Saturday, April 30, 2016

The Prayer for the Queen in The Tablet

Last weekend a certain Fr David Clemens criticised the Bishops of England and Wales over their mandating a prayer for the Queen to mark he 90th Birthday in a letter to The Tablet. This weekend The Tablet published a whole sheaf of responses, including one from me. The other published letters focused on the importance of praying for the head of state; my interest was with the liturgical aspect of the question. Here is my letter.

I was amused by Fr David Clemens' description (Letters, 23rd April) of the 'Prayer for the Queen' mandated by the Bishops' Conference for Masses taking place on 11-12th June, as 'a quasi-Protestant prayer for the Queen that would not be unfamiliar to Edward or Elizabeth Tudor.'

The prayer the Bishops are asking parishes to use is a translation of the 'Domine salvum fac' ('salvam fac' for a female monarch), which originated in medieval France. It was used in the coronation of King Francis I in 1515, and in time gained a stable place at the end of the 'principal Mass on a Sunday' in countries with Catholic monarchs, but it has also been adapted to petition for the good estate of republics ('Domine salvum fac rem publicam'). It has been set to music by many Catholic composers, such as Lully, Charpentier, and Gounod.

In an interesting assertion of Catholic loyalty to the crown, it has been in use in post-Reformation England (but not Scotland) for more than two centuries, and is sung and said today at the end of Sunday Masses celebrated in the Extraordinary Form. For other Masses it stopped in 1964.
It is good to see this monument of Catholic tradition return to our parishes, if only briefly. 'Quasi-Protestant' it certainly is not.

Yours faithfully,

Joseph Shaw
Chairman, the Latin Mass Society

I can only imagine that Fr Clemens thinks that the very idea of a prayer for the Sovereign is a Protestant, Erastian notion. If so, I certainly share with him some discomfort over the enormous Royal Coats of Arms seen in some Anglican churches, from the Protestant Tudors. Henry VIII and his immediate Protestant successors treated the Anglican Church at times as a sort of cult of the monarchy, removing references to unjust kings, and the saints who opposed them, from the liturgy. But it is quite another thing to object to prayers for the public good, and in a kingdom that means praying for the king, or queen.

While on the subject, it is worth noting something a little odd about the Bishops' translation of the Prayer for the Queen, which quite naturally differs a bit from the one you'll find in the Latin Mass Society's Ordinary Booklet, is that they have changed the ending of the collect. Collects have different endings depending on whether they are addressed to the Father, or the Son, and whether they address the Holy Ghost directly in the main text. The traditional prayer is addressed to the Son, since it includes the petition

'to come unto thee who art the way, the truth, and the life.'
'ad te qui via, véritas, et vita es,'

The 1960s fashion was to want all collects to address the Father through the Son and in the Holy Ghost, and the Prayer for the Queen has had the same treatment as that meted out to a number of other collects in the 1970 Missal. The Bishops' version turns this last petition into part of the final doxology, so the whole prayer is made

through Christ who is the way, the truth and the life...

The implication of the 1960s theology is that we shouldn't pray to Jesus, or the Holy Ghost, in the liturgy at all, a rule so often broken in the Roman liturgical tradition that one feels like asking 'who sets the rules here, the Church in her liturgy or a bunch of theologians?' I don't know how many would seriously defend that rule today, and it seems curious that the Bishops have promulgated a prayer which had been changed to follow it.

For the sake of comparison, the translation in the LMS booklet is as follows.

O Lord, save Elizabeth our Queen. And mercifully hear us when we call upon thee.
P: Let us pray.
We beseech thee, almighty God, that thy servant Elizabeth our Queen, who through thy mercy has undertaken the government of this realm, may also receive an increase of all virtues. Fittingly adorned with these, may she be able to shun all evildoing, [in time of war: to vanquish her enemies,] and, together with the Prince her consort and the royal family, being in thy grace, to come unto thee who art the way, the truth, and the life. Through Christ our Lord.
R: Amen.

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  1. Dear LMS Chairman. With the wonderful, and inexorable, increase in Usus Antiquior Missa Cantatas in Britain these days (many thanks to LMS support and funding), it is pleasing to hear "The Prayer For The Queen" chanted every time at the end of Mass.

    For example, Chislehurst (1100 hrs) and Margate (1130 hrs), both in Kent, have Missa Cantatas EVERY Sunday, which include The Prayer For The Queen. This Prayer is then followed, of course, by the Marian Anthem (currently "Regina Caeli"). Saint Bede's, Clapham (1045 hrs), is another weekly venue offering the same. Readers are urged to attend these Masses, if possible.

  2. Dear Dr. Shaw,

    I have a 1957 Burnes, Oates and Washbourne Missal which omits :Through Christ our Lord. Was this a case of the ideas of the 60s being infiltrated in advance?

  3. I meant ...omits "Through Christ Our Lord"

    1. That will just be a case of taking collect endings for granted. Very commonly they are abbreviated to 'per Dmn' or something like that; this sounds like going a step further and leavig the ending out altogether! Just to save space.

  4. I just read the prayer again. The Latin ends with per Christum Dominum nostrum but it's not included in the English, Elsewhere the Latin endings are translated. It's not a matter of space as the English is a couple of lines shorter than the Latin. Just an anomaly I guess.

  5. But, dear Dr Shaw,

    Is it precisely true that the Queen is "in (His) grace"? I do not mean, of course, to ask whether we can say the Queen is in the state of grace, for how can any man know the state of another's soul? Rather, the prayer must refer to public "grace" which must refer to the bonds of grace. HRM, the Queen, being not in full communion with the Church, seems by definition to be unable to be "in grace" as the prayer suggests. Am I misreading things?



    1. The prayer does not say she is in grace, but petitions that she be in grace, and thus to come to the Son who is the way etc

  6. Ah, well, thabk you. However, having read it over several more times, as I read it, the use of the participle in apposition makes it a statement of fact, but I am sure it admits of other interpretations. Cheers, Ben.

  7. As a child in the 1950s I was usually taken to the Missa Cantata on Sundays and remember that the prayer for the Queen was said in English after the choir had chanted the Domine Salvam Fac.

    O Lord save Elizabeth our Queen/And hear us in the day when we call upon Thee.

    O Lord, bless our sovereign Lady the Queen, now by Thy mercy reigning over us. Adorn her yet more with every virtue, remove all evil from her path, so that with her consort and all the royal family she might come at last in grace to Thee, who art the way, the truth and the life. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.

    In 1964 the 'bidding prayers' included 'Bless our Sovereign and the royal family. Guide those who govern our country, that they may rule with wisdom and justice'. This persisted for a few years, but is now rarely heard.

    1. That's very interesting. It is only in Latin in the Ritus Servandus, unlike some other things. I wonder if we could track down this translation.

    2. I remember this prayer as John Nolan describes it.

  8. 1. We used to have that translation after missa cantata at school in the 50 / 60s

    2. At the EF missa cantata at Ste Genevieve in Paris they end with "Domine, salvam fac Galliam"+ a collect. In Belgium they also use the responsary and collect in the appropriate royal form.

  9. Dear LMS Chairman,

    I am a faithful catholic and a burning republican. Why do you despise me?

    1. I've reread the post and I just don't get this comment. I didn't even address the question of republicanism.

    2. Well, it is obvious you are advocating monarchism. Am I right?

    3. I don't even mention the subject of 'monarchism' as a form of government or constitution, so no, you're not right.

      You seem to have a sore spot about this issue. But I'm not poking it.

  10. Domine salvam fac Galliam?

  11. "I can only imagine that Fr Clemens thinks that the very idea of a prayer for the Sovereign is a Protestant, Erastian notion."

    I think that a distinction should be made between a Sovereign who is within the church and one who is outside of it, when praying to them within the liturgy. With St Constantine or St Louis IX on the one hand and Ceaser or (given the millions of babies that have been murdered during our current monarch's reign) Hitler, on the other.

    The excessiveness of it does seem protestant to me. I think that unless the political system is within the Catholic church (in the broad sense of the term), then Catholics should be in, but Not of, it. The sentiments behind wishing to show loyalty to it in the liturgy remind me of the anglicanization of Catholicism in Ireland and the Americanisation of Catholicism generally.

    Because it has been done before is not a sufficient reason. Were any of the 'enemies' of these monarchs enemies merely because they were Catholics defending themselves? In Ireland perhaps? There have been some pretty awful atrocities over there in the past few hundred years. Would it really be a good thing if Catholics were praying for fellow Catholics to be vanquished on account of their Catholicism?

    Where I live many Novus Ordo are Irish or of Irish descent. And I think this would be a genuine stumbling block for some.

    * I've read that monarchs were not sovereigns during the medieval period and that this was a fairly modern phenomenon. Could this have had protestant origins?

    Many thanks

    1. You’ll find the answer in the post.