[O God, whose abundant grace prepared Saint Henry to be raised by you in a wonderful way from the cares of earthly rule to heavenly realms, grant, we pray, through his intercession, that amid the uncertainties of this world we may hasten towards you with minds made pure.]

The oration for Saint Louis takes up almost the same initial elements, with a variation at the end, which underlines the search for the kingdom of God in the exercise of one’s human activities:

1970 MR: ... per munera temporalia quae gerimus, regnum tuum quaeramus aeternum.

[… by fulfilling our duties on earth, we may seek out your eternal Kingdom.]

c) Equally interesting is the comparison between texts, even quite recent ones, of the previous Missal and the new one, when it comes to ecumenism. The different mentality emerges from the comparison of the texts of Saint Robert Bellarmine and Saint Peter Canisius: two doctors of the Church, strong in the defence of the faith in their time, characterised particularly by strictness and a spirit of conquest. The new texts certainly do not intend to be guilty of false irenicism, but they do reflect a new approach and new spiritual situation.

    [p. 421] Here is the oration for Saint Robert Bellarmine:

1962 MR: Deus, qui, ad errorum insidias repellendas et Apostolicae Sedis iura propugnanda, beatum Robertum, pontificem tuum atque doctorem, mira eruditione et virtute decorasti, eius meritis et intercessione concede, ut nos in veritatis amore crescamus, et errantium corda ad Ecclesiae tuae redeant unitatem.

[O God, who adorned Saint Robert, your Bishop and Doctor, with wonderful learning and virtue to repel the snares of error and defend the rights of the Apostolic See, grant by his merits and intercession that we may grow in love of truth, and the hearts of those who stray may return to the unity of your Church.] 

1970 MR: Deus, qui, ad tuae fidem Ecclesiae vindicandam, beatum Robertum episcopum mira eruditione et virtute decorasti, eius intercessione concede, ut populus tuus eiusdem fidei semper integritate laetetur.

[O God, who adorned the Bishop Saint Robert Bellarmine with wonderful learning and virtue to vindicate the faith of your Church, grant, through his intercession, that in the integrity of that same faith your people may always find joy.]

And the one for St Peter Canisius:

1962 MR: Deus, qui ad tuendam catholicam fidem beatum Petrum, confessorem tuum, virtute et doctrina roborasti, concede propitius, ut eius exemplis et monitis, errantes ad salutem resipiscant, et fideles in veritatis confessione perseverent.

[O God, who for the defence of the Catholic faith made Saint Peter, your Confessor, strong in virtue and in learning, mercifully grant that, by his example and teaching, those who have gone astray may return to salvation, and the faithful may persevere in confessing the truth.]

1970 MR: Deus, qui ad tuendam catholicam fidem virtute et doctrina beatum Petrum presbyterum roborasti, eius intercession concede, ut, qui veritatem quaerunt, te Deum gaudenter inveniant, et in tua confessione populus credentium perseveret.

[O God, who for the defence of the Catholic faith made the Priest Saint Peter Canisius strong in virtue and in learning, grant, through his intercession, that those who seek the truth may joyfully find you, their God, and that your faithful people may persevere in confessing you.]

d) If we wish to continue illustrating the enrichment of language and concepts that comes from the replacement of some expressions, even those that had nothing to reproach them, it is enough to re-read the text of the oration for Saint Cyril of Alexandria, the great defender of the divine motherhood of Mary. The text remains unchanged, except in the last line, which has been given a much fuller and deeper meaning:

1962 MR: … qui vere eam Genetricem Dei credimus, materna eiusdem protectione salvemur.

[… who believe she is truly the Mother of God, may be saved by her maternal protection.]

1970 MR: … qui vere eam Genetricem Dei credimus, per incarnationem Christi Filii tui salvemur.

[… who believe she is truly the Mother of God, may be saved through the Incarnation of Christ your Son.]

It is not that we want to ignore or diminish the value of Mary’s intercession and protection, but it is certainly more effective to directly express the source of our salvation: the incarnation of the Word, in which Mary has her part of primary importance.

    e) And, as an example of a different perspective and different language with regard to the efficacy of the Eucharistic celebration in which we take part, let us look at the super oblata for the feast of Saint Vincent de Paul. This transformation is illustrative for many other cases. [p. 422] Placing the remembrance of the Saint in an indirect way, not in the function of intercessor but almost as the first of those who offer, is an opportunity to give greater prominence to the sanctifying value of the Eucharist. Also, in these cases, to avoid misunderstandings it must be specified that we do not intend to deny the intercession of the Saint, but at the moment of mentioning the value of the offering about to be made through the remembrance of the Lord’s memorial it seemed more important to emphasise this aspect, and to leave the direct invocation of the Saint in the collect, thereby resulting in a more balanced distribution of elements among the three euchological formulas of the Mass.

1962 MR: Deus, qui beato Vincentio, divina cotidie celebranti mysteria, tribuisti quod tractabat imitari, eius nobis precibus indulge, ut; immaculatam hostiam offerentes, ipsi quoque in holocaustum tibi acceptum transeamus.

[O God, who enabled Saint Vincent to imitate what he celebrated daily in the divine mysteries, bestow on us by his prayers that, in offering this spotless sacrifice, we, too, may be transformed into a holocaust acceptable to you.]

1970 MR: Deus, qui beato Vincentio, divina celebranti mysteria, tribuisti quod tractabat imitari, concede, ut, huius sacrificii virtute, ipsi quoque in oblationem tibi acceptabilem transeamus.

[O God, who enabled Saint Vincent to imitate what he celebrated in the divine mysteries, grant that by the power of this sacrifice we, too, may be transformed into an oblation acceptable to you.]

Another example of this same style, which highlights the value of the Eucharist in the life of the Saint as well as our own, is the correction made to the super oblata for the feast of Saint Charles Borromeo, derived from the Ambrosian Missal. In this correction, the revision of style is also evident, which differs between a collect and super oblata:

1962 MR: Deus, qui sanctum Carolum, confessorem tuum atque pontificem, pastoralis officii vigilantia et praeclaris omnium virtutum meritis sublimasti, praesta, quaesumus, ut, ipsum sinceris operum fructibus imitantes, tibi digne munera deferamus.

[O God, who made Saint Charles your Confessor and Bishop an attentive pastor and outstanding in the merits of all his virtues, grant, we pray, that imitating his works and good fruit, we may worthily offer you these gifts.]

1970 MR: Intende munera, Domine, altaribus tuis pro beati Caroli commemoratione proposita, et huius sacrificii virtute concede, ut, sicut illum pastoralis officii vigilantia et praeclaris virtutum meritis sublimasti, ita nos facias sinceris operum fructibus abundare.

[Look, O Lord, upon the offering placed on your altar in commemoration of Saint Charles, and grant by the power of this sacrifice that, as you made him an attentive pastor, outstanding in the merit of his virtues, so you may make us abound in good fruit by our works.]

Suppression of Secondary Elements of the Life of the Saint

Anyone who systematically scans the corpus of prayers in the new Missal will easily notice, as well as the strong characterisation of the Saints as shown in the new texts, the disappearance of references to many historical and more or less legendary elements, which appeared in the [p. 423] orations. One will also notice the disappearance of phrases or texts based on wordplay or imagery, beloved of other times.

    a) It will certainly be noticed that no Saint is said to have been the founder of one or more religious families any more. The number of this type of Saint after the Council of Trent had greatly increased, with no sign of a decrease in their number, and the repetition of this privilege during the year ended up being monotonous and devoid of interest. The presence of this element in the orations is certainly because the texts were taken from the propers of the respective religious families. In these propers, this remembrance may very well remain, with appropriate adaptations, but for the Church as a whole this is certainly of lesser importance. Nor can it be objected that this aspect will completely disappear from the memory of priests and faithful: in the biographical information introduced to each feast in the Breviary, mention will be made of this activity of the Saint when necessary. At times, it almost seemed as if this reference was made into the primary qualification of the Saint. An example of this, and of the correction made, can be seen in the oration for Saint Antony Mary Zaccaria:

1962 MR: Fac nos, Domine Deus, supereminentem Iesu Christi scientiam spiritu Pauli apostoli ediscere, qua beatus Antonius Maria mirabiliter eruditus, novas in Ecclesia tua clericorum et virginum familias congregavit.

[Enable us, O Lord God, in the spirit of the Apostle Paul, to learn by heart the surpassing knowledge of Jesus Christ, for, having wonderfully learned it, Saint Antony Maria gathered together in your Church new religious families of men and women.]

1970 MR: Da nobis, Domine, ut supereminentem Iesu Christi scientiam spiritu Pauli apostoli prosequamur, qua beatus Antonius Maria eruditus, verbum salutis in Ecclesia tua iugiter praedicavit.

[Grant, O Lord, that in the spirit of the Apostle Paul we may pursue the surpassing knowledge of Jesus Christ, for, having learned it, Saint Anthony Zaccaria constantly preached your saving word in the Church.]

b) Some celebrations have been retrieved from a commemoration of the historical fact to the celebration of the content of the fact itself. We have already mentioned, when speaking of the Marian texts, the memorial of Our Lady of Lourdes, which for the universal Church has become a commemoration of the privilege of her Immaculate Conception. The anniversary of the dedication of the basilicas of Saints Peter (in the Vatican) and Paul (‘outside the walls’) in Rome takes on, in the general calendar, the aspect of celebration of the two titular apostles, as was already the case for the anniversary of the dedication of the basilica of Saint Mary Major.
    These local facts retain their importance as historical events where they took place: outside this context, they have value only if they are elevated to a less contingent significance.
    [p. 424] c) Historical events, even those for which no serious critical objections can be raised, but that are secondary in the general economy of the celebration, are dropped to make way for elements of greater importance.
    As a first example, we can cite the collect for Our Lady of Mount Carmel. For the Church as a whole, it is devotion to the Virgin under this title that has value, not her relationship to the Carmelite order. We have already mentioned the correction of this text above, in connection with the Marian texts.
    The figure of Saint Raymond of Penyafort is characterised by his apostolic works in favour of penitents and slaves. The mention of the miracle of his having sailed on the sea using his cloak is secondary to the effects of the prayers inspired by the salient events of his life.
    Saint Frances of Rome was celebrated for the familiarity of her conversations with her Guardian Angel. This is certainly a privilege and a singular grace. But we cannot, without an equally particular grace, imitate it in this way, nor can we ask the Lord to grant us the same favour without a hint of presumptuousness. It is more important, and more achievable, to concentrate our admiration and prayer into asking God for the ability to discover him and to follow him in the various expressions of the daily journey of our life, like Saint Frances in the various conditions of her existence. 

1962 MR: Deus, qui beatam Franciscam, famulam tuam, inter cetera gratiae tuae dona, familiari Angeli consuetudine decorasti, concede, quaesumus, ut intercessionis eius auxilio, Angelorum consortium consequi mereamur.

[O God, who, among other gifts of your grace, honoured your servant Saint Frances with the friendly companionship of an Angel, grant, we pray, that by the help of her intercession we may merit to obtain the fellowship of Angels.]

1970 MR: Deus, qui nobis in beata Francisca singulare dedisti coniugalis et monasticae conversationis exemplar, fac nos tibi perseveranter deservire, ut in omnibus vitae adiunctis te conspicere et sequi valeamus.

[O God, who have given us in Saint Frances of Rome a singular model of both married and monastic life, grant us perseverance in your service, that in every circumstance of life we may see and follow you.]

d) One example, among others, of a certain play on words and images, can be found in the text of the previous Missal for the oration of Saint Rose of Lima. There is a reference to the legend that gave Rose her name, and to the scent of the rose, which then recalls the Pauline image of the sweet odour of Christ. Poetry is perhaps a little too much for our rather practical spirit. And so the new text limits itself to emphasising the power of love that led Rose to separate herself from the world and live in the austerity of penance. The petition is thus that we too may know how to discover the path of true life, which leads to God.

[p. 425] 1962 MR: Bonorum omnium largitor, omnipotens Deus, qui beatam Rosam, caelestis gratiae rore praeventam, virginitatis et patientiae decore Indis florescere voluisti, da nobis famulis tuis, ut, in odorem suavitatis eius currentes, Christi bonus odor effici mereamur.

[Almighty God, giver of all good things, who willed that Saint Rose, imbued with the dew of heavenly grace, should bloom in the Indies with the beauty of virginity and patience, grant to us your servants that, following her sweet fragrance, we may merit to become a pleasant fragrance of Christ.]

1970 MR: Deus, qui beatam Rosam, tuo amore succensam, mundum relinquere et tibi soli in austeritate paenitentiae vacare fecisti, da nobis, eius intercessione, ut, vias vitae sectantes in terris, torrente deliciarum tuarum perfruamur in caelis.

[O God, you set Saint Rose of Lima on fire with your love, so that, secluded from the world in the austerity of a life of penance, she might give herself to you alone; grant, we pray, that through her intercession, we may tread the paths of life on earth and drink at the stream of your delights in heaven.]

Another example of texts corrected in order to avoid the accumulation of images, even ones beautiful and biblically-inspired but that are not always easy and immediately comprehensible, can be seen in the super oblata for the feast of Saint Aloysius Gonzaga:

1962 MR: Caelesti convivio fac nos, Domine, nuptiali veste indutos accumbere: quam beati Aloisii pia praeparatio et iuges lacrimae inaestimabilibus ornabant margaritis.

[Grant us, O Lord, to take our place at the heavenly banquet, clothed in our wedding garment, which the loving care and constant tears of Saint Aloysius has adorned with priceless pearls.]

1970 MR: Caelesti convivio fac nos, Domine, exemplo sancti Aloisii, nuptiali veste semper indutos accumbere, et ex huius participatione mysterii gratia tua divites efficiamur.

[Grant us, O Lord, that by the example of Saint Aloysius, we may take our place at the heavenly banquet, clothed always in our wedding garment, so that, by participation in this mystery, we may possess the riches of your grace.]

Such texts could be abundantly cited in order to multiply the examples. We have limited ourselves to these only, noting how in such forms a translation of such abstract terms and concepts presents many difficulties, and can only be understood if there is a more explicit allusion to the whole background to which we wish to refer.

More recent articles:

For more articles, see the NLM archives: