I’m working on a longer piece on Holy Women, Holy Men (about which more later) but I think it finally hit me what one of the major problems of one of the central new categories is. I didn’t notice it until I’d fully digested the rhetorical structure of the collects.
One of the tendencies of the new additions is to group like people together and to produce a collect that speaks to all of them. Here are some examples:
Divine Physician, your Name is blessed for the work
and witness of the Mayos and the Menningers, and the
revolutionary developments that they brought to the practice
of medicine. As Jesus went about healing the sick as a sign
of the reign of God come near, bless and guide all those
inspired to the work of healing by thy Holy Spirit, that they
may follow his example for the sake of thy kingdom and the
health of thy people; through the same Jesus Christ, who
with thee and the Holy Spirit liveth and reigneth, one God,
now and for ever. Amen.
[btw—we’re going to ignore for the moment the presence of a “your” in a Rite I prayer and focus on the structure…]
Eternal God, who didst inspire Anna Julia Haywood
Cooper and Elizabeth Evelyn Wright with the love
of learning and the joy of teaching: Help us also to
gather and use the resources of our communities for the
education of all thy children; through Jesus Christ our
Savior, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy
Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
As the heavens declare thy glory, O God, and the
firmament showeth thy handiwork, we bless thy Name for
the gifts of knowledge and insight thou didst bestow upon
Nicolaus Copernicus and Johannes Kepler; and we pray
that thou wouldst continue to advance our understanding
of thy cosmos, for our good and for thy glory; through
Jesus Christ, the firstborn of all creation, who with thee
and the Holy Spirit liveth and reigneth, one God, for ever
and ever. Amen.
Are you seeing a pattern here? This is what I see… At its most reductionistic, it goes like this:
O God, we thank you for A. and B. who were great Xs. Help us to be great Xs too. Thanks.
What’s the problem here? It’s that we’re not just trying to form Xs—we’re trying to form Christians. Whether they were good at their job or not (however holy that job might be), is not the point. The point should be that these specific people displayed the incarnate presence of Christ in their lives and thus were part of the sacramental conversion of all creation.