Essays/Articles and Scriptural Studies

SEXAGESIMA -Missale Romanum 1962 (MR' 62)

For this week's meditation on the Collects of the Roman Missal, we consider today’s Collect in the MR ’62 for Sexagesima, Latin for the “sixtieth” day (approximately) until Easter. The following translation of this Collect is taken from the Angelus Press edition of the Roman Catholic Daily Missal:

"O God, Who seest that we put not our trust in anything that we do: mercifully grant, that by the protection of the Doctor of the Gentiles we may be defended against all adversities. Through our Lord, etc. Amen.”

The goal of the pre-Lenten season of Septuagesima is to accustom us to the penitential themes and practices of Lent in a gradual way. In our Collect today, as well as our Epistle, the Liturgy gives special attention to St. Paul. How does this prepare us for Lent? 

Our Collect mentions that “we put not our trust in anything that we do.” One of St. Paul’s central doctrines, in the words of the Catechism, is that “no one can merit the initial grace of...justification” (being put in right relationship with God) by his good works, but only by God’s grace through faith and Baptism (cf. Rom. 3:20-26, 5:1-11, 6:1-14; Catechism of the Catholic Church nos. 2010, 1987-1993). This truth is central to Lent as it is lived by catechumens preparing for Baptism.

Nevertheless, even after we are justified and made capable of meriting by our good works, we must be always deeply conscious of our dependence upon God’s grace for anything good that we may do. Consider the following from Catechism no. 2011:

The charity of Christ is the source in us of all our merits before God. Grace, by uniting us to Christ in active love, ensures the supernatural quality of our acts and consequently their merit before God and before men. The saints have always had a lively awareness that their merits were pure grace.”

What a marvelous paragraph! The saints, including St. Paul, show us that the closer we come to the All-Holy God through charity, the more we realize how little we measure up to his infinite perfection in charity. And yet, this is not a bad thing that should discourage us in any way, but rather, a truth that should properly humble us and fill us with gratitude for how immense God’s love truly is, and so, spur us to love Him and our neighbor more (cf. Catechism nos. 2007-8, 2013).

In our Epistle, St. Paul recounts all his apostolic works and sufferings at length, but emphasizes the fact that they rest upon God’s grace in spite of his own weakness. Grace triumphs over sin and weakness, if we allow it to do so. Consequently, our upcoming efforts at Lenten penance and good works are not things about which we might congratulate ourselves. Rather, as we see in the above-quoted paragraph, our merits rest upon our free embrace of God’s charity in the concrete situations of daily life where we can participate in Christ’s Cross. This is how “the power of Christ may dwell in [us],” as St. Paul tells us today.  

St. Paul - who evidently suffered more than any of the apostles- is a fitting companion for us along our approaching path of Lenten penance. We want someone alongside us during Lent who “knows the ropes,” so to speak, from his own litany of sufferings and penances. In the midst of suffering, temptation, and penance, we need the concrete presence of the saints beside us who will lift us up to God in prayer, lift us up out of sin, and propel us forward in virtue.  

Today’s Collect is not shy about the power of St. Paul’s intercession. It even gives his prayers a universal scope for the entire Church: “that we (i.e., the whole Church) may be protected against all adversities.” 

(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."
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