Did I ever tell you about my embarrassing convert class?

+JMJ+ Did I ever tell you about my convert class? It’s something that happened during our first session back in 1995. I’ll always remember, not only because it was personally embarrassing, but because in later years it took on a deeper significance. 

It was the beginning of the session. The four of us and our priest had our coffee and had talked with each other for a few minutes, and then it was time to begin. The priest, Fr. O., began with a prayer, the Lord’s Prayer. I bowed my head and said,

“Our Father Which art in Heaven—“

And there he stopped us, looking right at me. “Eh, unlike our separated brothers and sisters, we do not call God a Which but a Who. ‘Our Father Who art in Heaven, not Which.’”

I know my face was blood red. But my mind was engaged. I had never even thought about it before. I was simply praying the Lord’s Prayer the way I was taught to pray it by my Methodist parents, who I’m sure just handed it on to me the way they had learned it from their Methodist parents, too. Took me a while to get used to saying it the “new” way (which was actually the older way but new to me). 

The next thing that happened was that at the end of the Lord’s Prayer I launched right into the “For Thine is the Kingdom, the Power and the Glory” which is not part of the prayer itself but was added centuries down the road as a response to the prayer when offered in a liturgical setting. (At this point in my conversion I wasn’t quite sure what “liturgy” or “liturgical worship” meant.) Called a doxology, this response only begins to show up in manuscripts of the Bible in about the fourth century.

doxology (n.)“hymn or psalm of praise to God,” 1640s, from Medieval Latin doxologia, from Ecclesiastical Greek doxologia “praise, glory,” from doxologos “praising, glorifying,” from doxa “glory, praise” (from dokein “to seem good,” from PIE root *dek- “to take, accept”) + logos “a speaking” (see -logy). Related: Doxologize; doxological.

Online Etymological Dictionary.

By now I was thoroughly embarrassed but this had the effect of bringing home to me that behold, everything had been made new and I had a LOT to learn.

Fast forward a few years to a time when I was talking with a friend and fellow convert, a former Protestant pastor, now a Catholic theologian. He convinced me to read This Hideous Strength by C. S. Lewis. (It’s the third volume of the Space Trilogy, due a re-read soon. I’ve only read it twice so far and that’s not nearly enough, for me, anyway.) What does this have to do with the Lord’s Prayer/Our Father? Remember that little pesky word “which” instead of “who” we were talking about? That Hideous Strength taught me that there are those whose mission it is to cause us to dehumanize ourselves and others, and by extension, to depersonalize God. The difference between which and who is that one refers to a thing and the other to a person.

After reading That Hideous Strength and many talks with my friend, after he pointed out that the enemies of mankind were (and are) always trying to turn the world upside down and inside out, turn beauty into ugliness, good into evil, the human into the monstrous and inhuman, I began to see evidence of this depersonalization and dehumanization in the world all around us. And I had imbibed it myself from my earliest days without even realizing it. These realizations gave me a jolt. And I’m still noticing this tendency today, especially when it comes to current events. Just watch how many times those who consider themselves enlightened and compassionate, will reveal that they consider their opponents to be something other than, and less than, human. And watch how many do this unconsciously with no idea of the way their language affects their view of others and hence their actions. Though I think that there are those who realize full well what they are doing and engage in this warfare of language deliberately.

I hope to develop these ideas further in future posts. For now, in closing, I’ll leave you with this video: Understanding the ‘Our Father’ – Dr. Scott Hahn, from Deep in History Conference 2009.

Thanks for visiting the blog and reading. I hope you’ll join me again. Until next time, whoever and wherever you are, please stay safe and well, virtuous and holy. May the Lord bless and keep you and yours, and may His peace be always with you. +JMJ+


Notes and Links

  • You can always spot non-Catholics at Mass by this response at the end of the Lord’s Prayer/Our Father, if something else hasn’t given them away already. (One of the other big giveaways happens sooner at Mass and what the non-Catholic does (or doesn’t do) on the way to the pew, a good idea for another post.
  • The Space Trilogy, by C. S. Lewis. Paperback (Simon & Schuster). Hardcover (HarperCollins). Kindle (HarperCollins). That Hideous Strength, volume 3 of the Trilogy. Paperback. Kindle: HarperCollins or FadedPage.
  • Understanding the ‘Our Father’ – Video of a talk by Dr. Scott Hahn at the Deep in History Conference 2009. More from the Deep in History conferences at the Coming Home Network.

Image: The Our Father prayer. This is one of the many graphics I’ve put together for the Rosary Project. See the Rosary Project here on the blog and the list of Live Threads on Twitter, too.

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