Essays/Articles and Scriptural Studies

(Missale Romanum 1970)

For today’s meditation on the Collects of the Roman Missal, we consider the Collect for the feast of the Passion of St. John the Baptist (August 29) in the MR’70. The following is the official ICEL English translation of this Collect:

“O God, who willed that Saint John the Baptist should go ahead of Your Son both in his birth and in his death, grant that, as he died a Martyr for truth and justice, we, too, may fight hard for the confession of what You teach. Through our Lord, etc. Amen.”

This Collect calls to mind the following words of Jesus: “If anyone serves Me, he must follow Me; and where I am, there shall my servant be also; if anyone serves Me, the Father will honor him” (cf. Jn. 12:26, RSV). This applies very well to St. John and all martyrs who, having served Jesus, ended up being conformed to Him in death. At the same time, Jesus promises all His servants a share both in His cross and His resurrection. A disciple will have to bear witness in some fashion at some point, and likely suffer for it, too.

In view of this, then, our Collect impels us to pray for the graces we need to bear witness. We can provide a good witness to our faith only if God gives us the grace to do so, a grace for which we must first be praying with perseverance, so that, when the time comes, we can cooperate with it and bear fruit. This is what we see in the lives of the saints, and especially the martyrs, who were so deeply conscious of their need for supernatural grace and strength.

In linking us to St. John the Baptist, our Collect also reminds us that no one ever bears witness alone. Hear the teaching of St. Paul on this point, as he exhorts persecuted Hebrew Christians: 

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God” (cf. Heb. 12:1-2, RSV).

We, too, can take great comfort in these verses, for the Communion of Saints is far more powerful and present to us in daily life than we often realize.

For this reason, I strongly recommend having at least one, if not several, “go-to” patron saints who are martyrs. Learn about their lives, and, if possible, see if you can even venerate their relics [the Franciscan chapel at the Prudential Center, for example, has a prominently displayed relic of St. Maximilian Kolbe]. Pray to them for the graces you need to bear witness to Jesus, for they will strengthen you to bear the cross bravely.

One final point: note that the Collect’s phrase, “the confession of what You teach,” is all-inclusive. We cannot always know what particular aspect(s) of our faith God may summon us to defend by our words and life. For St. John the Baptist, it came down to the Biblical teaching on marriage. For us, it may be that issue or something else, or even a combination of things. This means, then, that we must be “all in” as regards our commitment to the fullness of our Catholic faith. We are not free to reinvent the faith in our image. Rather, our Baptism and Confirmation configure us to the image of Christ, who is Truth himself, and these sacraments bind us to him in fidelity and love. What good news this is! 

(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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