Let’s look at the Collect for the 32nd Ordinary Sunday, keeping that today, Saturday, is Veterans Day (DONATE to the Archdiocese for Military Services!).
Sunday’s Collect has an antecedent in the Gelasian Sacramentary, is also used in the Extraordinary Form on the 19th Sunday after Pentecost.
Omnipotens et misericors Deus, universa nobis adversantia propitiatus exclude, ut, mente et corpore pariter expediti, quae tua sunt liberis mentibus exsequamur.
Adversantia is from adverso(r), “to stand opposite to one, to be against, resist, oppose (in his opinions, feelings, intentions, etc.)”. Resistere denotes resistance through external action. The distinction of “internal” and “external” is useful in understanding our prayer. We are challenged from without, but the greatest challenges come from within. We must constantly cope with the unreconstructed effects of original sin and also the diabolical workings of the Enemy, who stirs up passions and memories, and who implants wicked thoughts and images. Holy Church prays at Compline every night (in the Extraordinary Form): “Be sober and vigilant: for your adversary (adversarius) the devil is going around like a roaring lion seeking whom he might devour: whom you must resist (resistite), strong in the faith.” (1 Peter 5:8).
Expediti, is from expedio meaning,“to extricate, disengage, set free”, and when applied to persons, “to be without baggage”. Thus, an expeditus, is “a soldier lightly burdened, a swiftly marching soldier.” You might have heard of St Expeditus (feast day 19 April), patron saint of procrastinators and, for reasons perfectly clear to me, computer programmers. St Expeditus is depicted as a Roman solider holding aloft a Cross. I am sure you are now praying to Expeditus that I will stop this digression and swiftly march on. That quae tua sunt is, literally, “things which are yours”. There isn’t room here to get into why but this phrase refers to things God wills or commands. Think of when the young Jesus told His Mother and Joseph, “I must be about my Father’s business” (cf Luke 2:49).
Almighty and merciful God, having been appeased, keep away from us all things opposing us, so that, having been unencumbered in mind and body equally, we may with free minds accomplish the things which you will.
CURRENT ICEL (2011):
Almighty and merciful God, graciously keep from us all adversity, so that, unhindered in mind and body alike, we may pursue in freedom of heart the things that are yours.
God of power and mercy, protect us from all harm. Give us freedom of spirit and health in mind and body to do your work on earth.
This Collect appears also in the Catechism of the Catholic Church 1742 in the section on “Human Freedom in the Economy of Salvation”:
“Almighty and merciful God, in your goodness take away from us all that is harmful, so that, made ready both in mind and body, we may freely accomplish your will.”
Our Collect this week provides us with military language consonant with the three-fold understanding of Holy Church as Militant, Suffering, and Triumphant.
We are presented as lightly burdened foot soldiers (expediti) on an urgent mission. We are beset by enemies and obstacles (adversantia). Before battles soldiers would shed their heavier gear in order to move more freely. By grueling and repetitious training, their bodies are strengthened and hardened. Because of tedious drills, their minds are freed up (liberis mentibus).
Though they are afraid, they act when their commanders are sure, true, courageous.
This is the ideal for the soldier. It must be the Christian ideal too.
Virtues are habits developed over time by repetition and discipline. Our Church’s pastors are our officers who will lead us through adversities towards our objective of heaven. We must learn and review the content of our Faith, especially in the fundamentals. With discipline and dedication we must frequent the sacraments. We must practice our Faith so that it is so much a part of us that it carries us through even the worst moments we face.
For a while people criticized education by memorization and repetition. They claimed that children just mouth things they don’t understand. On the other hand, though they might not understand them at the moment, one day in the future they do. When they need it, they remember something important because, long ago, someone made them learn it. Soldiers, sailors, marines gripe during basic training and entertain homicidal thoughts about their drill instructors. Not a few return to their instructors later and thank them. When the time came for that skill or tool or piece of knowledge to be used in a critical moment, they had it.
We are pilgrim soldiers of the Church Militant. Our march is perilous. To reach heaven, we need training, discipline, nourishment.
We need leadership from courageous bishops and priests who drill us, who say “NO!”, who say “GO!”
We need a trumpet certain and clear.