By Kathy Coffey
Second Commandment: “You shall not
take the name of the Lord, your God, in
vain” (Exodus 20:7).
If we see this commandment
merely as a warning, “Don’t
swear,” we miss its richness.
Most people could name far
greater evils than the occasional
curse when we’re angry or frustrated.
So we wrongly dismiss the
commandment as a quaint relic of
times. This is
law codes preceded Israel’s. What
makes the Ten Commandments
distinct and so enduring that they
set standards for people centuries
later, all around
name was often
used in curses
or magical formulas.
the name of
God was an
We may smile at the primitive
notion—until we remember how
many modern wars have been
fought in God’s name. Both sides
of a conflict create God in their
own image, then invoke God’s
power to destroy the enemy. They
forget that all human beings are
God’s beloved children, carefully
crafted and intimately known.
Killing even one human, regardless
of the cause we may think
righteous, is an affront to God.
This commandment introduces
another kind of reverence, a different
respect which would enrich
our days if we lived it out. The Catechism of the Catholic Church reminds us that God
revealed God’s name only to those who believed in
God’s personal mystery. “The gift of a name belongs
to the order of trust and intimacy....The name is the
icon of the person. It demands respect as a sign of the
dignity of the one who bears it” (#2143, 2158).
Strangers No More
Think of those we call “Sir” or “Miss.” Clearly they are
strangers; we have no connection to them. We may
want to call their attention to a wallet they dropped
or a task we want done. The emphasis is on the transaction,
not the personal relationship. If, over time,
“Sir” or “Miss” becomes “Adrian” or “Molly,” it signals
a shift: The stranger has become an acquaintance or
friend. Calling someone by name commands the
person’s attention. If a solicitor bungles our
name, we are immediately skeptical.
By revealing God’s name, God steps
off the Distant Deity pedestal and
comes close enough for friendship.
Knowing God’s name is a gift we
shouldn’t take lightly. It means that
God is involved at the most intimate
level of our daily life; nothing we do is
foreign or strange to God.
What is true for God is also true for human
beings. “God calls each one by name. Everyone’s
name is sacred” (CCC, #2158). Throughout the Bible,
the name contains
God’s dream for the
person. When Abram
and Sarai’s names
changed, their identity
and Sarah were
fuller, better people,
confident that God
was with them. In
the same way, God
reassures us with words that should bring confidence
in the worst circumstances: “Fear not, for I have
redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are
mine” (Isaiah 43:1). In the New Testament, Jesus
knows us intimately, by name. “Whoever enters
through the gate is the shepherd of the
sheep. The gatekeeper opens it for him,
and the sheep hear his voice, as he calls
his own sheep by name…” (John
10:2-3). When Jesus calls Mary’s
name in the garden after his resurrection,
it is the pivotal turning point in
human history. Before that moment,
no one had risen from death. The
entire, earth-shaking story of Jesus’
triumph is contained in the two syllables
of Mary’s name.
Revering Gods Creation
The Catechism, furthermore, says the Second
Commandment included blaspheming against places
or people holy to God. Such a wise guideline establishes
an attitude of reverence for all creation, made
by God’s hand and blessed by God’s care. When
we destroy forests, pollute air and water, or ignore
environmental safeguards, we show grave disrespect
for God’s holy works. So too, when we malign God’s
beloved creatures, we slur God’s holy name.
Remember someone calling your name softly, with
depth and affection. Or your name being announced
as winner of an award. Or a beloved voice on the
phone, speaking your name. We should weave those
warm associations around God’s name. And with
such pride, love gentling every syllable, God calls our
names. Knowing that, how could we blaspheme
God—or each other?
Next: The Third Commandment
What is your favorite name for God? What significance does this name have for you?
How can you show more respect for God’s name at home or in your workplace?
God Is Good
By Judith Dunlap
I recently heard my oldest grandson start to exclaim, “God…”
and quickly change the exclamation to “Gosh!” It took me
back a generation to the day I shocked his father when he was
about the same age and told him I would rather hear him utter a
vulgarity than use the word God so casually. He had probably
said something as seemingly benign as, “God, I wish I had his
brains.” (We both knew he was not uttering a prayer to his
Maker.) I’m sure my words caught his attention because he knew
how much I detested hearing people sprinkle their comments
with crude exclamations.
I might sound like an old fuddy-duddy,
but it’s always been a “thing” with me. I
know people will argue that the word God
as an exclamation is rarely used in a disparaging
way. “It’s used generically, strictly
lower case (god). It’s a figure of speech, a
colloquialism that means nothing,” they’ll
often say. And I would agree with them, but
it still bothers me.
How sad that God has become lower case
and generic. How troubling that “God,” a wonderfully ecumenical
reference to the Supreme Being, is invoked so often and yet
means nothing. Is it a sin against the Second Commandment to
use God’s name that way?
It may not be a personal sin, but it certainly should qualify as
a sin of our society. In any case, it’s up to us to change things.
When I hear a person use “God” in a less-than-reverent way
(or even worse, “Jesus Christ”), I finish the exclamation with a
prayer, “God is good,” or “Jesus Christ, yesterday, today and forever.”
I even say it out loud sometimes with a gentle smile, especially
if I’m on comfortable terms with the person who said it.
Whatever the social pressures, the least we can do is watch our
own speech patterns and gently show our children how to be
more reverent when using God’s name.
As a family read the comments above and discuss your response.
By Frank Frost
I wasn’t prepared to
be so taken by a new
Rocky movie. Where
I expected a formulaic
story about an overworked
I found a moving,
nuanced exploration of
a man looking for
meaning in later life, a
man who happens to be
a boxer. This coming-of-age movie
(for Rocky and several other characters)
explores issues of aging, father-son
determination in the face of overwhelming
odds, and the meaning of
love, among other things.
The movie begins with Rocky
(Sylvester Stallone) visiting the grave
of his wife. There is a hole in his life
that is not filled by the successful
restaurant he owns and
the old boxing stories
he tells to please his
customers. He visits his
old haunts with his
closest friend, Paulie
(Burt Young), until
Paulie insists that
Rocky stop living in the
past and move forward.
Rocky acknowledges he has a
beast inside, and decides to take it
on in the only way he knows how.
He applies once again for a boxing
license. When the boxing commission
turns him down, he argues
forcefully that a person should not
be denied the chance to use his talents,
whatever they are.
It’s a tribute to Stallone’s writing
and acting (he also directed) that we believe that Rocky, now in his late 50s,
can credibly take up boxing again, even
on a limited scale. And then that the
media can transform a computerized
matchup between Rocky and the current
heavyweight champion Mason Dixon
(Antonio Tarver) into an actual exhibition
But the movie’s not really about that
fight. It’s about Rocky’s inner fight for
dignity and value and meaning. It’s about
a web of relationships that Rocky wrestles
with—especially with his son, Bob (Milo
Ventimiglia), who wants nothing to do
with him, and “Little Marie” (Geraldine
Hughes), a struggling single mother he
once knew as a little girl and who he is
now attracted to.
Rocky in his later years has become a
philosopher and an altruist. His son bitterly
complains that he is trapped in his
father’s shadow, and that Rocky’s foolish
attempt to fight again will only make
him a laughingstock. Rocky’s loving
response does not yield to pity; instead,
he urges Bob to look inside and to be
who he is. Life, he tells his son, is not
about how hard you can hit but how hard
you can be hit and still get up.
Rocky’s relationship with Little Marie
reveals ambivalence between his desire to
help her find her feet and a blossoming
romantic attachment. He takes Marie’s
son under his wing and offers her a job in
his restaurant. When he doubts himself
for attempting to enter the ring again,
Little Marie is the one who urges him to
risk being who he is.
After a punishing fight, Rocky leaves
the ring before learning whether or not
he’s won, because just by surviving the
bout he has already won the only fight he
What values do you find in this film?
By Judy Ball
Blessed Fra Angelico (1395?-1455)
Growing up in a village overlooking Florence, young
Guido de Piero showed an early interest in painting.
He studied under the watchful eye of a local master
and, around age 20, joined the Dominicans. Though he
took the name Fra Giovanni, he soon came to be known as
Fra Angelico, perhaps a tribute to his own angelic qualities
as well as the devotional tone of his works.
He continued to study painting and perfect his own
techniques, which included broad-brush strokes, generous,
lifelike figures and vivid colors. Though he was ordained a
priest, his call was to painting. As stunning and technically
perfect as his paintings were, Fra Angelico’s goal was to
bring out religious devotion in those who viewed them.
They were as much prayers as paintings.
He came to be one of the most influential painters of
the Italian Renaissance. Among his most famous frescoes
are the Annunciation and the Descent from the Cross, which
hang in the Dominican Convent of San Marco in Florence.
The scenes from the lives of Mary and Christ also include
saints. The figures are
dressed in contemporary
clothes and set in
reminding the viewer
of the ongoing drama
of redemption and the
presence of Christ.
In 1445, Pope
Fra Angelico to paint
frescoes in two chapels
in Rome. The Holy Father was so pleased with the finished
work that he offered to make the artist archbishop of
Florence. The humble friar declined.
Fra Angelico died and is buried in Rome. At his beatification
in 1982, Pope John Paul II named him patron of
artists. His feast day is February 18.
Forget what Merriam Webster’s
says about icons: “conventional
religious images typically
painted on a small wooden panel
and used in devotions of Eastern
Christians.” There’s nothing conventional
about them. Just ask
Marek Czarnecki, 42, of
The son of Polish
faith sustained them
during World War II,
Marek shares his faith
by creating icons of
Mary and Jesus and of
saints such as Maximilan
Kolbe and Faustina Kowalska. “I
love who the icons represent,” Marek
told Every Day Catholic. “They are
real, living people. I love the vision
of the icon—how the world will look
when everything is made whole in
Christ. I love the icon’s immediacy
and apparent beauty.”
He begins the process of creating
an icon with the Jesus prayer: “Lord,
Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy
on me, a sinner.” Throughout the
process—actually called “writing”
because every word or element fits
concisely into the whole—he continues
to pray. When it is completed, he
prays in thanksgiving.
Drawn to religious art from his
childhood, Marek devoured
the art history books his
older sister brought
him from the library
each week. Later he
attended the School
of Visual Arts in
New York on scholarship.
on his own, then under
Religious art, he confessed, “is all
I care about,” though it doesn’t offer
him a comfortable living. “I just get
by.” But his faith and art can’t be separated.
“Everyone thinks religious art
is such a tiny niche to work inside.
It’s exactly the opposite. It shows me
the deepest of all possible worlds and
connects me to the heroes of the
Hardly a “bad” living.