"Let us pray." Mystagogical Reflection on the Collects, Roman Missal 3

The Collect: What is it? 

"Let us pray." With those words right before the Liturgy of the Word begins, the priest lifts his hands in the orans (prayer) posture and offers a prayer to God on behalf of the community at worship. The Collect literally 'collects' the prayers of the community and lifts them to God through the prayer of the priest presider.

Several factors depend on how well people hear the Collect.

Each presider's ability to convey the Collect's message may vary because of personality, presidential style and the amount of time he spends memorizing and rehearsing the prayers and postures. Some presiders pay attention to bodily symbols -- the posture of their hands, the tone of their voice, well chosen words to invite the people into the sacred mysteries at the beginning of worship, enthusiasm, joy, compassionate receptivity -- everything counts so that the quality of worship provides ample opportunity for the assembly's wholehearted and robust prayer. 

The use of silence after the presider invokes the assembly with 'Let us pray" really matters. The presider literally 'collects' the prayers of each heart so that he can lift them to God on the assembly's behalf. That silence allows each member of the assembly to gather their prayers. All too frequently, the moment is lost because the presider moves from the invocation straight into the Collect without allowing any kind of contemplative pause. Before the Collect, a deep silence allows the prayers of all the faithful to rise collectively into the prayer that the priest presider prays in our name to the God who knows every heart and hears ever prayer. 

Another factor lies in the assembly's preoccupation during worship. A predisposition conditions the state of mind before people arrive to worship collectively with the community (I am usually running out of the house at the last minute. Admission: I'm not perfect.)

Although that I believe that God can break into any rock-wall heart, God does not venture where God is not welcome. I cannot stress the importance of preparing to pray before Mass begins. Even a brief "Open my heart and ears to hear you today, Lord," as we drive or walking to church places us in the moment and prepares us to enter into sacred mystery. These factors (and so many others) play into how we our hear, receive and process the Collect.

A noble simplicity

I will be very frank here. Some of the phrases in the Third Edition of the Roman Missal fall gracefully on the ear. However, because of its literal translation from Latin into English, the words of the prayers often fail to 'sing.' Some of the verbose language of the Collects in the Third Edition of the Roman Missal can sometimes cause so much ambiguity that the meaning can be squelched. Quite often, I admit that the time the prayer ends, I often think, "What did he say?" The moment is lost. We move into the Liturgy of the Word without gathering the prayer of our hearts and recalling the God is present, one of the intents of the Collect. This new translation of the Roman Missal seems to go against the grain of Sacrosanctum Concilium: 

"The rites should radiate a noble simplicity. They should be short, clear, and free from useless repetition. They should be with the people's powers of comprehension, and normally should not require much explanation." SC #34

The prayer also expresses and summarizes the nature of a particular Sunday or feast that offers the assembly a focus on the nature of that celebration to lead us deeper into mystery and perspective. Perhaps a bit of mystagogical reflection can help us to uncover the hidden layers of the Collect. But before we talk about how, let's put first things first.

What is mystagogical reflection?

Think about mystagogical reflection like cracking open a walnut. 

You need a nutcracker to help you shell out the nut that lies buried behind its exterior casing. Sometimes it takes a bit of digging to crack open the shell but the taste of the fresh walnut is worth the effort.

Opening God's word can require a bit reflection to discover what God is saying to us. We call that kind of liturgical reflection mystagogy - we are initiated into a mystery. We crack open the layers of the mystery to discover its hidden meaning in our lives. 

Taking the plunge into mystagogical reflection. 

Looking for a new way to deepen the experience of prayer with your liturgical ministers and members of your community? Take the plunge into mystagogical reflection, which unlocks the door to lived faith. Once you begin a dialogue through theological reflection, people's stories unfold. Faith deepens. The experience can be pretty exciting; you just have to begin. The Collect provides a starting place to pray reflectively with people. 

The national Federation of Diocesan Liturgical Commissions (FDLC) invites us all into a deeper understanding of the Collect through a series of reflections on those prayers from the Roman Missal. This FREE resource comes to us through the generous work of many people who encourage us all to distribute these reflections liberally and generously. 

Who can use these mystagogical reflections? 

Priests can use them to reflect and discern on the meaning of the Collect and enhance presider skills and homily preparation.

Pastoral musicians may take this opportunity to widen their understanding of each Sunday's context and use the Collect as a prayer resource for choir rehearsal.

Catechumenate teams may better prepare their own leadership for their catechumens. 

Liturgical ministers can use them as prayerful reflections to better prepare themselves to serve the liturgy.

Leaders of faith formation can use them as prayerful resources for their teaching staff and as learning tools for their community. 

Members of the assembly, particularly those involved in prayer and reflection groups will enjoy this helpful resource. 

Place these reflections on your own parish websites, use them in your bulletins, share them with liturgical ministers in your parish and your diocese. Take the plunge into mystagogical reflection with your people and see where it leads. 

Get these FREE reflections as PDF files here. Keep checking for updates. Diocesan directors of worship and other members of the FDLC will continue to update throughout the liturgical year ahead and keep adding to the site. 

The national Federation of Diocesan Liturgical Commision collaborates with the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops Committee on Divine Worship and other liturgical organizations on worship matters that affect local dioceses and their bishops. 

Here's a sample of a mystagogy reflection on the Collect for the First Sunday of Lent. 

Federation of Diocesan Liturgical Commissions [FDLC]

Mystagogical Reflection on the Collects of the Roman Missal

Link to Mystagogy Project on FDLC home page:

FIRST SUNDAY OF LENT February 17, 2013


Grant, almighty God,

through the yearly observances of holy Lent,

that we may grow in understanding

of the riches hidden in Christ

and by worthy conduct pursue their effects. 

Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,

who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,

one God, for ever and ever. 


This new prayer for the post-Vatican II missal, with roots in the Gelesian Sacramentary, speaks volumes in only a few words.  The cyclic nature of our liturgical calendar is not merely meant for time-keeping but for continued growth in faith.  Understanding comes over time by our attention to that gradual process of continual conversion.  

In the mysteries of the Sacraments and with eyes of faith, we see what is hidden – the treasure of grace that transforms and enables us to live after Christ’s example.  Our response to that grace already given is our desire for right relationship with God and with one another, a visible testimony that verifies God’s continued action in the world.

This week, thousands will give similar testimony to God’s grace at work in the lives of those to be called Elect.  Just as the word “initiation” implies, election is only the beginning of a lifelong pursuit of deepened conversion and an ongoing, gradual “becoming” into the image and name of Christ.  As we begin again our annual Lenten springtime, let us renew our pursuit of that becoming that we may be found worthy of our election by God.


Lord God, deepen our faith this Lent to continue the good work you have begun in us that we may always witness to your saving power and grace.

Submitted by:

Diana Macalintal. Director of Worship, Diocese of San Jose

Excerpt from The Roman Missal, Third Edition © 2010, ICEL.

Reprinted with approval of the Committee on Divine Worship, United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.

Many thanks to the members of FDLC for their work and commitment on behalf of the liturgy and the people of God.