Future Priests of the Third Millennium

A little insight into the life of seminarians from various dioceses preparing for ministry as Roman Catholic priests, including daily activities, personal interests, special events, the spiritual life, news from the seminary, and almost whatever comes to our minds!

Sunday, February 01, 2009

Truly the Universal Tongue

Last week during our official "class days", we were free one day to attend Mass where ever we pleased, so it pleased me to attend the Extraodrinary Form Mass at Ss. Trinità dei Pellegrini. Beforehand, there were confessions being offered. So I though, "What the heck, the priest might speak English. And if he doesn't, I could make out my sins in Latin and that would suffice."

So there I went. I knelt down, the priest began and it got to my part:

"Inglese, Padre?"

"No. I speak no English. French? German? uh..." He sounded a little anxious.

I proffered, "Latin?"

"Si! Si! Latin."

So I began. "Uh... septem dies de..."

That was enough; he responded in perfect conversational Latin, "Ah, it's been seven days since your last confession?" "Sic. Sic," I gladly responded. And we made our way, very muddledly so, through the sacrament.

After I had finished listing sins, he gave some advice. I caught most of it. Just before he was finished, however, he asked, "Intellegisne?" Basically, he could tell my Latin wasn't that good and so he asked, "Do you actually understand what I'm saying?"

"Sic. Sic." "Yes. Yes."

I was very appreciative of being able to do this. This ability to communicate with another person, with whom I share no common "cultural" tongue other than that which is specifically of the culture of the Church. We had a common meeting point, which in a way allowed both of us to "lose ourselves". I lost English as my first language, and he lost (probably) Italian as his first language. Latin is not in the society's cultural patrimony that is still handed on for either of us, but it is in the cultural patrimony of a society that transcends every national society.

Perhaps I'm going too far and over-exaggerating the beauty and benefits of this, but I'm not so sure. I fondly remember the summer before I began theology school at SPS. I was home just after having traveled to World Youth Day in Cologne, Germany, and just before going to school for the first time. I stopped up at church one day to say some prayers. As I was there, I decided to go look through the Sacramentary and become more familiar with it.

While I was there in the sacristy (no one else around in the Church in my small town) there was a letter just next to the Sacramentary from then Bishop Nienstedt who had written to all the priests and pastoral workers of the Diocese of New Ulm. He, too, had just come back from WYD and wrote about his experience. One day he was to offer Mass for the New Ulm group of pilgrims that he was with, but there were many more who joined the Mass from other parts of the world. Recognizing and responding to this, he said (paraphrasing), "Seeing the diversity of peoples and cultures there, I didn't see any other reasonable thing to do except offer Mass in Latin - the language which is proper to Catholics from any part of the world." My thoughts exactly.

I love being Catholic.