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Calvinism in the Secret for the Living and the Dead?

QUESTION: The third Secret you recited last Sunday (For the Living and the Dead) read as follows:

“O God, who alone knowest the number of the elect to be admitted to the happiness of heaven, grant, we beseech Thee, that through the intercession of all Thy saints, the names of all who have been recommended to our prayers and of all the faithful, may be inscribed in the book of blessed predestination. Through our Lord.”

Isn’t predestination a Calvinist doctrine which the Church wholly rejects? Surely God knows those who will save their souls through faith, charity, and good works, but the idea of predestination as it is widely understood, that God has decided beforehand where you will go when you die, is regarded as heresy by the Church, is it not? Just need some clarification.

RESPONSE: Good question — and an illustration of why one has to look up terms to understand them in their proper sense.

First, the Church does teach predestination, but obviously not in the heretical sense of the Calvinists. You can find an explanation of the Catholic teaching here.

Second, the Latin text for this prayer probably predates Calvinism by nearly a thousand years.

A commentary on the language of the Missal says that the Latin term liber praedestinationis (book of predestination) in the Secret is “a combination of the Hebrew ‘Book of Works’ and Book of Life.’ Thus being inscribed in the liber beatae praedestinationis [book of blessed predestination] is a metaphorical expression for salvation by grace and good works. We have here, then, a technical legal term [adcriptus, i.e., ‘officially inscribed’] used in conjunction with one which had a Hebrew origin and a specifically Christian development.” Mary Pierre Ellbrecht, Remarks on the Vocabulary of the Ancient Orations in the Missale Romanum (Nijmegen: Dekker 1963), 152.

So, in this particular prayer, it’s a metaphor, and cannot be understood in the Calvinist sense.

Bravo for your attention to detail in the prayers — and an extra bravo for managing to follow me even for the commemorations!