ed less silliness. ;nMost egregious among the CatholicnChurch’s linguistic sins are those itnshares with other mainline churches:nthe “corrections” to avoid “sexism.”n”Sexism” is defined, by, those whonmake such decisions, in two contradictorynways: as any action or languagenhinting that there is a difference betweennmen and women, that we mightnpossibly have complementary responsibilitiesnin the church and in life; and,nalternately, any language in which thenmale gender is presumed to include thenferiiale. It’s a bore, these days, to bashnwimmin’s lib—like communism, it’s anbankrupt ideology and everybodynknows it—but somehow these peoplenare still allowed to interfere with realnchijrch business. My husband and Ineach teach a Tuesday-night third-gradenCCD class, and at the “commissioning”nof the teachers, we did all the rightnthings, including “journaling,” whichnwasn’t journaling at all — that wouldnhave been bad enough—but merelynwriting on paper intimate things aboutnourselves to “share” with the personsnsitting near us while some wackynspace-music played too loudly. Whennit came time for the prayer and responses,nthe CCD coordinator — anlovely woman whose salary the churchnpays — carefully changed every “His”nto “God’s.” The Devil made me asknher why she’d done that. We got anfive-minute explanation about thengenderlessness of God and the creativenpower of the womb, and how wenshould teach our classes that God isnboth male and female. Then we saidnthe “Our Father.”nSome modern musical emendationsnare puzzling but harmless, such asnchanging “Brothers all are we” to “Wenare family,” and “Let me walk with mynbrother” to “Let us walk with eachnother” in “Let There Be Peace onnEarth” (1955). I’d even be charitablenenough to call these two changesnimprovements — if I didn’t hate thentune so much. It screams for an accordion.nOn the other hand, consider “HownGreat Thou Art.” Frankly, I don’t likenmany hymns that aren’t at least onenhundred years old (the German andnEnglish ones are the best, althoughnsome of the old Negro spirituals arenexquisite), and this one has alwaysnseemed like exactly the kind of selec-nhon that should be featured — as it sonoften is — on a “Greatest Gospel Hits”nalbum (“Order Before Midnight Tonightnand Receive FREE This LovelynCubic Zirconia ‘Last Supper’ DashboardnOrnament”). Still, the songnrhymes and scans, I can whistle it innthe shower, and it’s got twenty years onnmost of the other songs we sing. Why,nthough, did the Oregon Catholic Press,nwhich publishes the yearly music issuenaccompanying the seasonal missal thatnmy church uses, feel compelled tonchange “all the works thy hands havenmade” to “all the worlds thy handsnhave made,” and “mighty thunder” ton”rolling thunder”? My husband and Indecided that the words “works” andn”mighty” were deleted because theynoffended the sensibilities of somensmall, lazy minority — children? Morenprobably, though, the two words werensimply felt to be too . . . manly.nRhyming and scanning (to say nothingnof making sense) are preciousncommodities in the liturgical music ofntoday. My husband’s all-time least favoritensong has to be this “Hosea”:nCome back to me / with allnyour heart.nDon’t let fear / keep us apart.nTrees do bend, / though straightnand tall;nSo must we / to others call.nThe wilderness / will lead younTo your heart / where Inwill speak.nIntegrity / and justicenWith tenderness / you shallnknow.nYou shall sleep / secure withnpeace;nFaithfulness / will be your joy.nLong have I waited for yourncoming home to menAnd living deeply our new life.”nRiveting, isn’t it?—whatever it mightnmean. Couple these words with a pachydermaln4/4 dirge-tune and you’ve gotninstant narcosis. I give it a 70, Dick; it’snhard to dance to.nThe song that makes me shudder is:nOne bread, one body, one Lordnof all.nOne cup of blessing whichnwe bless[?].nnnAnd we, though many,nthroughout the earth.nWe are one body in thisnone Lord.nGentile or Jew, servant or free,nwoman or man, no more.nGive me “Old Hundredth” any day.nActually the words here are more or lessnscriptural; it’s the tune that sounds likenthe lowing of many cattle. But I believenI like even this song better than thennumerous “shalom” songs (with mandatory,nembarrassing, choreographednactions) giving off the faint, cloyednodor of false ecumenism. Catholicnnuns who like to dress like all the rest ofnus, and women who attend “womennbonding seminars” are especially enthusiasticnabout the “shalom” songs.nAs for the introductory rites andnliturgies of the Word and the Eucharist,nI haven’t much except the EpiscopalnBook of Common Prayer withnwhich to compare their language, andneven the Episcopalians have sacrificednthat gorgeous tool of reverence tonmodern fads. The language in thenCatholic “missalette” (what furthernproof that the Mass has been demeaned?)ndoes what its designersnintended — makes the Mass accessiblento even the least educated or discerningnamong us — and who would benfoolish enough to say that that is lamentable?nBut what I try to do, when Inremember to, is rise above my baseness,nand, aside from the lessons andnthe Gospel reading and somedmes thenhomily, there is little in the rest of thenservice that helps me do that. I want anwonderful string of words, heavy withnmeaning, to muse upon, a turn ofnphrase that embodies all poetry and allntruth. “I am poured out like water, andnall my bones are out of joint”: somethingnlike that. I need reassurance that,nbad as I am, I am not bad alone, andncan be healed. Think of the sad handfulnof really good .American novelists ofnthe past decade, and then think of allnthe self-christened writers messing withnour souls’ food. It’s a sin.nAnd while we’re on the subject;nsince when are word-lovers the onenminority that can be abused with impunity?nfane Greer edits Plains Poetry Journalnin Bismarck, North Dakota.nDECEMBER 1989/43n