The Holy Name of Jesus: Use Sparingly, Please…

The Holy Name of Jesus: Use Sparingly, Please…

For some time, I’ve meant to post a thread on the (sadly) casual use of the Holy Name of Jesus, especially when used as an expletive.

This is something which is especially noticeable among Irish Catholics – certainly in Ireland itself.

Some years ago, a non-Catholic remarked on this, saying that, in his view, nothing is so calculated to make people NOT take the Faith seriously, as the way (in his experience) Irish Catholics use the name of Jesus to give vent to their annoyance, anger or whatever else. “And they want us to believe He’s God? Really?” Was the sum and substance of the rest of his remark.

I don’t know what they have been taught on the subject in the Emerald Isle, but I was definitely taught that to “take the Lord’s name in vain” is a mortal – deadly – sin.  We were also taught to use the Holy Name “sparingly” – we were taught to refer to “Our Lord” as much as possible, and only use the Holy Name when necessary. When using the Holy Name, or when hearing it, we were taught, we should bow our heads.

This evening, in a short chat with a friend in the Republic,  I mentioned this unfortunate criticism of Irish Catholics – he immediately acknowledged the truth of it and agreed that it is really quite shocking.

This thread then, is really little more than a means of making some reparation for this particular blasphemy.  Enjoy the hymn and let us know if you were taught to use the Holy Name sparingly – and whether the young people in your family (attending Catholic schools) are taught the same:  homework – ask them!

Comments (20)

  • sentirecumecclesia

    Delighted you mentioned the holy custom of bowing the head when using or hearing the Holy Name.

    I was taught this, but find myself alone when doing it now!

    Agreed that the abuse of the Holy Name (by saying it lightly) is a sin, and we must never sin. I seem to remember reading somewhere the teaching that while using the Holy Name insultingly (e.g. with bad language) is a mortal sin, using it lightly (e.g. in surprise) is generally a venial sin. I suppose it’s a question of intent. But light use is indeed sinful, and may easily become grave if deliberate disrespect is tendered to God, I imagine.

    August 18, 2021 at 9:28 pm
    • Athanasius


      I don’t see how any use of the Holy Name outside of prayer could be deemed anything short of mortal sin since it falls into the category of blasphemy. Assuming even a modest understanding of Church teaching and the Commandments, it’s hard to see how anyone could use the Holy name as an expletive of surprise unless they were carelessly accustomed to doing so. Most people use colourful metaphors (swear words) when shocked or surprised, not the Holy Name which comes only with frequent use.

      It’s a sad fact that many Catholics have been guilty of misusing the Holy Name of Jesus, especially the Irish who seem culturally adept at it. It’s something that sends shivers down my spine, I’m afraid. I don’t understand how any professing Catholic, or well intentioned Protestant for that matter, could ever be free with this kind of blasphemy under any circumstances unless they are either very badly educated in matters religious or just completely void of supernatural faith.

      August 18, 2021 at 11:24 pm
      • editor


        I think – seeing what has happened in Ireland in the past fifty or so years – that Irish Catholics have definitely NOT been well educated in the Faith. That’s now, sadly, a given.

        I’m interested that you say even well-intentioned Protestants would not misuse the Holy Name by careless use, and I agree – it was a very well-intentioned Protestant gentleman who raised the issue with me, as per the conversation which I reported in the above introduction. He was rightly appalled at hearing Irish Catholics in particular, behaving in this way – and certain other Catholics regarding it as comical.

        Hopefully, this thread will make anyone who has fallen into this habit, think again. It is such a serious matter that it features in the Ten Commandments: Thou shalt not take the Name of the Lord thy God in vain.

        August 19, 2021 at 8:49 am
      • Laura

        It is especially disappointing to hear Irish Catholics abusing the Holy Name – I know Ireland has gone to the dogs in recent years but somehow I still expect them to be better than that.

        August 19, 2021 at 9:36 am
    • editor


      Yes, it’s sad to see that the custom of bowing the head has apparently died out. Prior to the current crisis, we would be reminded of this custom in sermons from time to time,

      I wonder if, by “using lightly” you mean an involuntary prayer when taken aback/”frightened” at something? That’s the only way I can interpret what you mean by “surprise” – it wouldn’t strike me as something anyone would say in response to a “nice” surprise. If it’s a genuine prayer for help, that would hardly be a sin, but I think, as Athanasius says, if we are not in the habit of using the Holy Name, we are not so likely to do that, although it might happen. We were regularly encouraged to make short prayers such as “Jesus mercy, Mary help” so obviously, those are not sinful – hence an exclamatory prayer said in – say – fright, is unlikely to displease God.

      August 19, 2021 at 8:43 am
      • sentirecumecclesia

        Yes Editor, of course a prayer of involuntary surprise would not be sinful. Careless use of the Holy Name is always a sin, of course, but I was under the impression that careless use- as in, dropping the Holy Name into conversation without thought, but without blasphemous intent- was a venial sin, whereas i insulting usage was mortally sinful. But I may be wrong, of course. Either venial or mortal sin, of course, it offends God and should not happen. Maybe the catechism book I was reading suggested that it was in itself a grave matter, but often lacked the two other criteria needed for mortal sin, viz., clear knowledge and full consent- in the case of which, then, this chat would be a work of mercy as it’s instructing the ignorant on the point. Years ago since I read anything on the point.

        August 19, 2021 at 1:58 pm
    • Josephine


      I also feel sad that the custom of bowing the head at the Holy Name has died out. It’s really such a little mark of respect that it shouldn’t be a bother to do that. When you think of the way the members of non-Christian religions have to wear dress in public to show their beliefs, and adhere to very strict rules, such a small mark of respect is not too much for Catholics to do, surely – and even other Christians. I think if well-intentioned Protestants were made aware of that custom, they would want to do it.

      August 19, 2021 at 10:25 am
      • sentirecumecclesia

        Dear Josephine, Yes, I make a point of doing it …. great to find others who do it too! When I was working with people who did it a lot, I blessed myself occasionally when they dropped the Holy Name.

        As an occasional corrective, and only when people kept doing it, the point was taken.

        August 19, 2021 at 2:01 pm
      • Athanasius

        Josephine & Sentirecumecclesia

        Another good method of stopping people from abusing the Holy Name is to say to them “is that you praying again?” They get the message!

        August 19, 2021 at 3:46 pm
      • editor


        Interesting that you should say that, I remember someone telling me that she worked alongside a colleague who took Our Lord’s name in vain. One day, she said “You know, if you asked Him nicely, He would help you with that…”

        A show stopper!

        August 19, 2021 at 4:12 pm
      • editor


        I once did that – blessed myself involuntarily when a distant cousin profaned the Holy Name. It was in quite a large company and it was so unexpected, I was completely taken aback, that I instantly blessed myself. I’m sure my less than pious relatives and family members thought I was being political, but it was an immediate, reparatory, reaction, in fact.

        Another time, some years ago, in a cinema with a group of friends, someone behind me took the Holy Name in vain. I looked at my watch, shook my head and said loudly, “In the name of (non-Christian religious leader!) when is this film going to begin?!”

        Couldn’t resist…

        August 19, 2021 at 4:18 pm
      • Athanasius


        Yes, that’s exactly how to correct people who abuse the Holy Name. If they continue after that then they are certainly culpable and will answer for it.

        August 19, 2021 at 5:28 pm
  • westminsterfly

    Yes I noticed the growing trend of misusing the Holy Name on TV shows, hence my switching to Talking Pictures and watching films from the 1950’s, when there was more respect for religion on TV. What also annoys me is the hypocrisy that none of the modern-day TV companies would use the name of mohamed in a casual or insulting way – they wouldn’t dare, but they’re quite happy to insult Our Lord and Our Lady.

    August 19, 2021 at 9:14 am
    • Laura

      Westminster Fly,

      I agree totally – if there is such a blasphemy in a film I’m watching, I let it go once, but if it happens again I switch off. Sometimes it happens when the film is well underway and I’m enjoying the story so it is maddening but it totally spoils the enjoyment. I must check out Talking Pictures – that sounds promising.

      August 19, 2021 at 9:34 am
      • Theresa Rose


        I agree that it is especially disappointing to hear Irish Catholics abusing the Holy Name, given that Ireland was once the country of saints and scholars. But, it is terrible that Catholics, no matter from which country they come – should abuse the Holy Name of Jesus.

        ‘All the rubrics of the Traditional Latin Mass illustrate our profound faith and belief in Jesus Christ – true God and true man’.

        There are 5 head bows during the Gloria of the Mass – Honouring the Holy Name of Jesus. I think that from time to time we need sermons to remind us of the Holy Name of Jesus.

        August 19, 2021 at 10:53 am
      • Margaret Mary

        Theresa Rose,

        Thanks for that link – I did not know that about the 5 head bows during the Gloria at Mass. You learn something knew every day!

        August 19, 2021 at 12:42 pm
    • Josephine

      Westminster Fly / Laura,

      I have often thought of making a collection of DVDs of my favourite films, so that I can switch to one of them is a film I’m watching contains abuse of the Holy Name. Talking Pictures is another possibility, so thanks for the idea.

      August 19, 2021 at 10:31 am
  • Margaret Mary

    In the Bible it says “at the name of Jesus every knee shall bow, in Heaven, on earth and under the earth.”

    So, that, along with the Commandment to not take the name of God in vain, is all we need to make it clear that abusing the Holy Name is not permitted and is grossly offensive to God.

    August 19, 2021 at 12:41 pm
  • Faith of Our Fathers

    ED i am certainly no Saint ,I am a Sinner, and i have to admit i do Swear, which I know I shouldn’t .But i NEVER Take the Lords name in Vain as I believe like Many others on Here it is a Mortal Sin . I also Hate to be watching a Movie and especially the name of Christ is taken in Vain as it seems to be a sort of Fashion. As for the Irish. Well the least said about them the Better. Of course we know that their are still Many Many Faithful Irish Catholics who am sure are disgusted by the Habit of taking Our Lord Jesus Christs name in vain as we are .

    August 19, 2021 at 5:13 pm
  • gabriel syme

    As we know, sadly its not only the Holy name of Jesus which is abused:

    Cardinal Cupich recently gave Democrat Mayor Lori Lightfoot – a member of African Methodist Episcopal Zion church (whatever that is) – communion at a funeral mass.

    August 20, 2021 at 9:06 pm

Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: