I Say Tomahto; You Say Tomayto

Making of Deacons

In the 'Catholic World Report' Anthony Esolen recently wrote about 'Paint by numbers' hymns. He compared some of the modern efforts as nothing better than the paintings which are sold as printed sheets with numbered spaces; just fit the colour to the number.

"We do have a rich treasury of hymn-poems to read, to sing, and to keep close to the heart. Some of them are almost as old as Christianity itself. They come from Latin and Greek, from our own English, from French and German and all the languages of Europe. Some were written by saintly divines with a fine ear for poetry: John Henry Newman (“Praise to the Holiest in the Height”), Charles Wesley (“Love Divine, All Loves Excelling”). Many were written by the great Dr. Isaac Watts, who set the psalms to English meter and rhyme. Some rose up from an anonymous lyricist among the folk: “What Wondrous Love Is This.” Some entered our language by the skill of great translators, like John Mason Neale and Catherine Winkworth. Some were the work of pious laymen who meditated upon Scripture all their lives: so the blind Fanny Crosby gives us “Jesus, Keep Me Near the Cross.” Just as many of our most beautiful melodies were written by the finest composers who ever lived—Bach, Handel, Haydn—so too many of our hymn lyrics were written by poets of some renown: George Herbert, Robert Bridges, Gerard Manley Hopkins, John Milton.

So why, then, why do we have verse-by-numbers lyrics posing as real poems in our hymnals? Why, when we have such a trove of the great, the profound, the beautiful, the memorable, the poignant, the splendid, do we have to endure what is banal, clunky, clumsy, dull, vague, and silly?"

That's a view I very much share, but it was the first word of his piece — "We" — which set me thinking.  It is used so often and so lightly.  "We" have all these wonderful hymns — maybe — but in reality they have been forgotten or even perhaps never known by a whole generation of Catholics in England.  So too, in the comment on a blog it was asserted that "We" do not want certain usages which the writer thought were specifically Anglican.  Blogging as "mediaMouse" she (he?) wrote for the edification of members of the Ordinariate: "we don’t speak of ‘priestings’ and ‘deaconings’ in the Catholic Church.  That kind of language only alienates you more.  We don’t want that and you certainly don’t!"

Happily another cradle Catholic put him/her right, asserting that the verb "to priest" was pre-Reformation and had continued in use among Recusant Catholics.  But it is hard to know just which words and phrases, perfectly natural to some, create problems for others. There is just such a usage earlier in this very paragraph… I suppose many people writing today would have said "another cradle Catholic put them right" since "them" and "they" has become the politically proper way to avoid using a gender-inclusive pronoun ('he') or the cumbersome 'he/she'.

Those of us who learned English Grammar before it became unfashionable find it hard to use a plural pronoun where the original subject was in the singular.  We have other difficulties — even with the new Translation of the Missal, which is generally so much better than the former version.  In particular, in the Roman Canon (Eucharistic Prayer I), I have to swallow hard before saying "which we offer you firstly".  The adverb, I was taught, was "first", and "firstly" was a barbarism.  Then, in my prejudiced way, I supposed this innovation must come from across the Atlantic.  Not so.  How helpful are Google and Wikipedia!  It seems that "firstly" is not much heard in America — it is a genuinely English grammatical error — now in common usage, very common — my old English teacher would have said.

It is supposed to be G. B. Shaw who said England and America were two countries divided by a common language.  Perhaps something similar could be asserted of long-standing Catholics and us more recent imports.  We knew we had a great deal to learn; the instruction on receiving the dignity of Monsignor spoke of mantelletas and ferraiolos (not happily for those of us of low degree) — but I would not recognise a ferraiolo if one bit me.  Other Anglicans, both former and present, are more learned in such things.  Even the word "Ordinariate" does not trip easily off the tongue — and that word has different pronunciations.  Some of us would say it like "airy" while in Tunbridge Wells it is an 'ordinahriate".

We are learning so much — shall we also have to unlearn even more?  Never again to distinguish between the Making of Deacons, the Ordination of Priests and the Consecration of Bishops?  Where did that come from originally?  Is it pre-reformation, like "priesting" and "deaconing" or is it something fondly invented by dear Doctor Cranmer? Are we genuinely bringing something of the Patrimony of the Church of England into the Catholic Church, or are we spoiling it with our funny ways?  We can only find out as time goes by — and as we let each other know what things we find charming, and which just irritate us.

[A version of this also appears on my Ancient Richborough blog .]

Author: Fr. Edwin Barnes

Bishop Barnes read theology for three years at Oxford before finishing his studies at Cuddesdon College (at the time a theological college with a rather monastic character). He subsequently served two urban curacies in Portsmouth and Woking. During his first curacy, and after the statutory three years of celibacy, he married his wife Jane (with whom he has two children, Nicola and Matthew). In 1967, Bishop Barnes received his first incumbency as Rector of Farncombe in the Diocese of Guildford. After eleven years, the family moved to Hessle, in the Diocese of York, for another nine years as vicar. In 1987, he became Principal of St Stephen’s House, Oxford. In 1995, he was asked by then Archbishop of Canterbury, George Carey, to become the second PEV for the Province. He was based in St. Alban’s and charged with ministering to faithful Anglo-Catholics spread over the length of Southern England, from the Humber Estuary to the Channel Islands. After six years of service as a PEV, Bishop Barnes retired to Lymington on the south coast where he holds the Bishop of Winchester’s license as an honorary assistant bishop. On the retirement of the late and much lamented Bishop Eric Kemp, he was honored to be asked to succeed him as President of the Church Union. Both these appointments he resigned on becoming a Catholic in 2010. Fr. Barnes is now a priest of the Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham, caring for an Ordinariate Group in Southbourne, Bournemouth.

17 thoughts on “I Say Tomahto; You Say Tomayto”

  1. For goodness sakes, keep to your former speech pattern!.
    I have always thought that Anglo-Catholics, even on this side of the pond,
    generally speak a higher register of English than we cradle Catholics do and Heaven knows the greater part of your preachers wax more eloquent from the pulpit than the majority of ours do. Wasn't that the basic idea: you would bring a bit of leaven with you to help the dough rise?

    Please, do not change an iota of your beautiful and authenticly English usage!

    Yours in Christ,

  2. An Anglican coming into full communion should of course abjure any errors he may have held; but that should be all he has to leave behind. The very purpose of the Ordinariate is to give a worthy and a lasting home to every single thing that is good within Anglicanism – so every phrase you mention must be valued as Patrimony. The example you give, of the verb "to priest", is precisely the sort of thing that ought be maintained, since it restores to English-speaking Catholics a useful term that among them has fallen into abeyance.

    It reminds me somehow of the tale of a monk of many years ago, himself once an Anglican, who as his private devotion first said the Litany of Loreto, and then tacked on the Prayer Book Litany afterward – what a sensible idea (though one hopes he deleted reference to the Queen as "Governor' [of the C. of E.], and inserted a prayer for the Pope also).

    So maintain and extend all these particularities, both recognizing the rich extent of all that is good that you have brought with you, and sharing it with the wider Church. After all, a certain Apostolic Constitution rather encourages this.

  3. About ten years ago, when I used the English phrase "take communion" (which is both Anglican and pre-Reformation English Catholic) on a blog comment, I could hardly believe how many aggressively ignorant respondents chastized me for writing "take communion" rather than "receive communion." I was "displaying a Protestant/un-Catholic attitude;" my phrase "sounded Pelagian;" and torrents of foolish words were spilled about how "receive" was the echt Catholic phrase — and so forth.

    I wish such cock-sure scribblers would take pains to inform themselves before uttering their ex cathedrilla statements.

    1. I'm one of those "Receive Communion" malcontents but it's a theological thing. I certainly won't chastise you for saying "Taking" Communion. It would, however, make me cringe if the ultimate result of ANYTHING (Including communion at the hand) would be a denial of the presence Our Lord in the Eucharist. My own attitude has been a reaction from having seen some people take the Blessed Sacrament with their own fingers directly from the priest and treat Him like He's nothing. Whether it's their own ignorance or malice, I don't know, but something has to be done on the part of the faithful, if the priest doesn't care or encourages such behavior out of "charity."

      If saying "Taking Communion" is not something that would lead to lack of faith or disrespect, then by all means, keep to it. :)

  4. My sense of humour is such that, if I were a recently-received ex-Anglican, I would delight in saying such things, and then watch all the little Pope-lets of the internet spring into issuing anathemas like nobody's business.

    A priest of my acquaintance, then a school principal, once wrote in the school newsletter of such-and-such phrase as an "old adage". To his horror, the school gardener of all people put a curt note in his pigeonhole drawing Father's attention to this tautology, as he termed it: For surely any adage is a saying that has become proverbial by reason of its long use, and so is old by definition? – so the gardener presumed to argue. Father penned a reply in which he noted that Terence wrote some millennia ago of such-and-such being a "vetus… adagium"; and so, if there were any fault of tautology committed, it was the Roman playwright's and not his. In other words, get into training before you go into bat against the First XI.

  5. English usage changes. I think of myself as an "Old Age Pensioner", but younger people either use the government's newspeak term "Senior Citizen" or their own less flattering terminology: they often refer to the elderlly as "the wrinklies" or in the provinces as "the twirlies". The former expression is self-explanatory, but the latter may require a little elucidation. In the UK one of the benefits of turning 60 is a free travel card for municipal transport. But outside London, it is often the case that it may not be used before 9.30 am. So one finds pensioners at bus stops asking the driver, "Am I too early?" – hence "twirlies" as a synonym for "wrinklies".

    Part of the problem is, of course, that it is no longer fashionable for teachers to suggest to their little darlings that there are any rules in case it stifles their creativity. But far worse are the changes imposed in the name of "political correctness". There used to be a rule for the formal drafting of legislation and other official texts "the masculine includes the feminine" – nowadays the fashion is to write "s/he" for the nominative case but what about the accusative? It used to be the case that the correct form of address was "Chairman" or "Madam Chairman", now we are told to use "Chairperson or even "Chair". Should one address one's remarks to a piece of furniture?

    Old certainties are being swept away. Mgr Barnes was in the RAF which was certainly less stuffy than the Army. I recall a regimental instruction which referred to "Officers and their ladies…. Sergeants and their wives…Other ranks and their women…" I do not regret the passing of that kind of class distinction, but now we are about to have women bishops in the Cof, I do wonder what political correctness will impose as the proper the forms of address to replace "Father in God" or "Lord Bishop of…X".

    1. Being the youngest of the three surviving grandparents, my oldest grandchildren (19 and 20), being the children of my son, have been referring to me as "junior wrinkly" for about 5 years. Regrettably, this usage has begun to infect my daughter's children (aged 12 and 15).

      But the very worst thing is that I'm starting to refer to myself by the same epithet!

    2. "Pensioner" seems much more classier than 'Senior Citizen' but I'm guessing a lot of you are British. And there's something inherently classy about the British. (At least from an American standpoint.)

      But, yes. Political Correctness. Ever since I've had a sort of change of attitude about religion, politics, and society, I've become really wary of liberal attitudes and talking points and the way they have a hold over the youth and mass media, as well as other cultural outlets. I just recently found out that Political Correctness and Critical Theory are tools of the Frankfurt School of Marxism, a "thinktank" that tried to shift any Marxist class struggle from an economic war to a cultural war.

      When I see "Political Correctness" in the Church, I shudder. It may be that Smoke of Satan which Pope Paul VI spoke of. We can see how we downplay any talk of God's Monarchy, and there's an increase in talking about "Social Justice" and "Inclusive Language" It seems as if there IS a smoke that obscures and confuses, and no one can deny that we live in uncertain and confusing times.

  6. @ Ioannes. I'm afraid you may be looking at the British through rather rose-tinted spectacles. Search Google Images for "English Yobs" and then read some of the news stories. You may come away with a more nuanced view.

    1. Oh, right, I forgot about them. In what I've seen through stereotypes found in movies/television/internet/etc., they're usually given a thick Estuary English accent. In fact, looking at the Google Images, it's hard not to give them that sort of English.

      I have yet to encounter (At least in movies/television/etc.) eloquent, polysyllabic hooligans with perfect BBC-new-presenter Received Pronunciation, causing trouble and mischief for the establishment and such.

      What I was thinking of is my father's or my grandfathers' generation type of British. It's hard to imagine how things were for me, a young person living in the United States in 2012. On one hand, they may be in my mind a caricature of a proper, stoical British gentleman, probably parodied endlessly by Monty Python, and on another, would be a melodramatic, maudlin, Dickensian sort of working class found on the East End. Jack the Ripper and My Fair Lady come to mind. Yes, this is all most likely inaccurate.

      The reason why I suddenly fixate on an older generation is because I really see little or nothing to be proud of in my generation. And that includes my generation's lack of appreciation of the English language, especially in this "lol-lmao-g2gkthnxbai" celebrity-seeking facebook/twitter generation.

      I have no intention in joining the sort of idolatry that my generation is participating in with their novelty-worship. If there is an example that I find reliable, it would be the beaten path of generations that walked before us. Going back to the original topic, maybe that's the recommendation for this seemingly new enterprise of making hymns and such.

      Let us remember in the book of Ecclesiastes:

      9 What has been will be again,
      what has been done will be done again;
      there is nothing new under the sun.

  7. I fear that usage such as 'fondly' above will soon disappear from both sides of the water. If Newman's precision of language is an integral part of the Ordinariate (a barbaric sounding word itself), atheists as well as 'cradle Catholics' will have much for which to be grateful.

  8. The more native the the English Ordinariate can sound, the better, for the sake of continuity. The very title "Ordinariate" (and the "erection" thereof), "episcopal ordination", "evangelization", "chant" (in the abstract sense), "extraordinary form", "magisterium", "monsignor" (hem-hem), and many other turns of speech, whilst perfectly intelligible, sound unnecessarily foreign, rather like the use of metric weights and measures. (Nice to hear that the clergy members have been encouraged to dig out their good old choir habit – is that right?)

    1. Archdeacons? – gosh, yes!

      I quite agree with LBS on this: of all English-speaking Catholics, ex-Anglicans ought maintain the use of English terms, not Italianate ones. Fortescue, after all, insisted on "footpace" not "predella", and so forth. So why not use as many English terms as possible – some of which, such as the title of Archdeacon, are actually precious survivals of earlier custom throughout the wider Church? "Inculturation", after all, is still – just – the current fashion…

      Let's start by bringing back "Sir" as the title for priests of the Ordinariate, as was used in Merrie England once upon a time. I can well imagine the yokels of Oxenford at the Elevation a-crying to Sir John (Hunwicke) to heave the Host up higher… 😉

      1. Joshua:

        While I'd need to check the references for exact citatations, it is clear from the Code of Canons, 1983, and from "Anglicanorum Cœtibus" that old Anglican occupational titles may be restored. There still are a few rare cases of archdeacons and capitular deans in the Latin Church in Ireland and in France, but these are now strictly honoraria, and they have the privileges and titles of monsignori by now. I favour restoring A.U. archdeacons and the like. We have such boring and bureaucratic titles in the Latin Church. I can't stand titles such as 'associate priest' and 'assistant priest' and 'pastor' (for the older and better Parish Priest). In Canada, we used to call associate priests vicars and assistant priests curates. It's still done in some places.

  9. Interesting reference to the 'Anglican' "Consecration of Bishops". This expression may be foreign to the Novus Ordo crowd but Traditional Latin Catholics use it, as it was standard use before that unfortunate Council. The expression 'ordination of bishops' is NewChurchese and not really a Latin Catholic expression per se. So I hope the Anglican Use people bring back the expression or help to bring it back!

    On priesting and deaconing, these are not common expressions in English Canada in the Latin Church. The point about recusants is interesting, however. I am happy to see all these Anglican expressions come into the Latin Church. I'm all for this diversity.


Leave a Reply