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 certainly 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.

Serious trouble.

Not to sound like Prof. Harold Hill, but we’ve got trouble my friends.  Look around.  There is are virus bugs in the veins of our bodies and demons oppressed thugs in the veins of our cities.   The greatest nation on earth has an election to face in strange dystopian conditions, without question in part purposely engineered.  We have a visible Church in division and in some places in tatters.

The whole thing nasty mess seemed to spark up around the time a demon-ritual bowl was placed on the altar over the Bones of the Apostle.

Powerful corrections are either on the horizon or they are not.   If they are, we must steel ourselves.  If they are not, we must steel ourselves for what is worse.

And in both cases, WE are the team God wanted to be alive here and now.  WE are the one’s he brought into existence for these times and conditions.   That means that God will offer us all the graces we need provided we do our parts.

Again, I come back to our sacred liturgical worship.   We must have MORE than what we have been doing.   “But… but… what does it matter so long as it is valid?!?  What we are doing is enough!”

It matters because WE ARE OUR RITES.

Serious trouble needs serious medicine.

Is what we are doing really enough?

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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One Comment

  1. What’s that famous saying (I’m probably butchering it here..):
    “The doctor doesn’t stop cutting because the patient is screaming…”

    Many times the most merciful thing is to say “no”, or, “you’re wrong, and here’s why…”, or even better “I’ll pray you come to your senses and get on the right road” (or go to confession!).

    The doctors of our Faith need to do some surgery, regardless of how much many scream. The alternative is pretty grim if not.

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