Page 5, 12th April 1957

12th April 1957
Page 5
Page 5, 12th April 1957 — START THE DRIFT ?

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People: Gerald Vann, Fr


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" pULP1T bromides." stock phrases, rnistranslations and in general " ecclesiastical jargon" which " creates a sense of unreality " may. says Fr. Gerald Vann. 0.P., cause dozing in the church benches, and end in tragic driftings away from the Church.

" Do we talk jargon?" asks Fr. Gerald in the April num ber of The Clergy Review, "The answer seems to be." he

says, " undoubtedly, yes." He continues :

"Jargon might be defined, first, as technical language out of place. Theologians need a technical language just as much as physicists, lawyers or logicians; but terms which are perfectly in place in the theological schools or textbooks may be quite out of place in the pulpit . . .


" A sermon may well be indigestible if it is packed tight with ponderous latinisms—transubstantiation, redemption, salvation, damnation, absolution and so on

or with any difficult terminology."

Fr. Gerald Vann gives examples of this unreal terminology: Canfirmare means to strengthen, but 'to confirm' nowadays, does not: it merely means to endorse, as you confirm to verbal order by a written one.

"Poettiientia is the sacrament of penance but of repentance or, quite simply. Of sorrow and forgiveness. Why must we say 'matrimony; as though it had nothing to de with marriage ?

" And above all. why muss roe sar, 'Extreme Unction' when we know perfectly well that 'extreme' at the end — one does not say at breakfast " I am having an extreme piece of toast — and that 'unction' suggests the oleaginous and evokes an image of Uriah Heep ? "

Fr. Gerald suggests talking sometimes of the sacraments of " strengthening, sorrow, marriage, and last anointing,"

Tee hnical

language misplaced

"Sometimes," he adds, " a c use terms which are definitels misleading . . . a case in point is the second mystery of the Rosary, which we call the visitation. Now a visitation normally means nowadays a divine punishment in the form of some catastrophe."

A boy nowadays told to he "meek and mild" will very likely think that Christianity is "cissy."

" Purity as the name of a virtue, has lost its original meaning of integrity, single-mindedness, single-heartedness and come to mean simply sexual continence."

On " pulpit bromides " — certain pious ways of referring to God. and holy things which are good enough in themselves but which have become automatic and therefore unalterable, Fr. Gerald says: " If God. Our Lord, Our Lady, the Church, the Mass, the Pope are always referred to us Almighty God, our divine Redeemer, our blessed lady, our Holy Mother the Church, the holy sacrifice of the Mass, our Holy Father the Pope, these expressions in the end come to have a soporific effect." The writer comments on the use of "most" — sometimes with disastrous results as in "her most chaste spouse" which "implies that there were other spouses of rather lower grade."

" In the same way ' Blessed be His Most Sacred Heart' really implies a polycardiac condition. In the end, 'most' itself becomes a bromide, not enhancing but . . . — blanketing the meaning of the adjective it accompanies.

" In what is called 'hop' language, 'most' also looms large and has been elevated to the dignity of a noun: if you want to ascribe excellence to a jazz drummer or trumpeter you say of him, " Man that cat's the real most," which, if somewhat bizarre, has a certain freshness about it; in ecclesiastical jargon the word is dead; it falls like a pebble into a pool, with a little plop.


"Mother inviolate," says Fr. Gerald, suggests to the ear a violet dress. " Most venerable " suggests a long white beard.

Why, continues the writer. should not "devotions" he called "prayers." Why do we pray that Our Lady's name be "lisped by the little ones." Why should the affliction of lisping he applied to all children ?

Bad language and false sentiment in hymns do not escape Fr. Gerald Vann's attention. When we pray That "earthly joys may fade away" do we really mean what we say ? " Parents spend all their lime and money trying to make their children happy, lovers do the same for each other, and they come to church and find themselves praying that all their efforts may be frustrated."

"One sometimes hears it said, not by disaffected but by good though sad and troubled Catholics that they feel that their priests live in a world and talk in is language quite remote from the cares, problems, ways of thought, of the every day world of the layman . . .

"If this is so, it means that an abyss separates clergy from laity, an abyss which can only grow wider and deeper as time goes on unless we take drastic measures.

" The eternal estate of many souls may depend on whether we do something about it, and how quickly and with what success."

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