A friend of mine called me from his new job at a Jewish school. “We have so much to learn from them,” he informed me. “They incorporate their heritage and even speak Hebrew in every class.”
There are two problems with this. One is, a whole heck of a lot of what makes up Western culture IS the Catholic heritage. Secondly, our equivalent language is Latin and if you want to see people get upset, point out the documents of Vatican II (and the reiterations from the popes) that every Catholic should know his part of the Mass in Latin.
Goethe said, “Anybody who cannot draw on 3,000 years is living hand to mouth.” Last night we prayed vespers with benediction at the parish. It struck me that we said prayers and sang music that did, in fact, span thousands of years. The Psalms we prayed were probably written about 1,000 years before Christ. The Tantum Ergo was written in the 1200s. The opening hymn was of relatively current composition. It was mostly in English but there was also Latin and Greek. In just 15 minutes, we were exposed to our heritage that spanned centuries and cultures.
I know that Latin is definitely not liked by people I otherwise greatly respect as Catholics. A gentleman from another parish called my office the other day incredibly upset that they used Latin during lent at his parish and he was hoping, I think, that I would commiserate with him. He was incredulous that his pastor would not see his point of view. Little did he know that we sing it here also.
“Can you believe it?” he asked me, “The people don’t even know what they are saying!” I did echo his disappointment but said that how fortunate he was that he had a pastor who cared about his congregation so much that he set about changing that so that they would become familiar. Oddly, the closest I would ever come to agreeing with him is if he said he and his congregation were all Latin scholars and simply preferred English, then I would say it was probably time to drop it.
The Vatican II documents, the encouragement of the popes, the example of papal liturgies, the example of our own cathedral, all point us in the direction of at least becoming vaguely familiar with our own heritage. (And here, I admit, I am going to be as snarky as a 3rd grade teacher) You can’t tell me that the average Catholic cannot, after singing “Holy, holy, holy his entire life make the leap to understand that Sanctus, sanctus, sanctus means the same thing - ESPECIALLY now that our translations are superior to what they were.)
Ah well, let the roasting begin.