February 24, 2012


O.k.; this is a little ranty. I apologize in advance.

At one of the places where I celebrate Mass these days, the folks don't like the new translation of the Creed, in particular how one now says 'I believe' where it used to be 'We believe.'

I, on the other hand, am grateful for it, not just because it's a more proper translation, but also because I feel like I've been subjected to so many liturgically abusive first-person plurals over the years. Maybe that's a bad reason, I don't know.

In the most direct case, how many times have I been at Mass, only to begin saying the Creed with 'We believe,' only to hear others around me changing other parts, leaving things out, and adding other things in? In that case I'm grateful that others are now saying 'I believe.' Their version of the Creed--because they know better than constant, conciliar tradition--can be their own, and I don't have to be implicated in it.

In the broader sense, though, so many times have I been at a Mass and had the presider say things 'We gather for...' or 'We break the bread for...' or something like that. Often I felt like speaking up and saying, 'I don't.' If you're going to make up your own Mass and need it to be about you, leave me out of your 'we' thank you very much.

Some of this reflection comes from my thinking in these days on my recently deceased teacher, Fr. Stanley B. Marrow, SJ. He once told me about walking out of a certain Mass. The presider had introduced the Penitential Rite by inviting the assembly to seek pardon for 'faults and imperfections.' Stanley walked out. 'I follow St. Paul and boast of my faults and imperfections. I came here for forgiveness of sins.'

Perhaps it's wrong for me to see the 'I' of the new translation of the Creed as a blessed relief and refuge from the oh-so progressive clericalisms of the liturgical abusers. Nevertheless, I'm grateful for it, and I pray that God will use whatever is in me to make me a more faithful and obedient steward of the sacred mysteries.


Kathryn Rose said...

If you're going to make up your own Mass and need it to be about you, leave me out of your 'we' thank you very much.

Interesting. I'm sure people who preside and say "we" are trying to make it *not* be all about them. How communal is Holy Communion?

As far as the Creed is concerned, I've heard of people starting with "They believe" if uncomfortable with the content but also uncomfortable with remaining silent. I'm not sure how I feel about that. The reality for me is that there are days when parts of the Creed just plain don't make sense to me, when I find belief difficult. At those times, being able to identify as a member of a corpus which believes these things, rather than having to bear the full weight of understanding myself, is welcome.

How would you feel if similar changes from plural to singular were made in the Our Father? I know it's comparing apples to oranges, given the scriptural authority of the latter, but it seems to me that there is a strong argument for communality.

Brother Charles said...

Thanks for the comment. You are quite right, of course, and your points are well taken. I guess I've just felt much over the years that I've been denied the communion for which I came by those who made up their own liturgy.

Sara said...

Fr. Charles, I agree with you. If it is important for us to state our creed as a community then it should be just as important that it BE the Creed of the community. "We" didn't sign up for some other individual's version of the Creed.

I remember the first time I stood next to someone at Mass and heard them change the words of the Creed. The words that person said are not mine and they are not "ours." I, too, appreciate being left out of it.

Anonymous said...

Father Charles, I agree with you as well.

"We" won't be standing before Our Lord at MY particular judgment. I can't speak for you, nor can you for me. For centuries the Church used "I", and I, for one, am grateful that the Church has, once again, returned to using it.


Anonymous said...

Father Charles,

Homerun! It drives me insane when priests make stuff up. What, you think you're smarter/holier than over 2000 years of tradition. Nope.

Brilliant reflection, fratello


Tc said...

Isn't the liturgy always "we," no matter what words we might say individually?

Anonymous said...

I was glad to read this post, but not for the” I or we” debate. My own problem was the line “the forgiveness of sins." While it is correctly plural, I have always tended to state it as the singular forgiveness of sin. My thought was that I knew forgiveness of sin was correct because all sin could be reduced to a singular disobedience to God. In checking a printed version of the creed, I know I was wrong. Fortunately when reciting it aloud, I don’t speak very loudly.

Barb Szyszkiewicz said...

It makes sense to me...a couple of weeks ago a baby was baptized at Mass here. We all renewed our baptismal promises together and answered "I do" (not "we do").