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History Does Not Repeat Itself ( Wed Aug 1, 2007 8:43 am)

While our earthly home spins, revolves, and rushes ever forward through
space, Pope Benedict XVI is attempting to put a reverse spin on our Church and bring it back to the pre-Vatican II days of Latin and Gregorian Chant. Certainly it is comforting for those of us who can still identify Latin and Gregorian chant with our faith. But for those under 40, Latin is a foreign language having no association with their faith or prayers. They never experienced the mystical mumbling of the priest at Mass or the strange words of Latin hymns.

Is there more to this attempted Latin revival than meets the eye? Latin was the common language of ancient Rome and retained by the Church as a means of control. Only the educated clergy knew Latin. It is a dead language, but could once again become the elitist language of the whole Church, and not just the Vatican. It can become "sacred" again if and when only the clergy are able to speak and understand it again. There are remnants of this elitism around yet as older academics, lawyers, and doctors who still take pride in using a Latin phrase or two (without translation) as a sign of their elitism rather than to openly communicate.

It is hard to see how a return to Latin can contribute to more meaningful worship, unless one believes a mystical ritual (even with a translation) brings one closer to God and community. Jesus spoke to his disciples and his community in their common native language (definitely not in Latin). Can you imagine fostering a relationship with God or neighbor in Latin?

Might this be an attempt to divert our attention to a more trivial matter, away from the serious issues facing the Church and humankind as we tumble along on this swirling earth, which is becoming more and more difficult to call home? Roman circuses were a way of diverting the crowd from more pressing matters. This Latin trick might work again. Who said the history does not repeat itself?

Other voices

Another Voice

Questions From a Ewe

Challenges Facing Catholicism
(Bishop Geoffrey Robinson in converation with Dr Ingrid Shafer)

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