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From wels.net (emphasis mine):

“For Jesus’ sake” means that we are coming to God in prayer, not pleading our own merits, but (“on account of”) Jesus’ merits... When we end our prayers with “for Jesus’ sake,” we are acknowledging that Jesus is the one who has bridged the gap between a holy God and sinners. “For Jesus’ sake” has the idea of asking that our prayers be heard and answered, not because of who we are but because of who Jesus is. And of course whether or not we use that expression, that thought is foundational to all our prayers.

From Truth Magazine (emphasis mine):

FOR CHRIST'S SAKE hath forgiven you" (Eph. 4:3-2). The Holy Spirit said God hath forgiven us "for Christ's sake." This being true, why should it be wrong for us to use the phrase "for Christ's sake" in our prayers? Certainly, certainly, ask the prayer in the name of Christ (Rom. 1:8, Col. 3:17). But in view of Ephesians 4:32 may we not use the words "for Christ's sake?" Does someone say, brother Plum it is not for Christ's sake we pray, it is for "our sake," "my sake." I understand Christ was perfect and we are not, and personally I do not feel worthy to say to my God grant my petitions "for my sake," do you? I need help, forgiveness, all right, but what is there about me to ask the Lord to do it for my sake? Nothing. Absolutely nothing. But when I ask God to have mercy upon my requests for Christ's sake, that adds weight to my petition. Shows our knowledge of our unworthiness, and shows our belief in Christ's worthiness.

From the Catholic Encyclopedia:

the Council of Trent emphatically declares (Sess. VI, cap. xvi, in Denzinger, 10th ed., Freiburg, 1908, n. 810): "the Lord . . . whose bounty towards all men is so great, that He will have the things, which are His own gifts, be their merits."

Since the Catholic Church believes that some merits are given by God to be a man's own, does it follow that "for Jesus' sake" is NOT "foundational to all [his] prayers?" And, if the phrase is not foundational to Catholic prayer, when (if ever) is the phrase acceptable in Catholic prayer?

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Catholics do not at all reject the notion that there are merits which are Christ's alone. As God, all merits are His. And, there is certainly Catholic theological tradition regarding sanctification and "meriting" salvation only insofar as we are grafted onto the Vine, which is Christ.

There are direct examples of a petitionary prayer being made for the sake of Christ Jesus in the Catholic tradition. One prayer that comes to mind is the Divine Mercy Chaplet, wherein those praying ask God to have mercy on the whole world "for the sake of [Christ's] sorrowful passion."

Now, I'm not certain if Catholics should say that this sort of thought is foundational to all of our prayer. Indeed, prayer is more than merely petitionary, and this thought seems to only make sense in the context of petitionary prayer. But it is certainly the case that Catholics can ask the Father for good things for the sake of Christ, since we are one Body with Him, so long as we are not in mortal sin.

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  • Thanks for the answer. I'm still not sure that the phrase, as defined, doesn't imply Total Depravity, but I'll think about it some more.
    – ken
    Jan 25 at 15:49
  • If you are wondering about the Catholic response to TD and the correct stance on depravity as a part of the fallen human condition, this Catholic Answers tract may help: catholic.com/magazine/print-edition/…
    – jaredad7
    Jan 25 at 15:54
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    @ken we mustn't be afraid to acknowledge that we depend on Christ for our righteousness. No one can be truly righteous, even if he can follow the natural law fairly well, without the Grace of Christ working in his life. That doesn't mean he's totally depraved, nor does it mean that Christians cannot ask for mercy for the sake of Christ as members of His Mystical Body.
    – jaredad7
    Jan 25 at 15:56
  • That was my point, which I admittedly didn't make very clear. The phrase, as it's used, seems to imply Total Depravity, and therefore underscores the differences between Protestant and Catholic/Orthodox salvific theologies, one of which, that Christ "covers" our sins through his payment of the penalty for all sin, is expressly denied in a description of the line from the Devine Mercy Chaplet that you referenced (see bit.ly/3fVx9Kz): "We are not praying here that the Son of God's sacrifice may cover our sins." I added another quote to the question.
    – ken
    Jan 25 at 18:22
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Is the phrase "for Jesus’ sake" compatible with Catholic theology?

The short answer is: Absolutely.

But all things are of God, who hath reconciled us to himself by Christ; and hath given to us the ministry of reconciliation. -2 Corinthians 5:18

Although not a rather popular expression within Catholic piety, there is nothing wrong with this phrase. My personal thinking is that it is not rather popular in Catholic circles because some individuals employ the term in a somewhat derogatory way. Theologically, it is quite sound.

This reminds of the old Benedictine motto: Ut in omnibus glorificetur Deus. If St. Benedict encouraged his monks to do everything for the greater glory of God”. After all, Jesus is the second person of the Most Holy Trinity and if we employ this phrase for the greater glory of Jesus, it is equally given to the Sacred Trinity though Christ.

While addressing the subject of Marian apparitions, St. John Henry Cardinal Newman states that ”the glories of Mary are for the sake of Jesus!”

For a healthy, well-balanced Marian spirituality, I recommend three aphorisms of St. John Henry Cardinal Newman:

I recollect one saying among others of my confessor, a Jesuit Father, one of the holiest, most prudent men I ever knew. He said that we could not love the Blessed Virgin too much, if we loved Our Lord a great deal more.2

As then these ideas of her [Mary’s] sanctity and dignity gradually penetrated the mind of Christendom, so did that of her intercessory power follow close upon them and with them.

This simply is the point which I shall insist on—disputable indeed by aliens from the Church but most clear to her children, that the glories of Mary are for the sake of Jesus; and that we praise and bless her as the first of creatures, that we may duly confess Him as our sole Creator.

The glories of Mary are for the sake of Jesus

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  • Thanks for the answer, but it seems that "the glories of Mary are for the sake of Jesus" implies that the glories of Mary are for the sake of bringing people to Jesus, or for the sake of worshiping Him as God ("our sole Creator"). That doesn't seem to be the same thing as the definition of "for Jesus' sake" that I posted.
    – ken
    Jan 25 at 14:38

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