MR Prefaces: Apostles I

The Roman Missal provides two prefaces for a feast of an apostle. Here is the rubric that accompanies the first one:

The following preface is said in Masses of the Apostles, especially of Saints Peter and Paul.

Quick quiz: how many feasts of Peter and Paul exist in the main Roman Calendar?

The MR2 reads:

The addition in this edition is the references to the apostle-saints guiding people from heaven. That appears to be an invention from my reading of the Latin original. It is worded a bit differently in the current translation:

For you, eternal Shepherd,
do not desert your flock,
but through the blessed Apostles
watch over it and protect it always,
so that it may be governed
by those you have appointed shepherds
to lead it in the name of your Son.

This is a clumsy bit. Probably an ill-conceived composition as a whole. My counsel would be to deep-six this text. As a reading exercise, I first wondered if the text actually referred to the apostles in heaven watching over and protecting us. The MR2 makes clear it is the Eternal Shepherd, and not Jesus, but the Father. But that point doesn’t come across until the last phrase is proclaimed. I had to do a double take to figure it in the visual reading of the piece. I think a careless presider would confuse the meaning for anyone listening carefully.

My sense is that this preface could probably be replaced with something more clear about what we are doing in the preface. The Roman prefaces consistently address the Father as “you” and the Son as “he.” Very rare is the Christian attribution of Shepherd to a Person other than Jesus. That said, there is Psalm 23. My suggestion might be to incorporate Ezekiel 34 with bits from verses 25, 23, and 30 into a new preface on this theme:

Eternal Father,
You make a covenant of peace with your flock,
always attending to us.
You appoint shepherds to guide us
and lead us in the name of your Son,
so that we shall know that you are our God,
and we are your people.


About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in Minnesota, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
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4 Responses to MR Prefaces: Apostles I

  1. Liam says:

    I MR3 is much stronger in keeping the reference to flock and third person pronoun thereafter.

    • True. But a presider saying on one breath “blessed Apostles watch over it and protect it” is an aural confusion.

      • Liam says:

        the sense lines are there for a reason. A presider who ignores them will botch a lot more texts….

      • Of course. But my long experience in parishes with clergy and lectors is to make things as simple as possible for effective communication. But always considering the minimum effort needed or desired by those people who have “better things” on their mind. While I find the MR3 improved over 2 in some ways, I would still stress that the Missal itself needs reform. I’m very aware there is little taste for wading once again into controversial liturgical waters. But I’m going to remain a Cassandra on this, likely till I die. The point of the Missal is to cultivate holiness in the people of God. Not preserve texts as an idolatry above the primary mission of the Church.

        I suppose my related questions are these: where do these prefaces come from? Are they Tridentine? Were they formulated in the composition period 1964-70? Why are there not references in the Missal itself? Were experts in the spoken language consulted as to how these would sound when spoken aloud to listeners without the words in front of them?

        Honestly, I would have expected the MR2 to take care of these issues, which they didn’t do, entirely. And clearly MR3 hasn’t.

        That’s not my frustration with your commentary, which always pokes me in a good way. It’s about my dissatisfaction with missed opportunities for reform and renewal through the liturgy. It’s an impoverishment that hampers the mission.

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