Essays/Articles and Scriptural Studies
COLLECTS OF THE ROMAN MISSAL - SUNDAY, MARCH 11th, 2018 A.D.: SAINT PATRICK
For this week's meditation on the Collects of the Roman Missal, we consider the Collect for the Feast of St. Patrick, the principal patron of our Archdiocese of Boston, whose feast we will celebrate this Saturday (3/17). Below is the translation of this Collect from the MR’62 in the Angelus Press edition of the Daily Roman Missal:
“O God, Who didst vouchsafe to send blessed Patrick, Thy Confessor and Bishop, to preach Thy glory to the nations: grant, by his merits and intercession, that whatever Thou commandest us to do, we may by Thy mercy be able to fulfill. Through our Lord, etc. Amen.”
The petition of our Collect brings to light two recurring ideas in St. Patrick’s Confessions: (1) God’s mercy, and (2) our obedient cooperation with God’s providential will. St. Patrick is deeply conscious that his vocation to evangelize the Irish is entirely a grace from God (cf. Confessions nos. 23-24, 28, 34, 36, 38, 51, 62). In this way, he echoes St. Paul throughout his Confessions, St. Patrick often references St. Paul’s epistles, from which he clearly draws parallels for his own life and mission).
We hear this moving prayer in Confessions no. 34: “I can truly ask, who am I, O Lord? And why have you called me? Why have You poured out so many divine graces upon me, so that today I can exalt and magnify Your name among the pagans in whatever place I find myself? Indeed not only when things are well, but also when they go badly, so that in evil or good, I always raise up thanks to God Who has shown me that I must never doubt Him.” St. Patrick sees every aspect of his life as inextricably linked with God’s providence, not as a negation of his freedom, but as a generous offer of grace to be embraced, and with which he may cooperate freely, courageously, and generously. In this way, St. Patrick’s spirituality is entirely Marian, as much as it is Pauline. At every step, he seeks to discern God’s will rightly, and to respond obediently and lovingly.
The Collect’s two themes noted above are likewise apparent as St. Patrick relates to us the many dangers he has endured throughout his life, including the frequent possibility of martyrdom. Without any hesitation, he recognizes his utter dependence upon God’s grace, again echoing St. Paul (cf. Confessions nos. 35-38, 55-58). We read this moving testimony in Confessions no. 55: “...every day I am expecting to be killed or robbed or reduced to slavery. But I do not fear because of the promise of heaven; indeed I throw myself into the hands of the all-powerful God who controls everything.” St. Patrick hopes confidently in God’s merciful providence, no matter what.
Additionally, like St. Paul, St. Patrick is deeply conscious of God’s abundant mercy for him as a sinner. We see this not only in regard to one particular grave sin from his past which he relates to us, as well as one particular moment of extreme temptation, but also more generally as regards his ongoing sinfulness and weakness (cf. Confessions nos. 20, 26-31, 44-46). It is quite disarming and edifying to hear such a mighty saint speak about God’s mercy in such a personal way. As he explains, “The Lord had mercy on me a million times for He saw what His plan was for me…” (cf. Confessions no. 46). This is a wonderfully reassuring line for all of us as we strive for greater holiness, especially during Lent.
St. Patrick’s sanctity demonstrates so compellingly the truth and joy of the Gospel, even in the midst of suffering. We have much to learn from him. His excelling degree of free cooperation with divine grace makes him a wonderful saint to whom we may have recourse. May his merits and prayers help us to become the saints God calls us to be.
|Mr. David Allen, M.T.S., is the lay Pastoral Associate for our parish of Mary Immaculate of Lourdes.