Wednesday, November 23, 2011

A brief restoration of the Domine Salvam Fac for the OF

I was alerted to a story in the Daily Mail saying that 'for the first time ever' Catholics were to have an official prayer for the Queen, for her Diamond Jubilee. Not until I saw the Catholic Herald was it explained that this was to be said on Trinity Sunday 2012. I could find no trace of the announcement on the Bishops' Conference website (what is this website actually for, one may ask?)

Not even the Catholic Herald seemed aware that the Bishops were using the prayer which was said at the end of the principal Mass on a Sunday in every parish in England and Wales until 1964. The translation is not the same as that found in my Baronius Press missal but it is clearly the same prayer.

Not only do Catholics still have this prayer when they attend a Sung Mass on a Sunday in Extraordinary Form, but they sing part of it; it is familiar as the 'Domine salvam fac' ('salvUm fac' when there is a king). The rest is strictly a collect, which is said by the priest. (You can hear it sung from the LMS website here.)

I'm delighted to see this being restored, at least for one Sunday. I'm not sure why it 'is used after the post-Communion prayer and before the final blessing', instead of right at the end of Mass; perhaps the Bishops are worried that, not being used to it, the people would start leaving church before the prayer was said.

In 1964, so I understand (I hadn't been born) the Bishops of England and Wales announced that the Domine salvam fac would no longer be said, but a prayer for the Queen should be included among the Bidding Prayers. I think I have heard this happen, but I'd say it was pretty rare. What actually happened in most places is that prayers for the good estate of the Queen were just forgotten.

When this prayer is mentioned there is usually a flurry of annoyed comments from Jacobites, Fenians, and assorted grumpy Republicans asking why we should pray for the Queen. The answer is not, of course, that (as one commentator on the Catholic Herald story suggested) she is a 'good Christian lady'.  The answer is, simply, that she is the Queen. If we had a Republic (which God forbid), we should pray for the President, or the Republic itself, however good, bad, or indifferent they might be. To refuse to pray for the Head of State is to refuse to pray for the good of the very fabric of law and custom which sustains society. It is a form of spite whose object is ultimately oneself. Much more productive is the slogan of the otherwise obscure American statesman, Carl Schurz:

My country right or wrong! If right to be kept right! If wrong to be set right!

I don't know when Catholics started to pray the Domine salvum /salvam fac for the monarch, but a friend of mine has found it in a Missal printed in 1815. Message to the Daily Mail: we've been doing this for a long while!


  1. Anonymous10:42 am

    I seem to remember that the regular prayer for the monarch after Sunday mass was agreed with the government in 1778 as part of the deal which led to the first Catholic relief Act (also known as the Papists Act).

    But this form of prayer is undoubtedly older, and isn't specific to England - it was (and is?) used in countries with a Catholic monarch for their sovereign. The collect is in the Roman Missal under the prayers for various necessities.

    The prayer after mass was only used in England and Wales, not Scotland. I recall hearing that when the SSPX began to use it in Scotland, the laity walked out in protest. I don't know if this was residual Fenianism, or a protest on behalf of their own tradition. Whichever, the prayer was dropped.

  2. Anonymous8:31 am

    Indeed Dr Shaw. I was surprised that this prayer was somehow treated as an inovation. It has been around, as you point out, forever.

  3. Anonymous3:11 am

    It may be a bit harsh to describe The Queen as a not particularly good Christian on the basis of Her Majesty’s failure to refuse to assent to bills which permit abortion and euthanasia. Royal Assent has not been refused since 1708 and, even then, it was on advice. If The Queen attempted now to withhold assent, it would provoke a crisis the extreme result of which might be the abolition of the Crown. Badouin I of the Belgians made a good statement against an objectionable bill but he knew all the while that it would eventually pass with an assent conferred by Parliament. I would not wish to give our parliamentarians the taste for conferring assent! It is a power they would not lightly relinquish. It is, I suppose, a sad proposition that The Queen can retain, theoretically, the power to withhold assent provided she never attempts to exercise it but The Queen operates most effectively beforehand and behind the scenes. For a frivolous example, witness The Queen’s frustration of Benn’s attempt to issue stamps without Her Majesty’s profile by privately opposing it while it was still in the planning stages. For a more pertinent example, The Queen saw off the attempt of the then Prime Minister of Australia to remove the words “by the grace of God” from Her Majesty’s Australian style (see A. Twomey, The Chameleon Crown: The Queen and Her Australian Governors (Sydney: Federation Press, 2006), p. 108.) Not for nothing is, “Do you think that’s wise?” said to be a powerful phrase in the Palace. It may be that The Queen has been putting the unwisdom of permissive abortion and euthanasia laws (and a host of other things) to her ministers. Who is to blame if that has been without success? Those ministries have been the fruit of our democracy and our culture endorses their zeal for abortion and euthanasia. Our efforts should be to transform the culture until they are unelectable.

  4. Yes, she might be "head of the state", but nonetheless, she is head of the protestant church too.