What is the ‘Collect of the Mass’?
Although the word “collect” may conjure up visions of baskets being passed and envelopes being deposited, the Collect of the Mass, is not that kind of collection. The “Collect,” pronounced like the first syllable of “college,” is the opening prayer of the Mass. This prayer comes at the end of a number of elements that make up the Introductory Rite of Mass, including the opening song, the Sign of the Cross, the greeting, the Act of Penitence, the Glory to God and finally the Collect.
This first part of the Mass helps us make the transition from the many distractions we encounter on our way to church. These elements help us to unite in prayer and purpose, to prepare our minds and hearts to hear the Word of God in the Scriptures and to celebrate the Liturgy of the Eucharist.
The Collect begins with the priest celebrant’s invitation, “Let us pray.” This invitation tells us more about the nature of the liturgy. The priest is not just praying alone. This plural text, “Let us pray” and the dialogical engagement between the priest and the people is one more confirmation of the communal nature of the liturgy. We are not celebrating the liturgy as individuals, but as the Body of Christ praying with Christ our Head.
After this invitation, the directives in the missal instruct the priest and the people to observe a brief silence so that together they may become aware of being in God’s presence and may call to mind their intentions for this Mass.
From a practical perspective, since this period of silence is such a short period of time, the intentions may be formed before we come to Mass. For example, in the car on the way to Mass, we might ask ourselves, our children, our spouses, our friends, “What do we want to bring to prayer today?”
Perhaps grandma is in the hospital, Uncle Joe and Aunt Martha have a new baby, our neighbor lost her job, a big test is coming up, a young person in our family is discerning a religious vocation, our teen has just passed a driver’s test, dad is facing surgery, Aunt Sue has begun chemotherapy, to name a few.
In addition, there are the events in the news for which we need to pray. For our children, this practice teaches them how to pray with intention and how to put into practice our priestly responsibility to pray for others that we embraced at our Baptism.
So on Sunday, when the priest says, “Let us pray,” we then call to mind all our intentions, knowing also that all the others in this church community are doing the same both here and in every other church around the world.
These intentions that we call to mind are not only personal, individual ones, but call us to be attentive to our responsibility to pray for others, to be in service to one another.
After this period of silence the priest prays the Collect or opening prayer which sets the tone for the liturgy and “collects” or sums up the intentions. In the Mass with few exceptions, prayer is directed to God the Father, through Christ, in the Holy Spirit.
At the conclusion of this prayer, we hear the familiar Trinitarian ending, “who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.” The people’s response, “Amen,” is an affirmation of all that has gone before.
Dr. Judy Bullock is the director of the Archdiocese of Louisville’s Office of Worship.