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Using God's Name Reverently
By Father Pat McCloskey, O.F.M.

Q U I C K S C A N

Why Are We Dropping the Word Yahweh at Mass?
How Long Does it Last?
Easter Duty Not Made
‘When Does Kissing Become Sinful?’
Are Sacraments Performed by Sinful Priests Valid?


Q: Some time back there was a news item about removing God’s name (Yahweh) from the liturgy and music. Does this include new Bible printings? What is the reason behind this change? I know that the Israelites forbade the use of God’s name..

A: On August 8, 2008, Bishop Arthur J. Serratelli of Paterson, New Jersey, chairman of the U.S. bishops’ Committee on Divine Worship, wrote to all the U.S. bishops that six weeks earlier the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Sacraments had communicated a directive from Pope Benedict XVI that the “sacred Tetragrammaton” (YHWH for Yahweh) is not to be spoken during the liturgy, either in Scripture readings or in prayers.

At least 100 years before Jesus was born, Jewish people were substituting the spoken word Adonai (Lord) where the written text read YHWH—out of respect for God’s name. Translations of those same passages into Greek and Latin have long substituted Kyrios and Dominus, respectively.

The congregation’s letter pointed out that “the sacred Tetragrammaton was never pronounced in the Christian context nor translated into any of the languages into which the Bible was translated.” This tradition was reaffirmed in Liturgiam Authenticam, the congregation’s 2001 document on liturgical translations.

The New American Bible and the New Revised Standard Version already print the word LORD wherever YHWH occurs in the original Hebrew text. The Sacramentary does also.

Although this change affects mostly hymns, which are being revised in light of this directive, some music companies had already been following this practice for years. Prayer books and translations of the Bible published under Catholic auspices will be phasing out the use of YHWH or the word Yahweh.

The name YHWH was revealed to Moses (Exodus 3:13-15) when God, speaking through the burning bush on Mount Sinai, commissioned Moses to lead the Hebrews out of Egypt.

Bishop Serratelli’s letter is summarized at www.usccb.org/liturgy/innews/August2008.pdf. The full text of the congregation’s original letter is posted at www.usccb.org/liturgy/ NameOfGod.pdf.

Q: Some friends were recently talking about the Jewish Feast of Unleavened Bread. I had never heard anything about it.

What does it commemorate? How is it celebrated? How long did it last in the time of Jesus? Is it still celebrated?

A: Biblical scholars such as John L. McKenzie (Dictionary of the Bible) suggest that the Feast of Unleavened Bread (mazzoth) existed before the Exodus, when Moses led the Hebrews out of slavery in Egypt.

In time, this feast, which called for eating unleavened bread for a week, was combined with the feast of Passover, lasting seven days in the spring. That was true in Jesus’ day and is still true. It occurs in March or April; the feast’s date can vary as much as 28 days from year to year because Jewish feasts are governed by a lunar calendar.

See Exodus 12:15-20, 13:3-7, 23:15 and 34:18 for more information about this feast. It seems that it was originally a thanksgiving festival for the start of the grain harvest.

New Testament references to the feast include Matthew 26:17, Mark 14:12, Luke 22:1,7, plus Acts 12:3 and 20:6.

St. Paul’s allusion to it in 1 Corinthians 5:7-8 suggests that gentile Christians used unleavened bread during the Eucharist; indeed, the Latin rite of the Catholic Church continues that custom.

Q: I am concerned about two members of my family. My one elderly sister attends Mass daily and receives the Eucharist, but she does not make her Easter duty.

Although my brother goes to Mass every week and receives Holy Communion, he has not received the Sacrament of Penance during the Lent/Easter season for the past three years.

A: The obligation to go to Confession and receive Holy Communion at least once between the first Sunday of Lent and Trinity Sunday (in the United States) applies if people are conscious of having committed a mortal sin since their last Confession.

If your siblings have no mortal sins to confess now, they are strongly encouraged to confess any venial sins but, strictly speaking, they are not obliged to confess them.

See Catechism of the Catholic Church (#1455-1458) for more information on this subject.

Q: My boyfriend (28) and I (22) have been going steady for seven months. He hasn’t mentioned marriage yet or that he loves me, yet he seems to like being with me.

He insists on kissing after every date, and although he has not stepped out of line so far, there have been close encounters. He says that we can kiss repeatedly as long as he stops when he gets to the point of being aroused.

I feel that prolonged kissing until he has to stop to avoid arousal is wrong in itself. Am I being prudish? When does kissing become sinful?

A: How committed has your boyfriend said he is to this relationship? I ask this because you write that you have been dating steadily for seven months and yet he hasn’t said that he loves you. Perhaps he thinks that he has said that already—in his own way.

If prolonged kissing makes one person uncomfortable, that may suggest that the partner who insists on this prolonged kissing is using the first person. That is not necessarily true in your situation, but it might be.

You already have a sense of when your kissing no longer reflects the truth about your mutual commitment. Have you been clear about your needs? Have you conveyed your discomfort with his approach to prolonged kissing?

Kissing decisions should be mutual, but from what you are describing it does not sound as if this is the case here.

Genuine love always involves self-sacrifice. Is that mutual as regards your kissing now? If not, then perhaps it is time to find a boyfriend who is ready to make self-sacrifice more integral to his love for you. Or perhaps your current boyfriend’s love includes more self-sacrifice than he has shown until now.

I encourage you to share with your boyfriend your feelings about prolonged kissing.

Q: If a priest is not in the state of grace when he baptizes someone, hears Confession, celebrates Mass, anoints a sick person or officiates at a marriage, is that sacrament valid? What if some bishop is not in the state of grace when he confirms or ordains someone?

A: In the early fourth century, a North African bishop named Donatus contested the election of Caecilian as bishop of Carthage, saying that he had denied the faith under persecution and therefore could no longer celebrate sacraments validly. Donatus soon had many followers. Even though a synod in Rome in 313 formally rejected his teaching, this controversy was very much alive for another century.

Although the Church wants its priests and bishops to be in a state of grace (as it wants the same for all followers of Jesus), the Church denies that a sacrament’s validity depends on the holiness of the priest, bishop or layperson (in the case of emergency Baptism) who celebrates it. The Church acts in Christ’s name.

The authorized person must perform the action, say the prescribed words and “intend to do what the Church does” in this sacrament. St. Augustine of Hippo addressed this issue in his famous work Concerning Baptism. The Donatist position, in fact, casts doubt on the validity of every celebration of each sacrament. The Church rejected the teaching of Donatus, who died around 350 A.D.

Address change: The April 1996 “Wise Man” column listed a request from Nigeria for rosaries, medals and religious books. That address is now: Agwe David Akomaye, Bebua Ukatia Maria Apostolate, 77 Ogoja Road, P.O. Box 36, Obudu, Cross River State, Nigeria.

If you have a question for Father Pat, please submit it here. Include your street address for personal replies enclosing a stamped, self-addressed envelope, please. Some answer material must be mailed since it is not available in digital form. You can still send questions to: Ask a Franciscan, 28 W. Liberty Street, Cincinnati, OH 45202.


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