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Listen to the Word

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photo of book cover: Listen to the Word

Listen to the Word
Commentaries on selected Opening Prayers
of Sundays and Feasts with Sample Homilies

Daniel P. McCarthy
with two sample homilies by:
James G. Leachman


The opening prayer or collect has received little notice in the reform of the liturgy, although the scholarship behind it is as solid as its tradition is broad and profound. This brief prayer beguiles with brevity and apparent simplicity, and we too easily shy away from the rewarding harvest of encountering this prayer in its mature abundance and gleaning the fruit in its proclamation.

The length of an average opening prayer is four short lines, recited in about ten seconds. If we want the assembly to make the prayer its own, then more time and attention must be given to its effective proclamation. I have found that understanding the literary structure of the prayer is helpful, so that as the prayer unfolds the assembly may make the prayer its own in the hearing.

This book offers a thorough revision of the commentaries first presented in The Tablet from March 2006 – September 2007. The translations have been submitted to the review of Rev. Reginald Foster. The book has been augmented with images from the ambo of Santa Sabina, Rome, with explanations.


Rt Rev. John Flack

Canon Alan Griffiths

Introductory Material

Valuing the Opening Prayer
Literary Genre of an Opening Prayer
Performative Stages of an Opening Prayer


Advent:                     4 Commentaries
Christmas:               3 Commentaries
Lent:                          6 Commentaries
Triduum:                   3 Commentaries
Easter:                       8 Commentaries
Ordinary Time:     29 Commentaries
Feasts:                       6 Commentaries
Total:                       52 Commentaries

Five Sample Homilies: Preaching from the Prayer

Recovering what was lost
Homily on the opening prayer of the Fifth Sunday of Easter
by James G. Leachman OSB

By mutual participation 
Homily on the opening prayer of the Sixth Sunday of Easter
by Daniel P. McCarthy OSB

How to Serve Better, Not How Better to be Served
Homily on the Prayer over the Gifts of the Ninth Sunday of Ordinary Time
by James G. Leachman OSB

Liturgy – Our Offering
Homily on the Prayer over the Gifts of the Fourth Sunday of Advent
by Daniel P. McCarthy OSB

To Mutual Self-gift through Service
Homily on the Prayer over the Gifts of the Feast of the Most Holy Trinity
by Daniel P. McCarthy OSB

Scriptural Index
Names Index


You will learn:

♣ How to pray with the church

♣ How to preach from the liturgy

♣ How to compose personal prayers

You will understand:

♣ How the prayers were revised

♣ The intentions behind the liturgical renewal

♣ The living Latin language of the prayers

♣ The interpretation of the prayers as taught at the Pontifical Institute of Liturgy

You will discover:

♣ The sources of the prayers

♣ How the liturgy developed in history

♣ How the prayers are constructed

♣ The sources of prayers used ecumenically

You will be prepared:

♣ to better appreciate your own prayer life

♣ to engage more fruitfully in Lectio divina

♣ to use the new translations due c. 2011

♣ to teach Latin from the prayer of the church

You will move beyond:

♣ The building blocks to consider the larger structures of the prayers

You will appreciate:

♣ The difficulty of translating liturgical texts

♣ The living history of liturgical prayer


Enrich your Lectio divinaor prayerful reading by developing your prayer and seeing the scripture within:

Lectio: The proclamation of the scriptures

Meditatio: Silence after each reading, the homily

Oratio: Prayerful response to the readings in the Psalm and prayers of the assembly

Contemplatio: Appreciation of the dialogue


To limit preaching and reflection to the scriptures omits the Church’s response to the scriptures preserved in these short prayers as much as 1,600 years old. Including the prayers in preaching and reflection further inspires our response to the scriptures.

Bibliographic entry:

McCarthy, D.P. J.G. Leachman, Listen to the Word: Commentaries on Selected Opening Prayers of Sundays and Feasts with Sample Homilies, Revised from articles that appeared in The Tablet, 18 March 2006 – 15 September 2007, (Documenta Rerum Ecclesiasticarum Instaurata. Liturgiam aestimare : Appreciating the Liturgy. Varia), The Tablet Trust, London 2009.

  • ISBN-10: 0951616218
  • ISBN-13: 978-0951616215



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Fr Daniel P. McCarthy OSB, is a monk of St Benedict’s Abbey, Atchison, Kansas. Having just completed his doctorate at the Pontifical Institute of Liturgy, he now teaches and writes in Rome. He is the author of two series of weekly commentaries published in The Tablet, one on the collects (2006-2007), the other on the prayers over the gifts (2007-2008). He is co-director of the DREI project and co-editor of the series Liturgiam Aestimare : Appreciating the Liturgy.

Fr James G. Leachman OSB is a monk of St Benedict’s Abbey, Ealing, London, who teaches and writes at the Pontifical Institute of Liturgy, Rome. He is assistant editor of Ecclesia Orans, co-director of the DREI project and co-editor of the series Liturgiam Aestimare : Appreciating the Liturgy. He writes on the Liturgy of the Church of England and the theology of Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults. He edited the volume The Liturgical Subject: Subject, Subjectivity and the Human Person in Contemporary Liturgical Discussion and Critique.

Book Reviews

Richard Yeo, “Review of Book”, Downside Review 127 (2009) 303-304 (download here).

Kevin McGinnell, “Book review”, Anaphora 4 (2010) 71-73.

Paul Turner, “Book review”, Pastoral Liturgy 41:5 (September – October 2010) 18.

Guerric De Bona, “Book review”, American Benedictine Review 61:2 (June 2010) 210-212.

Ashley Beck, “Book review”, New Diaconal Review 2 (May 2009) 48.

The European Society for Catholic Theology, ET Newsletter (13 July 2009).

William C. Graham, Celebration: A Comprehensive Worship Resource 38:8 (August 2009) 5.

Bosco Peters gives this first review of the book.

On the Series in The Tablet:

Tony Doherty, “Take a bow”, Letters to the Editor, The Tablet (3 December 2011) 18.

Christopher Howse, “Sacred Mysteries”, The Telegraph (17 February 2017) available here.

Anne McGowan, “Collecting Connections: Praying, Believing, and Living”, New Theology Review 29.1 (September 2016) 49-52 available here (numerous references to these articles).

St. Pius X Catholic Community,  St. John’s, Newfoundland & Labrador online weekly bulletin  for 7 February 2012 quotes from D. McCarthy, “Intimate Encounters”, The Tablet (17-24 December  2011) 29, accessible here.

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