Holy Face of Jesus: November 2011 Archives


Showing Forth His Face

In the Ordinary Form, the Collect for today's memorial of Saint Charles Borromeo contains an extraordinary phrase. We beseech (quaesumus) the Father that the Church, being ceaselessly renewed, and thus conformed to the image of Christ, may show forth His Face to the world: Christi se imagini conformans, ipsius vultum mundo valeat ostendere.

The Face Reveals the Heart

This is the mission of the Church: to show forth the Face of Christ to the world. In showing forth the Face of Christ, the Church invites all peoples to discover the merciful love of His Heart.

Saint Charles and the Holy Shroud

It is no coincidence, I think, that Saint Charles Borromeo, who venerated the Holy Shroud in Turin on October 10, 1578 was profoundly affected by the experience. Could not the allusion to the Face of Christ in today's Collect be a discreet allusion to the great reforming bishop's encounter with the mysterious Face of the Shroud?


Editio Typica

Custodi, quaesumus, Domine, in populo tuo spiritum,
quo beatum Carolum episcopum implevisti,
ut Ecclesia indesinenter renovetur,
et, Christi se imagini conformans,
ipsius vultum mundo valeat ostendere.

My Translation

Preserve in Thy people, we beseech Thee, O Lord, the spirit with which Thou didst fill the bishop Saint Charles;
that the Church may be ceaselessly renewed, and, in conforming herself to the image of Christ, be able to show forth His face to the world.

ICEL 1973

The flawed 1973 ICEL text, used today for the last time in the United States, is as follows:

Father, keep in your people
the spirit which filled Charles Borromeo.
Let your Church be continually renewed
and show the image of Christ to the world
by being conformed to his likeness.


What is wrong with the old ICEL text? First off, you will note that quaesumus is simply omitted. In the 1973 translation one does not beseech God, one rather baldly tells God what to do.

The Infusion of a Charism

In the Latin text, it is the Lord (God the Father) who fills Saint Charles with the spirit, meaning a particular infusion of the grace of the Holy Spirit. In the old ICEL text implevisti is not translated; it states, rather vaguely, that the spirit filled Charles Borromeo. "Spirit" here does not refer to the Holy Spirit; it refers to the grace of the Holy Spirit by which Saint Charles worked for the reform of the Church, a Divine inbreathing in view of his mission, a charism.


The Latin text refers to the saint as the bishop Charles; the old ICEL text eliminates the reference to his hierarchical order, and replaces it with his surname! This reflects the casual, democratizing approach to hierarchical order of the framers of the old ICEL texts in 1973, an approach still prevalent, alas, in certain sectors of the Church in the United States.

A Theological Deconstruction

Finally, the old ICEL text, by eliminating the subordinate ut clause, completely deconstructs the theology of the prayer. In the Latin text:

(A) we beseech the Lord (God the Father) to preserve the spirit (i.e. grace or charism) of Saint Charles Borromeo in the Church --

(B) ut, SO THAT, or in such wise that, the Church may be ceaselessly renewed --

(C) and, being conformed to the image of Christ,

(D) may be able to show His Face to the world.

The irrefutable logic of the prayer, correctly translated, is this: the Church is able to show the Face of Christ to the world because she has been conformed to His image as result of the spirit (reforming charism or grace) given by God to the bishop Saint Charles, and preserved in the Church in response to her humble supplication.

About Dom Mark

Dom Mark Daniel Kirby is Conventual Prior of Silverstream Priory in Stamullen, County Meath, Ireland. The ecclesial mandate of his Benedictine community is the adoration of the Most Holy Sacrament of the Altar in a spirit of reparation, and in intercession for the sanctification of priests.

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