QUAERITUR: “Thee” instead of “you” in the form for baptism

From a reader:

I understand that there is a number of traslations of the traditional
form of Baptism, which can be used instead of the Latin.

However some translate the baptism as “I baptize you” while others “I
baptize thee”

It may sound trivial, but one can never be to sure about this one.

Are they both valid and licit?

Yes, both “you” and “thee” are fine. The form of baptism is valid if either are used.

“Thee” is the object of “thou”, which was the singular to the plural “ye”. “Thou” evolved to express familiarity, while “ye” or “you” became more formal, in a way similar to German “du” and “sie”, Italian “tu” and “voi” or “Lei”, etc. In religious

Of course the priest could simply use Latin.

But saying “I baptize thee… “, or “I absolve thee…”, would be valid.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. ghp95134 says:

    Then, Father, would it be acceptable for me to respond, “And with thy spirit”? It just rolls off the tongue soooooo much easier. I’m so used to using archaeic forms as …Thy will… and …blessed art thou… … all which are much easier on the tongue AND ear….

    Thank you,

  2. ghp95134 says:

    post scriptum: Of course, I’d much rather say et cum Spiritu tuo.


  3. jflare says:

    ..Heaven help me if we insist on re-using thee, thy, thou, and ye a lot. I detest King James in particular because he insists on using those constantly…… [Hey wait! If the King James Bible was good enough for Jesus, it’s good enough for us, right?]
    Let’s simply use Latin.

  4. Random Friar says:

    Although in English I would personally prefer “And with thy spirit,” we do need to be somewhat consistent in Saying the Black.

  5. ray from mn says:

    Is it true that Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion are being cross-trained as Language Cops to walk up and down the aisles during the Mass, starting next week, to enforce the responses of the Roman Missal?

  6. catholicmidwest says:

    Interesting thread. Early pronoun declension in the English language followed the same pattern as other Indo-European languages, such as German and French, as Fr. Z. points out. In modern usage, English has been streamlined somewhat, and one of the many consequences of that is that some of the pronoun declension structure has been dropped, as have many verb endings, ie. hast, givest in the parallel verb conjugations, etc.

    The familiar “you” has been retained in a few local dialects as a form of familiarity, and in some modern religious contexts as both a form of intimacy and a form denoting being “set apart,” although perhaps the original usage, upon which this practice is drawn, didn’t have quite this connotation in the same way as it seems to do now, since then it was a part of speech regularly meaning familiarity, and now has this other meaning in a more or less isolated fashion from the rest of modern usage. This effect is probably due to its use in various Bible translations, prayer books and Shakespearean works that have been retained in English literature.

    The only thing that you have to watch if you want to use one of these pronoun forms is the conjugation of the verb that goes with the pronoun. If you’re not really careful, and you’re using it extemporaneously, you can make a mistake and come off sounding a little like Mel Brooks or Monty Python, since most people aren’t used to this kind of archaic English and don’t have an ear for it.

  7. catholicmidwest says:

    Ray, probably not. It could be something that’s going on in your local area.

    Don’t get me wrong: I’m personally 100% behind the new translations. I’ve prayed for this for years. But on the extraordinary minister qua cop business, personally I’d be more amused by it than insulted. The thought is just plain hilarious, given the track record of extraordinary ministers in the USA, who can’t seem to keep directives from the Holy See straight for three minutes in a stretch. And um, what are they planning on doing if you make a mistake? Pull your ear or make you sit in the corner? Talk about external locus of control!! If you have “extraordinary ministers” in your locale who think they are up to being liturgy police, I submit to you that maybe your local “extraordinary ministers” have been allowed to become a little bit too big for their britches.

    A far better method would be to give people ample textual aids such as pew cards or little booklets from the parish copy machine, with kind encouragement from the front to say the proper responses. People will do much better with this if they are allowed to learn at a rational pace, and if they are not left wondering what to say because they don’t have textual aids, which is the #1 reason why people don’t get these things right the first time they try. Will there be a few mistakes? Yup, call it the learning curve. Will there be a few stubborn folks? Undoubtedly, but they will eventually conform if they aren’t allowed to overwhelm everyone else and bully other people. Call it, again, the learning curve. When the reality of the situation sets in, they’ll come around.

    I intend to go to mass holding my little paperback missal because I want to get the responses correct because it’s my responsibility. I like this new translation, so it will also be a joyful occasion for me. (I have one of those St. Joseph Sunday missal paperbacks, 2012, that has the 3rd Roman Missal text in it and can be had for about $2 online.) I really think those little missals are a good idea because they help me follow along, and they make it much harder for the priest to ad lib if he sees people following along. I tend to think that maybe this is the reason that some liturgist-types don’t like laypeople in the pews using missals and other textual aids, but that may be just my suspicion working overtime. Am I suspicious of liturgists? Yes, I am and I think they deserve it too because they have a track record, and it’s not a good one.

  8. leonugent2005 says:

    I prefer thee for fear of offending Henry VIII

  9. Random Friar says:

    @Ray: Pew cards. We will be directing people to use the “cheat sheets,” at least for the time being. No cops. If that does not yield the desired result, we will resort to hiring babushkas to monitor the faithful. (Just kidding with that last sentence, people!)

  10. catholicmidwest says:

    We don’t need resentment to creep in here. Catholics can do better than that. We need lots of “cheat sheets.” And people need to find places to get texts to suit their tastes, budgets and how much of the new mass people want to be able to read along with.

    Fr. Z. Is there a list of things that can be gotten someplace? I know that there are nice leather-bound missals for the 3rd Roman Missal, but there are also inexpensive pew cards from various sources, pew cards that can be downloaded online for FREE, and larger texts of the 3rd translation that can be downloaded for free. There are also little St. Joseph Sunday Missal paperbacks that cost about $2 that you can get at booksellers online and maybe in stores in bigger towns. I also believe that many parishes might be getting their missalettes with the responses in them, even if the whole of the priest’s text will not be there.

    IF people don’t have “cheat sheets” so to speak, more people will be hesitant, and perhaps in the intermediate term, resistant. Let’s make this a constructive endeavor and one with which everyone can at least read along, even at first. Bring on the “cheat sheets!”

  11. Banjo pickin girl says:

    Of course you can always enlist us disabled folk, have us sit strategically positioned around the nave within cane-whapping distance of most people. Or not. Well, I guess not. What Jesus would do is be patient with people on a learning curve, the steepness of which varies with the individual.

    We have pew cards AND our choir director had a class (offered three times) for people to go over the music with the words. I couldn’t go but will be careful not to be The One Who Forgets and Loudly Blurts Out AND ALSO WITH YOU! (clapping hand over mouth and sinking to the floor mortified).

    Tired of reading Bibles that clash with the verses I have memorized over the years, I have gone back to the King James Version. Aaaaah… And forget that “drooping spirit” stuff… The footnotes in the Douay Rheims version are great with any version.

  12. John Nolan says:

    What happened with the English second person singular (thou) was that it was superseded in standard English by the polite form (you) which is properly the second person plural. Exactly the same as the French ‘tu’ and ‘vous’. In Shakespeare’s time the distinction between polite and farmiliar forms still existed, including the implication that to use the familiar form might be considered as an insult. When Sir Walter Raleigh was on trial he objected to the Judge’s addressing him in the second person ; he was told: “Yes, I ‘thou’ thee, thou traitor!”

    Latin of course has no polite second person, and the now archaic second person singular in English is now associated with poetical and religious use. I do find it strange that in France the Hail Mary is usually rendered rather formally as “je vous salue, Marie” whereas the popular (and quite recent) carol has “Vierge Sainte, Dieu t’a choisie”.

  13. Joe in Canada says:

    Ray: not the EMHC, the Ushers. Or the Knights if a parish has them. Those swords will come in handy at last.

  14. ContraMundum says:

    @Joe in Canada

    I’ve already told Protestant friends that the swords are strictly ceremonial. We use machine guns for real fighting.

    They know I’m joking. Probably.

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