The motto of Pope, “Miserando Atque Eligendo” has aroused some people to send me questions. What’s with the Latin? What are those -nd- forms? Are they gerundives? People are getting some things wrong.
“Lowly and chosen”, some have suggested. Noooooo.….
First, as others have noted, this is from Venerable Bede’s sermon on Matthew 9. It is listed in one list as s. 22, and in others as s. 30 In nat. S. Matthaei . For the Latin go here. The lines immediately before provide some context.
Quia Christus Jesus venit in hunc mundum peccatores salvos facere, quorum primus ego sum. Sed ideo misericordiam consecutus sum, ut in me primo ostenderet Christus Jesus omnem patientiam, ad exemplum eorum qui credituri sunt illi in vitam aeternam (I Tim. I).
The Lord came to show mercy.
For the line in question.
“Vidit ergo Iesus publicanum, et quia miserando atque eligendo vidit, ait illi, ‘Sequere me’.
Jesus, therefore, saw the publican, and because he saw by having mercy and by choosing, He said to him, ‘Follow me'”.
What we have here is a fairly straight forward use of ablative gerunds. The ablative conveys the manner or even instrumental dimension of what is being done. We ask, when reading about what Christ did, “How did Jesus come to pick Matthew?” He called Matthew by a) having compassion and b) by making a decision.
So the new Bishop Bergoglio, back in the day, chose a motto to describe how he would go about being a bishop: he would be a bishop by showing compassion and by making decisions… miserando atque eligendo. He was probably thinking about how he felt himself to have been selected by God to follow Him: because God was merciful to Him and because God selected Him. Thus, as a bishop, He would do the same: show mercy and make choices.
A good motto for a reformer.
Let’s find the quote and then the context and sequela, if you will pardon the pun.
Vidit ergo Iesus publicanum, et quia miserando atque eligendo vidit, ait illi, Sequere me. Sequere autem dixit imitare. Sequere dixit non tam incessu pedum, quam executione morum. Qui enim dicit se in Christo manere, debet sicut ille ambulavit, et ipse ambulare: quod est non ambire terrena, non caduca lucra sectari, fugere honores, contemptum mundi omnen pro coelesti gloria libenter amplectio, cunctis prodesse, amare, iniurias nulli inferre, at sibi illatas patienter suffere, sed et inferentibis a Domino veniam postulare, nunnumquam suam, sed conditoris semper gloriam quaerere, quotquot valet secum ad amorem supernorum erigere. Haec est huiusmodi gerere, Christi est vestigia sequi.
Jesus, therefore, saw the publican, and because he saw by having mercy and by choosing, He said to him, ‘Follow me'”. ‘Follow’ means to imitate. ‘Follow’, He said, not so much in the pacing of feet, as in the carrying out of morals. For whoever says that he remains in Christ, ought himself to walk as He walked: which means not striving for earthly things, not eagerly pursuing fallen riches, fleeing honors, willingly embracing all the contempt of the world for the sake of heavenly glory, being advantageous to all, loving, occasioning injuries for no one but patiently suffering those caused to oneself, but seeking always the glory of the Creator, as often as one can raise himself up toward the love of those things which are above. This is what acting in that way is, This is following in the footsteps of Christ.
“By showing compassion and by choosing”.
We can dress this up a little but that’s what the motto really says.
I gave my old friend and mentor Fr. Reginald Foster a call and asked him about this. He’s with me: gerunds. FWIW.