“What, Papa, is ‘Jesuit’?” – “I think you’d better ask your Mother.”

From the might pen of Fr. Hunwicke comes this gem.  You should immediately go also to read the comments.  In case you don’t know already, Christine Mohrmann demonstrated in her 1957 masterpiece Liturgical Latin that in the early Roman Church the Latin that was spoken by the people in the streets and the Latin used in worship were not the same.  Hence, the argument that, today, the language of the worship should be of the same register as the language commonly spoken (and hence up for constant revision) is, essentially, rubbish.  This falsehood is still, like a noxious worm, tormenting us today.

November 20 Anno Domini 2121: a family dialogue
A favourite of some appreciative readers, reprinted by request with one or two tinkerings.

Literate and Latinate six-year-old: Papa, why, this morning, was the psalmody of the Mass in honour of St Pius X so odd? I mean, in the psalmus of the Introit, why did we have Gratias Domini in aeternum cantabo, rather than Misericordias …? And why has ecclesia been replaced with coetus?
Papa: Well, my child, when that Mass was added to the Missal, the Holy See was rather keen on the Bea psalter.
Literate …: What was the Bea, Papa?
Papa: It was an evil German Jesuit who …
Literate …: What, Papa, is ‘Jesuit’?
Papa: I think you’d better ask your Mother … not many people nowadays know the answer to that question … I’m not sure I do … but the Bea had acquired the confidence of Pius XII …
Literate … (fiercely): Ah, the pope who appointed Hasdrubal Bugnini who engineered the Great Liturgical Deformation of the twentieth century?
Papa: Exactly, best beloved, except that his name was Hannibal … Hasdrubal was his brother … sort of … perhaps I have allowed you to read too much Livy … and the Bea began its evil work by doing a new translation of the Psalter into Classical Latin and …
Literate …: But surely, Papa carissime, St Christine Mohrmann, the great Dutch Latinist and Doctrix of the Church, had just demonstrated that Liturgical Latin was an exquisite deeply Christian form of Latin expressly crafted to convey in all its transcendent beauty the Catholic Faith?
Papa: Indeed she had, but Pius XII, a weak and foolish pope, ignored her scholarship and allowed the Bea to do its worst. And …
Literate …: But, Papa, consider the rendering coetus. It is profoundly wrong. Because the Vulgate rendering ecclesia binds together the Church’s appropriation of Scripture with the text of the Old Testament. Coetus elides that linkage. Be honest with me, pedantic Parent: Coetus also ruptures the link with the Septuagintal rendering … ekklesia megale. Thus the harmony of the Hebrew, the Greek, and the Latin is rudely sundered! So why was today’s Mass not subsequently corrected when St Benedict XVII completed the Great Liturgical and Doctrinal Restoration in 2031 by promulgating the Sixteen Definitive Anathemas against Bergoglianism?
Papa: Because the liturgy, learned offspring, bears within it marks of all the periods through which, in its triumphant march across the centuries, it has passed. These profoundly eccentric details provide a powerful incentive to historical research such as that upon which you, after your Seventh Birthday, will embark. Now run along and finish your doctoral thesis on the de Beatificatione et Canonizatione of St Benedict XIV. Then you can ask your Mother what ‘Jesuit’ means before I read you your bed-time story from the newly recovered papyrus text, Oxyrhynchus 26,091, of the Hecale of Callimachus.
Literate …: Thank you, Papa. I warmly anticipate each of those three agenda.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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  1. JabbaPapa says:

    I love the Latin of the Vulgate, but it is a highly literate, purified, and elegant form of the contemporary marketplace Latin rather than that Latin itself, which was already at the time shifting towards proto-Romance forms – – though to be fair, Jerome’s books more intended for the Laity and predication than the Clergy are closer than others to the more common forms.

    The Church of course in the Latin period prayed and celebrated and sang with Latin variously written between the 1st and 9th Centuries.

  2. Philmont237 says:

    I want to read the Sixteen Definitive Anathemas against Bergoglianism, and also know why there are only sixteen.

  3. Venerator Sti Lot says:

    In schola, we had an interesting time preparing the Propers of the Feast. The Offertory is reused from the Feast of St. John Bosco: its text is set to the notes of the Offertory of the First Mass of Christmas. The text – Psalm 33:12 – is identical in the Roman, Vulgate, and Pian/Bea Psalter. The Vulgate Psalm 33 in the Fourth Mode provided very fitting verses for the Communion. The Communion text – St. John 6:56-57 – is from the Alleluia of the Feast of Corpus Christi, though not the music. We did not discover sources for the music of the Introit, Gradual, or Alleluia, but there seemed to be real liturgical intelligence at work in the interrelation of the Gradual and the Alleluia.

    I also wonder how much liturgical intelligence was at work in interrelating some of the Proper texts of the Feast with those of the Sundays after Pentecost near, or on, which it would be likely to fall? : i.e., from Psalm 33 in the Gradual of the Twelfth and the Offertory of the Fourteenth Sundays; and, where the Introit is concerned, from Psalm 87 in the Alleluia of the Twelfth and from Psalm 89 in the Alleluia of the Thirteenth, and from Psalm 83 in the Introit of the Fourteenth and from Psalm 85 in the Introist of the Fifteenth and Sixteenth Sundays.

    It would be fascinating to read an account of the construction of the Mass for the Feast of St. Pius X, but we could not find any.

  4. Venerator Sti Lot says:

    “proof read before posting!”: alas! my apologies for the metathesis: Introist>Introits

  5. Venerator Sti Lot says:

    I see that Liturgical Latin is one of several of Christine Mohrmann’s works available via the Internet Archive.

  6. Andrew says:

    Discant … rabidi adversus Christum canes, discant eorum sectatores, (qui putant Ecclesiam nullos philosophos et eloquentes, nullos habuisse doctores) quanti et quales viri eam fundaverint, extruxerint et adornaverint: et desinant fidem nostram rusticae tantum simplicitatis arguere, suampqaue potius imperitiam agnoscant. (Hieronymus: de Viris Illustribus: Prologus)

    [Let Christ’s adversaries and their followers learn (those who think that the Church didn’t have any philosophers and eloquent doctors), let them learn how many and what kind of men laid the Church’s foundations and built her up and adorned her: and let them stop accusing our faith as having to do with rustic simplicity only: rather let them acknowledge their own lack of expertise. (Jerome: of Illustrious Men: Prologue)]

  7. TheCavalierHatherly says:

    There is an old story about a group of very learned archeologists scratching their heads over the purpose of a stone circle that appeared in most of the houses they were excavating. What could it be? Religous perhaps? They conjectured for a long time, until it one of the illiterate diggers spoke up. It was a fence to keep chicks from wondering out of the hut and into danger, short enough to allow the adult chickens to roam free: he had one at home in his hut, too.

    What’s my point? When we make historical examinations of language usage, we forget that people, historically, wrote differently than they spoke: speeches of importance, prayer, and most especially song have their own special prosody. Cicero didn’t speak to his housemaid the way he speaks in his addresses to the Senate. Putting the liturgy into “every day” language is preposterous and silly. This is why our music is utter trash, and political rhetoric isn’t so much rhetorical as excoriable.

  8. My father was in the seminary in the 1940s. He eventually left and completed college at XU in Cincinnati, graduating with a BA in classical languages. As a boy, he taught us a toast in Latin, which I’ve had occasion to use.

    “O quam bonum, et jucundum, est habitare cum fratribus in unum.”

    It was only years later that I learned it was from the Bea psalter. He passed into eternity ten years ago, before I had the chance to tell him.

    Still makes for a nice toast, though.

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