Essays/Articles and Scriptural Studies


For this week's meditation on the Collects of the Roman Missal, we consider the Collect for the Feast of Conversion of St. Paul, which we celebrated this past week in both forms of the Mass on the 25th. The Collects of the day in each Missal are largely the same, although the text in the MR ’70 contains an added petition. Below is the official ICEL translation of this Collect in the third typical edition of the Roman Missal (2010):

O God, who taught the whole world through the preaching of the blessed Apostle Paul, draw us, we pray, nearer to You through the example of him whose conversion we celebrate today, and so make us witnesses to Your truth in the world. Through our Lord, etc. Amen.

We read of St. Paul’s conversion in Acts 9:1-19, and St. Paul himself relates the experience twice in the Book of Acts (cf. 22:1-21 and 26:2-23). Consider the following excerpt from the third account of his conversion in Acts 26:12-18:

Thus I journeyed to Damascus with the authority and commission of the chief priests. At midday, O king, I saw on the way a light from heaven, brighter than the sun, shining round me and those who journeyed with me. And when we had all fallen to the ground, I heard a voice saying to me in the Hebrew language, 'Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me? It hurts you to kick against the goad.' And I said, 'Who are you, Lord?' And the Lord said, 'I am Jesus whom you are persecuting. But rise and stand upon your feet; for I have appeared to you for this purpose, to appoint you to serve and bear witness to the things in which you have seen me and to those in which I will appear to you, delivering you from the people and from the Gentiles-to whom I send you to open their eyes, that they may turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me.'  

Since the Church is mostly composed of Gentiles, she has great cause to commemorate this event on her calendar. Just as particular nations and peoples regard certain saints as their principal spiritual fathers (e.g., St. Patrick for Ireland), so too, the Church Universal regards St. Paul as one of her principal patrons, due to his pivotal role in her history.

In our Collect, we ask God that we might draw nearer to Him through St. Paul’s example, and likewise that we might become witnesses to divine truth. The first petition argues that St. Paul’s example is a great motive for us to draw nearer to God. St. Paul’s untiring pastoral zeal demonstrates God’s infinite generosity in offering to all people the gift of eternal life in Christ (cf. 1 Tim. 2:3-4, Rom. 6:23).

The second petition hinges upon the first. In drawing nearer to God through the example of St. Paul, the Collect then asks that we may become witnesses to God’s truth in the world. In coming nearer to Christ, we receive, like St. Paul, our own vocation to bear witness to the Gospel. Thus, this petition refers obliquely to the prophetic character of the Sacrament of Confirmation.

The anointing with sacred chrism by a bishop or priest bestows a movement of the Holy Spirit in us towards mission, just as on Pentecost. The “seal of the gift of the Holy Spirit,” among its many graces and effects, empowers us to bear public witness to Christ and his Church. May God grant us the grace, through St. Paul’s intercession, to draw deeply upon the grace of this indelible sacramental character (cf. Catechism of the Catholic Church nos. 1285, 1300-1305).

(David Allen)

Mr. David Allen, M.T.S., is the lay Pastoral Associate for our parish of Mary Immaculate of Lourdes.


About Our Parish

Mary Immaculate of Lourdes is Newton and Needham Massachusetts's oldest Roman Catholic Parish. Founded as Saint Mary's Parish in 1870 it was renamed "Mary Immaculate of Lourdes" when the new Church was dedicated on Thanksgiving Day, 1910. In addition to being a regular territorial parish of the Archdiocese of Boston it is also a "Mission Parish" since 2007 with a special apostolate for the Traditional Latin Mass (1962 Missal).

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