Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Ralph McInerny's appreciative appraisal of Thomas Merton


I owe a great debt of gratitude to Merton (and to the grace of God first, of course) for the revitalization of my Catholicism my senior year in college. Although I understand McInerny's point about a Pharisaical interpretation of Merton's love affair, I'm not sure I can be quite as sanguine about it as McInerny is. As McInerny points out, he did remain faithful. The twentieth century seems to be populated with near-saints of this sort. The scourge of Satan has had its effect, I think.

On the other hand, after twenty-eight years of "trying," I'm not exactly St. Robert of Franklin.

McInterny's brother, Dennis, wrote a book about Merton. Thomas Merton: The Man and His Works. Spenser, Mass.: Cistercian Publications, 1974. He also wrote his doctoral dissertation at the University of Minnesota on Merton: "Thomas Merton and Society: A Study of the Man and His Thought against the Background of Contemporary American Culture." He also had an exchange of letters with Merton that is on file at the Thomas Merton Center.

Vulgate and Neovulgate

So, you think you're going to write a nice, spiritual reflection on a neat passage of scripture (Ps. 85 (84)) that you run across while you are praying the office, then you are sidetracked by the disparity between the Vulgate of St. Jerome and the neovulgate used in the current Liturgy of the Hours.


Original vulgate:
verumtamen prope est his qui timent eum salutare eius ut habitet gloria in terra nostra
misericordia et veritas occurrerunt iustitia et pax deosculatae sunt
veritas de terra orta est et iustitia de caelo prospexit
sed et Dominus dabit bonum et terra nostra dabit germen suum
iustitia ante eum ibit et ponet in via gressus suos.

Neovulgate, with changes in bold:
Vere prope timentes eum salutare ipsius, ut inhabitet gloria in terra nostra.
Misericordia et veritas obviaverunt sibi, iustitia et pax osculatae sunt.
Veritas de terra orta est, et iustitia de caelo prospexit.
Etenim Dominus dabit benignitatem, et terra nostra dabit fructum suum.
Iustitia ante eum ambulabitet ponet in via gressus suos.

I presume the points were a) to make it somewhat more classical ("etenim" rather than "sed et"), and 2) to make it correspond more closely to the Hebrew. For instance, "fructum" must be a better translation of the Hebrew than "germen."

By the way, the version in the office inexplicably has "verumtamen" rather than "vere"!

This is a beautiful passage with Christological overtones. The English:
Surely his salvation is at hand for those who fear him, that glory may dwell in our land.
Steadfast love and faithfulness will meet; righteousness and peace will kiss each other.
Faithfulness will spring up from the ground, and righteousness will look down from the sky.
Yea, the LORD will give what is good, and our land will yield its increase.
Righteousness will go before him, and make his footsteps a way.

What better image of the fruitful marriage between heaven and earth that occurred in the Incarnation?

No more superstars

My adult life as a Catholic has been dominated by Catholic superstars. First, there was Mother Teresa of Calcutta, whom I met in the summer of 1982. Then there was John Paul II. No pope has ever been like him, not even Leo XIII, who certainly profoundly influenced the shape of 20th century Catholicism in a similar way that John Paul II has shaped 21st century Catholicism. But he didn't have the charisma nor the biography that John Paul II. Then, in this diocese, we had Archbishop (soon to be Cardinal, I'm sure) Dolan. He also had the charisma and the adulation of many of the laity in this diocese.

Now it seems there are no superstars dominating the headlines in local or international Catholicism. Maybe it is because I'm not watching. Benedict XVI, although certainly a wonderful pope, is too retiring and intellectual to be the kind of Catholic magnet that Mother Teresa, John Paul II, and Archbishop Dolan were.

We don't need them, of course, but it sure is inspiring to have them. There have occasionally been such superstars in the history of the Church, who shook the Church up. I'm thinking of, for instance, St. Francis of Assisi. Who else, though, was so big?

I suppose it was difficult to have the kind of influence in your own time that ecclesiastical figures can have now because of mass communication. St. Benedict was certainly influential, but not in his own time. St. Antony became influential because of the best seller by St. Athanasius. Perhaps St. Benedict became so influential because of the bestseller by Pope St. Gregory the Great.

Is there another superstar on the horizon? Any thoughts?

The revival of living Latin

The distinction between studying Latin and learning Latin is highlighted in this article by Mark J. Clark, of Christendom College. My own kids have studied Latin, but not learned it. I'd say even my son that is majoring in Classics does not practice much "living" Latin in the way that Dr. Clark means it. He can correct me in the comm box if I am wrong. I'm very much in agreement with Clark about the necessity of learning Latin as the key to our Catholic heritage and as an exercise in a significantly different way of thinking.

Hat tip goes to Lisa Seeley, wife of Andrew Seeley of the Institute for Catholic Liberal Education.