Dom Sebastian Moore’s “Poor Little Who”–I Don’t Get It!

Dom Sebastian Moore’s “Poor Little Who”–I Don’t Get It! March 9, 2014

Dom Sebastian Moore, Benedictine monk, moral theologian and poet, died on February 28 at the age of 96.  His funeral will be held March 14 at Downside Abbey.

A controversial figure in the Church, Moore was an avowed homosexual; he disagreed openly with Pope John Paul II’s thought-provoking body of writings which, collectively, are known as “The Theology of the Body.”   He made it his habit to write a sonnet every day–and frequently, his poems took pot shots at elements of the Catholic Faith with which he disagreed.

Moore’s latest collection of poems, Remembered Bliss, has just been released by Lapwing Publications.  In it is Moore’s final poem, Poor Little ‘Who’, which he had mailed to The Tablet, Britain’s Catholic newspaper, in November 2013.

The Tablet has now published the poem, which deals with the new English translation of the Roman Missal.   I know that Moore is unhappy with the translation; but why?  Is he just picking a fight?


Poor little who

‘Oh God who gladden us…’ current missal

Poor little ‘who’, victim of a translation
Pulled back and forward both at the same time
And put into a state of consternation
Hardly evocative of the sublime.
‘O God who gladden’, so one prayer begins,
‘Who’ finds itself between ‘gladden’ and ‘God.’
Language that wants to sing, in effect sins,
Subconsciously we hear how words can plod.
This happened after twenty years of work
By English scholars was dumped overnight
For millions of Anglo-ears to irk:
The text is there for us to bring to light
While little ‘who’ still shivers in the cold
For millions of sheep still in the fold.

Sebastian Moore
21 November 2013

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