By Fr Philip Kemmy
“With the Name of Jesus we shall overthrow the demons; we shall put them to flight. With this Name, if they sometimes dare to attack us, our battles will be victories, and our victories will be crowns for Heaven, all brilliant with precious stones.” St. John Marie Vianney
In September 1846 the Blessed Virgin appeared in La Salette in The French Alps to two young shepherd children. They saw her weeping bitterly and among the things she had to say she lamented how blasphemy of the Holy Name was such an offence to God. As the Catechism puts it: “The second commandment forbids every improper use of God’s name. Blasphemy is the use of the name of God, of Jesus Christ, of the Virgin Mary and of the saints in an offensive way.” (CCC #2162) Additionally the Catechism states: “Blasphemy is contrary to the respect due to God and his Holy Name. It is in itself a grave sin.” (CCC#2148)
Our words have power and therefore we should choose them carefully. And when our words invoke the Name of God it should be in the right context and within the bounds of decency. How sad it is to hear the Holy Name of Jesus bandied about as a curse word or worse still in the midst of a string of obscene words. A few years back I was talking to a young mother on the church grounds. Her little 4 year old was with her and in the course of our conversation I mentioned something about Jesus. The child looked horrified and turned to his mother and said: “Mammy – the priest said a bad word.” Unfortunately, that child had heard the Holy Name of Jesus used in an unholy manner too often and in his innocence understood that word to be something that shouldn’t be said. And I’m sure he is not the only young child to have been given that impression; for even among practising Catholics who are otherwise striving to live good and holy lives the Holy Name can often be misused out of sheer habit and thoughtlessness. This should not and must not be the case. Above all bad habits, the habit of misusing the Holy Name needs to be eradicated from our lives.
Perhaps there isn’t a country in the world where the Holy Name of Jesus is misused and debased as in our own country of Ireland. So common is it among our people that even the media fail to respect it and defend their misuse of the most Holy Name of our Lord and Saviour by claiming that they use it in a secular way in keeping with the non-religious use of it by a considerable portion of the population. At least that’s the defence they gave to the Broadcasting Complaints Commission in defence, whenever someone complained about it several years ago. And the Broadcasting Complaints Commission agreed with them at the time. And that is sad indeed. With the recent referendum which removed blasphemy as an offence from our country’s constitution, can we expect from the media even more indecent and foul misuse of the Holy Name over the airwaves? We have allowed a situation to develop where Our Lord Jesus Christ is daily and casually demeaned and blasphemed. Would any other religion tolerate that for their God or their leader? And yet we do. How many of us switch off whenever we here a program misuse the Holy Name?
So much reparation is needed for the sin of the misuse of the Holy Name of Jesus. A simple way to do so is one which I was taught at home and in the early years of primary school. Every time we say or here the name of Jesus we should make a small bow of the head acknowledging that the name of our God has been spoken and deserves our veneration. Or perhaps, if we ourselves sometimes misuse that most holy of names we could make an extra special effort, with the help of God, to eradicate that misuse.