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Gerard Moore on Collects

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Vatican II and the Collects of Ordinary Time: 

A Study in the Roman Missal (2008)
2nd edition.

We are pleased to announce that a second edition of Gerard Moore’s work on the collects of Ordinary Time originally of the Missale Romanum of 1975 has been updated to correspond to the Missale Romanum of 2008 and is now in preparation for publication.

The following is from the author’s draft introduction to the second volume.

Author’s Preface to the Second Edition

This introduction to the second edition necessarily begins with my gratitude and appreciation of Fr James Leachman osb and Fr Daniel McCarthy osb.  Their enthusiasm, hard work, perseverance and patience is behind the revised volume.  They have also been keen in fostering further studies in the collect orations, and their volume Appreciating the Collect[1] enabled myself and many specialists to engage with alternative methodologies, refreshed lexical approaches, renewed histories and reinvigorated studies of prayers and the genre itself.

Collects and the missal prayers in general have been the subject of much contention since the first release of our text.  The focus has been on their translation, and movements to align vernacular versions more closely with the Latin have drawn attention to the original texts themselves[2]. That discussion is far from run its course[3].  As an attempt to give some insight into the challenge of relying on a single translation to carry the import of a venerable text, I have included an extra Appendix that gives the translations of each of our prayers as found in officially sanctioned liturgical books currently in use[4].  However this volume is not concerned so directly with translation.  Rather, the hope has been that the studies that follow can continue to play a part in revealing the original sense of the texts and the subtle changes in meaning that occur when an ancient text is placed in a new context amongst a different set of prayers.

There has emerged a variety of approaches to the study of the ancient texts as found in our current Roman Missal.  One, most closely associated with the lexical studies of Cuthbert Johnson and Anthony Ward, has sought to elucidate the possible meanings within a prayer by placing them in a wash of similar patristic texts and usages[5].  The result is somewhat mixed.  The approach reinforces the patristic settings of the orations.  However it does not pay sufficient attention to the specific sense of words when used in particular contexts and ways.  In effect the prayers become somewhat bland carriers of wider patristic usage, and their direct pastoral intent and singular theological contribution is overlooked.  Moreover, there is little room left to discover the fresh meanings conveyed by the prayers when read within the current Roman Missal.

A second approach, also somewhat unsatisfactory, has been to examine the contemporary orations for the changes the have been made to original sources, and in particular the orations gathered in the 1570 Missale Romanum[6].   It is important to trace the changes made to texts, and have a sense of the adaptations made and the overall effects of such modifications.  Yet a close study of the textual tradition reveals that virtually every text in the Missal of Paul VI has undergone change and modification across its history.  Original sources are sometimes corrupt, or passed on across history with the mistakes of earlier copyists kept intact.  More importantly, every prayer text is an ecclesial text, and so has been adapted by churches, communities, monasteries, copyists and specialists to reflect changed conditions and modified theological contexts.

The work of French monk Dom Patrick Hala[7] represents a third and more fruitful avenue.  Consciously building on the specifics of the prayer and the meaning that can be taken from a serious study of the oration in its own right, Dom Hala then introduces the writings and works of a wide range of spiritual writers from across the ages of the church.  What ensues is an authentic and open dialogue, allowing liturgical texts to contribute with integrity to the spiritual treasury of the church.

In all this it is important to recognize that there is still much to be gained through a close study of the development of the collect genre within the Anglican liturgical tradition.  These authentically vernacular prayers have a strength and beauty that is unmatched in our own vernacular translations of the ancient Roman prayers.  One of the limits of this book is that it remains with the Latin tradition, but in doing is mindful of the creativity and contexuality that continues beyond Roman ecclesia.

Again, my thanks and appreciation to Fr James Leachman, Fr Patrick McCarthy and Abbot Cuthbert and the monks of St Michael’s Abbey for their willingness to take on this project.

Gerard Moore
17 Nov 2017
32nd Week in Ordinary Time 

[1] James G. Leachman osb and Daniel P. McCarthy osb (eds), Appreciating the Collect: An Irenic Methodology (Farnborough: St Michael’s Abbey, 2008).

[2] See The Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, Liturgiam authenticam: Fifth Instruction on Vernacular Translation of the Roman Liturgy, (2001), paragraph 20.

[3] See Gerald O’Collins sj and John Wilkens, The English Language and the Catholic Mass (Collegeville: Liturgical Press, 2017).

[4] Of course there have been many unofficial but well-loved and closely thumbed translations of the Tridentine Missal.  These deserve a study in their own right, and their devotional impact should not be underestimated.  My focus here, however, remains on the editio typica.

[5] A good example of this is found in their work on the prefaces: Anthony Ward and Cuthbert Johnson, The Prefaces of the Roman Missal: a source compendium with concordance and indices (Roma: Tipografia Poliglotta Vaticana, 1989).

[6] Perhaps the clearest example of this is the work of Lauren Pristas, The Collects of the Roman Missal: A comparative Study of the Sundays in Proper Seasons before and after the Second Vatican Council (London: Bloomsbury T&T Clark, 2013). 

[7] See in particular Habeamus Gratiam: Commentaire des collectes du Temps ordinaire (Éditions de Solesmes, 2002).


The volume will be available on the web-site of St. Michael’s Abbey Press, Farnborough, Hampshire as part of the series: Documenta Rerum Ecclesiasticarum Instaurata, available at this link.

The bibliographical entry for the original volume is: MOORE, G., Vatican II and the Collects of Ordinary Time: A Study in the Roman Missal (1975), International Scholars Publications, San Francisco – London – Bethesda 1998 (Catholic University of America thesis ad lauream, Washington DC 1996).