Essays/Articles and Scriptural Studies


For our weekly meditation on the Collects of the Roman Missal, we consider the Collect for the feast of St. Josaphat, bishop and martyr (Missale Romanum 1962). In the old calendar, his feast is observed on Nov. 14th, and in the new calendar, on Nov. 12th. The following is the English translation of this Collect in the MR’62 from the Angelus Press edition of the Roman Catholic Daily Missal:

Stir up within Thy Church, we beseech Thee, O Lord, the Spirit with which blessed Josaphat, Thy Martyr and Bishop, was filled, when he laid down his life for his sheep: so that, through his intercession, we too may be moved and strengthened by the same Spirit, and may not shrink from giving our lives for the brethren. Through our Lord...in the unity of the same Holy Ghost, etc. Amen.

This petition contains the verb “excita” or “stir up,” which we will see several times very soon in the coming weeks in the MR’62. This verb is present in the Collect of the Last Sunday of Pentecost, as well as several of the Collects of Advent. St. Josaphat’s Collect in mid-November is a kind of preview of the recurring, dominant petition in the Collects for the new liturgical year.

The Church uses this word “excita” in her liturgical prayers to describe her desire for the kind of interior, spiritual renewal that can only come from God. It is a petition that recognizes man’s utter dependence upon divine grace to purify him and to move him towards the attainment of divine goods (cf. Lauren Pristas, The Collects of the Roman Missals, “Advent”). Our Collect for St. Josaphat invokes the transformative power of the Holy Ghost in our hearts, so that we may love our fellow Christians (‘the brethren”) even to the point of blood-martyrdom. 

That this Collect links martyrdom to love for other Christians - not the unbaptized or unbelievers - may strike us as unusual, since we normally associate martyrdom with the evil work of unconverted pagans. Why does the Collect speak of martyrdom in this way? The answer is found in the life of St. Josaphat himself, who was murdered by fanatical Orthodox Christians in 1623. These resisted his efforts at forging bonds of communion with the Holy Father so as to heal the schism of 1054 [their plot backfired, however, since his murderers soon became Catholics themselves!].

In our lives, we may have to provide from time to time a witness of faith to lapsed or quasi-lapsed Catholics and/or Christians, and when we do so, we are likely to encounter resistance, suffering or persecution of some kind. Such a witness must be inspired by and continually rooted in divine charity, as our Collect teaches us. Beseeching the help of the Holy Ghost, it summons us to bear bravely whatever cross may come our way as a consequence of our witness to Christ and his Church. St. Josaphat is an icon of such love.

Although he is not very well known in the West, St. Josaphat’s life and martyrdom attest to his enduring importance for the universal Church. Specifically he witnesses to two interrelated and indispensable truths of our faith: the communion of the universal Church and communion with the See of Peter [the Church bears witness to St. Josaphat’s commitment to these truths by having enshrined his body in a side altar in St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome].

This is an important message for today’s Catholics. In these days of real and purported scandal, far too many of the faithful are whipped up with a fanatical and destructive spirit that is inimical to the Holy Father and the communion of the Church. Frankly, it is chillingly similar to the Protestant mobmentality of the Reformation [we know the bad fruits of that sad history]. Such a spirit is decidedly anti-Catholic, and it is also contrary to the kind of spirit we are praying for in our Collect: the Holy Spirit, who leads us to love Christ and the brethren, not to separate ourselves from them and to despise them [for any who would challenge me on this point, I would urge them to read the Epistles of St. Ignatius of Antioch].  

(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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