What’s in That Prayer? The Collect for the Fourteenth Sunday after Pentecost

The Church’s orations are often packed with doctrinal content, as well as moral edification and linguistic beauty. All that, and — in the case of the collects, anyway — the Church is asking for something quite specific. How the Church herself prays ought to be how we pray, both at the purely functional and operational level (as in “we pray these prayers”), as well as at the level of guidance and imitation (as in, “we incorporate the language and thoughts of Holy Mother Church into our own private prayers”).

Mental prayer is no substitute of the Holy Mass, for sure. Yet, our assistance at the Holy Mass is much enhanced when we have cultivated the greater interiority that mental prayer fosters. We must avoid a silly sort of “either-or-ism” in considering these questions. Let us imitate Saint Maximilian Kolbe and choose the “both-and” option (Latin: “et-et”). If the Church’s liturgical prayer “invades” our mental prayer and we apply the methods and insights of our mental prayer to the Church’s liturgy, that’s a good thing — as long as our insights are faithful to Catholic Faith and morals. That “as long as” bit shows us the wisdom of taking our cues from the Church’s own texts.

Enough introduction!

Here is the Latin collect for the fourteenth Sunday after Pentecost in the Traditional Roman Rite:

Custódi, Dómine, quǽsumus, Ecclésiam tuam propitiatióne perpétua: et quia sine te lábitur humána mortálitas; tuis semper auxíliis et abstrahátur a nóxiis et ad salutária dirigátur.

Here is my own rather hyper-literal translation (I’m open to critiques, all you Latinists out there!):

Keep, O Lord, we beseech Thee, Thy Church in perpetual appeasement: and because without you, human mortality stumbles; by your helps may it be both drawn away from harmful things, and led to salutary ones.

Here is a less literal but more flowing one that I coped from the Divinum Officium site:

Keep, we beseech thee, O Lord, thy Church with thy perpetual mercy, and because the frailty of man without thee cannot but fall, keep us ever by thy help from all things hurtful, and lead us to all things profitable to our salvation.

As is so often the case, this collect beautifully illustrates the Church’s own doctrine of grace. We need grace (auxíliis: helps) from God. Without it, our weak human nature “stumbles” and “falls” and we end up stuck in things “harmful” and “hurtful”; with it, we are led to “salutary” things, which is to say, “things profitable to our salvation.”

That’s a lovely anti-Pelagian tract in one short prayer!

It’s one thing to assent to the Church’s doctrine: that is what faith does. It is another to seek the benefits of what that doctrine contains: that is what hope does. Hope prays.

Have a blessed Fourteenth Sunday after Pentecost.