Liturgical “You” v. “Thou” – WDTPRS POLL ALERT!

There is a POLL at the end.

These days I have been comparing on a daily basis (sometimes on the blog) the new, or corrected ICEL prayers (in a couple revisions) with the Latin originals.  And while comparing them to the lame-duck versions still in use until Advent 2011 is only worth a chuckle, sometimes looking at old “hand missals” and more traditional translations people used for decades is fruitful.

One thing I wish the new translation had is the old “thee” and “thou” and “thy” language.

The norms of Liturgiam authenticam state that the speech of or liturgical worship should be distinct from every day speech (my emphases and comments):

27. Even if expressions should be avoided which hinder comprehension because of their excessively unusual or awkward nature, [“thou” surely isn’t that] the liturgical texts should be considered as the voice of the Church at prayer, rather than of only particular congregations or individuals;  [not merely cutting across global boundaries, but also the boundaries of time] thus, they should be free of an overly servile adherence to prevailing modes of expression. [Just because not many people say “thou” at work or home doesn’t mean we can’t say it in church.] If indeed, in the liturgical texts, words or expressions are sometimes employed which differ somewhat from usual and everyday speech, it is often enough by virtue of this very fact that the texts become truly memorable and capable of expressing heavenly realities. Indeed, it will be seen that the observance of the principles set forth in this Instruction will contribute to the gradual development, in each vernacular, of a sacred style that will come to be recognized as proper to liturgical language. [That has already happened with “thou”, etc.] Thus it may happen that a certain manner of speech which has come to be considered somewhat obsolete in daily usage may continue to be maintained in the liturgical context.

There it is.

In my opinion, the “thee” thing certain does what Liturgicam authenticam asks.  I don’t cry over the choice not to “thou” it up in the new, corrected translation.   Still… I like that sort of thing and I think others would also.

That said, most people are under the impress that “thee” and “thou” are formal.  They originally weren’t.

“Thee… thou.. thy… thine…” are familiar forms of pronouns for the second person singular used by a superior to an underling or between equals or friends.

The “you” form (derived from “ye”) is the more formal.

It was the use of “thou” and not “you” for the  second-person singular pronoun in Early Modern English translations of the Bible which gave “thou” etc. the solemn and formal feeling it has now.  In other words, over time those translation turned “thou” on its head and made it’s connotation the opposite of what it had before.  Unless  you are Amish or Quaker you don’t hear the familiar impact of “thou”.  You hear something formal.

My point is that the impact of “thou” for most people is now solemn and formal and venerable.

In traditional prayers (Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed by Thy name…) we address God with a familiar, intimate form.   Think of the ruckus that would result if we forced Catholics to say “Our Father, who are in heaven, let your Name be holy”.

I grant that thou wouldst raise an eyebrow or two at the bowling alley with thy peeps if thou didst shift to “thou”:

“It being the tenth frame and since thou hadst a strike, thrice canst thou bowl.  Take thou up thy ball and bowl thou, already, ‘cause I gotta go home.”

That last phrase shows some lame-duck ICEL influence, but I think you get my drift.

In the lame-duck Sacramentary now in use ICEL improperly provided “Alternative Prayers” having nothing to do with Latin edition, which has no alternative opening prayers.

Too bad we can’t have alternative prayers in the new, corrected translation with the “thee”s and “thou”s.

I know you will have your own opinion.

Here is a WDTPRS POLL.  You don’t have to be registered to vote.

Choose your best answer and then, if you are a registered user, give your reasons in the combox.    Let people speak their piece without engaging with them or arguing with them.  But please stick to the topic.

You v. Thou in our liturgical prayer

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About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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  1. RichR says:

    I was a member of an Anglican Use Catholic Church, and the hieratic English gave the worship a seriousness that is lacking at many Masses offered in conversational English. While I wouldn’t bring this language into private individual prayer, it is entirely appropriate for liturgical worship which should be celebrated with dignity and due decorum.

  2. anj says:


    The new Anglican Ordinariate liturgy will almost certainty arrive with the thees and thous intact. This can provide an “on the ground” example for future liturgical reforms of the Roman rite.

  3. RichR says:

    Actually, now that I think about it, I pray the Rosary with the Thee’s and Thou’s……… I guess what I am saying is that it is not something I’d bring to my conversational prayers in private.

  4. I voted for the Latin NO, we don’t have to worry about ICEL or getting caught up in the translation wars. If people want the lame duck translation on the side of the missal, they can have it. No more “God we need your help” or “God fill our hearts with your love” This problem wouldn’t exist if we just used the Latin…

  5. JFrater says:

    Father Z – in New Zealand at the New Mass, the Our Father is now said exclusively without thee or thou – it was forced on the Church by the Bishops. There wasn’t a ruckus at all – at most you occasionally hear someone still using the old form admist a sea of voices using the new so-called ecumenical one.

  6. Random Friar says:

    I prefer Thee and Thou and Thine (notice the capitalization). To be brief, it seems to me that this rings in our ears as God being Other, and that our prayers are elevated in language while humbling in the petitioner. I have nothing against interjectory or petitionary prayers in daily language, but if we lose the transcendental Other from the Mass, we devolve to a fairly benign God fan club.

    Regardless. in public prayer, I will follow what Rome and the bishops give us. I am an ‘i’ more than an ‘I’ when it comes to setting policy!

  7. Golatin5048 says:

    I voted to bring back the Thou and get rid of the you.

    I really feel it will make us think and reflect more about the mystery of the Holy Mass. Although I am a devote person to the Latin, I think we need to keep a English mass. I can see great things coming from it as long as it is correct translation.

  8. catholicmidwest says:

    It’s interesting what a huge response this gets.

  9. VetusMores says:

    Well, Father, you took the Thees right out of my mouth. Whenever folks complain about the archaic language and how “no one talks like that,” I simply ask them to recite the Lord’s Prayer — or grace before meals. If liturgy is an art form, why not use Shakespearean language?

    By the way, I voted for Latin, because for me, it places greater emphasis on the mystery. Elizabethan English certainly “elevates” the proceedings from the banal language of everyday life, but it’s still English. And its words change meaning over time.

  10. JMGDD says:

    I was raised a conservative Lutheran, and moved into high church Anglicanism, both of which retained the familiar address. When I became Catholic in my late teens, the use of “you” was very jarring and took some getting used to. I still use “thou” in traditional prayers, because I learned them that way, but now that I think of it, I use “you” when praying in my own words. Odd, I guess. I am blessed to have an FSSP parish nearby, but I voted to bring back “thou” so that on the occasions I do attend the OF it wouldn’t be so jarring once again.

  11. AnAmericanMother says:

    The “Thou”s were jettisoned in TEC when the new BCP came in in the 70s (after a horrendous period of ‘experimental’ BCPs – the “grey book” and the “blue book” and the “green book”, all with aggressively modern language).

    It was not a change for the better. In my opinion, it removed an element of holiness, mystery and “otherness” from the liturgy, and encouraged a more casual attitude towards worship in general.

    This seems also to have been the case in the Catholic Church, although we weren’t here for the switchover.

    In my personal prayer, I’m still Theeing and Thouing and always have. Never made the switch (you will also occasionally hear me saying the “old” Anglican Nicene Creed, as it’s permanently engraved on my hard drive and if I get started on that track it’s hard to get off. Old habits die hard, and when you really prefer the old as well, they don’t die at all.) Odd that the Anglican Creed is (a) closer to the Latin; (b) closer to the new translation. I still think “being of one substance with the Father,” but obviously tracking the Latin with “consubstantial” is the same sort of difference that one repeatedly observes between the KJV and the Douay . . . . Cranmer having determined that he would never use a Latin cognate where he could shoehorn in Good Old English. . . .

    Hopefully an influx of Anglicans with the old BCP will help people realize what they are missing.

  12. Mitchell NY says:

    I wish I could vote for 2 of them…Yes I voted to retain or go back to “thou”, but at the same time think Liturgy should be in Latin. Maybe one choice should have been Latin first and foremost for Mass and when vernacular translations are unavoidable, Thou, thee etc. will be used. Since it does appear in the Our Father Prayer, I also think it is appropriate in at least one other place. That being “And with THY Spirit”…It is so repeated during every Mass, that it would become second nature quickly and at the same time does retain a sense of sacral language appropriate for Liturgy. In that phrase alone it may set the tone for a future intoduction of a more formal (once informal words we tend to think of as formal), and sacral words by building on the few there. I think “thy” in this case would have been accepted without much fuss, and without it being spread throughout the whole Missal in different phraseology which would have probably led to an uproar amongst people against the new translation. I think it could have been slipped in, that’s my 2 cents. Merry Christmas to all !

  13. AnAmericanMother says:


    I disagree — one of the best results of using the Elizabethan English is that it does NOT change over time. The best source is the 1549 BCP (which is Edwardine actually I suppose), although most of the language is repeated in the 1559 and 1662, with some emendations to remove the protestant excesses of Edward’s advisors. I believe the Anglican Use removes the rest of the problematic text, but unfortunately the altered sections are far too modern to mesh seamlessly with the old.

    Personally, I would like to see somebody undertake a translation of the relevant parts of the old Sarum Rite into a consciously 17th-century style (one of our local Anglican High Church parishes in Atlanta did just that – not sure what if any permission was obtained, this is a very ‘low’ diocese so I think they were just operating as a law unto themselves). But that sort of re-translation would give us a seamless whole that would be as unamenable to ongoing changes as the original 1662 Book.

  14. Geoffrey says:

    I voted: “You” only. “Thou” is nostalgia or archeology.

    Perhaps it is my age, but I think the Lord’s Prayer and the Hail Mary are one thing. Old English for the entire Mass and readings is quite another. A member of my family has a bit of a rather deep-rooted fear of reading the Bible because she once tried to and it was filled with “thee” and “thou” language. Why risk scaring people off?

    It’s one thing to have a hand missal for when Mass is in Latin. I could easily see people requiring a hand missal in “modern” English in order to understand a Mass in “old” English! When I attend Mass in the Extraordinary Form with my Baronius Press Missal, I usually get lost when reading the archaic English and find myself relying more on the Latin!

    However, there are times when “thee” and “thou” can be appropriate, such as in an old hymn. One of the drawbacks of the new ‘Liturgy of the Hours’ for the Church in Africa is that they “updated” many of the vernacular hymns and replaced “thee” and “thou” with “you”, etc. Ordinarily I wouldn’t mind, but in this case, it ruins the poetic-rhyming nature of the hymns themselves.

    So… when translating something anew, don’t even think of “thee” and “thou”, but if it is already in something time-honoured (like the Lord’s Prayer and Hail Mary) or necessary for rhyming, then keep it. Just my two cents :-)

  15. Jack Orlando says:

    I voted for the Thee-Thou-Thy-Thine. Slavishly accurate?:

    Our Father Who are in the skies,
    May Your Name be made holy.
    May Your Kingdom come.
    May Your will be done, as in the Sky, so on the Earth.
    Give to us today our bread for the morrow;
    and forgive us our debts, as we too forgive our debtors;
    and do not lead us into the test, but free us from the evil one.

    So I guess that means I prefer the King Jimmy Version of the prayer, although I think “debts/debtors” is better than “trespasses/trespass against us”.

    I’ve been told that when Americans attend Mass in England, and the King Jimmy Our Father begins, Americans get lost, because the cadence of British English differs from American. True?

  16. elaurier says:

    My mother recently gave me her prayerbook, “Blessed Be God”, copyright 1925, that is filled with beautiful old prayers that all employ the thee, thou, etc. Sometimes I have to stop and mentally “rewrite” a prayer in my head so I can make sure I know what I’m praying about, and who the Thou and Thee are referring to at that point in a prayer. But I like it. I use this book every day and would love to see this type of language used during Mass all the time.

  17. I voted for Latin, for the reasons Bl. John XXIII set forth in Veterum Sapientia.

    And I’m with Random Friar on one thing: I want to see a return of the capitalization of all pronouns that refer to God.

    Miss Anita Moore, O.P.

  18. gloriainexcelsis says:

    I have always considered that, when I pray any liturgy, the thees and thous seem most appropriate. Just as genuflecting, bowing the head, striking the breast, making the Sign of the Cross, etc., are ways to emphasize that we are not at the local mall to buy a pair of shoes, so should our prayerful conversations, requests, atonements and thanksgivings be separated from our everyday idiom. I know that God, His Holy Mother and the Saints will hear even our low speech, but it just seems – lacking somehow.

  19. samgr says:

    We sang “O Come, O Come Emmanuel” at mass this morning, a real hymn for a change. At any rate, old-timers in general sang the last line as “shall ransom thee, O Israel”; the majority sang “shall ransom you.”

  20. MikeJH says:

    I prefer Thee, Thou, Thine, etc. These are the terms I use when I pray the Rosary every day. At the least, I think You and Your should be capitalized when they are used to refer to God.

    Two other minor annoyances to me are the newer translations of Psalm 23, and not including “St.” or “Saint” in prayers for a saint on his/her feast day, etc. I’ve never heard of an explanation for why we say “The Gospel according to Luke” versus “The Gospel according to Saint Luke”.

    Thanks for all you do Fr. Z.

  21. jmgazzoli says:

    Though I do think Latin only should be the norm, I went with the first choice of thee and thou. While I agree that it is solemn and liturgical language, an addition reason for me is that it more accurately reflects the original Latin, which distinguishes between the 2nd person singular and the 2nd person plural, a distinction which has been unfortunately lost in modern English (unless one makes use of y’all).

  22. Girgadis says:

    I prefer thee, thou and thine because they sound more formal and convey a reverence and respect that you does not. On the occasions when I pray the Rosary in community with others, I always find it jarring to hear someone say “Your Will be done” or “the Lord is with you”. I voted for the first option but quite honestly, would have no objection to returning strictly to Latin with translations provided.

  23. Gail F says:

    I prefer the thee/thou words in the “big” prayers (“Hail Mary… the Lord is with you” drives me nuts) but I would not want to see it everywhere. As you said, “thee/thou/thine” etc. is now considered formal, not informal as it originally was. And that makes things tricky. So I voted for the alternate prayers scenario.

    By the same token, the Glory Be version that says “is now and will be forever” really drives me nuts too! “and ever shall be” is MUCH more beautiful, and why would we not want to sound beautiful?

  24. Gail F says:

    Jack Orlando: I don’t remember noticing a difference when I attended masses in England one summer, but I do remember being thrown when, in the movie “Master and Commander,” Jack says the Lord’s prayer and does not pause where we pause here in America. But I don’t remember what it was. Time to watch the DVD again!

  25. Fr. Basil says:

    I was raised as a Southern Baptist, and therefore on the KJV. At the time, even the RSV was suspect.

    However, unless one can handle this diction with all the grace of the three spiritual monuments of the English language–namely the KJV, classical Book of Common Prayer, and Douay-Rheims Bible–one is best leaving it alone and using contemporary forms.

    There is more to this style than obsolete pronouns and funny verb endings. It’s an entirely different vocabulary as well.

    It has been my misfortune to have to deal with poorly translated Orthodox liturgical texts that blend the second person pronoun with modern third person verbs: Thou sees, Thou knows, and the like.

    On a pastoral level, the older idiom is problematic in both Orthodox and Byzantine Catholic (generic), as many of the parishioners have English as a second language. Is it charitable to throw linguistic stumbling blocks at their feet?

    As I said, I’m used to this style, but a lot of people are not. St. Paul said that those of us with no scruples on such adiaphora should always yield to those who have them.

    BTW–For those of you who think “You who” sounds awkward liturgically (no pun intended), remember that when Greek and Aramaic were replaced by Latin in Rome, this doubtless sounded horrible as well to many of the old guard.

    Think about it.

  26. lousaint says:

    It seems like the premise of translation directives (especially Comme le prevoit, but I think even Liturgiam Authenticam to a degree) is that the vernacular liturgy can or should create a vernacular sacral vocabulary ex nihilo, when, in fact, English already has such a vocabulary, which everyone recognizes, found in the archaic forms of the King James Bible, the Book of Common Prayer (or for Catholics, the traditional forms of vernacular prayers and the Douay-Rheims). One would think that smart inculturation would make use of this rather then thinking that we operate in a vacuum where we have to start from scratch.

    Still, I voted that I’m more concerned with accuracy. I think–especially after a couple of generations of Bible translations and liturgy that use “You”–it’s quite possible to make a formal and reverent translation using the more modern forms, and (seconding Fr. Basil) I do find attempts to mix “Thee” and “Thou” in with more modern language (e.g. the Revised Standard Version) somewhat artificial and awkward. I would want the archaic language used consistently rather than just having special pronouns for God.

  27. Felicia says:

    I’m a representative of the potayto potahto camp. I wouldn’t go changing the Our Father or the Hail Mary, but I don’t necessarily insist on thee and thou everywhere either.

  28. AnAmericanMother says:


    Actually they muffed the Lord’s Prayer in “Master and Commander”.

    It should have said “Our Father which art in heaven.” That was the 1662 BCP form until changed quite recently.

  29. TJerome says:

    I fall somewhat in the middle on this issue. First of all, I prefer the Mass celebrated in Latin (OF or EF). That being said, I would not want to inject into the American NO, random thee’s or thou’s but would not want to see the thee’s or thou’s omitted in the Pater Noster since it has come down to us this way. However, I do strenuously object to the omission or thee’s or thou’s in the musical context in a hymn, such as O Come O Come Emmanuel, because it affects the cadence, musicality, and artistic value of the work.

  30. AnAmericanMother says:

    Fr. Basil,

    I think the solution for poor or iffy translations is not just to give up and quit.
    It is quite possible to learn the proper forms for 17th century English with a minimum of fuss. The vocabulary is a little difficult in places, but not impossible. I have an unfair advantage, having been raised on the old 1928 BCP and singing the English anthem repertoire since age 6, but our mostly cradle-Catholic choir at our current parish has had no trouble learning the idioms in Anglican chant and the English anthems.
    It’s not like people are stupid, whatever their first language may be — I do not speak a word of French and can barely read a wine list, but I was certainly able to learn to sing the Faure’ “Cantique de Jean Racine” with a little coaching from a French-speaking friend. Nor can I speak Old Church Slavonic, but our choirmaster had a Russian-born friend in to coach us all in “Bogoroditsie Dievo” and he pronounced us fit for public consumption.
    Many people seem to think John and Mary Catholic are borderline idiots who are incapable of learning anything, even to the glory of God. My experience is that if you challenge people with enthusiasm and joy, and don’t put them down or expect them to fail, they will rise to the occasion and have a splendid time learning new things. I have enjoyed myself immensely learning to read Gregorian notation and exploring the Catholic repertoire that I didn’t encounter back in my Episcopalian days. Of course we have a delightful music director who is always encouraging and never puts us poor amateurs down.

  31. Tony Layne says:

    Fr. Basil brings up a good point. We’ve all been working on the assumption that bringing back the second-person familiar would come with the appropriate verb conjugations (I bring, thou bringest, he bringeth …). But it’s really a matter for the ear. In the Lord’s Prayer we have now, the verbs don’t have the more archaic endings, but I’m not sure if that’s because we’re using the imperative rather than the declarative. I’m all for Thee/Thou/Thy/Thine, both because it feels and sound more formal, and because it is more intimate.

  32. EoinOBolguidhir says:

    I like thou/thee/thine (hmm, I hear George Harrison singing that) in the context of the Mass, but I find when I am reciting the Office, it kind of gets in the way.

  33. Dorcas says:

    I like the thees and thous more when I keep in mind their original connotations. It would be a tough sell if the renewal of these forms is aimed solely at evoking grandeure and awe, which can be experienced as distanting. Framed in this way, thees and thous may well be resisted. They would likely be better received if their connotations of closeness and intimacy were made more generally known. That is what the modern religious sensibility tends to crave anyway (familiar closeness with God rather than fearful awe) for so many reasons, many of them quite legitimate in an age suffering from depersonalized alienation and familial breakdown. By preserving this older connotation God is understood in truth to be closer to us than any human person could ever be. Just as lovers have their own special way to speak to each other, marking their intimacy with each other, so we have a special language for speaking to God, which marks our relationship as closer and deeper than any human intimacy.

  34. AnAmericanMother says:


    The verb form matches in the only place where it appears (e.g. “who (or which) art”).
    And if the old form of the doxology were used, it would have “thine” as well.

    Unless the prayer is descriptive rather than petitionary, the verbs just don’t crop up. The Psalms are a better example – just thinking of the anthem from Psalm 145 – “The eyes of all wait upon thee; and thou givest them their meat in due season. Thou openest thine hand, and satisfiest the desire of every living thing.”
    The Jean Berger setting is pretty good, and that’s the one you find all over YouTube, but I like the Gerald Near setting much better — you can hear it here:
    — even though it’s credited to Jean Berger!

  35. JMody says:

    For emphasis — English “thou” is exactly equivalent to German “du”, Spanish/French/Portuguese “tu” — and you don’t have to work very hard to see it. And yes, the sense of informality has been inverted through Scripture, but there is also a sense of love and dearness and intimacy — “du/tu” is not a stranger, it is almost always someone you know and respect and cherish. That is preserved by “thou” even in the Scriptural/reverent flavor it has now. But through eliminatin it, we are losing this. God is now just one of “you” — or is that “y’all”?

    The great trick worked by this change is the OBLITERATION of any sense of “verticality” of God being a superior or even, HORROR, a Supreme being. At what point does this continued “sloppiness” rise to the level of actionable offense?

  36. Jayna says:

    I went with using “thee” and “thou,” etc. in alternative prayers. I’d prefer it to be the other way around, though, with “you” and the like as alternatives to the standard with what we now understand to be more formal language. Ideally, it would be all formal, but we all know that’s not going to fly and some people are going to use familiar language whether it’s there or not. So my answer is based more on practicality than wishful thinking.

    At any rate, I’ve always wondered why we can’t have the more formal language in the rest of the Mass when it is in the Our Father and the Hail Mary (for those churches that use it on a regular basis). I’ve never known anyone to suffer any lasting damage from it.

  37. Can we also capitalize pronouns referring to God while we are at it?

  38. Geoffrey says:

    “Can we also capitalize pronouns referring to God while we are at it?”

    Who decides whether to do that or not? ICEL? Other translators? Was there some official “decision” a few decades ago to do away with this? How does this work in non-English languages, particularly Latin?

  39. spock says:

    I have to admit that for some things, I am used to the thee, thy, and thou’s. I wish I wasn’t. To go from Latin -> The King’s English -> Modern English makes no sense to me. St. Joseph Missal for myself. Don’t understand the nostalgia. Sacred Languages (Latin, Greek, Hebrew) are one thing, the King’s English is another. There is a quote from the late physicist Richard Feyman that goes something like, “you could know the name of a bird in 70 diifferent languages and still know nothing about the bird.” Much wisdom there. Sacred Languages should be excluded from that saying in my opinion. The King’s English isn’t a new language but it is an added complication IMHO.

    What we really need is a missal in Morse Code !! :)

  40. Reginald Pole says:

    In the Book of Divine Worship which is used in the United States by Roman Catholics in the Anglican Usage, both forms of a prayer are given:
    I. We beseech thee, Almighty God, to purify our consciences
    by thy daily visitation, that when thy Son our Lord cometh
    he may find in us a mansion prepared for himself; through
    the same Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth
    with thee, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and
    for ever. Amen.
    II. Purify our conscience, Almighty God, by your daily
    visitation, that your Son Jesus Christ, at his coming, may
    find in us a mansion prepared for himself; who lives and
    reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God,
    now and for ever. Amen.

  41. Denis Crnkovic says:

    I prefer Mass in Latin (TLM). But I voted for “thee”and “thou”because they were the norm fifty years ago. When the priest read the Epistle and Gospel in English at Sunday Mass they were read from the Douay translations. Moreover, all of the common prayers and hymns and carols used the second person singular forms (as well as the older plural “ye”)– the phrases “or sought thine intercession” and “O,come all ye faithful” come to mind. There is a lot to be said for a formalized liturgical language. How many readers remember that, when he finished reading the Gospel in English before the Sunday sermon, the celebrant would say, “Thus far the words of today’s Holy Gospel”? I could come up with a bajillion examples of liturgical language that was simply tossed out as old-fashioned by a bunch of poorly educated and arrogant reformers. The removal of liturgical English from the Catholic Church was as bad as the removal of liturgical Latin. It was a great cultural upheaval and few people realize just how harmful the wanton destruction of traditional language was.

  42. I never realized that the “alternative opening prayer” was an ICEL invention. I learn something new almost every day.

    The idea might not be bad though– some days the abuses are so bad I wish I could have an alternative priest. On some particularly bad occasions I have even been pushed into an alternative parish. I often wish I could get back to an alternative universe where things aren’t as bad as they are in this one.

  43. JARay says:

    When I was a boy there were still people around me who used thou, thee, thine, thy in everyday speech. I did’nt but I had no difficulty at all in understanding those who did. I much, much prefer to use these words in prayer. The comment by JFrater that in New Zealand they have completely messed up the Our Father but nobody complained reminded me that I visited that country and when I attended Mass (this word should always, always, always begin with a CAPITAL LETTER!!!!!), in Queenstown, the congregation was presented with this apology for the Our Father on a white-board.
    I bristled immediately!
    In my loudest voice possible, I said it properly and if I ever go there again, which is unlikely, I will register my complaint to all and sundry, especially the local bishop who lives, it seems, in Dunedin.

  44. Maria says:


    I voted for Thou Thee and Thine.
    I always think for example that ‘Thine’ for example, sounds right when addressing The Trinity as opposed to ‘your’ which could be addressing ‘one’ person.
    Also, I learnt the Our Father in the traditional way as a child and like to keep it that way.

    I notice that someone pointed out The Rosary is prayed in the traditional language and had not thought of that before.

    I also like what someone else pointed out that these words begin with a capital. Its respectful to address The Lord in this way I think.

    Even if it is changed, I shall still recite my rosary and the Our Father in the old language – it’s more poetic and creative to me, and I feel comfortable using the old language for prayer; a reminder that how we address The King is very special and not our usual address.

  45. Precentrix says:


    Latin, Latin, Latin.

    Apart from everything else, there are Masses celebrated in three vernacular languages in our parish church – English, Polish and Portuguese (spoken by none of the clergy) – and the people in the pews also speak various others (French, Italian… I think there are some Philipinos now, a handful of Goans and the odd one or two from someplace in Africa). It strikes me as very silly. Celebrating all the Masses in Latin and teaching people how to use a missal would make far more sense.

    But if we must use English, then ‘Thee’ and ‘Thou’, or ‘thee’ and ‘thou’ please – if not for any other reason, it helps to distinguish between the singular ‘thou’ and the plural ‘you’, even if Y should probably be pronounced ‘th’…

  46. prairie says:

    I’m a convert and it drives me nuts that so many of the hymns I learned with “thee” and “thou” I now have to relearn with “you”. Blech.

  47. pelerin says:

    I bought a British Catholic diary a couple of weeks ago and was surprised to see both the Memorare prayer and the Hail Holy Queen both using the ‘you’ form. Has it been change in Britain without us being told? I agree with Maria and others that Thou Thee and Thine is the language of prayer and should remain special in this way.
    In France curiously the Our father went from using the Vous form to the more familiar Tu form some years ago whereas the Hail Mary – Je vous salue Marie – occasionally now gets said by some Priests using the Tu form. I am comfortable saying Tu in the Our Father but not in the Je vous salue Marie although I don’t have any difficulty with it in Latin and would wish to retain the Thee form in the English too. Not logical I know.

  48. Cazienza Puellae says:

    I voted for Latin, but on the rare occasions when a vernacular Mass is offered, the English pronouns should be the older thee/thy/thou/thine forms. I find the idea that English actually uses the informal pronouns to address God a wonderful and commendable one. It should not be tossed aside.

  49. rakesvines says:

    Even in contemporary, not archaic, Spanish there is the respectful you – “Usted” vs. the casual you “te”. Why can’t English be extended with the same distinction for the Divine Persons and use “Thou” instead of “you” that is used for human persons?

  50. trentecoastal39 says:

    I Voted for “Thou” “Thine” Etc…
    (Because We Need To Give God,The Respect He deserves The Most!!! He’s No Ordinary Friend or Dad! That’s Just My Opinion)
    As Father Z Said,If we are Not Content with The Translation,We Might as Well Get Back to Latin!!

  51. Thomas in MD says:

    I voted for Latin only because I have a cold and am feeling particularly contrary. This is cold #2 this season and the last one was on Thanksgiving; now I will be sick for Christmas too: Wahhh!

    I am really ok with any translation that is acurate. “Thees” and “thous” are fine, but I HATE the “-st” 2nd singular ending on verbs. “Art” is ok since “Thou are” sounds dumb.

  52. irishgirl says:

    I prefer the Thees, Thys and Thous. It sounds more respectful.

  53. Martial Artist says:

    Thees and thous most definitely. I find the use of Elizabethan language very helpful as an aid in attaining the degree of reverence and the detachment from quotidian ways of thinking and speaking, which I require to worship God effectively. It alters my frame of mind. The alternative everyday modern English is, to my ears, deadening, even if it does avoid the incontestable irreverence of “dude” or “bro.” That said, I also have no objection to simply using Latin, because it serves a similar purpose—aiding me in being consciously aware that I am encountering God.

    Pax et bonum,
    Keith Töpfer

  54. asophist says:

    I am in complete agreement with Martial Artist. I could not have said it better. I attend only the TLM in my parish every week, so don’t hear the “You” and “Your” stuff, anyway. My hand missal is an old one which has the “Thee” and “Thou” all over the place. I wouldn’t have it any other way. I have prayed with people who have substituted the “thee” and “thy” for “you” and “your” in the Hail Mary and other prayers. It jarred on me. Their excuse was that they were taught the prayers that way. We need a new teaching moment in the Church to get back to the proper, familiar, uses. To me, it seems an insult to God, an attempt to distance Him from us, by using “You” and “Your”, etc.

  55. Dave N. says:

    I voted no to “thee” “thou” etc. Even though it’s extremely clear in the blog post, most of the comments above show that people will continue in their confusion by equating “thou” with formality and honorific language and “you” with informality–when the actual case is just the opposite. No amount of catechesis will ever fix that. And it makes me think that people have never read the famous book “I and Thou”.

  56. Sacred Liturgy and Divine Worship deserve sacred language and sacred vocabulary. Likewise, there is a sacred dialect or speech one ought to employ to differentiate the sacred from the profane (secular). Banal and pedestrian verbiage tend to de-divinize and lend to an exaggerated exaltation of the human.

  57. IanW says:

    Jack Orlando said:

    I’ve been told that when Americans attend Mass in England, and the King Jimmy Our Father begins, Americans get lost, because the cadence of British English differs from American. True?

    It does, Jack, most noticably in its liturgical form. This is perhaps most evident in the “Our Father” which, in its traditional British English form, displays a distinctive tonal fall and rise of phrase (the opening tone is higher than the closing one), and the typical placing of an “mmn” sound before vowels that begin phrases.

    It is difficult to convey this in print, so you may like to follow this link to YouTube, where you will find an example of the style. It is a sermon and biblical quotation, rather than the Our Father, provided by a rather low church padre who doesn’t quite manage the appropriate tonal range, but you’ll get the idea:—eGk&feature=related

  58. pelerin says:

    IanW – thanks for the link to the Allan Bennet sketch – very funny and some vicars really did speak like that. I can’t speak for today though. I remember being impressed when I first started to attend Mass finding out that the Priests actually spoke normally and not in the C of E sing song affected voices I had been used to. I do wonder what American viewers will make of the Bennett sketch!

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