Naming Persons

The USCCB doctrine committee is rightfully concerned with how the Trinity and the Persons of the Trinity are named in texts of liturgical music.

On one hand, there is a very serious matter of theology. Who is God? How does God manifest and act in the lives of believers? What is God’s relationship with the world? For people outside of Christianity, how do we profess monotheism yet affirm Three Persons?

On the other hand, a persistent masculine language is damaging to many believers. Pushback against what white men do and say has resulted in backlash against women and people of color. We live in a tense situation in many parts of society. The Church must also deal with a hemorrhaging and splintering flock as well.

One interesting, seemingly orthodox, and deeply flawed statement is shocking for the ignorance of one of Christendom’s most revered hymns. First, read the bishops from page 7 as they engage “reluctance to use ‘Father’ for the First Person of the Trinity”:

Not quite. On the fiftieth day after Easter, we’ve sung this text for centuries:

Veni, pater pauperum

Which is translated nearly universally (and quite accurately) as:

Come, Father of the poor

Capitalized in the new ICEL translation.

My sense is that perhaps some elements of tradition create a bit more confusion than an obvious non-male reference to the Persons of the Trinity.

For many Christians, God is certainly Father. The Gospel witness certainly shows Jesus adopting that view. Not every human being had as good an earthly role model as Saint Joseph or as intimate a relationship with the First Person as Father. If we take Genesis as a theological text, men and women were created in the image of God. “Father” is not false, but it is hardly complete. As with many things, context in the liturgy plays an important part.

That said, I can hardly advocate for the adaptation of the traditional baptismal formula. But the Church must address its own cooperation with sexism and misogyny at some point. The sooner it does, the healthier we will all be.

Check the Catholic Hymnody document on this link.


About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in Minnesota, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
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