“Awesome”, “amazing”, “awful”. The last was the first to be emptied of its meaning; you can’t speak any more of an “awful sunset”. Its cousin, “awesome”, has likewise suffered a metamorphosis in meaning of which it is now totally devoid. It is a little exaggerated to call these transformations, not to say massacres, of the meaning of words … “amazing”. I am NOT amazed by them, as I once was when I saw a Bishop’s pants slip to his ankles, though I am somewhat surprised and distinctly disappointed to have to point out abuses in language that many people will neither notice nor give a ratz about.
In Catholicism – to remain within the Blog’s orbit and to respect its objective – there is one expression that really bugs me. When used to address the Dalaï Lama, it just sounds . . . wrong. He is not the “Holy Father”; the Pope is. But the title is just as hollow for either of their “Holinesses”. For two reasons. Primo : while it is hard not to like the chubby, chummy Argentinian (or even the ever-smiling Tibetan), what on earth do we mean by calling him “holy” ? He may be a good man, a sincere believer who says his prayers and wants to help the poor and really thinks he is the Vicar of Christ. But he’s not a Saint. Maybe if he worked a miracle or two . . . Cuba was about as close as he’ll get to being a miracle-worker, but that doesn’t make him holy. I’m sure he’d call himself a sinner rather than a saint.
Secundo : there is that title Jesus told his followers not to use : “Father”. In His mind, that’s reserved to His and Our Father who art in Heaven. Priests and Popes are called “Father” but are vowed to celibacy. There’s a disconnect here. Why not just address him as . . . “Francis” ? After all, he is so attached to my name that he preferred it to the one given him at Baptism. And he’s so low-key, unassuming, unpretentious – an Archbishop who went to work in a bus and now drives a Ford Focus like me – a Pope, as we say Down Under, who has no tickets on himself, so humble that he could make history by insisting we call him by his first name. We won’t call him “Frank”. I like the short form, but when it comes to God’s representative on Earth, there are limits.