Criticizing the Missal: another own goal

This gem from Cathnews (not the Australian one, but the New Zealand version), sailed into view (it links to the full story on this page). On first reading it, my eyes reflexively darted to the calendar; but no, it is not 1 April. Then the thought occurred that maybe it was a Kiwi larrikin-priest taking the proverbial”mick”. However, I suspect it is not so.

Keeping charity in mind, still it is hard not to laugh loud and long over this piece written on the (late) arrival of the actual Missals in NZ. This is the amazing part, our priest correspondent’s reactions on first opening the volume:

I unwrapped it and flicked it open enthusiastically, in the presence of some well-educated adults, to the Sunday collect:

“O God, who have commanded us to listen to your beloved Son,…”

“It hasn’t been proof read”, was the immediate response of one person. So I turned over the page to the next collect:

“O God, who have taught us to chasten our bodies…”

“Maybe they are referring to God as Trinity,” said another person. I forget how many degrees he has. We are, of course, not tri-theists.

Since then, I have run this past three senior staff in our English Department who all see this construction as incorrect, an awkward construction. The question was asked, “How do Roman Catholic priests understand this, deal with this?”

Are they, the priest and his friends, serious? I mean, really? Just so that we are all clear, there is of course a basic grammar principle at work. The sentence is in the second person, ie the prayer is talking to God. It is not in the third person, ie talking about God. In the third person the sentence would read, “God, who has commanded (taught)…” But since this is in the second person, the verb has to change: “O God, (you) who have commanded …” The use of “have” does not refer to a plural, but to the grammatical second person. Perhaps they were confused by the use of “who”, because let’s face it, subordinate clauses are dying in the face of text-message English.

Nevertheless, I think our correspondent is being over-generous saying that his companions were “well-educated”. And as to those “three senior staff in our English Department who all see this construction as incorrect”, someone might want to check out those references they supplied when applying for their jobs.

Sorry if this seems cruel, but if someone puts this sort of ignorant criticism of the Missal in print, there is one reaction that is certainly justified…


And for the writer and those three senior members of the English Department, a good gift for them this Easter might be…


Lastly, I am still intrigued as to why the tiny New Zealand Church went it alone on the production of the Missals, and did not join with the Australian Church and save money with economies of scale. At least they might have been spared what must be the worst cover for the New Missal seen so far:


Oh dear…. forgive me.