Catechism Postscript

I failed to mention that the lessons in the course I am taking begin with prayers (after a peek at the daily Saint, feast, fast, et. all). I don’t participate in them or use them. Obviously merely because I was pushed out of my atheism by the absurdity of its necessary materialistic ends does not a Christian I make.  And even if I believe in the necessity of some spiritual underpinning of reality, it is a long way from that to God dying on the cross at Calvary.

The trouble is the prayers are in Latin! Granted, one can get, sometimes, a general indication of the meaning since Latin is infused into our language at a “genetic” level. But only a very generic indication, the Hail, Holy Queen however is complete gibberish to me. One can look up the English version quite easily online. But one has to wonder why it is only in Latin in the first place. Just how many people know that language? Although I think it should still be taught as it’s great etymological training.

I wish I had followed through on learning it when I tried a few years ago.



5 thoughts on “Catechism Postscript

  1. Re: language and early church history

    Justinian had Jews read their texts in the Greek, Septuagint, form. He thought this was a way of facilitating their conversion to the imperial religion, that is, Christianity.

    In the West, Latin remained the official Church language long after it stopped being a “living” language. This was considered a blessing because it meant no one could tamper with dogmatic interpretations through “creative” translations (unless the Pope had other ideas).

  2. Hi Robert,

    Latin may not be used in everyday life anywhere, but it is still the official language of the Roman Church. The official approved version of every Church document is in Latin, even if it was originally written in another language. There are some clergy, not all of them in Rome, who speak and write Latin currently. In Pontifical Roman universities they used to sustain doctoral theses in Latin at least until the 1960s. I don’t know if they still do but I would not be surprised.

    Apart from Church Latin, there is an extensive literature available to those who were educated in the liberal arts. I have barely half of such an education, so my Latin is very bad, but I still know and use what I learned then.

    As to the prayers, the most common are still often recited in Latin in religious orders. I participated once in an event aired in some 50 sanctuaries around the world: when you hear all those people praying the Rosary together with the Pope, it is thrilling to hear it in all sorts of languages, but still more thrilling when all say it in the same language. To add to the feeling still, it was concluded by the hymn Salve Regina (Hail, Holy Queen). This is a very widely known canticle, recited or sung every day by clergy, monks, sisters and all devout Catholics who recite the Angelus. Like any other piece of poetry, it has a flavor in the original language that is definitely partly lost in translation.

    However, if it is certainly useful to learn some Latin to get acquainted with traditional Western Church culture, it is not necessary in order to approach Christianity. After all, the oriental rites (Eastern Catholic, Orthodox, Coptic, Syriac, and so on) always were in the vernacular.

  3. Thank you both for your comments. Unfortunately I am under the season’s first cold virus. Given my line of work, I get a number of these each year, so I am down for a couple of days.

    1. Feeling better already, thanks!

      Incidentally, you proved what I was trying to say. I still had to look up the phrase to be sure, but sanitatem is an etymological give away.

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