Essays/Articles and Scriptural Studies


This year, we have the special privilege of celebrating our parish’s patronal feast on a Sunday, and the normal Sunday Propers are displaced by the festal ones. Today, we consider the Collect for Our Lady of Lourdes in the MR’70 (last year, I wrote on the Collect for this feast in the MR ’62). Below is the official ICEL translation of this Collect in the third typical edition of the Roman Missal (2010):

“Grant us, O merciful God, protection in our weakness, that we, who keep the Memorial of the Immaculate Mother of God, may, with the help of her intercession, rise up from our iniquities. Through our Lord, etc. Amen.”

As we are on the cusp of Lent, this Collect fittingly acknowledges our weakness. This recognition of our sinful condition is the first step in Lent, for without it, Easter means very little. If we want to profit from Lent, we must first admit that we cannot simply “be a good person” and leave matters there.

This idea that I have put in quotes is a widespread and subtle form of Pelagianism today that declines from the help and power of God’s grace. For the modern Pelagian, “sin” is not about personal culpability for moral evil before the good God, but is relegated to the world’s structures of socio-political oppression and inequality. The Catholic Church surely condemns the presence of structural sin, but the problem is that the modern Pelagian excuses himself from sin and removes it to these far-off categories so as to avoid having to face it in himself. 

We must set aside the lie of Pelagianism. We will not be able to receive grace if we do not first empty ourselves of the prideful thinking that says that we do not really need God’s help. If we want to be honest Christians, we must admit our weakness, as the Collect leads us to do, and then we must relish the miracle of God’s grace, and cooperate with it to our utmost. Marian feast days, such as this day commemorating her several apparitions at Lourdes in 1858, afford us the opportunity to do just that, namely, to relish the beauty of God’s grace, and to acknowledge our need for more of it. Celebrating Our Lady’s Immaculate Conception actively crushes the serpentine deception of Pelagianism that is so prevalent in our culture.

In Mary, we see how superabundantly good and loving God is, and how exceedingly generous He is in dispensing His grace. In order to make Mary fit to be the Theotokos, He applied the merits of Christ’s death to her at the very instant of her conception, so that she could be free from the bonds of Original Sin, and thereby, give to Christ His spotless human nature, untainted by any stain whatsoever of Adam’s sin.

Today’s feast is an eminently good way of beginning Lent, because there exists an analogous relationship between Mary’s salvation at conception and our salvation through the great Easter Sacrament of Baptism, upon which we focus our attention during the Easter Vigil. Thus, her feast day today heralds the goal of the Lenten season, namely, full participation in the graces of redemption that come to us from Christ’s Cross and Resurrection. Likewise, her call at Lourdes for greater efforts at penance spur us on toward our own penances during this holy season.

Finally, the power of Our Lady’s intercession cannot be underestimated. The very thing we most want and need as Christians, that is, growth in our friendship with God, is the very thing Mary wants to give us by her intercession. Mary desires to draw us more fully into union with Jesus, especially when we fall. She helps us to “rise up for our iniquities,” as the Collect teaches us. May we always keep God’s grace and Mary’s prayers at the center of our Lenten discipline. 







(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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"If you are willing to serenely bear the trial of being displeasing to yourself, then you will be for Jesus a pleasant place of shelter."
- St. Therese of Lisieux (+1897)

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