The Language of Faith

I remember a cousin of mine who was slaving through Latin at her Catholic high school in Fort Wayne, IN, telling me a rhyme:

Latin is a dead language,
Dead as it can be
First, it killed the Romans.
Now, it's killing me.

We laughed, and since I wasn't taking Latin at my Catholic high school in Indianapolis, I agreed with her about the futility of the classes she was taking.

In light of the disunity within the Catholic Church, though, we were wrong.  Like many things in the Church in the United States today, the reason for Latin is not explained to anyone.

Language is an important way of keeping people united.  Canada and Belgium, countries with more than one official language, have been fighting for many years to keep their countries together as linguistic groups have been fighting against each other for independence.  For the Church, Latin serves a similar function.  Since the Church is universal and most people can't speak many foreign languages, if any at all, Latin serves as a way for the Church to communicate to us and for us to communicate with other Catholics.  A beautiful example of this is the Second Vatican Council.  The bishops addressed each other in the sessions, and often outside of the sessions, in Latin.  Some were noted for their halting Latin, while others were said to have spoken it most beautifully.  However well or poorly the bishops spoke Latin, it was by using Latin that bishops from around the world were able to propose, discuss, debate, and pass sixteen documents for the affirmation of the faith as given to us by the Apostles and for the guidance of the Church in the modern world.

Language is important, but what is more important is what language communicates.  In Canada and Belgium, the different linguistic groups are divided, also, by religion, culture, and history, that which their different languages communicate to their speakers.  In the Church, Latin communicates to us our shared faith and the history of that faith in salvation history.  While, perhaps, we may be able to get by without being able to speak Latin, we cannot get by without knowing our faith.  Whatever else we may know and whatever else we may be able to communicate to others in English, Italian, German, or French, it is only vanity and a striving after wind, since only knowing and heroically practicing our faith will get us to Heaven, our true home.

The Israelites were united by one language and one faith.  The Catholic Church, the new Israel, is united by one language and one faith.  Know your faith.

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