College Grace & Prayers
Balliol’s 1282 statutes contain the earliest college reference to saying grace: ‘singulis etiam diebus, tam in prandio quam in coena, dicant benedictionem antequam comedant, et post refectionem gratias agant’ – ‘every day both at dinner and supper they shall say a blessing before they eat, and after the meal they shall give thanks.’
Balliol, like most colleges, has a very short Latin grace for every day, which is said only by High Table, led by the senior Fellow present. Balliol does not hold Formal Hall. The short grace is:
ante cibum (before the meal): Benedictus benedicat. – Amen. (‘May the blessed one give a blessing.’)
post cibum (after the meal): Benedicto benedicatur. – Amen. (‘May the blessed one be blessed. – Amen’)
The full Latin grace is said once a year, by a Scholar, at the St Catherine’s Day Dinner in November:
Benedictus est Deus in donis suis. Response: Et sanctus in omnibus operibus suis.
Adjutorium nostrum in nomine Domini est. Response: Qui fecit coelum et terras.
Sit nomen Dei benedictum. Response: Ab hoc tempore usque ad saecula.
Tribuere digneris, Domine Deus, nobis omnibus bona facientibus ob tuum sanctum nomen vitam aeternam.
In memoria aeterna erit justus. Response: Et ab auditione mala nunquam timebit.
Justorum animae in manibus Dei sunt. Response: Ne tangant eos instrumenta nequitiae.
Funde, quaesumus, Domine Deus, in mentes nostras gratiam tuam, ut tuis hisce donis datis a Johanne Balliolo et Dervorguilla uxore, caeterisque omnibus benefactoribus nostris, rite in tuam gloriam utentes in vitam una cum fidelibus omnibus resurgamus, per Jesum Christum Dominum nostrum.
Deus pro infinita sua clementia Ecclesiae unitatem et concordiam concedat, Reginam conservet, pacemque huic regno populoque Christiano largiatur, per Jesum Christum Dominum nostrum.
After the meal:
Blessed is God in his gifts Response: And holy in all his works.
Our help is in the name of the Lord Response: Who hath made heaven and earth.
May the name of God be blessed Response: From this time forth for evermore.
Vouchsafe, Lord God, to bestow eternal life on all of us if we do that which is good, for the sake of thy holy name.
The just man shall be held in eternal memory Response: And he shall fear nothing from evil report.
The souls of the righteous are in the hands of God Response: so that no means of wickedness should touch them.
Pour, we beseech thee, Lord God, thy grace into our minds so that, using fitly and to thy glory these thy gifts made through John Balliol and Dervorguilla his wife and all our other benefactors we may rise again to life in heaven with all the faithful, through Jesus Christ our Lord.
May God of his infinite mercy bring unity and concord to the Church, preserve the Queen and grant peace to this kingdom and the Christian people, through Jesus Christ our Lord.
All the colleges’ graces are recorded and translated in College Graces of Oxford and Cambridge (Perpetua 1992), compiled by RH Adams.
Almighty God, Who hast in Thy good providence disposed the hearts of men to mutual charity, that here on earth in diverse brotherhoods they may prepare the coming of Thy heavenly kingdom, we give Thee thanks for every human fellowship, but more especially that Thou hast prospered this our ancient house, and still dost guide the footsteps of her children, not weighting our merits nor measuring Thy fatherly affection. Send forth Thy light upon those assembled here and on our brethren dispersed through all the world, that we and they being knit more closely in the bonds of friendship may likewise frow in love of Thee and obtain together those eternal mansions which Thou hast promised by the mouth of Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
This prayer is printed in HWC Davis’ A History of Balliol College (1899, rev. ed. 1963).
The current form of Balliol’s Bidding Prayer enumerating major Benefactors is here. It is reproduced in John Jones’ Balliol College: A History.