Compassionate Saint Callistus I, Pope

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One of the things I most love about the prayers of the Roman Rite is their compassionate realism. Today's succinct Collect (in the traditional liturgical books) illustrates this perfectly. There is no masking of human weakness, no pretense of virtue, and no want of confidence in Divine Mercy.

Deus, qui nos conspicis ex nostra infirmitate deficere:
ad amorem tuum nos misericorditer per Sanctorum tuorum exempla restaura.

Monsignor Knox translates it thus:

O God, who seest how we fail by reason of our weakness,
have mercy, and through the examples of thy saints,
renew our love of thee.

The Marquess of Bute gives this translation:

O God, Who seest that in our own weakness we do continually fall,
make, in Thy mercy, the ensamples of Thy holy children
a mean whereby to renew in us the love of Thyself.

Finally, the Anglican Monastic Diurnal has:

O God, who seest that we fall by reason of our infirmity:
mercifully restore us to thy love by the example of thy Saints.

Dealing with Sinners

There were some contemporaries of Pope Callistus I who found him lax and overly generous in dealing with public sinners, notably with clergy who had fallen into sin. Hippolytus, for example, groused that Callistus was unwilling to depose a bishop who had sinned grievously and then done penance for his sin.

Copious Redemption

Callistus, however, was personally acquainted with penitence of heart, and had suffered much at the hands of rigorists. If Mother Church has made the compassion of Christ the Good Shepherd the measure of her own pastoral practise in dealing with sinners, it is perhaps due, in some way, to the merciful magnanimity of Pope Saint Callistus I.

The Mercy That Restores to Love

From this one sees that today's Collect is perfectly adapted to the feast. The Church cannot but imitate the mercy of God, Who, while He sees us fail in our infirmities and fall in our weakness, sets before us the example of those forgiven sinners who are the saints, and desires only to restore us to His love.

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About Dom Mark

Dom Mark Daniel Kirby is Conventual Prior of Silverstream Priory in Stamullen, County Meath, Ireland. The ecclesial mandate of his Benedictine community is the adoration of the Most Holy Sacrament of the Altar in a spirit of reparation, and in intercession for the sanctification of priests.

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