Creed translation

Question: The Catechism of the Catholic Church makes a rather heavy distinction between the “We believe” of the Nicene Creed, and the “I believe” of the Apostles Creed (No. 167). In effect, it teaches that the Nicene Creed emphasizes the communal nature of faith, and the Apostles Creed emphasizes the faith professed personally by each believer. If the original Nicene Creed had “We believe,” and the Catechism teaches on this so clearly, why then did the new English translation of the Mass render it, “I believe?” This seems to be erroneous both in the light of the Greek text, of the Creed and also the teaching of the Catechism.  

Deacon Lawrence Gallagher, Titusville, N.J.

Answer: The new English translation of the Creed to “I believe” is to bring the text in conformity with the authorized Latin text, which has Credo — namely, “I believe” — for the opening word of the Creed. 

You are correct in noting that the text of the Creed coming forth from the Council of Nicaea used the Greek word Πιστεύομεν (pisteuomen), a first-person plural meaning “we believe.” It was worded in this way because it came forth as a statement of all the bishops, speaking as a body, or college of bishops.  

When the Creed was brought into the liturgy, the form was switched to the first person singular Πιστεύω (pisteuo) “I believe.” This change was made because the Creed was now said by the individual believer, in the context of the liturgy. 

This liturgical adaptation of the text is quite ancient and has been respected by the Church ever since. As the Greek liturgy moved to Latin in the West, the first-person singular Credo (I believe) was thus used. 

Your frustration related to harmonizing the new translation with the Catechism is understandable. However, it is possible to expect too much of liturgical texts, which have a context. The Catechism, however, is able to develop richer aspects of the teachings of the Faith. Thus, rather than to see the Catechism and the Mass in competition or conflict, one can see them as complementary, in this case, the Catechism helping to further articulate that which the liturgy announces.

Priestly vestments

Question: How does one properly dispose of old and worn priestly vestments? One lady in the altar guild took the vestments and made throw pillows. This does not seem right. 

Julia Sullivan, Moorehead, Minn.

Answer: No, making pillows isn’t right. Once something is dedicated to sacred use, it should not then be converted to ordinary use. 

Older vestments are often sent to missions. But if they are too worn, they ought to be burned, and their ashes collected and buried. 

This is a general rule for all blessed objects and sacramentals. Sacramentals should be burned and then buried. Larger sacramentals that don’t burn should be altered so that they no longer appear to be a sacramental. For example, a statue can be broken up into small pieces and then buried. Broken rosaries can be further disassembled and burned or buried. Objects made of metal can be taken to a silver-plater and melted. 

Some hesitate to break up or burn sacred things. But it is generally held that items lose their blessing if they can no longer be used. 

Msgr. Charles Pope is the pastor of Holy Comforter-St. Cyprian in Washington, D.C., and writes for the Archdiocese of Washington, D.C., blog at blog.adw.org. Send questions to Pastoral Answers, Our Sunday Visitor, 200 Noll Plaza, Huntington, IN 46750 or to msgrpope@osv.com. Letters must be signed, but anonymity may be requested.