October 17, 2007

A Latin "Conversion Story"

I've never been to a non-Novus Ordo Mass in my life, but I have been to many wonderful Latin Masses since I was very young. Having nothing to show me how to match the Latin to what I already knew the words more or less said (it would have been easier if they used more Latin-based words in the vernacular Masses, I suspect, though I can't remember well enough to be sure they didn't), I didn't pick up much beyond "pax" and the pronunciation (well, I learned to recognise when something looked/sounded Latin also). I guess I should've been reading your column back then. Now it's funny to hear people talk about the Latin Mass vs. the Novus Ordo, as I know from plenty of experience that's mixing up two different divisions. I looked forward to learning Latin some day, having always heard of how rich it is and knowing quite how rich it sounds.

In high school, though, I developed a grudge against the language when I actually took it. I was one of those students who hated memorization and couldn't remember what most grammatical terms meant. To make matters worse, I couldn't get my Latin teacher to explain to me in ways I could understand. I was probably deficient in basic grammatical knowledge, having never actually understood much English grammar class either but merely done as instructed and forgotten as soon as I was through the drudgery. Unfortunately I managed to come to dislike Latin much more than I ever should have, even, in the height of frustration, concocting nonsense not unlike that we now hear.

Yet for a few years a certain paradox existed. I still thoroughly enjoyed Latin in the Liturgy and Gregorian chant despite my dislike of it as a language. I am not sure just how this was, but somehow I could feel the strength of the Church's Tradition through the Latin Mass and especially in song, and respected it even though I had lost my respect for the language.

Lately I'm finding at long last a way to wipe away the old grudge and restore that respect. The way is reading all the nonsense some people give against Latin. I had some time ago given up being quite that crazy against Latin like that myself, but the danger had always remained that I might return to it if I was troubled again. Now that tendency man has to want to fight back, in reaction to the nonsense, is gradually turning me back to how I once was. I finally sympathize with Latinists once again, and enjoy Latin free from that residual annoyance at my grammar struggles. More than ever I am looking forward to learning it. I certainly hope I get a good chance to try again someday, the sooner the better, and if I don't I will just find a parish with weekly Latin Mass and hang around till I've picked up the entire Liturgy in Latin.

Once again God has proven that He brings great good out of all evil.

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Blogger Ma Beck said...

Oh, SC, I could have written that post myself a few years back.

I remember railing against Latin and all its declensions.

What an honest, thoughtful post - thanks!

October 30, 2007 9:33 PM  

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