Friday, December 17, 2010

A Double Rant: Changing Christmas Carols and the Lord's Prayer to Make them "Better?"

Paul's question "Do you want to go to Christmas Mass on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day?" should not draw a frown. And I'm trying to have a good attitude and not focus on this one little tidbit that bothers me every Christmas season (for the last few years at least).

I will focus. I will appreciate the sacrifice of the Mass and praise God. And I will not be distracted by the fact that our hymnals have been compiled by someone who was so politically correct that they felt the need to change all of the traditional Christmas carols to include gender inclusive language. I've ranted about this before.

I love Christmas songs. I sang in our Community Christmas Choir pretty much every year growing up and know almost every Christmas song that we sing by heart, verse by verse (and this is a huge part of the problem). You see when we get to a verse and the line ends with "mankind" and the editor of this particular hymnal has felt that it is necessary to change the word, which was penned over a century ago, to "human kind" or "all of us" it feels, to my ears, like nails on a chalkboard. I wince. I usually sing the wrong words accidently, because I'm holding a baby while I'm trying to follow along in the dimly light church (I always opt for Christmas Eve if we can make it). And that's just one of the changes. Anything that sounds vaguely masculine must be made feminine. Or at least castrated into neutrality.

Are there really people who don't understand that the author meant "all of us" when he wrote "mankind?"

As someone who has always been in love with the written word it bothers me quite a bit. The motivation behind it, the idea that we should conceal our differences and pretend they don't exist, bothers me even more.

So when I go to sleep on Christmas Eve I'll ask my husband, "if we someday become rich, or maybe just not so poor, can we donate some hymnals that aren't so awful to our parish? Would it be wrong to say, "Father, we'd love to pay off the mortgage on the hall, and all the bills for the year, just please let us replace the songbooks too?" Not that that's a realistic concern.

Deep breath. It shouldn't bother me. It really shouldn't. And it's something I'm working on and praying about ("Dear God, please help me not to be so wrapped up in silly things... Help me focus on what is important. You. The sacrifice of You. Your Presence."

Because there's a far more important reason for being there that outshines everything else.

And that should be more than enough to keep my bad attitude in check.

A side note that is somewhat related (because it's about singing) and a question: When our parish sings the "Our Father" (deep breath) the words are " we forgive those who trespass against us, father hear our prayer. And lead us not, into temptation but deliver us, deliver us, from all that is evil, hear our prayer."

It just seems pretentious (and wrong) to me to change the actual words of the Lord's Prayer during Mass. Frankly I don't care if people want to ad lib and do whatever they want outside of Mass (although I personally wouldn't... after all, who gave us this prayer?), but in Mass it seems like a really big step to take to change the prayer Jesus gave us.

As if we can somehow add to it and make it better.

Thoughts? Would this bother you (the Our Father part particularly, although I'm interested in your thoughts on the other part too)?

Deep breaths again. Sorry this turned into a double rant. I think I need to pray for calm about this a little (okay, a lot) more.


  1. It would bother me a TON. I was going to a parish for a long time and the pastor would always ad lib the part after the Our Father "deliver us from evil, protect us from anxiety" so much that sometimes it'd be a partial homily. Not sure if that's okay cause it's not part of the Our Father, but the actual words are in the BOOK so I'm assuming not ok. The Mass is beautiful. Personally, I don't pay too much mind to the words of hymns as much so I can't relate there...

    ...but I do not understand...MANY people have gone through all of the trouble to discern the Mass...why would anyone change it? And no one really had to discern the Our's right out of scripture. The prayer Jesus taught us (what most priests say right before we pray it to begin with). And there's my rant for today!

  2. Yes, it would and does bother me.

    Personally, if I knew the correct words the way you do, I'd just sing it MY way.

    I'm actually not sure that it is even permissible to change the words of the Our Father. That I could see looking in to.

  3. To quote from Fr. Z's blog,

    Say the Black, Do the Red.
    It has only been recently that I have realized how important this concept is. However the last two parishes I have been (including my current one) have been quite orthodox in their liturgy, which easily makes the ones that I attended before pale in comparison.

  4. Music is incredibly important, and the way we treat it says much about who we are as people. Music effects the mind and helps us learn about our faith. When someone messes with the words and accompaniment to make it more modern and "friendly" they are changing the very meaning of the song. This is what is really bothering you. The songs no longer have the same meaning when you start doing inclusive language.

    In "Catholicism for Dummies" I found that some French monks were getting depressed just after Vatican II and were no longer the joyful people they once were. A psychologist studied the monks then made the prescription of going back to their old routine and putting back the Gregorian chant they had gotten rid of in favor of newer music. A few weeks later when the psychologist checked on them the monks were living their lives very happily again. Gregorian chant has the effect of putting one's self into a state of meditation and elevating the music to prayer. That is why St Augustine said, "singing is praying twice".

    For me, when they change music to be more popular and dump the traditional, I find it to be like nails on a chalkboard. You've watched Real Catholic TV's "Weapons of MASS Destruction". You know that they are doing everything they can to Protestantize the Mass. It is more evident to me since I used to be Protestant and I can "hear" the falsities and non-Catholic ideas. Why do you think the pope has said that Latin and Gregorian chant have primacy of place? I wish the bishop, priests, and music directors would listen. It would be nice to have some of the traditional pieces back again. People are comforted by tradition but when you throw it away in favor of the modern, you lose people and the rest of us are left feeling very uncomfortable.

    My husband is from St Stanislaus in Modesto and he knew Marie Galo of Galo Winery personally. She rules Modesto and Stanislaus diocese with an iron fist. She donated land for the new St Stanislaus and when they wanted to put the Tabernacle into a sanctuary where it couldn't be seen by the faithful during Mass she said she would take the land back and not let them build. She is on a first person basis with the local bishop and regularly dukes it out with him over how the diocese is run. It will be a shame when she dies (which may be much sooner than later), all of her hard work and dedication could be lost if a new bishop is not put in place who can run the diocese without succumbing to modernism and liberalities.

    You should check out this article I found on the music at Mass: Know that music has a profound effect on our perception of our faith and can help us grow in it. You are right to be irritated.

    The priest and lectors are not supposed to change the words of consecration or the Eucharistic prayers. I would also say the Lord's prayer would fall into that same category. That is why they are required to read from the Lectionary word for word. No ad libbing is allowed. Personal prayers have their place in the mass, just not where they are putting them. My family has written many a letter to the Bishop because of malpractices like that. Don't hesitate to put your concerns before the priest. If he doesn't listen, go to the bishop. People have the right to hear the Mass as it's supposed to be heard. If anything do it for the ignorant, they don't know any better and need your concern.

  5. Oooh, the changes to the Our Father would be a total distraction to me. It sounds like something the folk song group at our parish (Excuse me a moment while I shudder from the memories I have of suffering through every Mass I've been to at which they "sang.") would try to do. Our parish hymnals aren't like that (Thanks be to God!) and I suspect it would be a HUGE distraction to me if they were. If it makes you feel any better, last year we were treated, I mean tortured, with a horrible song before Christmas Eve Mass began. I'm fairly certain the singer thought everyone was there to see him, and he totally hammed it up.

  6. Read the black, do the red. Why should this NOT bother you?

    Words have meaning. So, if the hymns have been changed, someone must intend something different. If you do not believe similarly, then it naturally will grate like nails on a chalkboard.

    Good for you! And btw, I love the pic. I was about to say that Maggie is growing up way too fast, but on second thought, I think that is an older one of Sadie. Right?

  7. This makes me SO mad. If that happened in my parish, I would definitely be complaining, and I hate confrontation! lol The parishioners have a right to the liturgy as it's supposed to be, since it's the most important and beautiful prayer of the Church. :)

    Inclusive language drives me absolutely nuts. It drove Mother Angelica crazy too. Did you know that the USCCB at one time was considering having inclusive language in the missal? Mother told her audience to write to their bishops, and they didn't approve it, thank the Lord! Anyway, I think that if people are offended by the word "man", they need to grow up, frankly. I'm sorry if I'm coming off as crazy person or rude, but this just makes me nuts. lol

    Do they change the words of the Eucharistic Prayer or the Creed or anything? My college parish used to be run by a nun that wanted to be a priest, and she changed the words Father, Son, etc. in the Sacramentary to God. She also used to give homilies!

    I'm sorry, this is a super long comment and it's all over the place, but this annoys me so much!

  8. Wow! These are all great comments and you guys have made me feel a lot better about this this morning! I'm glad I'm not the only one who this would bother (I know it bothers Paul too!)!

    I get the impression that it's something that someone decided to change years ago and that no one has wanted to go head to head with the people who decided over it. But it is such an important thing. I think about it every time I hear "pray the words Jesus taught us" followed by words that are changed.

  9. Cam- do what you can to correct this evil- I call it evil because the REASON why they are doing the changes is evil

    about chant (Eastern Catholic is a different style that you might like too)- I was teaching my 11 and 10 year old girls to sew- sewing can be stressful for me, because I'm not that good- I had a Gregorian Christmas CD in- and I didn't get stressed! :) YAY!

  10. No I agree with you too. The changes to the Lords Prayer made my jaw drop. :-(

  11. This would definiately bother me. It's just silly to put gender neutral language into items that have for thousands of years not been gender neutral. It doesn't mean those items are excluding females! Shees, people.

    The changes to the Lord's Prayer while singing would bother me as well.

  12. Changing 'mankind' to 'humankind' bugs me on a language level ALONE. What's next, editing the Declaration of Independence to make it more PC?

  13. Oh how I wish this was Gregorian chant! Think guitar strumming, folksy type of singing for the Our Father. Again, okay for outside of Mass if that's your thing...

  14. Reminds me a little bit of the Nicene Creed. The part that says "for us men, and our salvation." Although now I see it as "for us, and our salvation."

    I've done a little digging, but the Greek word translated as "men" is a little ambiguous because it isn't referring to mankind nor men in the masculine sense. I think that's why they dropped it.

    But you're right, changing the words in songs and whatnot is ridiculous. O come, O come Emanuel says "you" now instead of "thee". I still sing "thee." I'm not sure that it makes a difference as much as mankind in a song does because the original is in Latin. so "you" and "thee" are interchangeable. But I'm partial to "thee."

    Sorry. It's the musicologist in me coming out of the woodwork.

  15. I'll have to look at our missal because I think everyone at our parish still says "men."

    I definitely prefer "thee" too in cases like that. I see it each week when we say the Angelus before Mass and half of the people say "you" and half say "thee" during the Hail Mary's and it just sounds garbled.

  16. Something interesting about thee, thy, thine, and thou: all of these words are considered informal language while I and you are considered formal. When the Vulgate was translated into English they could have used I and you but the translation called for intimacy which meant informal language.

  17. If you ever get around to buying those hymnals, Adoremus puts out one which is not PC, and includes Gregorian Chant, too!

  18. With our old pastor we skipped the men in "for us men and our salvation," but we had non-inclusive language hymnals. Now we say the creed properly, but we've got these disposable hymnals that inclusive language/dumb down everything. The reason, the new pastor wants the missalettes to have the readings in them. Frankly I'd rather he just had the readings typed up on a separate sheet in the bulletin each week. Rumor has it they are looking for a better hymnal once the new changes come in. Meanwhile there's a lot of gritting of teeth as the nail runs across the chalkboard.

  19. Jana- that's interesting about thee, thou, thine, and ye. It's funny that in the movies the writers use it indiscriminately to show someone who is old fashioned or the way people talked back in the day. But I looked around and it seems that it was like the French and Spanish speakers are, you're supposed to use you as the formal and ye as the informal to inferior people (like a lower class or children). I can't imagine telling my child thee all day. Too funny.


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