The Art of Celebration VI: The Collect

The final element of the Introductory Rites of Mass is the Collect.

Look in the Missal and you will see prayers for the priest to say, each headed Collect.

However the Collect is much more than only a prayer for priests to say. The Collect (with its Amen) is actually the conclusion of a period of prayer. And that period of prayer belongs to the whole assembly: the Collect prayer (merely) concludes and summarises the prayer of the assembly.

We will miss this if the priest says, as he is required to do, ‘Let us pray’ but then launches immediately into the Collect Prayer. If he does this the whole prayer action becomes his prayer, or maybe does not become prayer at all, but just a text read.

What should happen is that – all the previous actions of the Introductory Rites being completed: Sign of the Cross, Greeting; Penitential Act; Gloria – the priest then addresses the rest of the assembly saying ‘Let us pray.’

What should happen next is that the whole congregation that has worked to become a community of prayer; has acknowledged its sinfulness and entrusted one another to the mercy of God; and sung the praises of God, Father, Son and Spirit; now enters into a period of silent prayer.

How people use the silence is down to them. Some may have particular needs for which they will pray. Others will have been struck by a word, or phrase in the Penitential Act or Gloria or opening song or greeting, that they will focus on, meditate on. Others may simply rest, grateful for the (relative!) quiet of church and the space to be alone, together with the Lord, together with his Church.

Silence is something many people find challenging at Church – particularly if there is no established sense of how long the silence is likely to be; particularly if those who welcome it and want to use it find themselves frustrated and disappointed when the priest cuts the silence short; and particularly if they have never been afforded simple guidance as to the why and the wherefore of this silence. (The same applies to the silence enjoined on us, for example, after each reading in the Liturgy of the Word; after the homily, and after each of the Biddings in the Prayer of the Faithful.)

But when the assembly is permitted its space for prayer, and when it takes the opportunity to pray together, silently, something powerful takes place for the Church is present and the Church is at prayer.

The priest then concludes the eloquently silent prayer by chanting or saying the Collect prayer, which gathers/collects the prayer of each one present. The assembly affirms what is done and said with its ‘Amen’, and then all settle, ready for the Liturgy of the Word.

Reflection Questions

  • What happens at the Collect in your community?
  • What place does silence have in your community’s prayer together?
  • What helps or hinders that silence?
  • On a scale of 1-10 with 10 being high, where would you place the importance of the congregation’s contribution to the praying of the Mass? And where would you place the importance of what the priest does? How would you describe the relationship between the two in your community – the actual and the desirable relationship?
  • Assuming that you do not believe you have achieved perfection in your community how do you think things might be helped to improve?

A log with links to previous postings in this series is kept here.


~ Excerpts from the English translation and chants of The Roman Missal © 2010, International Commission on English in the Liturgy Corporation. All rights reserved.
~ Commentary: (c) 2021, Allen Morris
~ Photograph: (c) 2012, Allen Morris. 3rd or 4th C, Orantes’ Fresco, Lullingstone Roman Villa. In Collection of the British Museum.

2 thoughts on “The Art of Celebration VI: The Collect

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