Monday, October 17, 2011

On the Goodness and Necessity of Latin in Religious Education, Part 1

Obj. 1: It would seem that Latin as a part of a comprehensive Catholic religious education program is no longer necessary; indeed, perhaps it never was, except only to fulfill a function of utility. This is evidenced by the fact that the Mass is no longer in Latin, and is now freely available to all in their own language.

Obj. 2: Further, Latin is a "dead language," and therefore, fulfills no practical use in the formation of the Person.

Obj. 3: Still further, owing to globalization and progress in culture, perhaps it is better to form a child in a "practical" foreign language, such as Spanish. This would undoubtedly bring more benefit to a child after they have grown up.

Therefore, Latin as a language to be learned is no longer essential in the 21st century, but merely something that belongs to the realm of academics who would study those antiquities of earlier days.

On the Contrary, the Second Vatican Council states that “The use of the Latin language is to be preserved in the Latin rite" (SC 36).

I answer that Latin is not only a good for the Person, but a necessary part of Catholic education, for the following reasons: In the Early Church, the Fathers adopted Latin as the language of the Church, taking what was profane and making it sacred. Thus it is most appropriate for Catholics to be able to understand a basic minimum of the language of their Faith.

     Guided by the Holy Spirit, the Early Church Fathers inexorably bound the Latin language to the Church (and in turn, Christendom) by adopting the language for the official translation of the Sacred Scriptures. As "ignorance of Scripture is ignorance of Christ," and the Latin text is the authority in discrepancy in translation, this necessitates the learning of Latin for any person desirous of knowing Christ without error.

     Further, Latin as the unifying language of the Body of Christ perpetuates unto today that most August event of the 50th day after the Resurrection: The Babel of the Old Testament has been purified and restored into unity in Christ so that all might hear the Truth in one language, the language of God. Therefore, the use of the Latin language is the fullest sign of unity to the Body of Christ, having grace continually poured out on her, just as on that day of Pentecost.

Reply to Obj. 1: With regard to the worship of the Church, the intention of the Second Vatican Council on the use of Latin (as evidenced by the documents that were borne from the Council, and not the so-called "spirit"), was to achieve the full, active, and conscious participation of the Faithful, specifically though their learning of the Ordinary parts of the Mass--the Kyrie, the Gloria, the Credo, the Sanctus, the Mortem Tuam, the Pater Noster, and the Agnus Dei-- in Latin (or Greek, as it were, for the Kyrie). Further, the publication of the typical edition of the Mass is originally in Latin. Translations of that Latin are only then authorized and allowed to be used, and as we have found in the coming of the New English Translation, often these translations are seriously deficient, and in some instances made for ideological purposes, both of which prohibit the person from worshipping in Truth. For these reasons, that the Council desired it and that translations are deficient, it seems to necessitate that a person learn Latin if they desire to more fully participate in the Liturgy of the Church.

Reply to Obj. 2: As the official language of the Vatican City State is Latin, and consequently the Church's official language, as evidenced by all documents being written and promulgated in Latin, it seems that Latin cannot rightly be considered a dead language. Further, the language is necessary to know, in that the original Latin is the authority to settle any dispute of meaning in a derivative translation. Finally, as many documents are never translated, this makes knowledge of the Latin language vital.

Reply to Obj. 3: It is, no doubt, immensely beneficial for a child to learn the Spanish language, or French, or German, or Tagalog, as well! This seems to be a false juxtaposition, as if a person is only capable of learning one language other than their mother tongue. Even still, if one were to take this false premise as a correct one, it seems that, because all of the romance languages have their origins in the Latin language, that to learn only Latin would allow a person a substantial understanding of several other languages, as well. This fact, combined with the sacred character of the Latin language as employed by the tradition of the Church, places a greater priority on the Catholic to learn Latin prior to any other language-- keeping in mind that by placing priority on Latin we do not deny the benefit of learning other languages which will no doubt serve the Person greatly in those secular endeavors.

For all of these reasons, I declare that it is not only practical, but that there is almost a moral obligation for a person desiring to be a faithful Catholic to learn a basic corpus of the Latin language.

Here are some prayers

Latin Mass Parts and More Info

(For more reading, lest you think that this is simply some erroneous notion of this blogger, go read Veterum Sapientia, written by Pope John XXIII, the Pope who called the Second Vatican Council, and in the same year he wrote this document-- my findings are consonant with his own)


Post-Script: Implicit to this whole discussion is the question of pastoral concern in the face of the globalization of cultures mentioned earlier. Part two will focus more on this question, but I simply want to give a practical example of why we should be striving to retain a common language of worship. The problem is in fact not a new one (there has always been multiculturalism, especially in America), but rather the seeming lack of solution has been created with the advent of the use of the vernacular. The problem is thus:

We find that we have large populations of non English speakers residing in a parish. The problem lies in that, for example, unless all English speakers were to learn Spanish, or all Spanish speakers were to learn English, then we will never again gather as the entire Body of Christ to celebrate the Eucharist in a fully unified act of worship. This seems to be a highly unreasonable request on the part of either language group-- to learn the others' language. And perhaps rightly so. So we are left at an impasse: either endure hours long bi-lingual liturgies, which is the only (albeit impractical) solution that the modernists have come up with, and no-one actually enjoys; or be exclusive of one language group in favor of another. The solution, of course, is to discriminate against both languages in favor of the language of the Church, which seems both right and just. It is truly a sad affair, this impasse, that what Christ has restored at Pentecost has been destroyed by man. This is a supreme irony, that the first destruction of Babel was by God because man had the audacity to claim what was not theirs. Then, when God gives man what they desire but do not deserve, man destroys that very same original object of desire.

Obviously, I think that the answer here is found in Latin. But the desire is to start a discussion, rather than leave the elephant in the room unmentioned. I hope you'll chime in with your own thoughts! In part two, I will focus more on some of the natural ends of the current philosophy, which is what compelled me to write on the subject to begin with.

God bless you!

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Selige Anna Schäffer, bitte für uns!

I was first introduced to Blessed Anna Schäffer during my freshman year of college, and had an immediate interest in her (at the time, primarily because I shared her name). In the years that have followed, I've grown to appreciate her model of sanctity: she was an ordinary woman who grew in extraordinary virtue through a life spent largely in great suffering. Since today is the anniversary of her death, I thought it appropriate to provide an introduction to this woman who, though she has a very large local following in Bavaria, is relatively unknown among English-speaking Catholics.

Blessed Anna Schäffer

On February 18, 1882, Anna Schäffer was born into a large Catholic family in the village of Mindelstetten, Bavaria (southern Germany). Her family was devout, and of modest means. Anna was reportedly rather shy, but a good student and hard worker. As a child, Anna dedicated herself to God, hoping to join a religious congregation. However, her path to sanctity proved far different than perhaps what she would have planned.

When Anna was fourteen, her father died quite unexpectedly, and she began to work to help support her now-impoverished family, still hoping to earn enough money to enable her to eventually enter a convent. At the age of sixteen, she had a vision of a saint, who reportedly revealed that she would experience great suffering before the age of twenty, and counseled her to remain faithful to the Rosary.

In 1901, while doing laundry with a fellow worker, Anna attempted to fix a stove pipe above a boiler. As she climbed to reach the pipe, she slipped and fell into the laundry vat, hot lye coming up to her knees. After this accident, various doctors performed over thirty operations on her legs, attempting skin grafts to help the wounds heal. These operations failed, and for the rest of her life, Anna's legs were wrapped in bandages. She was now a dependent invalid, with no possibility of joining a religious order.

Anna, like many of us, initially struggled to accept her suffering as God's will for her life. However, over time, through frequent reception of the Eucharist, prayer, and spiritual direction, she embraced her "bed-Cross", as she called it. From her bed, she began her own little apostolate: she catechized the village children, devoted herself and her life to praying for others, offering her suffering in reparation for sins. Those who knew her were amazed by her patience, prayerfulness, and most of all, her compassion for others who suffered. A member of the Third Order of St. Francis, on the feast of St. Francis, October 4, 1910, she received the stigmata (though she asked it to remain hidden).

Anna's life was spent in near-constant pain, and towards the end of her life, her legs became paralyzed. Yet she possessed great joy and conviction of being most loved and blessed by her heavenly Father. She died on October 5, 1925, after receiving the Eucharist. Her grave quickly became a site of pilgrimage, with many reporting graces they had received through her prayers. Anna Schäffer was beatified by Pope John Paul II on March 8, 1999.

Prayer for the Canonization of Blessed Anna Schäffer

Oh, holy Trinity, Crown of all Sanctity! We beseech Thee, grant that Anna Schäffer of Mindelstetten, Thy faithful servant, will soon be venerated as a saint by the whole Church. Forever contemplating the love of Thy sacred Heart, she offered up her life and suffering nurtured by the power of Holy Communion, to Thee in penance.

Through her intercession, give renewed hope and trust to the suffering and all in need. Make her an example of giving life in willing suffering, an example for all faithful that Thou, Almighty God may be all the more glorified through her, Thou, who liveth and reigneth for evermore. Amen.

For more on Blessed Anna Schäffer, please visit here and here.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

On St. Therese and Wendell Berry

At first glance, the above title may seem an unlikely juxtaposition of two disparate figures. What could the simple 19th century cloistered Carmelite, St. Thérèse of Lisieux, have in common with author, essayist, poet and agrarian, Wendell Berry? Yet, as I happened to be reading both this week, I thought I would share an interesting thematic similarity I see between the two.

The Office of Readings for today's Memorial of St. Thérèse contains an excerpt from her autobiography:

Since my longing for martyrdom was powerful and unsettling, I turned to the epistles of St. Paul in the hope of finally finding an answer. By chance the 12th and 13th chapters of the 1st epistle to the Corinthians caught my attention, and in the first section I read that not everyone can be an apostle, prophet or teacher, that the Church is composed of a variety of members, and that the eye cannot be the hand. Even with such an answer revealed before me, I was not satisfied and did not find peace.

I persevered in the reading…the Apostle insists that the greater gifts are nothing at all without love and that this same love is surely the best path leading directly to God. At length I had found peace of mind…Love appeared to me to be the hinge for my vocation…Then, nearly ecstatic with the supreme joy in my soul, I proclaimed: O Jesus, my love, at last I have found my calling: my call is love. Certainly I have found my place in the Church, and you gave me that very place, my God. In the heart of the Church, my mother, I will be love, and thus I will be all things, as my desire finds its direction.

St. Thérèse's realization, that love was the essence of her vocation, has come to be known as her "Little Way": "Love proves itself by deeds, so how am I to show my love? Great deeds are forbidden me. The only way I can prove my love is by scattering flowers and these flowers are every little sacrifice, every glance and word, and the doing of the least actions for love."

Turning from the spiritual insights of St. Thérèse to the social and economic thought of Wendell Berry, Norman Wirzba's Introduction to The Art of the Commonplace: The Agrarian Essays of Wendell Berry, provides a thematic foundation for an understanding of the latter:

What the purveyors and boosters of conventional wisdom often fail to ask, however, is whether the social and economic transformations they facilitate lead to an improper or inauthentic sense of human identity and vocation. A knowledge economy, like the industrial economy before it, demands that we see ourselves as specialists or careerists, trained to do a task of very limited scope and significance….We do not see or appreciate the biological and social fact that our lives and our responsibilities are complexly, yet harmoniously,intertwined with the lives of many others. The effect of careerism is thus to make ourselves frustratingly helpless and ignorant in regard to basic human skills - growing food, maintaining a home, caring for and educating children, promoting friendship and cooperation, facing illness and death…Specialization also leads to the sense of our own isolation from the broader wholes of which we are a part."

Though Berry's essay, "Think Little", is primarily a commentary on social, environmental and economic issues, one paragraph reflects the theme discussed above:

For most of the history of this country our motto, implied or spoken, has been Think Big. I have come to believe that a better motto, and an essential one now, is Think Little….the citizen who is willing to Think Little, and, accepting the discipline of that, to go ahead on his own, is already solving the problem. A man who is trying to live as a neighbor to his neighbors will have a lively and practical understanding of the work of peace and brotherhood, and let there be no mistake about it - he is doing that work. A couple who make a good marriage, and raise healthy, morally competent children, are serving the world's future more directly and surely than any political leader, though they never utter a public word. A farmer who is dealing with the problem of soil erosion on an acre of ground has a sounder grasp of that problem and cares more about it and is probably doing more to solve it than any bureaucrat who is talking about it in general.

Given some of Wendell Berry's philosophical (and religious) ideas, an argument for a deep theological identity of the agrarian's thought with that of the Little Flower would be a bit extreme, and perhaps slightly ludicrous.

However, on an anthropological level, I do think that both St. Thérèse and Wendell Berry exhibit a similar insight into the human condition - an insight that resonates with both man's spiritual and material existence. That insight is this: man seems to possess an innate sense of vocation, the idea of a calling outside himself and greater than himself to which he must respond. Oftentimes, that sense is experienced as a desire to accomplish something great, something grandiose, something that is better than and beyond the drudgeries of his everyday existence (for St. Thérèse, this desire was for martyrdom; Wendell Berry diagnoses it as the "Think Big" motto).

Though a desire to accomplish or conform oneself to something (or someone) greater is not per se flawed, and indeed may be the impetus for an individual's achievements, both Thérèse and Berry prudentially warn against the temptation to human illusions of grandeur. Their counsel is something of a paradox: authentic human greatness is achieved not by casting off the trials of everyday life, but embracing them.

Thus, one could interpret Berry's encouragement to "Think Little", as analogous to the life of St. Thérèse. Her model of sanctity is, as John Paul II stated in his homily of 19 October 1997, "…not that of the great undertakings reserved for the few, but on the contrary, a way within everyone's reach, the "little way", a path of trust and total self-abandonment to the Lord's grace."

And I leave it to the reader to draw further analogies and/or implications, be they spiritual or agrarian, from here...