Wednesday, 14 March 2007

Latin

One of the things I love about being Catholic is that I can go pretty much anywhere in the world and meet people who share my beliefs, and even if I don't speak a word of their language, I can share the Eucharist with them and be able to follow the Mass with them.

The use of Latin makes that common experience so much more powerful. I have sung the Missa de Angelis in China and the Salve Regina in Russia, and the shared Latin form of the words made me feel that I really was part of "unam sanctam Catholicam et apostolicam Ecclesiam" (the same words, incidentally, that I saw beautifully carved or picked out in mosaic tiles on the outside of some of the newly-built Catholic churches in the villages near where I worked in China).

A friend of mine was walking down the street in a small town in China and was approached by a local. Neither spoke more than a couple of words of the other's native language, but the Chinese man obviously wanted to communicate with my friend. After greeting him, the Chinese man solemnly made the sign of the Cross, and my friend understood that this man must have seen him attending Mass at the cathedral church in the nearby city and recognised him. Still desperate to communicate, the Chinese man paused for a moment to think, then smiled as he had an idea - and sang "Credo in unum Deum". My friend joined in - "Patrem omnipotentem" - and the two of them walked down the dusty, crowded street, singing the creed together, before shaking hands and each continuing on his way.

What a marvellous moment of connection between these two people who had no other way of communicating - and yet most Catholics under the age of 40 in the West would have struggled to find this connection.

Similarly, on a visit to Russia I was able to join in the singing of the Salve Regina, which I was made to memorise when I was 10. My sister, seven years younger, had never memorised any Latin and so was unable to join in - and she bitterly regretted losing out on this opportunity to unite her voice with those of the Russian people she prayed alongside over several months of living there.

I love feeling part of a universal Church, and I love being able to share my worship and feel a sense of community with complete strangers wherever I go in the world - and that's why I'm delighted that the Pope is once again encouraging the use of Latin.

2 comments:

Simon-Peter said...

You are a very interesting person.

newhousenewjob said...

Thanks. :¬)