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I'm new-ish to speaking Latin - specifically praying in Latin. When praying with my family, we like to express prayer intentions before beginning (eg. "For so-and-so" or "For charity").

To use "For charity" as an example, I originally expressed this as "Pro caritate". However, as I progressed in Latin, I realized that "pro" doesn't have that connotation. Looking in my dictionary (Cassell's), I'm wondering if I could use "ad" or "in"?

"Ad" - Cassell's indicates usage indicating "movement towards" in the context of aim or purpose, and cites Livy: "ad id" - for that object.

"In" - Cassell's offers a translation of in + accusative as "for", citing from Cicero and Virgil ("nullam pecuniam Gabinio, nisi in rem militarem datam" and "ardere in proelia" respectively).

Would one of these prepositions fit my needs better than the other, or is there another which would be more correct here?

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Let's take a sentence from this beautifully typeset Roman Missal as an example (p. 46, end of §5):

In Missīs dē Passiōne Dominī, prō quācumque necessitāte, prō peccātīs, ad postulandam grātiam bene moriendī, ad tollendum schisma, contrā pāgānōs, tempore bellī, prō pāce, prō vītandā mortālitāte, prō iter agentibus, et prō īnfirmīs.

('In Masses on the Passion of the Lord, in any kind of necessity, for [the remission of] sins, for requesting grace and mercy in peaceful death, for resolving discord, against heathens, in time of war, for peace, for averting the plague, on behalf of travellers, and on behalf of the sick.')

prō expresses the idea of forward-standing, proportion and substitution, and is generally the right choice with simple nouns. With persons it expresses on whose behalf you're praying. With abstract nouns like 'peace, health, remission of sins' it expresses correspondence between the prayer and the thing you wish to bring about, which is fundamentally an exchange relation.

  • Notice that the English translation 'for' generally adds the meaning 'for the use of; intended for', which the classical Latin preposition lacks, but that can sometimes be found in the more mixed, ”translated” kinds of Latin. And other times, it inappropriately makes the thing look desirable ('for sins', 'for necessity'), whereas in Latin it's about correspondence, proportionality, or even being necessitated.

ad expresses terminus and purpose, and is mostly used in verbal, gerundive constructions (ad aliquid faciendum). In some cases you will want to use this construction even when no need for a verb is felt in English. When designating application, like in medicine, the gerundive is not necessary.

  • Notice how it's prō vītandā mortālitāte and not ad vītandam...: the former appropriately expresses ongoing graduality ('as much as possible'), while the latter would make it look like a project directed at a definite outcome ('receiving grace', 'resolving discord').

in is not found in that excerpt, but elsewhere. It cannot generally be used in the sense you intend, but expresses movement into or unto (in your example, 'money for, unto a cause' and 'a passion for, towards battle'). In the Missal, it's mainly used 1) in certain collocations like 'in honour of', e.g. sacrificium in honōrem sānctī Patriarchae Jōāchīm; 2) temporally, in diē... 'on the day of', in Nātīvitāte(m) Dominī 'on the Nativity of our Lord'. The ablative answers “when does it take place”, the accusative “what occasion does it celebrate.”


Many more examples can be found by looking at prayer names in the Missal, which is easiest to do in this HTML capitulated version.

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    responsum perfectum atque eruditissimum a viro datum qui litteris Latinis penitus imbutus est. May 6 at 10:01
  • @JonathanHadfield Beātus sum, benigne Iōhannē, quī laudēs tuās meruerim! operamque dabō ut eās laudēs et porrō ratās faciam! May 6 at 20:09
  • @Unbrutal_Russian Iohanne? 🤔 May 7 at 21:40
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    Speaking of the Roman Missal, it has also the Good Friday liturgy with its Oremus pro ecclesia sancta Dei and various other beneficiaries, including the notorious Oremus et pro perfidis Judaeis, which has caused so much controversy. But of course the first thing I would expect a Latin-minded Catholic to think of would be "ora pro nobis" in the Ave Maria (and many other places). May 7 at 22:06
  • @SebastianKoppehel There's a crucial distinction that the OP seems to have stumbled on when searching for a translation. These are all personal-substituting, 'on behalf, in defence' uses, which are not the same as the 'bringing about' meaning of ”for” found with real and abstact things. Granted many European languages seem to use the same preposition for both, and you could say you're praying 'on behalf of peace', and with a certain stretch, 'on behalf of averting the plague' (though not 'in defence'); but ōrāre prō parentibus has nothing to do with wanting to see your parents. May 7 at 23:41

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