23 November 2009

St. Clement I, Papal Authority, The Consecrated Life and the Value of Prayer, Dom Gueranger, "Modernist" Trinitarian Formulae, and Other Related Items

Today is the Feast of St. Clement I, Pope and Martyr--the third successor of St. Peter. St. Clement is best remembered, perhaps, for leaving the clearest and earliest historical record of exercising the universal Petrine authority over matters outside of the Diocese of Rome. Dom Gueranger writes about this incident, involving the church of Corinth seeking to settle a particularly contentious issue within its boundaries:

The Corinthians at last felt the necessity of putting an end to a disorder that might be prejudicial to the extension of the Christian faith; and for this purpose it was requisite to seek assistance from outside. The apostles had all departed this life, except St. John, who was still the light of the Church. It was no great distance from Corinth to Ephesus where the apostle resided: yet it was not to Ephesus but to Rome that the church of Corinth turned.

St. Clement claimed authority, used his authority, and his authority was accepted. All this in the first century A.D. Papal authority certainly existed-- and almost certainly was exercised over churches outside Rome-- from the very beginning of the office. But this record contained in St. Clement's letter to the Corinthians while even yet an apostle of Jesus Christ still lived, stands as evidence of a most important kind.

St. Clement also wrote about the laudable life of the consecrated virgin. In the entry for the Presentation of Mary a few days ago, Dom Prosper Gueranger wisely remarked that "the world, unknown to itself, is ruled by the secret prayers of the just." Pope Clement certainly understood this to be true of the consecrated religious. Anticipating the great doctors of Christian virginity--SS. Athanasius, Jerome, Ambrose and others, he wrote as follows:

"He or she who aspires to this higher life, must lead like the angels an existence all divine and heavenly. The virgin cuts herself off from the allurements of the senses; not only does she renounce the right to their even lawful use, but she aspires to that hope which God, who can never deceive, encourages by His promise, and which far surpasses the natural hope of posterity. In return for her generous sacrifice, her portion in heaven is the very happiness of the angels."

These words brought to mind that I would continue to ask for prayers for all consecrated religious, but especially the Sisters Adorers of the Royal Heart of Jesus Christ Sovereign Priest and their new foundation in St. Louis. These gentle and holy sisters bring the blessing of God, invoke His favor and mercy, and forestall His righteous anger, in a way that we cannot perceive. They give us their "secret prayers of the just".

Back to St. Clement I. Like so many faithful Catholics, especially the early Popes, he paid the price of the faith with his life-- the emperor Trajan had him exiled, and later cast into the sea tied to an anchor. Miraculously, his body was delivered up by the ocean when the sea receded three miles, revealing his body in a marble tomb on the floor of the sea. Hence the anchor graphic, above.

Finally, I wanted to thank Delena, who came to see us in St. Louis this past weekend. Sharon and I had a great time visiting with her and her cool husband and sons. In the middle of a nice dinner with plenty of alcohol (but not enough to trigger a trip to the confessional) she unloads this bombshell: she says Holy Spirit instead of Holy Ghost.


My brother was quick to point out that she is, of course, a modernist.

Now, I realize that saying Holy Spirit doesn't really make you a modernist, so no hate mail, please. Well, not by itself, anyway. Just kidding! It really is a weird phenomenon, isn't it? I know there was no magic diktat from the Second Vatican Council to switch from Ghost to Spirit, but it seems to be the time period when the switch occurred. Spirit is derived from the Latin Spiritus while Ghost comes from the old English Gast, and similar to the German Geist.

The real reason I brought it up is to provide the fodder for my next poll. Do you say Holy Spirit or Holy Ghost? My guess is that people who identify themselves as traditional Catholics tend to say Ghost, yet not uniformly so. My other guess is that Catholics not described above say Spirit almost exclusively. Let's see if I am right.

The last poll, while not immensely popular, did prove that by a 2-to-1 margin you do not like my vest. Too bad, I'm wearing it anyway.


Delena said...

Hey! I wanted to vote on the vest issue...as I DID like your vest. But after this whole Holy Spirit/Ghost debate, I might change my answer.

In my defense, I learned with "Holy Spirit" and it just seems weird to me to say "Holy Ghost". Plus my dad's father used to pray, "Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, First one here gets the most," at the dinner table much to the dismay of my religious grandmother, so "Holy Ghost" always had this bad connotation for me.

And from your poll results so far, I can tell your brother probably voted 12 times. It's a Catholic poll, Timman's Brother, not American Idol.

thetimman said...


Love the rhyme, too. A slightly different take on the whole first shall be last theme.

Had a great time-- don't be strangers.

Anonymous said...

the world unkown to itself is ruled by the secret prayers of the just....
I love to read this each year and continue to forget it each year ....
"Holy Ghost" here...I once had a friend confront me about this very issue.I believe she felt I was trying to make myself different from most of the other
Catholics in the world. I told her I grew up with the Holy Ghost.My husband tells me that there is only ONE Holy Ghost and there are all kinds of spirits floating around. (Don't want to be addressing the wrong one-do we?)

thetimman said...

I really don't mind spirit, but I like the retro of ghost. And Delena's rhyme seals the deal.

StGuyFawkes said...


RE: Ghost vs. Spirit

Due to your relative youth you cannot be aware that this is an old chestut of an issue that has been disposed of again and again even on the sedevacantist web sites.

"Holy Spirit" or "Holy Ghost": the two uses are equivalent. There is no doctrinal difference except that Holy Spirit preserves a little of the Latin "Spiritus Sanctus" and should be preferred by traditionalists for that reason alone except they don't. And there is the light comedy of it.

My congrats for your having accurately put your finger on the cultural divide. "Holy Spirit" became the preferred usage after Vatican II and "whouda thunk it" but a better translation of at least one word DID occur after the Council. (LOL)

I use "Holy Ghost" but it's probably better to use "Spirit". And here is another reason why: "ghost" comes from the German "geist" which you probably know means "mind" also in German. The adjective "geistige" means intellectual. So he whole "Ghost" lineage in German leads back to muddy trails etymologically. There's Weltgeist, and a hundred other words that have more to do with teutonic philosophy following Kant than any Catholic would want to know.

My verdict: Better to stay with the Latin.

That's my two cents worth. The only thing interesting about this issue is that if you are as old as I am you can remember old sedevacantist who swore the "Holy Spirit" usage was a masonic plot.

cmziall said...

Delena, my dad used to say "Father, Son, Holy Ghost, the one who EATS the fastest gets the most". With that being said, ANYTIME I hear Ghost said with the Trinity that rhyme pops into my head as well!

cmziall said...

P.S. Delena, you have to watch the Timman when it comes to serving alcohol ;)

Anonymous said...

Let me add my 2 cents' worth to the Holy Ghost/Holy Spirit discussion. I was there and remember it well. The encouragement to shift from the use of "Ghost" to "Spirit" was already in place by 1961, while Pope John XXIII was still alive, after the Council was announced but before it convened. In those days, there was no difference between a pastoral "suggestion" and a "command." If the Bishop(s) called for it, we acceptd it reverently and obediently, and just did it, without reflecting, moaning, questioning, positioning, etc. (Remember, the terrible moment that initiated Catholics into critiquing Church leadership and espousing positions of dissent was the New York Times ad signed by theologians against Paul VI's encyclical, HUMANAE VITAE, and that hadn't occurred yet.) Therefore, this shift in terminology occurred several years before (but just a very few, very short years before) the various liturgical and theological issues emerged that would be so neuralgic for many in the the Church. Therefore, people who became authentic traditionalists later on, couldn't even have fathomed what was in store for them in terms of change, innovation, dissent, etc. They were most likely quite used to employing the newer term "Spirit" for a few years and were quite used to it before the other innovations calling for critique and studied reaction, emerged. This was a non-issue before we realized there were going to be any issues, let alone the great number of them that ultimately appeared. I think that only in retrospect - decades later - did some begin to associate the differentiation in the terms as reflective of a theological/pious stance toward which one would want to be intentional. Fr.M.

karen said...

I said Holy Ghost as a child, but somewhere along the way, probably when my kids were in Catholic school, we changed to Holy Spirit. My son has just joined the choir at St. Frances and I have attended 10 am Mass there a couple of times and was so surprised to hear the priest say Holy Ghost in the confessional. It really took me back to the days. I so miss the old days. I sound like and old lady, don't I?

Anonymous said...

FWIW, there are also several strains of mostly fundamentalist Protestantism that use Holy Ghost instead of Spirit. I suspect that there are several historically anomalous reasons for this, but there you go. In fact, off the top of my head, I would say that hte King James Version of the bible probably uses Ghost (but I'm too lazy to research it).

I say this, because as a convert from one of those strains, neither Ghost nor Spirit strikes me one way or the other.

Anonymous said...

Those who use the term "Ghost" are in the right.
Those who use the term "Spirit" are communists.

Simple as that, right Timman?

Delena said...

I did mean to add that my dad's father was Pentecostal.

And he said "Holy Ghost."

Just in case you missed that. :-)

Anonymous said...

Holy Ghost for me - I was taught to say that by the good Newburgh Dominicans eons ago and it feels odd to use "Holy Spirit."

However, if you notice, the adjective "Holy" is rarely used these days. Whenever I hear someone just say "the Spirit" I always wonder...