My home parish was a nationality parish with no territory. It was meant for persons of Slovenian descent. As part of this they would sing songs in Slovenian from time to time. Occasionally someone would say that we should not sing songs in Slovenian since the younger ones no longer understood the language, I being one of them who did not readily understand the language. My Mother, not known at all from dramatics, would, on this point, dramatically state with appropriate gestures, “Heavens forbid that our children should catch on the ‘Jesu’ is ‘Jesus’ and ‘Marija’ is ‘Mary’ and that ‘Bog’ is ‘God.’” Well, Mom won and we sang in Slovenian and today I know some of the language of my heritage that I would not have learned any other way simply because I was exposed to it. As a matter of fact, it came in handy yesterday while in Pittsburg visiting the Cathedral of Learning and visited the “Yugoslavian” room and was able to understand some things and explain them to my buddies because of my very limited exposure to the language.
That is the background I come from when taking Vatican II very seriously when it says that “steps should be taken” that all Roman Catholics know their parts of the Mass in Latin. “I’ll never go to Rome,” is one statement I hear often from people who are allergic to Latin, “so I’ll never need it.” But you are not alone in the parish. They are many people who may have the chance to make use of this knowledge of their rightful heritage. There is a good chance some of our students will have the opportunity to study abroad, others may attend Word Youth Day some day, or perhaps they would have attended Bishop Quinn’s funeral two weeks ago at which there was a peppering of Latin. I smiled thinking that if anyone were there from my parish, they would be able to respond and have at least a minimal understanding of what was going on.
For a remaining couple of weeks we are singing the Gloria in Latin. Perhaps a few words will start to stick. Maybe it will inspire someone to have a love of Latin. Maybe it will give a few words to someone so that, should they go to a concert, they can lean over to their date and say, “That’s the Gloria from the Mass.” Perhaps they will encounter words elsewhere and make connections. Consider the Gloria:
“Gloria in excelsis Deo” It would not take too much to realize these are the same words sung at Christmas in the song, “Angels We Have Heard on High.”
“et in terra pax hominibus, bonae voluntatis” “Et in” would have to be guessed at but it is not too hard to figure out if you have some idea of what the Gloria is in Latin. "Terra, while not the same meaning of "Tara" that Scarlett O'Hara lived in from "Gone with the Wind" would have worked (as God as my witness I will never go hungry again!) it would have worked. It made me look it up. “Pax” is used all over the place from names of organizations to a T.V. station locally - although they pronounce at “packs” which drives me nuts. So forth and so on. . .
Of course the question could be asked if this is this is really bringing us closer to God. Valid point. I would argue yes. It broadens our possibility of worship anywhere. It broadens our recognition. “That’s not just a song! That’s the Mass on that recording.” And it hopefully makes us pay better attention to the words even if that is only picking up the book and reading the English words as others try the Latin. Heaven forbid someone should learn that “Deo” is “God” or that “Sanctus” is “Holy” (from when we get the words sanctified, sanctification, sanctuary, etc . . .)
But then again, one man’s treasure is another man’s trash.