Let’s look at the Collect for the 30th Ordinary Sunday, a prayer also in the 1962 Missale Romanum for the 13th Sunday after Pentecost. It was in the ancient Veronese and the Gelasian Sacramentary.
Omnipotens sempiterne Deus, da nobis fidei spei et caritatis augmentum, et ut mereamur assequi quod promittis, fac nos amare quod praecipis.
This is a prayer for peace.
Almighty eternal God, grant us an increase of faith, hope and charity, and, so that we may merit to obtain what You promise, cause us to love what You command.
This Sunday Father asks God to increase in us the theological virtues: faith, hope and charity, bestowed on us in baptism.
The German writer Josef Pieper (d 1997) wrote that the supernatural life can be described as having three main currents. First, we have some knowledge of God surpassing what we can know about Him naturally because He reveals it to us (faith). Second, we live in the patient expectation that what we learn and believe God promises will indeed be fulfilled (hope). Third, we make an affirmative response of love of God, whom we have come to know by faith, and also love of our neighbor (charity).
Natural human virtues are acquired through education and discipline and elbow grease. The three theological virtues faith, hope and charity are given to us by God. They are infused into us with grace at baptism. They perfect and elevate everything virtuous thing man can do naturally.
Looking at the positive development of the theological virtues, faith logically precedes hope and charity, and hope precedes charity. Considering their negative unraveling and loss, we lose charity first of all, and then hope and, last of all, faith.
Faith is the starting point for all salvation and meritorious actions. “The righteous shall live by faith” (Habakkuk 2:4; Rom 1:17; Gal 3:11; Heb 10:38). Living faith works through charity. Furthermore, “faith apart from works is dead” (cf James 2:14-26). “When faith is deprived of hope and love, it does not fully unite the believer to Christ and does not make him a living member of his Body (Catechism of the Catholic Church 1814).” “The virtue of hope responds to the aspiration to happiness which God has placed in the heart of every man; it takes up the hopes that inspire men’s activities and purifies them so as to order them to the Kingdom of heaven; it keeps man from discouragement; it sustains him during times of abandonment; it opens up his heart in expectation of eternal beatitude. Buoyed up by hope, he is preserved from selfishness and led to the happiness that flows from charity (CCC 1818).” “The practice of all the virtues is animated and inspired by charity, which ‘binds everything together in perfect harmony’” (CCC 1827).
The theological virtues can be considered individually, but they are intimately woven together. St Augustine (d 430) says, “There is no love without hope, no hope without love, and neither love nor hope without faith” (enchir 8). The goal of the virtuous life is to become like God (CCC 1803). We are all called be saints. Living the theological virtues concretely reveals God’s image in us, as well as the grace He gives us as His adopted children.
This Sunday Father also prays that we will love what God wills.
Doing what another commands is not always pleasant. Our will and passions rebel. We want to command rather than be commanded. ”The lust of rule”, libido dominandi, as the late Fr Richard John Neuhaus (d 2009) puts it, shouts, “My way or no way!” Frank Sinatra got it wrong.
In Canto III of the Paradiso of the Divine Comedy Dante (d 1321) meets the soul of Piccarda. He asks her if the blessed in heaven are disappointed that they do not have a higher place in the celestial realm. In response, Piccarda utters one of the greatest phrases ever penned (l. 85):
In His will is our peace. / It is that sea to which all things move, / both what it creates and what nature makes…
Souls in heaven desire only what God wants for them. They are perfectly happy with His plan.
During our lives, if we try, we can discern something of what God wills for us. When we obey Him we act in accordance with the way He made us and what He intends for us to do. Even amidst the vicissitudes of this troubling and passing world, we find happiness and peace in obedience to God and His Church.
CURRENT ICEL (2011):
Almighty ever-living God, increase our faith, hope and charity, and make us love what you command, so that we may merit what you promise.
E ‘n la sua volontade è nostra pace. In His will is our peace.