instruere...inlustrare...delectare Disputations

Monday, July 27, 2009

In heaven, on earth, and under the earth

Sherry Weddell quotes a friend saying that, for American Catholics, "Jesus is 'He who must not be named.'" She also ponders
our Catholic tendency not to "name the name". We use all kinds of euphemisms for Jesus ("Our Lord" is a classic. Reverent certainly, but also subtly distancing and for non-Christians, a but confusing. Just who do we mean?) but we seldom name his name unless the liturgy or the office requires that we do so. We talk incessantly about the Church. But not about the Lord, Savior, Redeemer, and Head of the Church. Not Jesus. Not by name. Not spontaneously without the liturgy to give us "cover". To do so, seems so naked, so unsophisticated, so pietistic, so what - Protestant??
Maybe. I don't know if things are any different among Catholics who aren't surrounded by Protestants. For that matter, do Catholics pronounce Jesus' Name too rarely, or do Protestants pronounce it too readily?

My guess is that part of it is due to the tradition of reverencing the Holy Name of Jesus. If, indeed, you bow your head every time the Holy Name is spoken, then you might well fall into the habit of saying "Our Lord" or "Christ" instead. And to the extent the Mass uses Jesus' titles instead of His Name, it teaches the faithful to do likewise. For that matter, spiritual writers (going back at least to St. Paul) mix up Jesus' Name and titles, maybe for theological reasons but surely also for rhetorical variety; so too, then, will a Catholic who is trying to sound spiritualish. And if to speak the Holy Name is to make your speech holy, then, well, maybe you're just having a conversation, not trying to invoke our Blessed Redeemer and bring Him into your company.

My other guess is that part of it is due to the fact that many Catholics don't really ever express an intimate relationship with Jesus. Maybe they have an intimate relationship but don't express it. Maybe they have a relationship, but it's not intimate (on their part). Maybe they're more comfortable using His name when talking about what He did than about what He is doing. And maybe talking about what Jesus is doing isn't seen as unsophisticated so much as immodest.

What might be interesting is to find out the extent to which Catholics who speak of Jesus but rarely use His Name also speak of the Blessed Virgin without using her name. Heck, while we're at it, let's look for correlation with Rosary recitation (two "Mary"s and one "Jesus" per Ave) and age (the young being perhaps less formal and therefore more prone to say "Jesus"?).

And by all means, let's dust off those Holy Name Society charters and revive the devotion.