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Friends,

As English-speaking Catholics, how do you approach vernacular prayer?

Do you prefer "hieratic" English - like that of Shakespeare - or "colloquial" English - like that of the modern day - for prayer to God? When in mental prayer, do you automatically pray to God in one of the two fashions?

Most importantly: why do you choose what you choose?
I personally can't stand the so-called Hieratic form.

For one, it is far too rigid and stiff. My own experience of God has always been more fearful than loving, and the starched-collar feeling of "Thee" and "Thy" seems to put God even further from my person. To use my own, simple English - associated deeply with the whole cycle of daily life from childhood 'till now - seems more intimate. I wouldn't speak to my own dad or mum as if I was on Shakespeare's stage, so why should I do so with God? I don't understand how it's more reverent to say "Thou".

Secondly, that sort of "High English" is inextricably linked - in my mind, anyway - with Thomas Cranmer's counterfeit Anglican rites and King James' Protestant Bible. To associate my personal address to God with that kind of dialect just doesn't feel right.

Any objections...? Personal reasons are just as good as objective ones, btw.
Hieratic English is my preferred way of prayer because it is a highly dignified and beautiful non ordinary use of my native tongue and I am addressing the Creator, Sustainer and Redeemer of the universe. It's one reason I love the KJV Bible, the Coverdale Psalter, the book of Common Prayer ( the older editions)  and my old trusty Jordanville Prayerbook. I figure when I pray it's appropriate to use the most dignified language possible.

I have no personal associations with Protestantism so for me things like the KJV, and the BCP are just beautiful renditions of the English language but there's room for differences in opinion. Prayer is very personal. I'm interested in others opinions on this.
(01-17-2015, 09:37 PM)Heorot Wrote: [ -> ]Friends,

As English-speaking Catholics, how do you approach vernacular prayer?

Do you prefer "hieratic" English - like that of Shakespeare - or "colloquial" English - like that of the modern day - for prayer to God? When in mental prayer, do you automatically pray to God in one of the two fashions?

Most importantly: why do you choose what you choose?

I don't know if I prefer one over the other. I like the "hieratic" English of the KJV and Douay-Rheims for devotional reading or for structured prayer (such as when I pray using my Melkite Catholic prayer book, I use the Douay-Rheims). However, when I'm praying "in general", whether it's talking to Jesus/God or in my prayer corner, I use "colloquial" English. I honestly don't think God cares whether we use an older, dignified form of speaking versus our modern vernacular speech. Does a peasant with no reading education really know the difference between how they speak in prayer with their current vernacular speech versus an older form of speech which might be considered beautiful or dignified? I would think the peasant would be "speaking" from his/her heart.
I'm not going to change the prayers, such as the Our Father or Hail Mary that are traditionally known with the more traditional wording.  If I'm in a group rosary and the leader changes the traditional wording to modern wording, I will most likely back out.  It's "valid" and all, and I don't think badly of the person doing it, but I will probably be a bit annoyed, because it is distracting.  To me, this is kind of like a person praying out loud and just a little faster, slower, louder than everyone else so that the group "flow" of the words is agitated.  I also think changing those words is kind of silly, because people know what those words mean.  I learned the Our Father in the mid-1980's, when I was around five years old.  It was in a protestant church, and I learned it using "thy" and "thine."  I knew what it meant- we all did.  I suspect some of the push to eliminate "archaic" English wording of prayers was driven by modernism, and sold to others who were well-meaning but who thought the idea of the Church "getting with the times" sounded nice.
(01-17-2015, 09:43 PM)Heorot Wrote: [ -> ]I personally can't stand the so-called Hieratic form.

For one, it is far too rigid and stiff. My own experience of God has always been more fearful than loving, and the starched-collar feeling of "Thee" and "Thy" seems to put God even further from my person. To use my own, simple English - associated deeply with the whole cycle of daily life from childhood 'till now - seems more intimate. I wouldn't speak to my own dad or mum as if I was on Shakespeare's stage, so why should I do so with God? I don't understand how it's more reverent to say "Thou".

Secondly, that sort of "High English" is inextricably linked - in my mind, anyway - with Thomas Cranmer's counterfeit Anglican rites and King James' Protestant Bible. To associate my personal address to God with that kind of dialect just doesn't feel right.

Any objections...? Personal reasons are just as good as objective ones, btw.

We address God with the intimate pronoun because He loves us more than we can possibly comprehend and offers whomever wants it a share in His life. I've seen your posts, you really need spiritual direction and help to realize that God is not vindictive and spiteful but wants all of us to have peace and joy in Him.
For me it's always you/your in private and thee/thy with others.
I actually like both. I use hierarchical English when I am praying in a structured way - the Rosary, memorized prayers, the Divine Office. Otherwise, I address the Lord in the most dignified way I can in modern language.

I also have problems being close to God from a loving, rather than fearful, perspective. I think this is because my relationship with my parents was not the best and I tend to keep myself very distant from others even though I act as though I am outgoing in person.
Just to clear up any possible confusion: I would never change the "hieratic" forms of the Ave or Pater. I've tried to do it in the past, but the Ave sounds strange and the Pater doesn't work. How do you replace "hallowed" with a modern English equivalent, for example? You really just can't do it!

My real question, I guess, should've been whether anyone prays in hieratic English in private mental and vocal prayer. It seems to me that this must've been the norm pre-Vatican II, since not only liturgical translations but also private devotional books often had that language. Did older folks, pre-1960s, learn all their prayers in that sort of English?

Thanks for all the interesting replies so far.
(01-18-2015, 09:34 PM)Heorot Wrote: [ -> ]Just to clear up any possible confusion: I would never change the "hieratic" forms of the Ave or Pater. I've tried to do it in the past, but the Ave sounds strange and the Pater doesn't work. How do you replace "hallowed" with a modern English equivalent, for example? You really just can't do it!

My real question, I guess, should've been whether anyone prays in hieratic English in private mental and vocal prayer. It seems to me that this must've been the norm pre-Vatican II, since not only liturgical translations but also private devotional books often had that language. Did older folks, pre-1960s, learn all their prayers in that sort of English?

Thanks for all the interesting replies so far.


Believe it or not in private mental type prayer I do sometimes use hieratic language,or  my own version of Cranmer, although not all the time. Generally I prefer  hieratic language for liturgy, the Divine Office and for Prayerbook prayers ( I use the Jordanville, the HTM Prayerbook etc.) but in private it's mostly my own words but with a few Thees, Thys and Thous thrown in. I do it not because I look at God in a certain way but simply because I'm so used to Prayerbook language and feel like doing it.


Certainly there's no right or wrong way of praying in private, although I think that absolutely public liturgical prayer should be hieratic.
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