June 23, 2007

Words Matter

Gentle Reader: You may have noticed that I've been on a tear about words recently. Words matter. Words make a difference.

Words can be weapons.

The other day I published a post that deliberately used words that have multiple meanings. The words can benign or they can be hateful or they can be funny depending upon your

The words we use say a lot about us. The way we use words says a lot about us. The way we interpret words says a lot about us.

Recently, a priest in the Chicago area has been in the news for using words that can be perceived as advocating murder. It's possible, that he did not know the potential meaning behind what he was saying. It's possible he meant every word of it. In any case, he should have chosen his words more carefully. He should have reflected upon the venue he was in, who he was with, why he was there, who he is and how he wants to be perceived before he spoke. All of us should do that. Now he's in "hot water", which is, the last time I checked, a phrase that may mean "big trouble".

Words can be deliberately manipulated to deceive us or change the meaning of something.

There is a war of words between the left and the right over certain issues. The words for each side were chosen very carefully and deliberately. Here are some:

abortion---selective reduction
civilian dead---collateral damage

There are certain words that can tell us something about a particular parish:

Confessional---Reconciliation Room
Vestibule---Gathering Space
Vestry---Dressing Room
Baptismal Font---Baptismal Pool

When I'm traveling, I try and view a parish website or a bulletin before I visit. I pay REALLY close attention to the words that I see in use. I judge whether or not I think I may be compatible with the parish before I visit.

Judging based upon words can be a bad thing. However, we all do it. We can't help ourselves. It can be a good thing to judge based upon words. From it we can gain understanding.

Think words don't matter?

It is my firm belief that the deliberate weakening of certain words has made particular things more palatable. For instance: the fight over the word: lifestyle versus orientation in reference to homosexuality. The use of the word: choice versus murder to refer to abortion.

You may "have" a smoke these days, you can "have" a cigarette these days but you RARELY see an incendiary words associated with it, do you? Smoke, fire-up, light-up, burn. My theory is because we've all been persuaded to think smoking is really bad (it is) but the words used with the action and the words we DON'T use with the action help make a medical point.

A word-ONE word-was responsible for the Great Schism of our Faith: Consubstantial. This word is so powerful that the Schism remains today. Not only that but that word is still being argued over today.


Blogger Adoro te Devote said...

I'm with you on the words chosen by a parish, but at the same time, my own parish uses SOME of those words and you've been here...so you know how faithful we are.

"Gathering Space" is an irritant to me, too, especially since it's been so Protestantized in our parish.

Remind me to look up the fire code ordinances in this city so I can refute the claims that these codes are the reasons statues aren't there anymore.

June 23, 2007 10:27 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Cathy - what a great post! Another one I cringe at is:

Extraordinary Ministers of Communion---Ministers of Communion

The ONLY Ministers of Communion in the Catholic church are the ORDAINED PRIESTS!

June 23, 2007 10:34 AM  
Blogger Adrienne said...

Thank goodness we are not using these words at our parish but I am always annoyed when the language is cleaned up of references to gender. Heaven forbid we should say man instead of people.
As for all this hysteria about consubstantial being used it will not make a blip on the radar of the average CINO (which, unfortunately, I believe are the majority). They will continue to shuffle up to communion in their garden clothes, trying to remember if they took their birth control pill the night before and planning where to have breakfast after doing their Catholic duty.
But remember ---- the "good old days" were not much better. The folks just dressed better:)

June 23, 2007 11:54 AM  
Blogger Terry Nelson said...

Close to your topic, Mark Shea has an interesting article on Lew Rockwell:

June 23, 2007 12:18 PM  
Blogger Ma Beck said...

Also, Marty Haugen's famous use of "bread" and "wine", which drives me nuts.

June 23, 2007 2:48 PM  
Blogger Cathy_of_Alex said...

Adoro: Fire codes ordinances? That's a new one.

Terry: That pesky Mark Shea stealing my story ideas!

June 23, 2007 3:39 PM  
Anonymous L. said...

Cathy, excellent post!
Now may I ask a question though, kind of off topic. Why have some churches moved the tabernacle into a room of it's own? Ours is in a beautiful (and I mean BEAUTIFUL)little chapel off to the side of the sanctuary. The glass doors remain closed at all times during mass except when the eucharistic ministers put away the plates and the remaining consecrated hosts. People just file by or kids run past the doorway of this chapel holding the tabernacle willy nilly without so much as a bow, let alone a genuflection- I think we should bow or genuflect, but are we supposed to? Sorry, for this random question, something in the post triggered me to ask this.

June 23, 2007 3:56 PM  
Blogger Ray from MN said...

Oh, I rejoiced to see that word "vestibule." Whoever came up with the term "gathering space" surely was possessed by the Devil (a condition that should be mentioned regularly in homilies). Is is a vastly more frequently seen condition these days.

Great post, Cathy.

You mentioned the difficulties one encounters when travelling when seeking out an orthodox parish in which to attend Mass.

This came up a few years ago when I frequented the Catholic Answers forums. I suggested perusing the parishes in MassTimes.org.

Watch for references to "Adoration", Confession times (the more, the better), feasts, shrines, etc.

June 24, 2007 10:15 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Adoro mentioned the word I wish I heard more often: parish. I'm so tired of hearing "faith community".

June 24, 2007 8:12 PM  
Blogger Cathy_of_Alex said...

L: I think it is permissable to have the Tabernacle in a seperate room or off to one side in the Sanctuary.

I'm not in favor of having the Tabernacle anywhere but in the Sanctuary but that's my personal opinion. I think we need to be reminded that Jesus is actually present as much as possible.

I think if you can actually SEE the Tabernacle you should be genuflecting or bowing towards it. I'm not sure if the seperate room you refer to is closed off or not.

June 25, 2007 10:47 AM  

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