Life & Soul

If we attend to our vocations, God will give us every grace we need

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On the 28th Ordinary Sunday, you could have the chance to hear a lovely Collect sung in Latin. It has been chanted for centuries on the 16th Sunday after Pentecost according to the traditional Roman calendar:

Tua nos, quaesumus, Domine, gratia semper et praeveniat et sequatur, ac bonis operibus iugiter praestet esse intentos.

The etet (“both … and”) construction strongly links the verbs praeveniatsequitur. Note also the ac (short for atque), which in a sequence can suggest that what follows is of greater importance. This dense, terse, typically Roman prayer is like an arrow streaking to its target. The current ICEL translation (2011) is: “May your grace, O Lord, we pray, at all times go before us and follow after and make us always determined to carry out good works.”

Just as we hope God will lavish His graces on us, so too we should be generous with our good works for others. When I first wrote of this Collect, I underscored that good initiatives come from God and are then brought to good completion by the help He shares. He does this in such a way that what is done is both His doing and also genuinely ours. Thus, as St Augustine (d 430) wrote to the future Pope Sixtus III, God crowns His own merits in us (ep 194.19).

Speaking of graces, as you hear, or better yet listen to, the oration being sung, preferably in Latin, you might single out tua gratia (“your grace”), emphasised in the word order through hyperbaton – calculated separation of grammatically related elements.

Tua gratia” can be an ancient form of honorific address, as used even today for nobility and prelates: “Your grace”. Thus, in speaking of the gift we speak of God Himself. In graces, God gives something of Himself. Moreover, tua gratia is the subject of all the verbs. We are not dealing with a mechanical dispenser of useful tips. This is personal colloquy.

God knew us and our vocations from before the creation of the cosmos. He called us into existence to play a role in His great plan. If we attend to our vocations with devotion God will give us every actual grace we need to accomplish our tasks. We have been called to live in troubled times. Therefore, more graces will be offered to us. Shall we complain about our lot? Forfend! It is an honour to live in our times and trials.

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