by Dr. Taylor Marshall
St Bernardine of Sienna
Apostle of the Holy Name of Jesus
When I was an Episcopal clergyman (I entered the Catholic Church later in 2006), I walked into a bar once, and as soon as I entered, I noticed this biker gang standing huddled up on the bar. One biker had his back to me and he said something and then took our Lord’s name in vain: “Jesus Christ! Can you believe it” As everyone’s eyes adjusted on the man in the clerical collar, the whole room fell quiet. All the biker’s looked at me like, “Yeah, he just said JC, and what are you going to do about it, Father?”
I just stood their in my clerical collar and all the bikers stared at me. Finally, the biker who had blasphemed turned around to see what everyone was looking at. Their faces spelled out the question, “What the **** are you doing here?”
I didn’t know what to do, but by instinct I made the sign of the cross very slowly. I looked them in the eyes with a solemn disappointment and I went to the other end of the restaurant/bar. I thought to myself, “This could get ugly.”
Before long, they were coming over and asking me questions about Christianity. “Is getting drunk one of the seven deadly sins?” Other similar questions. They all warmed up to me, except for the biker girl who was obviously ashamed by being in the company of a “man of the cloth.” I felt bad for her. She looked so unhappy.
Somehow I had won their respect by showing reverence to the Holy Name. They weren’t going to kill the minister. Instead, they were interested in learning from the minister. Our Lord taught me an important lesson that day. Show honor to His Name and hold others accountable for His Holy Name.
Our age and culture blasphemes the Holy Name of Jesus. Turn on the TV and you’ll hear “family shows” in which they Christ’s name in vain. Watch a movie. Same thing. Walk on the streets or go to a restaurant. It’s hard for a day to pass without hearing the Holy Name of Jesus taken in vain. And yet Saint Paul said:
“All whatsoever you do in word or in work, do all in the Name of the Lord Jesus Christ, giving thanks to God and the Father by Him.” (Col 3:17).
I hear Catholics and Protestants say “Jesus” in vain. And why to atheists say “Jesus Christ” so often? It bothers me to hear Jews and Buddhists say “Jesus Christ” in vain. If they don’t believe in Him, why would they even use His Holy name as a curse? Well, blasphemy is the joy of the devils. Satan loves to hear humans blaspheming the Holy Name of their enemy Jesus Christ.
This begs the question: What should we do when people around us blaspheme the name of Jesus? Don Juan of Austria, before the heroic battle of Lepanto against the insidious Mohammedans, ordered that a Catholic sailor should be put to death if he dared to blaspheme before the sea battle. Don Juan wouldn’t not tolerate impiety in the face of evil.
As late as the 1930s, Maryland (a Catholic state) had a law on the books against blasphemy which included a fine up to $100 and prison up to six months:
Art. 72, sec. 189. If any person, by writing or speaking, shall blaspheme or curse God, or shall write or utter any profane words of and concerning our Saviour, Jesus Christ, or of and concerning the Trinity, or any of the persons thereof, he shall, on conviction, be fined not more than one hundred dollars, or imprisoned not more than six months, or both fined and imprisoned as aforesaid, at the discretion of the court.