So then, brethren, stand firm and hold to the traditions which you were taught by us, either by word of mouth or by letter (2 Thess. 2:15). Guard what has been entrusted to you. Avoid the godless chatter and contradictions of what is falsely called knowledge, for by professing it some have missed the mark as regards faith (1 Tim. 6:21-22).

Friday, June 19, 2015

In a manner of speaking. Infected and affected language during Mass.

Many are doing fine at parsing the Pope's encyclical. So, for the time being, this blog will leave that matter aside.

This brief post is a lamentation of sorts regarding the strange manner in which all too many priests raise the pitch of their voice at the ends of certain phrases. Let's call that tendency or habit "Prieshtish", a quasi-dialect of liturgical speak that is as annoying as the sound of a candy wrapper being wrestled with.

The phenomenon of ends of sentences rising in pitch is referred to as "uptalk", or HRT, high-rise terminals.

Pot calling the kettle black?

The following criticism may seem trivial. However, subtle shades of meaning can attach to a word by how you speak it. Granted, at times there is precious little one can do if another person chooses to interpret one's comments in a way that reflects more his or her own biases, for good or for ill. If intent is in doubt, a meeting of minds is called for to resolve any misunderstanding, as is the habit among rational people who value listening as a learning opportunity.
As much as some people love to hear the sound of their own voice, most seem incapable of actually listening to themselves. If they did hear themselves, the might actually speak a lot less.
Is it mere coincidence that as life has become saturated with technological interventions that people have become less articulate, less capable of listening for meaning more than merely hearing the sounds delivered to their ears? Literacy generally follows if one is accustomed to listening for meaning. People who read books are generally much better at listening. Their inner landscape is less polluted with trivial soundbites and electronic insects that natter at and condition one's attention to live with the attention span of a gnat.

50 shades of blah, blah, blah.

A word can kill or it can heal. Even the words 'I love you', if said with half a heart, can be devastating. Judging from the way many people have taken to speaking with one another in this technologically hamstrung world, if they were painters, their paintings would only employ varying shades of grey, or very mute colours at best. They would walk away from their paintings wondering why they are so flat, having no idea that they themselves are responsible for having chosen and employed bland colours to express their interior landscape.

The Lord be with you?

Dear priests, stop affecting the ends of phrases so that every acclamation is turned into a question. The ascending pitch is, in a word, silly. Do you really want to sound like a Valley girl? I.e., a la 1980s San Fernando Valley girl. If you want to be associated with a narcissistic individual who epitomizes the culture of entitlement and vapid materialism, then keep talking like one.
As one might guess from Coupland's espousal of HRT, uptalk is close to the spirit of postmodernism, concerned with advancing relativistic, provisional statements - in contrast with the classic discourse of modernism, pronouncing absolute truths. But not everyone is a fan of the new.
If women always sound like they're asking for approval or agreement, they seem less sure of themselves," says Mary-Ellen Drummond, a communications consultant from Santa Fe in California. Someone in the same line of business, Diane DiResta (author of Knockout Presentations: How to Deliver Your Message with Power, Punch and Pizzazz), is still more categorical.
"I believe it is also an outgrowth of our politically correct society where people tiptoe around their beliefs by monitoring their language," she says. "Uptalk is a form of this politically correct language. It's as if a person's tentative tone allows them to retract the statement if it is met with criticism or disapproval. People are afraid to take a stand."
... "Uptalk robs them of credibility and authority. It is especially disempowering for women."—Matt Seaton, The Guardian.
Lift up your hearts?

If anything, the pitch should fall slightly at the ends of priestly acclamations and the pace should rest, not accelerate. Otherwise, priests will sound like they are either interrogating the congregation or bullying people into responding.

Almighty God bless you?

Beloved priests: to engage the congregation, your words must match your interior disposition. That should be obvious. If your interior disposition is all drama and no heart, form and no substance, the congregation would have to be equally affected not to hear the insincerity in your voice.

Body of Christ?

The fact that so may priests have no idea they are speaking with an intonation equivalent to a verbal bungee cord stretched to the point of snapping is probably an indication they have become complacent and are not really centred on speaking to other people. Most likely, they have fallen into a pattern of speech which is more auctioneer than alter Christus.

Listen, next time, to how the priest or EMHC says 'The Body of Christ' when offering the Host to you. Listen to yourself when you respond 'Amen'. Insincerity is not difficult to hear. Conversely, authentic piety is obvious and clear, at least to the contrite of heart.

Totally like whatever, you know? by Taylor Mali: click HERE for full text of the poem.
In case you hadn’t noticed,
it has somehow become uncool
to sound like you know what you’re talking about?
Or believe strongly in what you’re saying?
Invisible question marks and parenthetical (you know?)’s
have been attaching themselves to the ends of our sentences?
Even when those sentences aren’t, like, questions? You know?
—excerpt from Totally like whatever, you know? (see video at bottom)
Just for fun.

When making the Mass responses, speak in the same manner as the priest, especially if you are in the front pews. Make a point of using the exact same inflections he uses. Some priests might think you are mocking them. In that case, offer a gentle reminder that they way they speak could be interpreted to be mocking the congregation, or even mocking the Lord. Just sayin'.

A less confrontational approach would be to keep in mind that the responses are prayers. A prayerful response helps others learn the way of prayer. Of course, prayer is not about mere appearances. Prayer does, however, engage the soul and the body.

Mirror Mirror

How someone speaks the acclamations (and responses) will tell you exactly what kind of relationship they have with the Lord and His Church. Yes, some prayers can become routine more quickly than others. The Creed seems to be more prone to heartless repetition than the Our Father. There are probably many reasons why the Creed seems to be prone to a flat presentation, among them:
  • The Creed is a longer prayer than most Mass prayers and requires some mental fortitude. Many people, however, are mentally obese, spiritually out of shape. Applying one's attention and intention to anything longer than 140 characters is a chore for many people. If people cannot manage to invest themselves for the minute or so it takes to pray the Creed (less if we're talking about the Apostles' Creed), they probably are just as incapable of offering their undivided attention to a friend or spouse or their child. If that is the case, don't be surprised if people start walking away from you because you give more attention to checking your text messages during a dinner date or picnic than you should be giving to your friends and family.
  • The Creed commands allegiance, and many soldiers of Christ are absent(minded) without leave.
  • The Creed is powerfully authoritative, and many people are spiritual adolescents with a proclivity to rebel.
  • People are weak storytellers. They do not know the Catholic story. They don't want to know the story. They do not want to be bearers of the Story, the Gospel. The Creed is a summary of the Gospel. People who grow bored with the Creed have little or no imagination. The Creed is a story, a very real story full of mystery, drama, powerful images and hard fought lessons forged in the heat of theological battle. The Church needs disciples of the Lord who are willing to be storytellers, to live and to share the Gospel story.
Remember your dignity.

What applies to priests in the Mass applies to us all.
Speak as if you are constantly in the Presence of God because, if you haven't figured it out already, you are very much in His presence, and He is in yours.



Mass-ive Outcomes

When people become deaf to what is actually being said, bad things happen.
When freedom does not have a purpose, when it does not wish to know anything about the rule of law engraved in the hearts of men and women, when it does not listen to the voice of conscience, it turns against humanity and society.—Pope St. John Paul II.
The clear language of the saints is part of the solution.


Allowing ourselves to speak in a manner than dumbs down conversation, which blunts the power of language and obscures intent leaves us prone to ideas that sound appealing but carry dangerous consequences. Careless speech is indicative of a careless mind. Careless speech is part of the problem.

Those who understand human nature and exploit it to evil ends have seized on man's indifference to nuance and, through a strategy of creeping incrementalism, have introduced every manner of unethical behaviour into society, be it racism, abortion, eugenics, euthanasia or other elements of the culture of death and the sexual devolution.

Is it mere coincidence or calculated effect that moral relativism has followed the introduction of relativistic language? The language revisionists understand all too well how to manipulate people: own the language, own the people. When the magic of language is employed to hoodwink people, people will believe anything and everything.

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"A multitude of wise men is the salvation of the world(.)—Wisdom 6:24. Readers are welcome to make rational and responsible comments. Any comment that 1) offends human dignity and/or 2) which constitutes an irrational attack on the Catholic Faith will not go unchallenged. If deemed completely stupid, such a comment will most assuredly not see the light of day. Them's the rules. Don't like 'em? Move on.