What Does the Prayer Really Say? 6th Sunday in of Ordinary Time
A Monsignor Moment: In a letter of 23 September 2002 which I received last week, Msgr. ML of Saskatchewan writes: “I endorse every prayerful kind and encouraging written intervention to those entrusted with the arduous task of providing a true English translation of the Missale Romanum.” Thank you, Rev. Msgr., for reminding us that, while our individual influence in the halls of power might be limited, prayer is not without effect. Pray to the Guardian Angels of those involved in translations: gang up on them.
Another Monsignor, JB of PA, referring to the not yet translated Martyrologium Romanum of 2001, writes: “Although I am not a skilled Latinist, or I would not be writing to you in English, I enjoy your column each week and thank you for your work. Would you answer a question for me…? Where is Rupifortium in Gallia? … I like to read the new Martyrology and work with Lewis & Short (Fr. Z: what a wise prelate this is to use the unbeatable L&S!) …but I have not been able to identify Rupifortium. Can you help?” My pleasure, Monsignor. Perpend.
I think you are talking about the entry in the Martyrologium for 14 September on p. 487 about Fr. Claude de Laplace, beatified with 63 other priests and religious companions on 1 October 1995 by His Holiness John Paul II. Rupifortium (ad litus Galliae), from Latin rupes (“rock”, French roche) and fortis (“strong” French fort) is none other than the coastal city of Rochefort, 18 miles south of La Rochelle in France on the right bank of the Charante, 6 miles east of the Bay of Biscay. Rochefort (the city, not Alexandre Dumas’, père, homonymous eyed-patched swordsman of Cardinal Richelieu, the nemesis of D’Artagnan in Les Trois Mousquetaires published en feuilleton in 1844 played by the Christopher Lee in the 1973 movie, who has since graduated to the wicked wizard Saruman in the ongoing tripartite film saga of J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings, but I digress…) took its name from the castle built on the bank of the Charente River for protection against Norman invaders. In the 11th c. a town grew up around the castle’s fortifications. It was later built up as a shipbuilding port by Louis XIV’s Minister of the Navy, Jean-Baptiste Colbert (1619-83), whose white Vermont marble relief portrait decorates the chamber of the House of Representatives in Washington, D.C, third to the right of the Speaker’s chair. Lafayette’s frigate Hermione was built at Rochefort in 1779 and can still be visited since 1997 after its restoration.
These blesseds are called the “les martyrs des pontons de Rochefort… martyrs of the ‘hulks’ of Rochefort” because, condemned to deportation, they were held in old ships used as prisons (pontons): the Washington, La Décade, La Vaillante, La Bayonnaise, Les Deux-Associés, and Bonhomme Richard. 827 priests and religious such as Christian Brothers refused to swear the oath of the Civil Constitution of the Clergy of 12 July 1790, by which the Assembly attempted to reorganize the Church according to the model of the state. By this instrument the state confiscated Church property and effectively forced clergy to commit a formal act of apostasy. Of the 827 held in the “hulks” from 11 April 1794 to 7 February 1795, 542 died enduring horrific suffering for their faith, martyrs of the “Revolution”. Some of the 285 survivors left written testimonies about the heroic examples of their martyred companions. Bl. Claude de Laplace of Autun died on the feast of the Exaltation of the Cross, 14 September 1794 at 69 years of age aboard the ship Les Deux-Associés in the Rochefort harbor. He was a faithful Catholic parish priest, the curÃƒÂ© of Moulins, and rests in triumph now on the Île Madame in the estuary of the Charante until the Lord returns.
By the way, D’Artagnan really lived. His memoires were accomplished by Courtilez de Sandras in 1707, though his life was vastly embellished by Dumas. The Gascon Musketeer, who in the novel distinguished himself near Rochefort in the 1628 siege of the Protestant Huguenots at La Rochelle, eventually became a marshal of France and was killed by a cannonball on the field of battle in the very moment he took hold of the newly delivered bâton that symbolized his rank. There is a plaque in his honor at the head of the rue du Bac in Paris, the same street where you will find the motherhouse of the Daughters of Charity of St. Vincent de Paul and St. Louise de Marillac in which on November 27, 1830 the Blessed Virgin revealed the Miraculous Medal to St. Catherine Labouré. In the epilogue of the novel we learn that Rochefort fights three duels with the new Lieutenant D’Artagnan and is wounded by him three times (Christopher Lee dies in the movie, in a sacrilegious duel in a convent church) at which point they resolve their differences and become lasting friends… as Catholic gentlemen ought. Rochefort reappears twenty years later and dies as an old man with a still deadly blade in the first 1845 sequel Vingt ans après. Speaking of movies, there was a 1967 musical film called Les Demoiselles de Rochefort with a young Catherine Deneuve and Gene Kelly made after the success of Deneuve’s 1964 musical about another French shipping port (hmm) Parapluies de Cherbourg (both with music by Michel Legrand, who wrote the music also for the abovementioned 1973 version of The Three Musketeers), and Gene Kelly’s 1951 hit An American in Paris, much better than his terrible 1948 version of The Three Musketeers. As Benjamin Franklin once wrote in his Poor Richard’s Almancak of 1733, “Beware of meat twice boil’d, and an old Foe reconcil’d.” Reminiscent of present French and American relations, n’est-ce pas? But now I have really digressed….
Courteous Reader, as Dr. Franklin would say, I must perforce add a note about the Bonhomme Richard. Originally called the Duc du Duras, she was an elderly, high pooped, French East Indiaman of 900 tons. In 1779 she was bought by Louis XIV and given to the 33 year old Captain John Paul Jones of the new American Continental Navy for their struggle against the English. Jones renamed her Bonhomme Richard in honor of his friend Dr. Benjamin Franklin, who had who used the nom de plume “Poor Richard”. This was a sign of French-American unity: Franklin had been for years the representative of the United States in France where he was generally beloved. Exactly 223 years to the day that Msgr. MB wrote me his letter, on 23 September 1779 at midday, the Bonhomme Richard in a squadron under Captain Jones encountered a British merchantman convoy in English waters near Flamborough Head coming from the Baltic protected by a two decked frigate 50 gun frigate HMS Serapis under Captain Richard Pearson. Bonhomme Richard maneuvered all day to get between the convoy and the land and eventually succeeded. She engaged Serapis in fierce fighting at 1900 under a full moon. Early in the battle Bonhomme Richard’s battery exploded, hopelessly disabling the ship. But Jones continued by lashing his sinking, burning ship, laden with dead and wounded to Serapis when it came alongside, all the time trying to control hundreds of previously captured British prisoners brought up out of the hold to save from downing, from rushing the deck. During the battle, Bonhomme Richard mast’s shattered above the top-sail and a large section crashed down to the deck along with her flag. Captain Pearson, seeing the flag fall, called out to Captain Jones, “Have you struck your Colors, Sir?” Resoundingly, John Paul Jones exclaimed, “Struck Sir? I have not yet begun to fight!” Emboldened, the dying Bonhomme Richard delivered decisive blows from all sides and aloft: Jones had sent 40 marines into the rigging with grenades and muskets. Her crew decimated, Serapis struck her own Colors at 2300h. Sadly, the badly holed Bonhomme Richard went to her watery rest at 1100h on 24 September 1779. Jones commandeered Serapis and repaired to The Texel in Holland for repairs.
This epic battle was the American Navy’s first-ever defeat of an English ship in English waters. It was a great inspiration for America. Jones’ victory established him for many as “The Father of the American Navy.” This hallowed ship of French, American and even Catholic history has had other namesakes through the years. According to La Déportation Révolutionnaire du Clergé Français by A.C. Sabatie (Paris, 1916), companion martyrs of Bl. Claude de Laplace died on a ship called Bonhomme Richard. Since the original, the once Duc du Duras sank in 1779, the ship at Rochefort must have been a namesake in the French Navy named after John Paul Jones’ ship. Another USS Bonhomme Richard was carrier CV/CVA-31 launched 29 April 1944 which saw action during WWII in the Pacific earning a battle star, the Korean War and five battle stars, and finally the Vietnam War. This second Bonhomme Richard was decommissioned in 1971 and her name struck from the Navy List in 1981. The third and present namesake of the Bonhomme Richard is LHD-6, an Amphibious Assault Ship, whose purpose is to embark, deploy and land elements of a Marine landing force in amphibious assault operations by helicopter, landing craft, amphibious vehicle or any combination thereof. It is a Wasp class vessel, the largest amphibious ships in the world, looking much like an aircraft carrier. The Bonhomme Richard is 844 feet long and 106 feet at the beam (the first was 152 by 40 and a depth of 19). She displaces 40,500 tons and cruises at 20+ knots (23.5+ mph). Unlike the first of her name (which had 28-12 pounder cannons, 6-18 pdr. and 8-9 pdr.), the new Bonhomme Richard carries 42 CH-46 Sea Knight helicopters, 5 AV-8B Harrier attack planes and 6 ASW helicopters, together with a company of 104 officers, 1,004 enlisted, and a – God Bless them – always faithful US Marine Corps detachment of 1,894.
As she heads to the North Arabian Sea in support of Operation Enduring Freedom, Bonhomme Richard also carries the young Marine Corps Captain for whom I ask your prayers about a month ago.
LATIN (2002 Missale Romanum):
Caelestibus, Domine, pasti deliciis,
quaesumus, ut semper eadem,
per quae veraciter vivimus, appetamus.
This prayer was the Postcommunio of the Sixth Sunday left over after Epiphany in the 1962MR. These “left over” Sundays, because of a quirk of different reforms of the calendar through the years, were actually celebrated at the end of the liturgical year, before Advent.
ICEL (1973 translation of the 1970MR):
you give us food from heaven.
May we always hunger
for the bread of life.
Let us see if this is what the prayer really says. The participle pasti is from the verb pasco which means, “to pasture, drive to pasture, to feed, attend to the feeding of; nourish; cherish, cultivate” and also “feast, gratify”. This is the verb found in the Latin Vulgate when, standing along the shore of the See of Galilee after His resurrection, Jesus says to Peter in John 21:15-17, “Feed my lambs… Pasce agnos meos… pasce oves meas… pasce oves meas…”
O Lord, having been fed with heavenly delicacies,
we entreat you, that we may always strive earnestly for these same things,
by which we are truly alive.