Latin isn’t a dead language – it’s resurgent

August 31, 2010

Two pieces of news have been passed on to me in recent days, both interesting on their own merits, but more so when considered together.

Firstly, a researcher at the University of Cambridge School Classics project has spent the last five months telephoning every single secondary school in the country, and has discovered that there are still 1,081 schools which offer Latin, 447 of them independent schools and 634 of them state schools. 58 more state schools are due to start offering the subject in September.

So for the first time since the introduction of modern language GCSEs in the 1980s, Latin is now offered in more state than independent schools. I don’t want to be overly optimistic about this. Latin has hardly found its way into hundreds of sink-estate comprehensive schools throughout Britain – doubtless of the 634 state schools a large number will be selective grammars. Moreover 634 schools make up only 13 per cent of state schools, while 447 is 60 per cent of independent schools. Nevertheless, the figure is an extremely encouraging one, reflecting the success of the £5 million DfES funding for digital materials to support the study of Classics in schools, and of the Government’s “Gifted and Talented” initiative.

Overall, there are now 115 more schools offering Latin than there were in 2008. More than anything, this reflects the increasing awareness that Latin, unlike subjects such as English, cannot be “dumbed down”, making a GCSE or A level in it a very useful tool for any pupil wishing to prove their intelligence. While the recommended number of tuition hours for a GCSE course is 120-140, for Latin the average input is 272. That’s twice as much. Without wishing to blow my own trumpet, Latin is obviously harder than other subjects. This used to be a reason for schools to stop offering it – now the opposite is true.

The second piece of news was that a group of 20 Oxfordshire students who have been studying Latin from scratch on Saturday mornings for the past two years received their GCSE results on Tuesday. The programme was offered by the Oxford University’s Latin Teaching Scheme, and had an extremely low dropout rate. The students achieved 14 A* to C grades (including 3 A*s and 3As), and many of them are going on to study the subject at A level.

The success (and very existence) of this scheme is an excellent thing – but it is also a shame that these students have had to give up their Saturday mornings to achieve such a worthwhile qualification. The Oxford Classics faculty runs the programme (and funds it entirely without government subsidy) because not a single state school in Oxfordshire offers Latin to GCSE or A level. Given the evident rise of Latin elsewhere, this is surprising and a great shame. Latin is neither dead nor dying, but this is proof that the work of the Government and of universities to facilitate and encourage Latin in the state sector is far from done.

Source: Telegraph


Harvard’s Valedictorian to Become Dominican Nun

August 31, 2010
Here’s a great story . . .  Don’t tell Mary Anne Marks the Catholic Church is an oppressive, misogynistic disaster. She knows better. And she’s got a Harvard degree, too.

Miss Marks, a native of Queens, N.Y., graduated from Harvard University this past semester with an undergraduate degree in classics and English, delivering her commencement address in Latin. This fall, she begins a new life, discerning her future consecrated to Christ as a Catholic religious sister with the Dominican Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist, in Ann Arbor, Mich.
. . .

KATHRYN JEAN LOPEZ: You are a Harvard graduate. Aren’t you surrendering all the possibilities that entails by entering a convent?

MARY ANNE MARKS: Yes, if one doesn’t see becoming a well-educated, intellectually alive nun as one of the possibilities. . . .

LOPEZ: I don’t know about you, but I read the New York Times. A number of the op-ed columnists there, and a number of the news stories, tell me that the Catholic Church is anti-woman. And from other stories, about the various scandals, the Catholic Church also sounds like a dying, loser organization of sinners. Why would you choose to represent it in such a public, hard-to-miss way — in a religious habit?

MARKS: I feel privileged to represent the Catholic Church in a visible way, because it is an organization of sinners and sinners-turned-saints, emphatically alive, expanding, and responsive to the needs of the time, an organization that has been enormously effective in promoting the spiritual and material well-being of women and men throughout the 2,000 years of its existence.

From its earliest years, the Church’s doctrine of the equality of all humans as beloved children of God and its reverence for Mary as the spouse and mother of God elevated women to a status previously unheard of. In our own times, the Church’s unequivocal opposition to practices such as abortion and contraception, which harm women physically and psychologically, and threaten to render them victims of their own and others’ unchecked desires, makes the Church a lone voice above the chaos, promoting women’s dignity and happiness.

The cry that the Church is a “dying, loser organization of sinners” echoes down the centuries; it rang out in Christ’s day, it rang out in Luther’s day, and it rings out in ours. The second part always has and always will be too true. Kyrie eleison. The erroneousness of the first part is suggested by the Church’s record of accomplishments and its longevity to this point, and by the new growth that people of my generation rejoice to see.

. . .

LOPEZ: I don’t know Harvard to be a great incubator or beacon of religious vocations. Am I wrong?

MARKS: Yes, Deo gratias! A couple of years ago, a young man who finished Harvard in three years entered the seminary in St. Louis. A little further back, a young woman who attended Harvard and lived in the same women’s residence that I did joined the Franciscan Sisters of the Renewal. One of my friends, whom I met while she was pursuing a degree at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, joined the Religious Sisters of Mercy two years ago. This July 25, two young men from Harvard joined the Eastern Province of the Dominicans.

Read the whole interview here. Here’s a video of her delivering her now famous commencement speech in Latin:
Source: Sacred Page

The Liturgical Experts’ Long Tassels

August 30, 2010

Source: First Things

Under the avalanche of commentary on the new translation of the Ordinary Form of the Mass, just approved by the Vatican, I poke my head above the erudite criticisms, to speak as a man whose entire priesthood has been in parishes. I am not a liturgist and, from the parochial perspective of a pastor who has studied worship much less than he has done it, I risk the tendency of many like me who probably unfairly think that liturgists are the ecclesiastical equivalent of lepidopterists.

A pastor is too busy leading people in worship to attend workshops on how to lead people in worship, and his duties in the confessional prevent him from attending seminars on how to hear confessions. I do know that if I followed the guidelines of one liturgical commission, suggesting that I greet each penitent at the church doors with an open Gospel book and then lead a procession to a reconciliation room which looks more like an occasion of sin than a shrine for its absolution, the number of confessions in the middle of the metropolis where I serve would be severely reduced.

Publicly owned corporations are more accountable to their shareholders than tenured bureaucracies, which may explain why it took the Ford Motor Company only two years to cancel its Edsel, and not much longer for Coca Cola to restore its “classic” brand, while the Catholic Church has taken more than a generation of unstopped attrition to try to correct the mistakes of overheated liturgists. The dawning of the Age of Aquarius is now in its sunset repose and the bright young things who seem to be cropping up now all over the place with new information from Fortescue and Ratzinger, may either be the professional mourners for a lost civilization, or the sparks of a looming golden age.

One thing is certain to a pastor: the only parishioners fighting the old battles are old themselves, their felt banners frayed and their guitar strings broken, while a young battalion is rising, with no animus against the atrophied adolescence of their parents, and only eager to engage a real spiritual combat in a culture of death. They usually are ignorant, but bright, for ignorance is not stupidity.

They care little if the Liturgy is in Latin or English or Sanskrit, as long as they are told how to do it, for they were not told. Some critics of the new translations have warned that the changes are too radical, which is radioactively cynical from people who in the 1960’s wantonly dismantled old verities overnight, in their suburbanized version of China’s Cultural Revolution.

Our Lord warned enough about the experts of his day who loved long tassels, and who swore by the gold of the temple rather than the temple, to stay us from placing too much hope in ritual and texts to save lives. Neglect of the aesthetics of worship is not remedied by the worship of aesthetics. A pastor will sometimes observe an over-reaction to the corruption of the Liturgy, so that ritual becomes theatre and Andrei Rubleyev yields to Aubrey Beardsley. Any group or religious community that is too deliberate about external form sows in itself the seeds of decadence.

Liturgy should be chantable, reverent, and expressive of the highest culture we know, without self-consciousness. Ars est celare artem. In tandem with Ovid, for whom it is art to conceal art, Evelyn Waugh said that Anthony Eden was not a gentleman because he dressed too well. It is typical of some schismatic sects that the more they lapse into heresy, the more ritualistic they become. So one will see pictures of a woman claiming to be a bishop, vested like Pius X on his jubilee.

A genius of the Latin rite has been its virile precision, even bluntness. Contrast this with the unsettled grammar of “alternative opening prayers” in the original books from ICEL (the International Commission on English in the Liturgy), whose poesie sounds like Teilhard on steroids.

They were much wordier than the Latin collects or their English equivalents, and gave the impression of having been composed by fragile personalities who had not had a happy early home life. So too, the Prayers of the Faithful cloyingly pursued “themes” usually inspired by an undisciplined concern for air pollution and third world debt.

I think there should be few options in the Liturgy, and no attempt to be “creative,” for that is God’s particular talent. As Vatican II taught in Sacrosanctum Concilium, “[T]here must be no innovations unless the good of the Church genuinely and certainly requires them; and care must be taken that any new forms adopted should in some way grow organically from forms already existing.”

Unfortunately, we have not yet resolved the problem of the simply bad Lectionary texts. While the Jerusalem Bible and Revised Standard Version are licit, only the Revised New American Bible is accessible for parish use. The Jerusalem Bible is a tool for study but was translated with a tin ear.

I grew up with the King James translation and thus am stunned when Job 38:17 (“Hast thou seen the doors of the shadow of death?”) is given as “Have you met the janitors of Shadowland?” So Sheol becomes a theme park.

But none of this matches the torture of the trans-gendered RNAB which manages to neuter every creature except Satan who remains male. Our Lord sometimes sounds like the Prince of Wales: “What profit is there for one to gain the whole world …?” and other times like a bored anthropologist: “Two people went up to the temple to pray….” But then the inevitable pronouns kick in and we find out that even after the liturgical gelding, these were men.

The Liturgy by grace changes lives. Any pastor who is blessed with an abundance of priestly vocations in his parish knows that they come in spite of epicene worship, demotic liturgy committees, and flailing song leaders. They simply join the chorus of the Greeks: “Sir, we would see Jesus.” I recall a prelate saying that even as a seminarian he hoped one day to be able to say Mass facing the people. It was a revealing statement, inasmuch as when he said Mass he seemed annoyed that the Lord was sometimes getting in the way.

While I am glad for the new and more accurate translation of the Mass, which is not perfection but closer to it than one deserves in an imperfect world, a far more important reform would be the return of the ad orientem position of the celebrant as normative. It is the antidote to the tendency of clerisy to impose itself on the people. When a celebrant at Mass stops and says, “This is not about me,” you may be sure he thinks it may be about him. It would be harder for him to harbor that suspicion were he leading the people humbly to the east and the dawn of salvation.

John Henry Newman was the greatest master of English letters in his century of brilliant English, but he gave no countenance to his vernacular replacing the sacral tongue. That is another matter for another day. But he knew the meaning of cupio dissolvi, and he taught that without such self-abnegation the gift of personality reduces the Passion to pantomime. It was because his priestcraft was also soulcraft, that he solemnly invoked the Sacred Heart at the altar in order to speak “heart to heart” with the people in the street:

“Clad in his sacerdotal vestments, [the priest] sinks what is individual in himself altogether, and is but the representative of Him from whom he derives his commission. His words, his tones, his actions, his presence, lose their personality; one bishop, one priest, is like another; they all chant the same notes, and observe the same genuflections, as they give one peace and one blessing, as they offer one and the same sacrifice.

“The Mass must not be said without a Missal under the priest’s eye; nor in any language but that in which it has come down to us from the early hierarchs of the Western Church. But, when it is over, and the celebrant has resigned the vestments proper to it, then he resumes himself, and comes to us in the gifts and associations which attach to his person.

“He knows his sheep, and they know him; and it is this direct bearing of the teacher on the taught, of his mind upon their minds, and the mutual sympathy which exists between them, which is his strength and influence when he addresses them. They hang upon his lips as they cannot hang upon the pages of his book.”

Father George W. Rutler is pastor of the Church of Our Saviour in New York City and the author most recently of Clouds of Witnesses: Dead People I Knew When They Were Alive. His The Spirit of Vatican II appeared in First Things and He is Not Here, his homily for the Mass for the repose of the soul of Richard John Neuhaus, and Words and Reality in “On the Square.”


Christian the Lion

August 28, 2010

Author: More teens becoming ‘fake’ Christians

August 28, 2010

STORY HIGHLIGHTS

  • More teenagers embracing watered-down Christianity, author argues in new book
  • Teenagers see God as “divine therapist,” author says
  • Teenager: “They don’t want to make sacrifices”
  • Who’s responsible for inspiring teens? Parents and pastors are, author says

(CNN) — If you’re the parent of a Christian teenager, Kenda Creasy Dean has this warning:

Your child is following a “mutant” form of Christianity, and you may be responsible.

Dean says more American teenagers are embracing what she calls “moralistic therapeutic deism.” Translation: It’s a watered-down faith that portrays God as a “divine therapist” whose chief goal is to boost people’s self-esteem.

Dean is a minister, a professor at Princeton Theological Seminary and the author of “Almost Christian,” a new book that argues that many parents and pastors are unwittingly passing on this self-serving strain of Christianity.

She says this “imposter” faith is one reason teenagers abandon churches.

“If this is the God they’re seeing in church, they are right to leave us in the dust,” Dean says. “Churches don’t give them enough to be passionate about.”

What traits passionate teens share

Dean drew her conclusions from what she calls one of the most depressing summers of her life. She interviewed teens about their faith after helping conduct research for a controversial study called the National Study of Youth and Religion.

The study, which included in-depth interviews with at least 3,300 American teenagers between 13 and 17, found that most American teens who called themselves Christian were indifferent and inarticulate about their faith.

The study included Christians of all stripes — from Catholics to Protestants of both conservative and liberal denominations. Though three out of four American teenagers claim to be Christian, fewer than half practice their faith, only half deem it important, and most can’t talk coherently about their beliefs, the study found.

Many teenagers thought that God simply wanted them to feel good and do good — what the study’s researchers called “moralistic therapeutic deism.”

Some critics told Dean that most teenagers can’t talk coherently about any deep subject, but Dean says abundant research shows that’s not true.

“They have a lot to say,” Dean says. “They can talk about money, sex and their family relationships with nuance. Most people who work with teenagers know that they are not naturally inarticulate.”

In “Almost Christian,” Dean talks to the teens who are articulate about their faith. Most come from Mormon and evangelical churches, which tend to do a better job of instilling religious passion in teens, she says.

No matter their background, Dean says committed Christian teens share four traits: They have a personal story about God they can share, a deep connection to a faith community, a sense of purpose and a sense of hope about their future.

“There are countless studies that show that religious teenagers do better in school, have better relationships with their parents and engage in less high-risk behavior,” she says. “They do a lot of things that parents pray for.”

Dean, a United Methodist Church minister who says parents are the most important influence on their children’s faith, places the ultimate blame for teens’ religious apathy on adults.

Some adults don’t expect much from youth pastors. They simply want them to keep their children off drugs and away from premarital sex.

Others practice a “gospel of niceness,” where faith is simply doing good and not ruffling feathers. The Christian call to take risks, witness and sacrifice for others is muted, she says.

“If teenagers lack an articulate faith, it may be because the faith we show them is too spineless to merit much in the way of conversation,” wrote Dean, a professor of youth and church culture at Princeton Theological Seminary.

More teens may be drifting away from conventional Christianity. But their desire to help others has not diminished, another author says.

Barbara A. Lewis, author of “The Teen Guide to Global Action,” says Dean is right — more teens are embracing a nebulous belief in God.

Yet there’s been an “explosion” in youth service since 1995 that Lewis attributes to more schools emphasizing community service.

Teens that are less religious aren’t automatically less compassionate, she says.

“I see an increase in youth passion to make the world a better place,” she says. “I see young people reaching out to solve problems. They’re not waiting for adults.”

What religious teens say about their peers

Elizabeth Corrie meets some of these idealistic teens every summer. She has taken on the book’s central challenge: instilling religious passion in teens.

Corrie, who once taught high school religion, now directs a program called YTI — the Youth Theological Initiative at Emory University in Georgia.

YTI operates like a theological boot camp for teens. At least 36 rising high school juniors and seniors from across the country gather for three weeks of Christian training. They worship together, take pilgrimages to varying religious communities and participate in community projects.

Corrie says she sees no shortage of teenagers who want to be inspired and make the world better. But the Christianity some are taught doesn’t inspire them “to change anything that’s broken in the world.”

Teens want to be challenged; they want their tough questions taken on, she says.

“We think that they want cake, but they actually want steak and potatoes, and we keep giving them cake,” Corrie says.

David Wheaton, an Atlanta high school senior, says many of his peers aren’t excited about Christianity because they don’t see the payoff.

“If they can’t see benefits immediately, they stay away from it,” Wheaton says. “They don’t want to make sacrifices.”

How ‘radical’ parents instill religious passion in their children

Churches, not just parents, share some of the blame for teens’ religious apathy as well, says Corrie, the Emory professor.

She says pastors often preach a safe message that can bring in the largest number of congregants. The result: more people and yawning in the pews.

“If your church can’t survive without a certain number of members pledging, you might not want to preach a message that might make people mad,” Corrie says. “We can all agree that we should all be good and that God rewards those who are nice.”

Corrie, echoing the author of “Almost Christian,” says the gospel of niceness can’t teach teens how to confront tragedy.

“It can’t bear the weight of deeper questions: Why are my parents getting a divorce? Why did my best friend commit suicide? Why, in this economy, can’t I get the good job I was promised if I was a good kid?”

What can a parent do then?

Get “radical,” Dean says.

She says parents who perform one act of radical faith in front of their children convey more than a multitude of sermons and mission trips.

A parent’s radical act of faith could involve something as simple as spending a summer in Bolivia working on an agricultural renewal project or turning down a more lucrative job offer to stay at a struggling church, Dean says.

But it’s not enough to be radical — parents must explain “this is how Christians live,” she says.

“If you don’t say you’re doing it because of your faith, kids are going to say my parents are really nice people,” Dean says. “It doesn’t register that faith is supposed to make you live differently unless parents help their kids connect the dots.”

‘They called when all the cards stopped’

Anne Havard, an Atlanta teenager, might be considered radical. She’s a teen whose faith appears to be on fire.

Havard, who participated in the Emory program, bubbles over with energy when she talks about possibly teaching theology in the future and quotes heavy-duty scholars such as theologian Karl Barth.

She’s so fired up about her faith that after one question, Havard goes on a five-minute tear before stopping and chuckling: “Sorry, I just talked a long time.”

Havard says her faith has been nurtured by what Dean, the “Almost Christian” author, would call a significant faith community.

In 2006, Havard lost her father to a rare form of cancer. Then she lost one of her best friends — a young woman in the prime of life — to cancer as well. Her church and her pastor stepped in, she says.

“They called when all the cards stopped,” she says.

When asked how her faith held up after losing her father and friend, Havard didn’t fumble for words like some of the teens in “Almost Christian.”

She says God spoke the most to her when she felt alone — as Jesus must have felt on the cross.

“When Jesus was on the cross crying out, ‘My God, why have you forsaken me?’ Jesus was part of God,” she says. “Then God knows what it means to doubt.

“It’s OK to be in a storm, to be in a doubt,” she says, “because God was there, too.”


Doing His Job!

August 27, 2010

View interview here.


Ah, Youth: When the Church Was Young

August 26, 2010

Source: Catholic Education Resource Center

Scouring the Patrologia Latina and Patrologia Graeca, I found nothing to suggest that Ambrose had ever led teens on ski trips to the nearby Alps. Digging through the Eastern Fathers, I came up even drier — no junior-high dances — not even a pizza party in either Antioch or Alexandria. In fact, in all the documentary evidence from all the ancient patriarchates of the East and the West, there’s not a single bulletin announcement for a single parish youth group.

Yet the Fathers had enormous success in youth and young-adult ministry. Many of the early martyrs were teens, as were many of the Christians who took to the desert for the solitary life. There’s ample evidence that a disproportionate number of conversions, too, came from the young and youngish age groups.

How did the Fathers do it? They made wild promises.

They promised young people great things, like persecution, lower social status, public ridicule, severely limited employment opportunities, frequent fasting, a high risk of jail and torture, and maybe, just maybe, an early, violent death at the hands of their pagan rulers.

The Fathers looked young people in the eye and called them to live purely in the midst of a pornographic culture. They looked at some young men and women and boldly told them they had a calling to virginity. And it worked. Even the pagans noticed how well it worked.

The brightest young man in the empire’s brightest city — a teenager named Origen of Alexandria — promised himself entirely to God in virginity. And, as he watched his father taken away to be killed, Origen would have gone along himself, turned himself in, if his mother had not hidden all his clothes. . . .

I searched volumes on the ancient liturgy, and I was unable to find a scrap of a Mass we’d call “relevant” today. There were no special Youth Masses. Yet there was an overwhelming eucharistic faith among the young people of the Church.

Tarcisius was a boy of third-century Rome. His virtue and devotion were so strong that the clergy trusted him to bring the Blessed Sacrament to the sick. Once, while carrying a pyx, he was recognized and set upon by a pagan mob. They flung themselves upon him, trying to pry the pyx from his hands, wanting more than anything to profane the Sacrament. Tarcisius’ biographer, the fourth-century Pope Damasus, compared them to a pack of rabid dogs. Tarcisius “preferred to give up his life rather than yield up the Body of Christ.”

Even at such an early age, Tarcisius was aware of the stakes. Jesus had died for love of Tarcisius. Tarcisius did not hesitate to die for love of Jesus.

What made the Church attractive in the third century can make it just as attractive in the twenty-first. In the ancient world and in ours, young people want a challenge. They want to love with their whole being. They’re willing to do things the hard way — if people they respect make the big demands. These are distinguishing marks of youth. You don’t find too many middle-aged men petitioning the Marines for a long stay at Parris Island. It’s young men who beg for that kind of rigor.

The spiritual writer Father John Hugo told a cautionary tale, not from the ancient Church, but from the German Church of the early twentieth century. Youth leaders faced a country depressed and dejected from its defeat in World War I. Teens seemed aimless, with little hope for professional opportunity and no clear sense of patriotism or other ideals.

The German clergy made a conscious effort, then, to accentuate the positive. They decided to accommodate the country’s weakness, avoid mentioning sacrifice, and downplay the cross and other “negative” elements of Christianity. They were big on nature hikes.

At the same time, there arose a man who called upon those same youth to give up everything for the sake of their country. “He put them in uniforms, housed them in barracks — in short, he demanded that they live a hard and laborious life.” This man, Adolf Hitler, won the hearts of the youth. Because no young man or woman really wants to give his life away cheaply.

Tarcisius knew better. So do the kids in your parish.