What’s in That Prayer? The Collect for the Eighteenth Sunday after Pentecost

(Last year, there were a couple of Sundays I missed in the What’s in That Prayer series. One of them was this past Sunday. I was unable to post it over the weekend this year because of our recent annual conference, so I am posting it now.)

Here is the oration that the Church prays in the Mass and Office for the Eighteenth Sunday after Pentecost:

Dírigat corda nostra, quǽsumus, Dómine, tuæ miseratiónis operátio: quia tibi sine te placére non póssumus.

Here is my translation:

May the operation of Thy mercy direct our hearts, we beseech Thee, O Lord: for without Thee, we cannot please Thee.

Here is the translation from the Divinum Officium site:

May the working of Your mercy, we beseech You, O Lord, guide our hearts, for without You, we cannot please You.

Once again we see how necessary is the grace of God — this time so that we might please God.

But can men really please God?

Yes! Saint Paul wrote that, “without faith it is impossible to please God” (Heb. 11:6). Now, while that does not necessarily mean that with faith we automatically please God, it does establish the necessity of faith for us to do so. Elsewhere, Holy Scripture positively speaks of pleasing God:

And it [King David’s praise of God] shall please God better than a young calf, that bringeth forth horns and hoofs. –Psalms 68:32

Saint Paul writes to the Corinthians of the advantages of celibacy, including the increased opportunities it affords for men to please God (1 Cor. 7:32).

And the Council of Trent teaches,

For Jesus Christ himself continuously infuses strength into the justified, as the head into the members [cf. Eph 4:15] and the vine into the branches [cf. Jn 15:5]; this strength always precedes, accompanies, and follows their good works, which, without it, could in no way be pleasing to God and meritorious [can. 2].” –Decree on Justification, XVI, D.H. 1546

We know that God is generous with the graces that make us pleasing to Him. In the Epistle of this Sunday, (1 Cor. 1:4-8), Saint Paul gives thanks to God for the manifold graces that are given to his spiritual children in Corinth, telling them that “nothing is wanting to you in any grace.”

The Gospel (Matt. 9:1-8) relates the cure of the paralytic in Capharnaum, whose sins Our Lord first forgave before healing his body. That man was translated from a state in which he was not pleasing, to a state in which he was pleasing to God.

It is very appropriate that one of the names that Saint Thomas gives to Sanctifying Grace is gratia gratum faciens: “grace which makes pleasing,” for that is what it does.

And without God giving us that grace freely, we cannot be pleasing to Him, or, as today’s oration has it, “for without Thee, we cannot please Thee.” Therefore, we beg for the operation of God’s mercy to direct our hearts to that end.