What’s in That Prayer? The Collect for Saint Edward the Confessor

Here is the oration that the Church prays in the Mass and Office for Saint Edward the Confessor (October 13):

Deus, qui beátum regem Eduárdum Confessórem tuum æternitátis glória coronásti: fac nos, quǽsumus; ita eum venerári in terris, ut cum eo regnáre póssimus in cælis.

Here is my translation:

O God, who hast crowned the blessed King Edward, Thy Confessor, with the glory of eternity: make us, we ask, so to venerate him on earth that we may be able to reign with him in the heavens.

Here is the translation from the Divinum Officium site:

O God, Who hast set upon the head of thy blessed Confessor King Edward a crown of everlasting glory, grant unto us, we beseech thee, so to use our reverence for him here upon earth, as to make the same a mean whereby to come to reign with him hereafter in heaven.

It is not uncommon for the Church to speak of kings “reigning” in Heaven after having passed thither from a terrestrial crown on earth (cf. the collect for Saint Louis IV, King of France). Here, we are asking for the grace so to venerate King Saint Edward that we ourselves may reign with him in Heaven. And why shouldn’t we? Saint Paul, writing of himself and his fellow Christians, says that “if we suffer [with Him: Christ], we shall also reign with him” (2 Tim. 2:12). Saint Peter tells us that we “are a chosen generation, a kingly priesthood, a holy nation, a purchased people” (1 Pet. 2:9).

So, that little “reign with him” twist is very Biblical.

Notice, too that the prayer attributes salfivic merit to our venerating the saint. Let’s think about that. Simply giving external reverence to a saint is obviously not sufficient for one to be saved. But such an act of religion, at the very least indicates that one has the true Faith, which is indeed a necessary condition for salvation. More than that, though, to venerate a saint truly implies imitating that saint’s virtues. (It does not mean emulating every act of that saint, but simply imitating the virtues. There is a difference.) In True Devotion to Mary (# 108), Saint Louis de Montfort writes this about the devotion he prescribes: “Third, true devotion to our Lady is holy, that is, it leads us to avoid sin and to imitate the virtues of Mary. Her ten principal virtues are….” I believe that is what the prayer is getting at. Authentic veneration of any saint includes living the theological and moral virtues — which all the saints exemplified — and, of course, persevering in the state of grace.

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Saint Edward’s death — without offspring, owing to a vow of virginity he had made — led to a highly significant historical development that was comically memorialized in the book 1066 and All That. Edward was related to the Norman (French) Duc de Normandy.1 When he was a child, he fled to his Norman uncle’s court as those other Norsemen, the Danes, killed his brothers and took over his kingdom.

When Edward died, William of Normandy (“the Conqueror”) invaded England, using his kinship to Edward as a pretext for assuming the rule of England. As a result, Saint Edward was the last of the Saxon Kings to rule England. Also as a result, the Old English language of Beowulf (the still very Germanic Anglo-Saxon tongue) was amalgamated with French and became the “Middle English” tongue of Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales.

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Saint Edward had a gift of healing diseases by touching the afflicted (“the Royal Touch”). This fact, attested by biographers, also made its way into Shakespeare’s Macbeth. You can read more about that in The Hands of the King.

Saint Edward the Confessor, pray for us!


Detail of the left panel of the Wilton Diptych, where Saint Edward (center), with Saint Edmund the Martyr (left) and Saint John the Baptist, are depicted presenting Richard II to the Virgin Mary and Christ Child.

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  1. The Norman French themselves were an amalgam of the Frankish and Gallo-Roman natives of that part of France and the Viking Norse invaders, whose chief was in time dubbed “Duc de Normandy.” Thankfully, the Viking invaders were eventually Christened. Several hundred years later, we encounter in our American Catholic history a great Norman in the person of Saint John de Brebeuf, one of the North American Martyrs.