WDTPRS – 18th Sunday after Pentecost: Who says mercy has to be gentle? Wherein Fr. Z rants.

Traversi_Operation_anagoria 1753 smThe Collect for Sunday Mass this week in the Extraordinary Form wound up in the Ordinary Form Missale Romanum as the Collect for Saturday in the 4th Week of Lent. Go figure. It had an ancient source in the Gelasian Sacramentary. For a change, the redactors of Fr. Bugnini’s and Card. Lercaro’s Consilium, with their scissors and glue pots, didn’t mess around with this prayer.

Dirigat corda nostra, quaesumus, Domine, tuae miserationis operatio, quia tibi sine te placere non possumus.


O Lord, we beg You, may the working of Your mercy direct our hearts, for without You we cannot please You.

Fairly stark.  I have mentioned with some frequency St. Augustine of Hippo’s insight that God crowns His own merits in us. Surely that is what is at work in today’s prayer.


Grant, we beseech thee, O Lord, that the operation of thy mercy may direct our hearts, forasmuch as without thee we are not able to please thee.

This is what you would have heard… or rathyr, hearde of yore in the 1559 BCP1549 Book of Common Prayer

O GOD, for asmuche as without thee, we are not able to please thee; Graunte that the workyng of thy mercie maye in all thynges directe and rule our heartes; Through Jesus Christ our Lorde.

I rathyr lyke the way they turned downe syde up the ourdre of thynges.

CURRENT ICEL (from Saturday 4th Week of Lent):

May the working of your mercy, O Lord, we pray, direct our hearts aright, for without your grace we cannot find favor in your sight.

OBSOLETE ICEL (1973 – Saturday 4th Week of Lent):

Lord, guide us in your gentle mercy, for left to ourselves we cannot do your will.


you are nice.
Be nice and help us love.

This gets to the essence of what the old ICEL “translators” gleaned from the Latin originals, don’t you think?  After all, it expresses our need for the sacrament of niceness, which is the heart and soul of the old ICEL versions and the destitute theology behind them.

Seriously, the Latin original says nothing about God’s mercy being “gentle” when directing our hearts, our inmost thoughts and aspirations.

If we invoke His mercy, then surely we admit that we aren’t always so “nice” after all.  Right? We don’t ask for mercy unless we haven’t been “weighed and found lacking”.

Augustine, taking his cue from from the medical practices of the day, said that the doctor doesn’t stop cutting just because the patient screams for him to stop.  Think of all the writhing, pleading, people holding the poor patient down.  No anesthesia then, right?  But in our modern times, with all the distractions, the numbing of screens, noise, the pace, many of us are becoming tender little snowflakes, much like some young people we now censoriously mock for their delicacy in the face of challenges to contemporary conventions and political correctness.  As a Church we have some serious toughening to do.  Hard correction, training and nourishment is required. We have to stop all the excuses and pandering, the incessant reduction of expectations with the inexorable drift into the Charybdis of mediocrity, the tepidity which Christ will spew out.

It sometimes hurts to be corrected!

God knows what we need better than we can ever ponder to ask for.

Moreover, God’s correction, as harsh as it can seem at times, is certain gentle compared to the torments of everlasting Hell.

We must steel ourselves, and not come down off the Crosses we are offered every time it starts to hurt.

And so, even as I now remind you to examine your consciences and “GO TO CONFESSION!”, I also must put to you hard questions (especially to you priests out there).

Is the liturgical worship, especially Holy Mass, where you regularly go, helping you to prepare for death?  Does it help you to conversion and correction and self-recognition?  If not, maybe some changes have to be made.

Fathers, is the way you say Mass (including the music choices, etc.) helping your people towards recognition of sinful behavior, towards desire to change, and towards a good death?  Is it helping them to get ready to die?  If not, I suggest that you are in serious trouble.

I am not saying that everyone has to be on the rack all the time.  Hardly.  However, if we are in a constant state of distraction from reality (yes, we are going to die and be judged and God cannot be deceived), if we are always being wrapped in soothing, lulling, enervating false affirmation of our nice wonderfulness… we are in serious trouble.

The moderation queue is ON.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. Benedict Joseph says:

    Thank you, Father Z.
    Honestly I never took real note of the collects until I started to frequent this site.
    Of all the wonderful surprises this site provides, nothing surpasses this weekly catechesis on the collects. The collects for the week, memorials, feasts and solemnities have become for me a rich daily exhortation, a source of consolation and refreshment because of the fine work you do each week in providing this instruction.
    Their brevity and simplicity are a passage to deeper prayer, and you have provided the key.
    God reward you.

  2. Andrew says:

    That picture brings to mind the words of St. Jerome (ep. XL):

    Doctors, called Chirurgicals, are thought to be, and they are miserable. Isn’t it misery, to have no regard for someone’s wounds and to cut his flesh with a heartless iron? Such is the nature of things that truth is bitter while vices are thought to be pleasant. Spiritual chirurgs, cutting out the vices of sinners, invite us to penance. The Apostle Paul says: “I became your enemy, because I tell you the truth.”

    Medici, quos vocant Chirurgicos, crudeles putantur, et miseri sunt. An non est miseria, alienis non dolere vulneribus, et mortuas carnes inclementi secare ferro? Ita se natura habet, ut amara sit veritas, blanda vitia existimentur. Chirurgici spirituales, secantes vitia peccatorum, ad poenitentiam cohortantur. Paulus Apostolus: “Inimicus, inquit, vobis factus sum, verum dicens” (Galat. 4).

    Fr. Z's Gold Star Award

  3. andromedaregina says:

    Wait a second Padre, do you mean to tell me that I’m not just gonna lifted up on eagles wings?

  4. Based on the meaning of misericordia, I tend to see mercy as literally a mild heart attack. Maybe more like the increased heart rate one may get from being suddenly hit by a wave. (Of this I also say that it gives meaning to “having the wind knocked out of you”, in order that you may regain your “breath” as it was from Baptism.)

  5. On the lighter side…um, yeah…
    Since some “prayers” of the age of Old ICEL (is it bad to pronounce this as “Isil”?) assert more than ask, maybe in recension the proposed mockery would be: We love because God is nice.

  6. NoraLee9 says:

    Pater, I thought this was one of your “great ones.” If I could pass out a gold star for blog posts, this one would receive one. Of course the mock ICEL translation set me to roaring mirth, but the question regarding Mass preparing one for death was timely. Saturday, while waiting for our Third Order Carmelite mid-month shindig to begin, A funeral Mass was being said in the Chapel. Father said, about the gal we were going to bury, “I asked myself how I would like to die? Then I compared what I define as a good death to (xxxx’s). Did she receive the Final Sacraments, including confession and Communion? Check. Did she receive the apostolic blessing? Check. Was she wearing Our Lady’s scapular? Check. And, was she surrounded by her family, by people who loved her? Check. And does she leave friends and family behind who will prayer for her soul? Check.”
    Father prepared those Catholics who had never attended an Extraordinary Form Mass before. He also made sure that the mass booklets for the funeral were distributed.
    Do our Masses prepare us to die well? Check.

  7. bethv says:

    What has been particularly bothersome to me during this “Year of Mercy” is that no one is told about the Spiritual Works of Mercy, only the Corporal. So, no one is being told that we also show mercy by “Admonishing the Sinner” or “Instructing the Ignorant” and the others that are actually more gentle. The whole business of selective teaching is irksome.

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