Those Strange “Alternative Opening Prayers”

A very odd feature of the current Sacramentary is its “Alternative opening prayer,” which appears to have been dreamed up out of whole cloth. Here is the way it works. On the 15th Sunday in Ordinary Time, the priest’s collect can read:

God our Father,
your light of truth
guides us to the way of Christ.
May all who follow him
reject what is contrary to the gospel. 

Or this is this other option in the right hand column. It is labelled “Alternative Opening Prayer” and it reads as follows:

Father, let the light of your truth
guide us to your king
through a world filled with lights contrary to your own.
Christian is the name and the gospel we glory in.
May your love makes us what you have called us to be.

So where did that come from? Not from the Roman Missal. They were inserted into the Missal with the help of an advisory board. Essentially they were selected by a bureaucracy and inserted in to stand alongside the already loosely translated real versions. Sometime they seem to pick up missing parts from the Latin; other times, they contain completely new ideas. But there is nothing in the Sacramentary to indicate that they are anything less then authentic. It is made to appear as if these were just another example of “choice” that is all to pervasive in the Missal already.

To be sure, most younger priests got hip to this game some years ago. They never say them because their dubious authenticity. Older priests, however, who have not partaken of the current ethos toward more faithful rendering of texts, use them frequently, and they are nearly all as puzzling as the one above (“Christian is the name…”?)

Among many extraordinary features of the forthcoming Missal is that these are eliminated entirely. The text you will see is the translated text from the Roman Missal, period.

This is a huge step.

Incidentally, this is the new collect for the same day:

O God, who show the light of your truth
to those who go astray,
so that they may return to the right path,
give all who for the faith they profess
are accounted Christians
the grace to reject whatever is contrary to the name of Christ
and to strive after all that does it honor.

10 Replies to “Those Strange “Alternative Opening Prayers””

  1. Many thanks for shedding more light on this. As many of us have experienced, the alternative collects have often lead to the practice improvising new prayers altogether or "mixing and matching." It has degraded the importance of these Presidential texts, so rich in meaning. The syntax will at times be a challenge for for those who must proclaim the new texts. However, I''m very happy that great care has been taken to restore these texts, many which date to the earliest days of the Church.

  2. New prayers must come from somewhere. God didn't sit down at his desk and crank out the prayers in the Missal. Yes, many of them have been in existence in some form for hundreds if not thousands of years. This should not, however, prevent the development of orthodox and worthy texts.

    The forthcoming translation was developed by a bureaucracy, and in some places indeed dreamed up out of whole cloth. Is it too unworthy for inclusion in the Sacred Liturgy?

  3. The example you give of the "Opening Prayer" illustrates how defective this missal really is.
    It's what happens when the last word on the final text is made by people for whom English is not their primary language. In fact, some of the prayers in the "Advent" missal suggest these editors know little or no English.

    The English speaking hierarchy and Vox Clara deserve the criticism they've received to date. Obviously, Pope Benedict is clueless. He never saw the final version of the Pell Missal.

  4. I always just assumed that the Alternative Prayer was really just an "alternative translation".

  5. Too bad the new prayer is awful. It takes three minutes to figure out what it says in print (and even then it's debatable). People in the pews will go from not paying attention because the prayer doesn't say anything meaningful, to not paying attention because the prayer is incomprehensible. What an opportunity lost (and how many more souls?).

  6. Admittedly, complex compound sentences look confusing when you print them in short line format. But since God knows all, and since the people will be hearing the prayer and not looking at it, I anticipate no problems.


    who shows the light of truth to those who go astray so that they may return to the right path,

    give all,

    who for the faith they profess are accounted Christians,

    the grace to reject whatever is contrary to the name of Christ, and to strive after all that does it honor.

    See? Not hard to understand at all. The average teenage girl's sentences during phone conversations are much longer and more complex in construction, usually being riddled with nested parenthetic phrases and interjections. And yet somehow girls understand each other without special training or complaining to the bishops about it.

    And the trope that Christians bear the Name of Christ is ancient and Biblical too, as well as being a favorite trope of many of the Fathers.

  7. I can't wait for the Anglican Ordinariate liturgies to be implemented. Catholics having to put up with the new Pell Missal will be charging out the doors in droves to the Ordinariate once they hear the difference in language, music, and see the beauty of the rites themselves.

  8. I was musing on this very thing, the origin of those 'alternative' opening prayers, during Mass this morning.
    We had visiting concelebrants, and many other options were exercised, which led to thoughts of the opening collects, (only the Sundays' were in my Missal,) something about which I have long wondered.
    So they're kinda like the psalm prayers in the LotH?

    (Save the Liturgy, Save the World)

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