First Person Plural

Multiracial Hands Making a CircleIt is a very brief word that begins the Lord’s prayer, “Our”, as in “Our Father.” Note that it is in the first person plural. Such a little insight, yet such a powerful one.

We live in times that emphasize the first person singular: I, me, mine my rights, my opinion, my choice, my lifestyle, my personal statement, my personal relationship with God, the God of my understanding, etc.

We could probably do with a little more the first person plural. Our Lord, our Father, our family, our children, our Catholic faith, our heritage, our common lot.

Yes, just a little more of the first person plural.

At a funeral yesterday, a priest friend of mine said of the deceased simply, “She lived her life in the first person plural.” And all the assembled nodded their heads as they recalled how she had summoned them to family unity, and lived her life caring for others. Yes, and Ms. Lillie insisted that her children and grandchildren. and great-grandchildren should do the same, living decent, God-fearing lives, living in a way that was respectable, and respected others. And she insisted on justice, caring for those in need in the family, and beyond.

Yes, living our lives in the first person plural, something to think about, something to recover.

It is true, there is a certain glory in the insistence of our modern age on the dignity and the rights of the individual. But too often, we fail to balance it properly with the common good. We do well to remember once again the first person plural. Are we individuals? Yes, but we’re all in this together.

Am I my brother’s keeper? You are indeed. First person plural: “Our Father…”

17 Replies to “First Person Plural”

  1. In the spirit of “both/and,” let us also remember that the “Credo,” begins “I believe…” We are all part of the mystical Body, and He should increase, while “I” decrease. And finally, when each of us dies, it is the “I” that is judged to glory or damnation, not the “we.”

  2. Msgr.Pope,
    I read in the news today:Germany’s bishops have ruled that Catholic hospitals should provide the “morning-after pill” to rape victims, on the grounds that the pill does not cause abortions.
    I dont understand this and never will be.I dont like it and if it will be the sanctioned by the church (the Lord forbids),then I will stop being a Catholic.

    1. The German and Austrian Bishops have been in trouble for a long time. I know they are one of the biggest Headaches the Pope has faced. I too await a rebuke from Rome. Sadly, Rome is a little preoccupied at just this moment 🙁

      1. Preoccupation or not, this is of the highest importance. Someone of authority needs to address this before it costs more innocent human lives and compromises further a core belief of our Church. Nady has it right, scandal like this loses souls. For Catholic Bishops to proclaim this as a policy is simply horrendous and indicate real distress within our Church hierarchy. The Holy Father has told us this.

        I heard Cardinal Wuerl’s talk at the National Shrine on the New Evangelism and he said we should have firm belief in the teachings of the Church. Well, it is things exactly like this that sends a mixed signal that the hierarchy itself is not on board with faith. Trust me, they need to get on this right now, definitively.

  3. “2792 Finally, if we pray the Our Father sincerely, we leave individualism behind, because the love that we receive frees us from it. the “our” at the beginning of the Lord’s Prayer, like the “us” of the last four petitions, excludes no one. If we are to say it truthfully, our divisions and oppositions have to be overcome.51

    2793 The baptized cannot pray to “our” Father without bringing before him all those for whom he gave his beloved Son. God’s love has no bounds, neither should our prayer.52 Praying “our” Father opens to us the dimensions of his love revealed in Christ: praying with and for all who do not yet know him, so that Christ may “gather into one the children of God.”53 God’s care for all men and for the whole of creation has inspired all the great practitioners of prayer; it should extend our prayer to the full breadth of love whenever we dare to say “our” Father.”–Catechism of the Catholic Church

  4. This reminds me of the debate about whether we should hold hands at Mass during the Our Father. I am of the side that we should be allowed to hold hands if we want to, because it is “Our Father,” not “My Father.” It lends itself to the Communal nature of early Christianity, documented in the Acts of the Apostles.

    1. We do not need to hold hands as a sign of unity, when we have before us in the Eucharist the perfect sign of unity. Doing so only misdirects our attention at this critical moment.

  5. The communion of saints i guess. Perhaps that is why the Lord Jesus said to Simon Peter: ‘you must help your brothers also’

  6. Ironically, I was reading recently Bishop Fulton J. Sheen’s On the Philosophy of Charity and he states “the second tendency in modern charity is towards a deification of society at the expense of the individual. The philosophical principle behind this tendency is not that of the common good, which claims that individuals shall effectively cooperate for the well-being of society, bu rather the principle that individuals be submerged for the sake of the collectivity.” He goes on to point out where this leads by saying “The only sin is the social sin; “disloyalty to society”.

    So, Bishop Sheen gives three principles of conformity for Charity (quoted):

    “+ Charity must not only be organized, but must be organic
    + Charity must deal not only with society, but also with individual souls
    + Charity must not be absolute, but sacramental . . . not only of the earth earthly
    but of the heavens heavenly.

    He goes on to say the source of Charity is not the will of man but the will of God. Charity is not charity unless it is voluntary and Christ like.

    So, like him, is this about social justice or the Social Reign of Christ the King?

    For me, the collective will not stand with me at judgement, it is I alone that will stand in front of Him for judgement. It is my belief, adherence to His commandments and good works for others over my lifetime that really matters. If this includes “the common good” for the right reasons, as Bishop Sheen describes, well, that may be part of it, but certainly not all of it.

  7. I can understand our Jesus given command to baptize all nations, that is the large community, and the community in our midst, but when we come before the Father it will be in first person singular. What was your life like? Do you believe? Unless our singular heart is in the right place we cannot possibly call to others to join us and form community, without being hypocritical.

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