Skip to content
Catholic Online Logo

By Andrew M. Greenwell, Esq.

8/5/2013 (2 years ago)

Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

God, Pope Francis says, "nos primerea."  The expression "nos primerea" is in Lunfardo Porteńo, or Buenos Aires street slang.  It is the language not of high-brow Castilian, but low Spanish, the Spanish of the barrio.  It is not a theological term even in Spanish, but a popular term and reflects Pope Francis's pastoral sensibilities.  It means that God always "bests" us, always "firsts" us, always is therefore before us, anticipating us.  God loves us first, seeks us out first, awaits us first. 

Highlights

By Andrew M. Greenwell, Esq.

Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

8/5/2013 (2 years ago)

Published in Living Faith

Keywords: primerea, prevenient grace, Pope Francis, Andrew M. Greenwell


CORPUS CHRISTI, TX (Catholic Online) - In the book El Jesuita: Conversaciones con El Cardenal Jorge Bergoglio, reprinted and translated as Pope Francis: Conversations with Jorge Bergoglio, the then-Cardinal Bergoglio spoke about the entirely unexpected but transformative encounter with the merciful God that occurred when he was age seventeen.

As he explains it, as a young seventeen-year-old boy, at a confession at the Church of San José de Flores in Buenos Aires, he had a surprise encounter with Someone who unbeknownst to him had been waiting him all along: the merciful Jesus. 

For the young Bergoglio, it was to be a deep, life-changing encounter with the merciful God, the merciful God who showed himself to man in Christ.  It was this encounter where he bound himself to God, to a God that he found had already anticipated him.  He was never again to be the same.

"That is the religious experience: the astonishment of meeting someone who has been waiting for you all along," he explained.  "From that moment on, for me, God is the one who te primerea.  You search for Him, but He searches you first."

This experience was at the heart of St. Paul's experience of the Lord in Damascus.  God searched him out.

This experience was at the heart of the conversion of St. Ignatius of Loyola, who has helped form the Jesuit-formed Bergoglio's ecclesial soul.  God searched Ignatius out.

It was at the heart of the experience of the young seventeen-year-old Bergoglio, and remains at the heart of his experience as the seventy-six-year-old Pope Francis.  One can be assured that it will be at the heart of his papacy.

For Pope Francis, God always "te primerea."  It is this quality of the Lord's love, the Lord's grace, the Lord's mercy that conquers us, bests us, defeats us, scores one on us, is always one-up on us.

This is an important word that comprehends a cardinal concept for Pope Francis and his spiritual relationship with God.

He used it in expressing transformative encounter with the merciful Jesus at age 17. 

He used it frequently throughout his episcopacy and cardinalcy at the diocese of Buenos Aires, in homilies, speeches, and interviews.

He brought it into the mainstream of the Church when he used it in his homily to the Jesuits in the Church of the Gesú in Rome on July 31, 2013.  This, he says, is the way Christ conquers us.
"I seek Jesus, I serve Jesus, because He sought me first, because I was conquered by Him: and this is the heart of our experience.  But He is first, always.  In Spanish there is a word that is very graphic, which explains this well: He "primereas" us.  "El nos primerea".  He is always first.  When we arrive, He has already arrived and is expecting us."

The expression "El nos primerea" (pronounced roughly pree-meh-REH-a) is in Lunfardo Porteńo, or Buenos Aires street slang.  It is the language not of the high-brow Castilian, but low Spanish, the Spanish of the barrio.  It is not a theological term even in Spanish, but a popular term and reflects Pope Francis's pastoral sensibilities.  It is a term perhaps derived from soccer--fútbol--and means "he gets there before you," "he bests you," "he anticipates you," "he beats you to it."  One can see the image of the forwards getting there first and beating the defenders and scoring a goal.

God, Pope Francis says, "nos primerea."  This means that God always "bests" us, always "firsts" us, always is therefore before us, anticipating us.  God loves us first, seeks us out first, awaits us first.  He is on offense against our defense.

As he explained it at a presentation at the Buenos Aires International Book Fair while Cardinal, primerea "is the quality which God possesses and which I take the liberty of defining by using a Buenos Aires word: God, in this case Jesus Christ, always primerea, goes ahead of us. When we arrive, He is already there waiting."

"He who encounters Jesus Christ," Cardinal Bergoglio stated, "feels the impulse to witness Him or to give witness of what he has encountered, and this is the Christian calling. To go and give witness. You can't convince anybody.  The encounter occurs. You can prove that God exists, but you will never be able, using the force of persuasion, to make anyone encounter God. This is pure grace. Pure grace. In history, from its very beginning until today, grace always primerea, grace always comes first, then comes all the rest."

In the game of grace, God scores first.  God is always in front, always beats us to the punch.

In one interview he gave as a Cardinal, he elaborated it this way: "God defined himself to the prophet Jeremiah as the branch of an almond tree.  And the almond tree is the first to flower in spring.  Primerea--it is always first." 

Cardinal Bergoglio's reference was to Jeremiah 1:11-12.

"And the word of the Lord came to me, saying, 'Jeremiah, what do you see?'  And I said, 'I see a rod of almond.'  Then the Lord said to me, 'You have seen well, for I am watching over my word to perform it.'"

Like the almond blossom, which is at the forefront of and anticipates Spring, so God's grace, God's love, God's mercy is at the forefront of things: it is always up ahead.  With matters of grace, mercy, and love, we always follow, the God who nos primerea.  God's grace is the vanguard.

While the word has roots in the humble slang of the streets of Buenos Aires, the concept is a deeply scriptural concept.  "We love because he first loved us," writes the Apostle John.  (1 John 4:19).  Were we to translate it into Lunfardo Porteńo, St. John's letter would read something along the lines of: "Nosotros amamos porque en amor nos primerea."

The concept of primerea also has roots deep in the heart of Catholic theology, found (though not using that term) peppering the writings of Pope St. Gregory the Great, St. Augustine of Hippo, St. Thomas Aquinas, and Duns Scotus.

The concept of primerea is found even in the Church's conciliar teaching and in her liturgy.  It is part of her dogma and part of her prayer.

The concept of primerea is the Catholic concept of prevenient grace, gratia praeveniente.

The word prevenient comes from Latin pre and venire, which means "to come first," or, in Lunfardo Porteńo, primerea.

The Church in council first addressed this in its attack against Semi-Pelagianism at the Second Synod of Orange (529 A.D.), where it decreed that prevenient grace is there before even faith is: it is there even before the "beginning of faith." 

The prevenient grace woos, calls, illuminates, illustrates, excites, knocks, inspires, attracts first before the first scintilla of faith on our part.  Dios nos primerea.

The Council of Trent stated in its Sixth Session: "[I]n adults, the beginning of . . .  Justification is to be derived from the prevenient grace [praeveniente gratia] of God, through Jesus Christ, that is to say, from His vocation [or calling], whereby, without any merits existing on their parts, they are called; that so they, who by sins were alienated from God, may be disposed through His quickening and assisting grace, to convert themselves to their own justification, by freely assenting to and co-operating with that said grace."  Dios nos primerea is the plain teaching of the Council of Trent.

The Catholic Catechism also speaks in terms of prevenient grace, showing here as in everything else, that there is a hermeneutic of continuity that links the Council of Trent (and every prior council) with the Second Vatican Council: "Every time we begin to pray to Jesus it is the Holy Spirit who draws us on the way of prayer by his prevenient grace."  CCC § 2670.  Before we utter our first word to God, God is already there.  Dios nos primerea.

As the Immaculate Conception, Mary is, of course, the "first of the redeemed" and the most perfectly justified through merits of Christ.  We might say, that of all Christians, it was Mary where God, the God who loved us first, pulled his most astounding encounter, his "first of all first graces" with mankind.  He was there first, with prevenient Grace, way in front of the Devil, to preserve her from all stain of sin, to prepare for the coming of the God made man, the "first fruits" Jesus Christ. (Cf. 1 Cor. 15:20)

It is not unexpected, then, that the Church's liturgy (specifically at the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary) uses the term "prevenient grace" to refer to the redeeming and justifying grace that was there first, at the ready, even unexpectedly and unannounced, at Mary's immaculate conception to preserve her from original sin. 

We may be sure that this will not be the last time we hear Pope Francis talk about primerea

He will insist that God's grace, God's mercy, God's love beats us, precedes us, firsts us every time.  Every time.  We will never outrun, outscore, or outmaneuver the mercy of God.  Never.

After all, it is a dogma of the faith:  Dios te primerea.

-----

Andrew M. Greenwell is an attorney licensed to practice law in Texas, practicing in Corpus Christi, Texas.  He is married with three children.  He maintains a blog entirely devoted to the natural law called Lex Christianorum.  You can contact Andrew at agreenwell@harris-greenwell.com.

---


Pope Francis: end world hunger through 'Prayer and Action'


Copyright 2015 - Distributed by THE CALIFORNIA NETWORK

Pope Francis Prayer Intentions for February 2016
Universal:
That prisoners, especially the young, may be able to rebuild lives of dignity.
Evangelization: That married people who are separated may find welcome and support in the Christian community.



Comments


More Living Faith

Worldwide Christian persecution among four vital issues behind Pope and Russian patriarch's visit Watch

Image of Both the Catholic Church and Russian Orthodox Church have spoken out clearly to stop the

By Andrea Gagliarducci, CNA/EWTN News

The first, historic meeting between a Pope and a Patriarch of the Russian Orthodox Church does not come from nowhere. Both the Russian Orthodox Patriarchate and the Holy See have been working on such an event for decades. Vatican City (CNA/EWTN News) - In at ... continue reading


Can we set aside our differences?: Catholics and Russian Orthodox Patriarch unite for the first time in 1,000 years Watch

Image of Patriarch Kirill will meet Pope Francis on this historic day (AP).

By Kenya Sinclair (CALIFORNIA NETWORK)

The Vatican recently announced the historic meeting between Pope Francis and the head of the Russian Orthodox Church, Patriarch Kirill. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - The meeting is set for Friday and will be the first time the heads of the Catholic and Russian ... continue reading


Oldest copy of Old Testament recognized as world treasure Watch

Image of The oldest surviving copy of the Hebrew Bible has been officially recognized.

By Kenya Sinclair (CALIFORNIA NETWORK)

The oldest surviving copy of the Old Testament was officially recognized as a world treasure by the United Nations Educations, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - The Aleppo Codex is the oldest surviving copy of the Hebrew ... continue reading


More than a thousand 'super confessors' released by Pope Francis to tackle 'reserved sins' Watch

Image of One of the Pope's

By Catholic Online (CALIFORNIA NETWORK)

Those who commit "reserved sins," transgressions that are deemed especially egregious by the Catholic Church, will have another chance this Jubilee Year. Those who have committed such sins previously only pardonable by the Pope may now seek out the 1,142 ... continue reading


'What could happen if every church would rise up in prayer': Christians join before U.S. Supreme Court to call for prayer Watch

Image of Texas Loves Life stands to protect the unborn (bound4life).

By Kenya Sinclair (CALIFORNIA NETWORK)

Christians stand together outside the U.S. Supreme Court to call other believers to pray the pro-life law passes. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - While the Supreme Court considers a Texas pro-life law, Texas Loves Life calls for Christians to pray for the fates of ... continue reading


If 'Jubilee doesn't arrive to the pockets, it's not a true Jubilee,' Pope Francis says Watch

Image of In his continued catechesis on mercy as seen in Scripture, the Pope noted how the Jubilee year is an

By Elise Harris, CNA/EWTN News

For Pope Francis, mercy is not just spiritual, but is something that ought to be expressed in concrete acts of service and in sharing one's goods with the poor, which was a key tradition during Jubilee years throughout Scripture. Vatican City (CNA/EWTN News) - ... continue reading


'You can't have Jesus': NASA accused of censoring use of Christ's name Watch

Image of NASA announces the use of Jesus' name in e-communications is a violation of the First Amendment (SacredHeart).

By Kenya Sinclair (CALIFORNIA NETWORK)

Members of the Praise and Worship Club, composed of NASA employees, were shocked to receive a notice from NASA ordering they cease to include Jesus' name in their religious e-mails. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - The use of Jesus' name came up in May 2015, when ... continue reading


MAKE YOURSELF COUNT! Complete this quick Ash Wednesday survey

Image of Take the Ash Wednesday survey so we can better serve your needs.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Catholic Online is conducting a global survey on Ash Wednesday practices. Each reader is asked to participate once. The survey will take less than a minute to complete. The results of the survey will help Catholic Online determine how best to serve your needs in the ... continue reading


Santa Muerte gains popularity throughout Mexico - Will Pope Francis react during his visit? Watch

Image of Santa Muerte's popularity has spread throughout South America (Pinterest).

By Kenya Sinclair (CALIFORNIA NETWORK)

Despite the Catholic Church openly saying Santa Muerte is not recognized as a saint, the death saint continues to spread in popularity among Mexican citizens. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - "Santa Muerte is an absurdity," Cardinal Norberto Rivera, Mexico's ... continue reading


Bible-themed luxury resort to be built in San Diego? Watch

Image of Televangelist seeks to build Bible-themed resort (YouTube).

By Kenya Sinclair (CALIFORNIA NETWORK)

Televangelist Morris Cerullo has been attempting to build a Bible-themed luxury resort for the past few years - and now there is only one more hurdle to jump. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - After purchasing a foreclosed Mission Valley hotel, Cerullo's plans for ... continue reading


All Living Faith News

Newsletters

Newsletter Sign Up icon

Stay up to date with the latest news, information, and special offers

Subscribe to Catholic OnlineYouTube Channel

the FEED
by Catholic Online

Daily Readings

Reading 1, Isaiah 58:9-14
9 Then you will cry for help and Yahweh will answer; you will call and he ... Read More

Psalm, Psalms 86:1-2, 3-4, 5-6
1 [Prayer Of David] Listen to me, Yahweh, answer me, for I am poor and ... Read More

Gospel, Luke 5:27-32
27 When he went out after this, he noticed a tax collector, Levi by name, ... Read More

Saint of the Day

Saint of the Day for February 13th, 2016 Image

St. Catherine de Ricci
February 13: St. Catherine was born in Florence in 1522. Her ... Read More