I have notes from people asking about something that my friend Ann Barnhardt wrote about the Latin text of the address Benedict XVI gave when he announced that he was going to abdicate. Ann contended that the Latin, as written and pronounced, indicated that Benedict did not truly resign. She took a subjunctive vacet to to be potential and to mean that the See of Peter “might/could” be vacant, not that it “will/shall” be vacant. What she didn’t know to account for was a pesky ut indicated the result of the action of resigning and, hence, the subjunctive was needed, vacet. In English, it has to sound future. Blah blah. She got out too far over her Latin skiis with this one but, to her credit, she posted an update HERE.
In her original post, she made some comments about priests not knowing Latin.
Yes, friends, this is a problem. I think that Latin Rite priests – in their copious free time – would do well to work on Latin, the language of their Rite. Makes sense, no? Would it be hard? Damn straight. I am, however, encouraged by the story of the converted Ignatius of Loyola, sitting with children in Latin class, catching up. And I am not unsympathetic. I work on languages for the interest and to keep my mind active. I suspect that for most priests Latin is to them what Japanese is to me: hard.
There are all sorts of funny stories out there about clerics and their lack of Latin. My favorite is about the simple country priest who walked down the road to meet the bishop who was riding out on the appointed day for a parish visitation. As the parish priest drew close to the bishop and the rest of his retinue, to the astonishment of all, Father, after greeting the bishop bowed low to the bishop’s horse. “Why, Father,” quoth the bishop, are you bowing to my horse?” The priest, momentarily flummoxed, responded “Your Grace, do we not say every day during Holy Mass, ‘equum et salutare‘?”
Yes, folks, be sure to tip your waitresses. I’m at HaHa’s in Manhattan next week.