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Law, culture, and Catholicism...up in smoke!

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Read This

[Disclaimer: I don't pretend to be able to tell a good story, so read at your own risk and "magna cum patientia."]

It was a balmy spring morning in Chicago (about 1998). There was a flurry of activity at St. "Jack" Cantius Church--as was the custom on Sunday mornings at this shrine of Catholic culture in the Windy City:

The Tridentine crowds were just getting out of their 0730 Low Mass and making their way down to the Cafe San Giovanni (i.e., the church basement) for coffee, donuts and the obligatory conversations about politics, the fact that Father's thumb and forefinger left each other for a moment during the Roman canon, and the inadequacies of Nostra Aetate.

At the same time, the fideles attending the 0930 English Novus Ordo Mass were arriving. These folks seemed to dress a bit more hip and contemporary from their Tridentine counterparts. In any event, a well attended Mass by those who respect the Church's traditional language, but prefer their native tongue in the rendering latria to Our Lord.

Simultaneous to these two groups, the Latin and Greek classes were underway. Groups of adults were either memorizing their declensions, conjugating laudare, or struggling with great joy through the Exsultet with its "mater apis." There was a children's class underway as well. Truly there is nothing that Our Lord must love more than the sweet voices of children singing O Sanctissima. Folks in these groups were also eagerly anticipating a lecture by a fine Latinist after the 1100 Missa Normativa.

It was during this timeframe (about 0830-0915), that parishioners encountered a very strange occurence. Something that hasn't happened before or since at St. Jack Cantius (at least to AM's recollection). A curious figure--an obvious stranger--began to mull around the church. He looked oddly out of place and he had all the airs of a wandering nomad. He was bald, wore a powder blue jumpsuit, he was loud and--this is the most significant--he was drinking a can of Old Milwaukee on the steps of the church! Of course, reactions ranged from quizzical looks, to polite avoidance ("C'mon honey, Let's walk over here.") to outright condemnation ("He must be a Bugnini-loving Freemason.") (Personally, I thought it was hilarious!) Well, this character in the powder-blue jumpsuit was none other than the Pope's Official Latinist, Fr. Reginald Foster, O.C.D. He was the scholar who was to give the lecture after Mass on the glories of the "lingua antiqua." It was enjoyed by all!

Moral: Funny bald men in powder-blue jumpsuits drinking beer are probably great Latinists.