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Catholic Culture Trusted Commentary

qui omnem sanctificationem compleret

By Diogenes ( articles ) | Nov 09, 2006

Last weekend I heard the 4th Eucharistic Prayer for the first time in a while. It struck me forcefully that, read together with its preface, it's an almost unimprovably succinct narrative of Catholic faith. In fact, if a curious Buddhist or Moslem were to ask, "What do you Catholics believe about God?" you could hardly do better than hand them that preface and prayer in response. It's all there: divine sublimity, creation, adoration, disobedience, covenant, prophecy, incarnation, redemption, resurrection, ascension, the gift of the Spirit, eucharistic vigil in expectation of the second coming of Christ. The Creed is also an epitome of Catholic faith, but as is proper to its purpose its affirmations are responses to doctrinal controversies. In EP4 the faith is presented as the simple unfolding of salvation history: no bush-fires or ice storms have left their mark on the tree.

It's a hope-illumined prayer. It keeps its gaze fixed on our sanctification: the sacramental business going on now as well as its consummation at the end of history. There's a monastic tranquility and recollectedness about it, taking in human, angelic, and divine activity in a single glance sub specie aeternitatis. If I were a monk I'd see it as a vocational Magna Carta.

For some years we used to hear the 4th Eucharistic Prayer pretty frequently, then a more politically fastidious clergy choked on all the masculine generics ("Even when HE disobeyed you and lost your friendship you did not abandon HIM to the power of death, but helped all MEN to seek and find you...) and it fell into disuse. I'm not certain it works perfectly in the Mass myself; there's a lot of sacred history crammed into second-person discourse, and that history seems more fittingly narrated to the people than addressed to God the Father. Yet something would be lost if it were to vanish in the combat to come. Most of the 1970s liturgical gimcrack deserves to end in the bonfire, but I hope this brand is plucked from the burning.

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  • Posted by: samuel.doucette1787 - Sep. 13, 2010 9:05 AM ET USA

    Defender, I recently did my will and I explicitly stated that I wanted an Extraordinary Form Requiem Mass complete with Dies Irae precisely because I want people to pray for the repose of my soul after my death and not to celebrate my life. I'm sure I will spend some time in Purgatory. Just ask my wife! :-) Seriously, I am not yet canonizable. I don't want my funeral Mass to canonize me. I'll add the 30 Gregorian Masses too. Good suggestion!

  • Posted by: - Sep. 13, 2010 7:28 AM ET USA

    Dr Nicholas, he actually reached retirement age, but raised such a stink in the media when he refused to submit the mandatory letter of resignation that he was allowed to stay on. He's a media personality.

  • Posted by: Defender - Sep. 12, 2010 2:08 PM ET USA

    Listening to most funeral masses today and you'd think everyone is going direct to heaven. As much as I would like to think so, I'm quite sure I'll spend at least some time in purgatory, so I'd like 30 Gregorian Masses said because I'm sure to need all the help I can get. I've already encountered many priests who don't know what the Gregorian 30 are, as well as, extreme unction, etc, etc. What a state we have become!

  • Posted by: - Sep. 10, 2010 9:30 PM ET USA

    Amazing! This very day my wife and I attended a "Catholic" funeral that was right up Maguire's alley, a "celebration of life." It was awful, a bunch of touchy-feely Protestant nonsense, with a priest who seems to have forgotten that he's called "Father." He was anything but fatherly, but more like Richard Simmons, only less macho. It was only at the cemetery that a deacon finally said prayers of supplication for the repose of the deceased's soul. Same thing went for the rosary yesterday.

  • Posted by: Lisa Nicholas, PhD - Sep. 10, 2010 7:03 PM ET USA

    Wow, that priest is in sad shape. He should be encouraged to take early retirement so that he can enjoy the rest of his mortal life -- since "it's all he's got."