I’ve joked that I know I’m truly Catholic because I anticipate the recitation of the St. Andrew prayer as part of my Advent season while cleaning up Thanksgiving dishes! And now, tomorrow evening, I will pray the precious words for the final time this year. It is the only time I actually ask God for specific intentions (When you have children with a chronic disease, nothing else matters much but a cure. And heaven, always heaven.). This prayer has become a pool of peace during busy Advent for me to focus on the hour and moment in which the Son of God was born of the most pure virgin Mary. It is the only place I feel comfortable voicing my deepest desires.
Several years ago, when I first passed out copies of the prayer (we do the first five as a family in the morning), some child gasped, “We’re not supposed to say ‘Oh my God’!” leading to an explanation about the motivation behind the phrase. Then, “What’s ‘vouchsafe’?” I had a vague notion and quickly responded, “Old fashioned for ‘pretty-please’; now be serious for prayers.” Fast forward to this Advent’s beginning when a different child asked about vouchsafe. This time I looked it up.
The word means, “Give or grant in a gracious manner;” from Middle English, “To vouch something safe on someone.” Well, well. So vouchsafe is nothing that we do ~ not our correct words or cute postures (pretty-pleeeease?) but something that God does. We’re saying, “Graciously grant; safely give; Oh my God, hear my prayer and grant my desires.” Our prayers and desires are safe with our Lord. To open ourselves up and ask (so difficult for me), even if the answer is suffering, can keep us tender like Mary’s, “Let it be to me as you have said,” and keep us tough like Jesus’, “Not my will but Thine.” It can be disheartening to consider that our prayers may never receive a yes this side of heaven. This is the place where the theological truths of our Holy Faith crash like waves upon the rocky shores of our real lives. But with this prayer, we hail and bless the Incarnation; we ask that our desires be heard and granted; and we acknowledge the merits of Jesus and Mary. Then we live our lives safely in God’s watch ~ He sent Jesus and the world is blessed. We are blessed.
Vouchsafe, Oh my God. Pretty-please.