Life & Soul

We are pilgrim soldiers of the Church Militant. We need leadership from our officers

The Church Militant and the Church Triumphant, fresco by Andrea da Firenze in Santa Maria Novella (c 1365)

The Collect for the 32nd Ordinary Sunday has an antecedent in the Gelasian Sacramentary. It is also used in the Extraordinary Form on the 19th Sunday after Pentecost, and it is cited in the Catechism of the Catholic Church (1742).   

Omnipotens et misericors Deus, universa nobis adversantia propitiatus exclude, ut, mente et corpore pariter expediti, quae tua sunt liberis mentibus exsequamur.

Adversantia (from adverso[r]) is, “to be against, resist, oppose (in his opinions, feelings, intentions, etc)”. Resistere, however, denotes resistance through external action. The distinction of “internal” and “external” is useful for understanding our Collect. We are challenged from without, but the greatest challenges come from within. We must constantly cope both with the unreconstructed effects of original sin and also with attacks from the Enemy, who stirs up passions and memories, plants wicked thoughts and images. Holy Church traditionally prays: “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).

Current ICEL translation (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.” 

A defect in this version is the exclusion of the element of propitiation. God must  be appeased. Propitiatus is “having been appeased”. We join our efforts to Christ’s propitiatory Sacrifice. 

Our Collect provides us with military language consonant with the threefold 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 gruelling 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 will 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.   

We are pilgrim soldiers of the Church Militant. Our march is perilous. To reach heaven, we need training, discipline, nourishment. We need leadership from our officers, courageous bishops and priests who drill us, who sound a trumpet certain and clear, who say “No!”, and who say “Go!”