Rorate Caeli

The Prayers for Saint Luke in the Traditional and Reformed Roman Missals

As today is the feast of St Luke the Evangelist in both the traditional and reformed Roman calendars, it seemed worthwhile to compare the prayers assigned to St Luke in the traditional Missal with those of the post-Vatican II Missal. One might have thought, given the very long-standing veneration given to the Evangelists, that their prayers would not have been changed in the course of the liturgical reform, but unfortunately this is very far from the case.

Firstly, it should be noted that the collect, secret and postcommunion assigned for St Luke in the traditional Roman Rite have a long history of being used together: the Corpus orationum (CO[1] tells us that thirty-five extant liturgical manuscripts, ranging from the 8th to 16th centuries, keep these orations together as a set. Of course, the reformed Roman Rite not only splits up this Mass formulary, but discards one prayer entirely and only keeps the other two in an edited fashion (one minor, one major).

Miniature of Saint Luke from the Grandes Heures of Anne of Brittany
(1503–1508) by Jean Bourdichon

Today’s collect in the traditional Roman Rite is as follows:

Intervéniat pro nobis, quǽsumus, Dómine,
sanctus tuus Lucas Evangelísta: 
qui crucis mortificatiónem iúgiter in suo córpore, 
pro tui nóminis honóre, portávit. (CO 3180)

May your holy Evangelist Luke, 
we pray, O Lord, intercede for us: 
who constantly bore in his body the suffering of the Cross, 
for the honour of your holy name.

This prayer is almost universally used as a collect for St Luke, occurring as such in thirty-eight extant manuscripts ranging from the 8th to 16th centuries (in two of these thirty eight, it doubles up as a collect for one evangelist). We can also see an allusion to 2 Corinthians 4:10 in this prayer: semper mortificationem Iesu in corpore nostro circumferentes, ut et vita Iesu manifestetur in corporibus nostris (“always bearing about in our body the mortification of Jesus, that the life also of Jesus may be made manifest in our bodies”). This is particularly apt for today’s liturgy, given that the Epistle reading in the traditional Roman Rite is also from 2 Corinthians (8:16-24).

In the post-Vatican II reformed Roman Rite, however, this prayer has been thrown away entirely and replaced with a new composition, an elaborate catena loosely based on Dante and the scriptures:

Dómine Deus, qui beátum Lucam elegísti,
ut prædicatióne et scriptis
mystérium tuæ in páuperes dilectiónis reveláret,
concéde, ut, qui tuo iam nómine gloriántur,
cor unum et ánima una esse persevérent,
et omnes gentes tuam mereántur vidére salútem.

Lord God, who chose Saint Luke
to reveal by his preaching and writings
the mystery of your love for the poor,
grant that those who already glory in your name
may persevere as one heart and one soul
and that all nations may merit to see your salvation.

Et quod tunc humanum genus fuerit felix in pacis universalis tranquillitate hoc ystoriographi omnes, hoc poete illustres, hoc etiam scriba mansuetudinis Cristi testari dignatus est; et denique Paulus “plenitudinem temporis” statum illum felicissimum appellavit. (Dante, De monarchia, I, XVI [Eng. transl.])

Non solum autem, sed et ordinatus est ab ecclesiis comes peregrinationis nostræ in hanc gratiam, quæ ministratur a nobis ad Domini gloriam, et destinatam voluntatem nostrum. (2 Corinthians 8:19)

Multitudinis autem credentium erat cor et anima una, nec quisquam eorum, quae possidebant, aliquid suum esse dicebat, sed erant illis omnia communia. (Acts 4:32)

Erant autem perseverantes in doctrina apostolorum et communicatione, in fractione panis et orationibus. (Acts 2:42)

Tunc audenter Paulus et Barnabas dixerunt: Vobis oportebat primum loqui verbum Dei; sed quoniam repellitis illud et indignos vos iudicatis aeternae vitae, ecce convertimur ad gentes. (Acts 13:46)

Viri fratres, filii generis Abraham et qui in vobis timent Deum, nobis verbum salutis huius missum est. (Acts 13:26)

We have thus gone from a well-attested, long-used collect for St Luke, containing a fairly obvious biblical allusion, to a brand-new composition inspired by so many (mostly paraphrased) texts that it is arguably very difficult to recognise any of its sources in a straightforward manner. Numerically ‘richer’, [2] no doubt, but if its ‘richness’ can only be recognised with difficulty then how beneficial is it really for clergy, preachers, or the faithful? Compounding this is the frequent issue in the reform of the Roman Missal’s orations—how did “the good of the Church genuinely and certainly require” (SC 23) this sort of innovation and novelty?

In this particular case, my suspicion is that article 92(c) of Sacrosanctum Concilium was used as justification to eliminate the traditional collect, even though this provision has to do with the Breviary and not the Missal:

The accounts of martyrdom or the lives of the saints [in the Divine Office] are to accord with the facts of history.

There are conflicting accounts in the various martyrologies and accounts of the lives of the Saints as to whether Saint Luke was actually a martyr or not. [3] One might have thought that, since the wording of the traditional collect “is not very definite” [4] and is capable of being interpreted either way, the reformers would have kept it. In fact, this was the original intent of Coetus XVIII bis of the Consilium, who proposed to keep the traditional orations of St Luke intact and in place. [5] 

However, with the change of management [6] in early 1967 of Coetus VI (the group responsible for the hagiographic readings of the Breviary) came a change in the direction of the reform that was very likely to have had an influence on more than just the Breviary. As of March 1967, “all legendary accounts [were] to be removed from the Breviary,” [7] and given the Consilium’s evident enthusiasm to take parts of the Constitution on the Liturgy out of context and apply them in ways not envisaged by the Council Fathers we should not be surprised that even the merest possibility of “legends” were also removed from the prayers of the Missal. [8]

Saint Luke, from the Gospel of Saint Riquier (or the Gospel of Charlemagne), c. 800 

The secret prayer in the traditional liturgy is as follows:

Donis cæléstibus da nobis, quǽsumus, Dómine,
líbera tibi mente servíre: 
ut múnera quæ deférimus, 
interveniénte beáto Evangelísta tuo Luca, 
et medélam nobis operéntur et glóriam. (CO 2386 b)

Grant through your heavenly gifts
that we may serve you in freedom of heart, we pray, O Lord,
so that the offerings we make
through the intercession of your blessed Evangelist Luke
may bring us healing and give us glory.

This prayer is witnessed in thirty-five extant manuscripts, ranging from the 8th to 16th centuries, as a secret/super oblata for St Luke. A close variant of this oration (CO 2386 a) is used in thirteen extant manuscripts as a secret/super oblata variously for popes, confessors and evangelists—including, in three of these, for St Jerome, where this prayer is also used in the traditional Missal. 

In the novus ordo, this prayer has been retained for St Luke, but with minor changes that are not attested in the manuscript tradition:

Donis cæléstibus, da nobis, quǽsumus, Dómine,
líbera tibi mente servíre,
ut múnera, quæ in festivitáte beáti Lucæ deférimus,
et medélam nobis operéntur et glóriam.

Grant through your heavenly gifts
that we may serve you in freedom of heart, we pray, O Lord,
so that the offerings we make on the feast day of Saint Luke
may bring us healing and give us glory.

As is common for those prayers of the Proper of Saints that were carried over from the traditional Missal into the reformed Missal, both the title of the Saint (in this case, “Evangelist”) and mention of their intercession have gone missing. It is difficult to see how Vatican II’s Constitution on the Liturgy calls for this sort of “reform”, which is, in fact, a deforming of this prayer, as the text of this prayer in every single extant manuscript asks for saintly intercession, whether of St Luke, St Jerome, or any other Saint.

The postcommunion prayer in the traditional Roman Rite reads as follows:

Præsta, quǽsumus, omnípotens Deus:
ut, quod de sancto altári tuo accépimus, 
précibus beáti Evangelístæ tui Lucæ,
sanctíficet ánimas nostras, per quod tuti esse possímus. (CO 4460)

Grant, we pray, almighty God,
that what we have received from your holy altar
may, through the prayers of your blessed Evangelist Luke,
sanctify our souls, that we may be kept safe.

This prayer is used in thirty-nine manuscripts, ranging from the 8th to 16th centuries, as a postcommunion for St Luke. In three of these manuscripts, it doubles as a postcommunion for one evangelist, and in one other manuscript it is a postcommunion for St Boniface. It has been retained in the reformed Roman Rite for St Luke, but with substantial changes to the end of the prayer:

Præsta, quǽsumus, omnípotens Deus,
ut, quod de sancto altári tuo accépimus, nos sanctíficet,
et in fide Evangélii, quod beátus Lucas prædicávit,
fortes effíciat.

Grant, we pray, almighty God,
that what we have received from your holy altar
may sanctify us and make us strong
in the faith of the Gospel which Saint Luke proclaimed.

Some of these changes have their source in the Missale Parisiense of 1738, which has the following as its postcommunion for St Luke: 

Praesta, quaesumus omnipotens Deus,
ut quod de sancto altari accepimus, 
precibus beati Evangelistae tui Lucae, 
in fide Evangelii nos immobiles efficiat. (MP 3692)

Grant, we pray, almighty God,
that what we have received from your holy altar
may, through the prayers of your blessed Evangelist Luke,
make us steadfast in the faith of the Gospel.

The inspiration for change in the last clause of the Missale Parisiense text is clearly Colossians 1:23a, si tamen permanetis in fide fundati, et stabiles, et immobiles a spe Evangelii, quod audistis (“if indeed you continue in the faith, stable and steadfast, not shifting from the hope of the gospel that you heard”). However, the post-Vatican II Missal makes further changes to this prayer, removing (again!) the title of “Evangelist” from St Luke as well as the petition for his intercession, introducing his “proclamation” of the Gospel, and adjusting immobiles efficiat to fortes efficiat, possibly with 1 Peter 5:9 in mind (Cui resistite fortes fide… “Resist him, strong in your faith…). It should also be noted that the mention of animas nostras (“our souls”) has also gone missing—part of another pattern that can be seen in how the traditional orations were edited by the Consilium.

The outcome of all of this tinkering is that the traditional Mass formulary of St Luke, extant for at least 1,200 years, is no more in the reformed Roman Rite. The “richest Missal that the Church has ever produced” [9] is, evidently, so rich that it could not contain the traditional collect, or keep the secret/super oblata and postcommunion without novel and unprecedented changes to them. Moreover, it would appear that, for the first time in extant liturgical history, we have a Mass formulary used for St Luke that does not ask for his intercession or prayers at all. [10] Behold the “richness” given us by the Missal of Paul VI! Is it any wonder that many of us wish to retain the traditional Roman Rite and its prayers used by countless generations before us? Is it any wonder that we do not want, and do not need, these kinds of “reformed” orations that are nothing of the sort? 

In conclusion, let us take a quick look at the Ordinariate’s Divine Worship: The Missal, a book that the drafters of article 1 of Traditionis custodes apparently forgot exists as part of the Roman Rite. Divine Worship has the following texts for St Luke, perhaps giving us a taste of what a liturgical reform more in keeping with Sacrosanctum Concilium might have looked like for today:

Collect [from the 1549 Book of Common Prayer]
Almighty God, who didst call Saint Luke,
whose praise is in the Gospel, 
to be an Evangelist and physician of the soul: 
may it please thee; 
that, by the wholesome medicines of the doctrine delivered by him, 
all the diseases of our souls may be healed.

Prayer over the Offerings [from the traditional Roman Missal]
Grant, O Lord, we pray thee: 
that by thy heavenly gifts 
we may be enabled to serve thee in perfect freedom; 
that, through the intercession of thy blessed Evangelist Saint Luke, 
the oblations which we offer may effectually work in us 
for the healing of our souls, 
and for the attainment of everlasting glory.

Postcommunion [from the traditional Roman Missal]
Grant, we beseech thee, Almighty God: 
that, by the prayers of thy blessed Evangelist Saint Luke, 
the gifts which we have received from thy holy altar 
may sanctify our souls to their salvation.


[1] E. Moeller, J.M. Clément & B.C. ’t Wallant (eds.), Corpus Orationum (CCSL 160-160M; Brepols, 1992-2020, 15 vols.).

[2] I am here alluding to the recent lecture of Archbishop Arthur Roche, the new Prefect of the CDWDS, in which he makes the claim that “the Missale Romanum of Pope Saint Paul VI is the richest Missal that the Church has ever produced” (p. 3). This claim is, at best, rather subjective (“richest” by what measure?), and also highly debatable!

[3] For a brief overview of the varying accounts, see Alban Butler, The Lives of the Fathers, Martyrs and Other Principal Saints (New York: P. J. Kenedy, 1903), IV, pp. 233-234.

[4] Ildephonse Schuster, The Sacramentary (Liber Sacramentorum) (London: Burns, Oates & Washbourne Ltd., 1930; repr. Arouca Press), V, p. 182.

[5] Schema 287 (De Missali, 50), 11 April 1968, p. 34.

[6] Rev Fr Beauduin de Gaiffer, S.J., stepped down as relator for reasons of age, and was replaced with the group’s secretary, Rev Fr Agostino Amore, O.F.M., who notably was also a member of Coetus I (the calendar) and had been given responsibility for the reform of the Proprium Sanctorum: see Annibale Bugnini, The Reform of the Liturgy 1948-1975 (Collegeville, MN: Liturgical Press, 1990), p. 308.

[7] Schema 216 (De Breviario, 47), 17 March 1967, p. 19: Omnes lectiones legendariae e Breviario expungantur.

[8] A comparison of the traditional and reformed Martyrologium Romanum is also illustrative here. The traditional Martyrology’s entry for St Luke reads as follows (the text in bold recalls today’s collect): In Bithynia natalis beati Lucae Evangelistae, qui, multa passus pro Christi nomine, obiit Spiritu Sancto plenus. Ipsius autem ossa postea Constantinopolim translata sunt, et inde Patavium delata. The 2004 reformed Martyrology, on the other hand, has: Festum sancti Lucae, Evangelistae, qui, ut fertur, Antiochiae ex ethnica familia natus et arte medicus, ad Christi fidem conversus et comes carissimus beati Pauli Apostoli factus, in libro Evangelii, qure fecit Iesus et docuit, mansuetudinis Christi scriba omnia diligenter ordinavit et item in Actibus Apostolorum primordia vitae Ecclesiae usque ad primam Pauli in Urbe commorationem enarravit. I find it puzzling, given the use of ut fertur, that the phrase multa passus pro Christi nomine could not have been retained in some manner.

[9] See note 2 above.

[10] The Calendarium liturgicum volume (CCSL 160K) of the Corpus orationum gives the following prayers as used for St Luke (p. 122): CO 964 b, 2386 b, 2416 cB, 3163 a, 3180 A, 3451, 4429, 4460 A, 4992 CC, 5048 bB, 5797 E. Some of these prayers do not ask for St Luke’s intercession, but they are always part of a Mass formulary where at least one prayer does.