Listen to the Word
Author: Daniel McCathy
Hardback, 154 pages
Available from Redemptorist Publications
The highlight of my weekly reading of the Tablet in 2006-7 was the commentary on the Sunday collect/opening prayer by Daniel McCarthy OSB. Cutting-edge scholarship met healthy spirituality. I am hence delighted that these commentaries have been revised and collected together.
Opening prayers transform individuals in community
Liturgy gathers individuals into a community and transforms them. At the heart of this process, when understood and applied at its best, is the opening prayer/collect in the Introductory Rites/Gathering of the Community.
Too often, in my experience, the collect/opening prayer is another little prayer read by the whole community from the pew-sheet in the still “cluttered vestibule” of the start of our eucharist.
If only communities would attempt the dynamics of the opening prayer as outlined in this book (p. xv):
1) Invitation to pray: Oremus, “Let us pray”,
2) Silent prayer of the community,
3) The opening prayer or collect given by the presider, which the rest of the assembly makes their own in the hearing,
4) And the ratification of the assembly’s “Amen”.
Often, this prayer read together from the pew-sheet has none of the polish nor even the structure of the great Western collects which once were learnt “by heart”, at least by Anglicans, as a wealth of inner spiritual resources. There is much criticism of the ICEL versions of the current Roman Rite, and new translations increasingly are approaching the Anglican style inherited from Thomas Cranmer. It is, hence, excellent to see that the preface to this book is by an Anglican bishop, Bishop John Flack. Not only do Roman Catholics and Anglicans share a common treasure, generally unrecognised, of these Western gems, but I have discovered that a number of them (currently inexplicably) are being prayed on the same days.
If you are interested, there is more on this approach to the use of the collect in Chapter 6 of Celebrating Eucharist.
For those who wish to grow more deeply into the wealth of the collect/opening prayer tradition and its scholarship, I can unreservedly recommend Appreciating the Collect: An Irenic Methodology by James G. Leachman (Editor), and the author of Listen to the Word, Daniel P. McCarthy (Editor)
Listen to the Word takes each prayer, gives its history, analyses its grammar and meaning, and then applies it to our spiritual life.
Listen to the Word is not a book to be read at one sitting, but to be savoured and lived week by week. In fact, if one reads more than one reflection at a time, one could quickly tire of the repeated, boilerplate introduction from one reflection to the next. Alongside the occasional typo, that would be the only criticism of this book, and I unconditionally recommend it to any who follow the Western liturgical tradition.
The websites mentioned in the book have impossible URLs:
As a gift to them, I have reduced these to
(This website each week also provides a commentary to the week’s collect – current one normally found on the home page, and previous ones can be found by clicking the button top left “prayer reflections“)