Using the Lord’s Name in Vain

Mary said: “Those who drive the carts cannot swear without introducing the name of my Son.”

01 name of namesAfter deploring her people's profanation of the Lord's Day, Mary in her discourse at La Salette signals out another evil that is universal in our day, "the profanation of his Sacred Name." "These are the two things," she says, "which make the arm of my Son so heavy." Thus the Mother of God recalls to our mind two commandments:

“You shall not invoke the name of the Lord, your God, in vain. For the Lord will not leave unpunished anyone who invokes his name in vain. Remember the sabbath day – keep it holy” (Exodus 20:7-8).

It is typical of the perversity and blindness of God’s people that we misuse that blessed name by which all graces are obtained. We are so careful about our own name and the good name of those we love; and sometimes so careless about the Holy Name that belongs to One who is infinitely more worthy of our love and reverence than all the world besides.

That Name Above Every Other Name

That is the same name with which we are signed in Baptism at the dawn of our life on earth; that name with which we begin and end all our prayers; that name with which every Sacrament of the Church is administered; and with which our eyes shall be closed in death; that Sacred Name is used by men as a by-word and an epithet. Some queer twist of human nature seems to have long ago decided that in moments of anger and impatience, disappointment or chagrin, there is relief to be found in calling down infamously that Name, at the mention of which “every knee should bend” (Philippians 2:10) in love and reverence.

Profanity and Disrespect of the Name

There is perhaps no habit more universal than the practice of profanity. Whether we listen to those “who drive carts” or to supposedly cultured people in the higher walks of life, everywhere we find our conversation generously punctuated with irreverent mention of the names of God, our Divine Savior and his Blessed Mother. In the mill and the office, at work and at play, in the quiet of the home and along the busy street, those names fall lightly and carelessly from human lips as if they had no wondrous significance and importance for us.
02 name of names
Nor is this deplorable habit restricted to a criminal or ruffian class who lower all they touch; but in so-called polite society, profanity is employed on the false assumption that it makes for realistic and colorful language. Even good people, respected for their moral integrity and their loyalty to the Catholic Faith, are addicted to this contemptible habit of desecrating the Sacred Name, and they smugly excuse themselves on the plea that “they don't mean any harm.”

The Habit of Foul Language

The great pity is that, whether they mean it or not, they do succeed in causing untold harm by the scandal they give to others, and especially to the young. How many youngsters contract this bad habit at an early age precisely because a family member or perhaps a neighbor used profanity in their presence? Children in those impressionable years have a proneness to imitate their elders, and repeat their expressions, on the false assumption that adult years are synonymous with wisdom.

And so the habit of profanity, more contagious than a physical ailment, is transmitted to the younger generation, which in turn will do the honors for children yet unborn. Is it any wonder that boys and girls of high school age think it smart to use profanity, taking the Lord's Name in vain with a glibness and frequency that astound their elders, who are perhaps equally guilty?

Thou Shalt Zip Thy Lips

03 name of namesCustom may harden us to this baneful habit, so that in the end we lose all sense of the malice involved; but God never grows accustomed to sin. Nor does the fact that the habit of profanity is so widespread and common a failing make it less offensive to Almighty God.

To the undying shame of humans the basest ingratitude must be recorded: that he avails himself of one of his greatest gifts to decry God, the Giver. Is it any wonder that Mary says to us at La Salette: "It is this which makes the arm of my Son so heavy." The one discordant note in creation's hymn of praise to God comes from the lips of rational people who alone are capable of articulate sound.

The constant, meaningless calling down of those Sacred Names will end in their losing all significance for us; and when the Names "God" and "Jesus Christ" become devoid of meaning, then will our life be hopeless and empty, worse off than the brute beasts of the field who at least fulfill their purpose in the designs of the Creator…

(Reprinted from the La Salette Publication, Our Lady’s Missionary, May 1935, pg. 75)

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