instruere...inlustrare...delectare Disputations

Wednesday, November 26, 2003

That Name above all names

Ever New is posting a novena to the Holy Name of Jesus, written by St. Alphonsus de Liguori. Why now? Because she "thought it would be a good way to transition into Advent."

Coincidentally, perhaps, day 8 of the novena falls on December 1, the memorial of Bl. John of Vercelli, OP, who as Master General of the Order of Preachers received a letter from Pope Gregory X in 1274, containing this request:
Recently during the Council held at Lyons, we judged it proper to urge the faithful to demonstrate more reverence for that Name above all names, the only Name in which we claim salvation, the Name of Jesus Christ Who has redeemed us from the bondage of sin.... Wherefore, with a view of obeying that apostolic precept, 'In the Name of Jesus let every knee be bent,' We wish that at the pronouncing of that Name, every one should bow his head as a sign that interiorly he bends the knee of his heart. Therefore, We by Our Apostolic authority enjoin upon you and the members of your Order to use solid reason when preaching to the people, that thus they may be led to comply with Our desires.
Bl. John took this request and ran with it, despite a crippled leg, and soon it became customary for Dominican priories to have an altar dedicated to the Holy Name of Jesus, where Mass would be said for the local Holy Name Society.

The Holy Name Society, the most prominent lay Catholic organization in the U.S. eighty years ago, did not weather the second half of the last century well, but devotion to the Holy Name has probably fallen off even more sharply.

And yet, as you know, we are still called upon to bow our heads at the Holy Name during Mass:
A bow of the head is made when the three Divine Persons are named together and at the names of Jesus, of the Blessed Virgin Mary, and of the Saint in whose honor Mass is being celebrated. [GIRM 275.a]
Blessed John of Vercelli, pray for us!