15 April 2000

Latin in Anno Domini 2000

Liturgy meets Word™
contributed by Kay Goodnow
April 2000
And Mary said, My soul doth magnify the Lord,
And my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour.
For he hath regarded the low estate of his handmaiden: for, behold, from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed.
For he that is mighty hath done to me great things; and holy is his name.
And his mercy is on them that fear him from generation to generation.
He hath shewed strength with his arm; he hath scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts.
He hath put down the mighty from their seats, and exalted them of low degree.
He hath filled the hungry with good things; and the rich he hath sent empty away.
He hath holpen his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy;
As he spake to our fathers, to Abraham, and to his seed for ever. — Luke 1:46-55, KJV
From time to time, I contemplate life on paper. Writing ‘exorcises my demons’ by letting my emotions run in a safe space, indulges my humorous sense of the absurd, and gives final form to my thoughts. I write so that I can move on.

I am old enough to remember Big Chief tablets and fat pencils, handwriting exercises intended to improve my script, the ‘blue books’ we used for writing examinations (utilizing my flowing handwriting) and calligraphy a' la quill pen and inkwell. This last was taught in an effort to "preserve an ancient art." (I did not live prior to the invention of the printing press!)

Through the years, I cut my teeth on DOS, WordStar and Lotus. Admittedly, I struggled with the new ways and the old ways until, at long last, the typewriter became obsolete.

Of course the information superhighway arrived on the scene, and the progress of computer technology, along with the evolution of the computer itself and all its appendages, gizmos and ‘must haves’ nearly exceeds the speed of light. It certainly exceeds the speed of my brain which, left to its own devices, would still be happily ensconced in WordStar. But I am almost current now that I have Windows 95 and Word.

Because my son is extremely adept at understanding computers (and making them do whatever it is he wants them to do) my computer and appurtenant equipment move from old to new via Dr. Frankenstein. My son understands that his mother does not want to know how he does these things or how the computer works. When I push the ON switch, it should work. With software, though, I will experiment for hours and hours. Hand me a manual and it will end up in a drawer. Push the ON button and let the software teach me… I am happy. I have two hard drives and the Internet. What more could I need?

From time to time I also contemplate my Catholicism, or what is left of my Catholicism. In all fairness, my Catholicism is mixed in with my Episcopal forebears; I choose to believe I got the best of both.

I am old enough to remember holy cards with gilt edges, scapulars and medals of assorted ilk, incense, nuns who wore long black dresses, the rules about patent leather shoes and wearing slips with zippers in them under my navy blue pleated uniform skirt and my light blue blouse. I remember holy water, Benediction with incense and chants, relics, statues, JMJ letterhead and what it meant to be a Third Order Oblate. I remember all of the Baltimore Catechisms (1942 through 1954). I can tell you about most of the virgin-martyrs, the movie and book Indexes, retreats that scared any evident demons out of me, and daily Mass.

The only difference between myself and any other Catholic raised in the 40’s and early 50’s is that my Catholicism came to me through French and Latin, while my Episcopal heritage was in English, King James, Rite I version. In short, I was an Episcopalian in a Roman Catholic all-girls French finishing school run by European nuns. I was there from Kindergarten through Grade 12. Ten years of that time I was an Episcopalian who wanted to be a Catholic. The last two years I was a Catholic. Then I went out into the world and learned about the reality of life. I lasted, as a Catholic, until I was about 24.

I walked away, due to my failed first marriage and my intent to marry again. I walked away, because I believed myself ‘excommunicated’ by Rome or whatever entity and/or ‘rumor’ excommunicated people back in those days. The Episcopalians asked that we go marry elsewhere and then come back to them. "Boggle!," I said to both denominations, and I ‘excommunicated’ them from me.
Suffice it to say that I spent many years as wife and mother of three children. I was busy, happy, immersed in mothering and growing up along with the kids. But I avoided church and I buried all of my treasured memories way down deep. Occasionally I would contemplate them, in the silence of my heart. In 1975 the voice that lives in my head (which of course is God, by any of His names) said, "Come home!"

So I surfaced into the world of religion. In the course of time I discovered that Vatican II had occurred, that there were no more Baltimore Catechisms, that there was a "Dutch Underground," that the Latin Mass was gone, and finally, that Episcopal churches more closely resembled my old Catholicism than the new Catholicism did. I devoured the Articles of Vatican II in its entirety and I kept hearing "conscience, conscience, conscience."

Light, I decided, Pope John XXIII had used Vatican II to share the light. My heart sang (in Latin, of course, and it didn't really sing, it chanted): Magnificat anima mea Dominum… [My soul magnifies the Lord... (Luke 1:46)]

But not so, not so! Just as the original uncomplicated message of Christianity has been boxed, broadened, defined, redefined, underdefined, smothered, altered and amended, made lawful and unlawful, waged wars and more wars over, made legal and illegal and, in spite of itself, evolved into the reverse of what it was intended to be, so has the complicated message of Vatican II been interpreted in reverse.

Yes, I tried to salvage my Catholicism and I tried to restore my Episcopal heritage. My first marriage was successfully annulled even though I called the procedure off twice as it was happening. My second marriage, which by this time had produced three children and had lasted more than 14 years, was convalidated by both denominations. The annulment procedure and the learning experiences provided by this procedure were devastating to me. There was no evidence of the message of the Christ anywhere, but there was a ton of evidence of church authority. I tried very hard for another five years and finally one day, from inside my heart and in silence, I contemplated my buried treasures and God said, "Rest, now."

This is the year 2000. 25 years have passed (give or take one or two) since I last ventured forth into the world of organized religion. God suggested that it might be time to take another look.
I did. Among other encyclicals I located Ecclesia Dei. From there, it was an easy jump to the Latin Mass. I also located the Pius X Society. I learned too of the changes and schisms in the Episcopal Church. The Catholic Archdiocese in which I reside has a web page, which I read in detail. Unfortunately, the annulment forms I found there have not changed, not one word in 25 years.
God said, "I AM."

The joy and beauty of the Latin Mass recreated the wonderful, mystical feelings of my youth and I thanked God for allowing me to experience them again. In a lovely, old church (with two spires which are not twins) my Latin came back, completely, as did my French. I could remember and I could feel. The incense, the vigil lights, the statues, the vestments and the words, those glorious Latin words, were unchanged.

And yet there are changes. Or perhaps I have changed. The words, after all, are older than I am. I hear the messages in the epistle and in the gospel but my interpretation varies so dramatically with the words spoken in the sermon or homily that I find myself in conflict.
I have given those entities known as ‘authority’ in organized religion back to God. In so doing, I am free to keep my treasured memories of my Catholic past. I am free to keep her music and her beauty, her solemnity and her splendor and all the feelings that they create in me. I am free to experience her mysticism. In addition, I am free to wander through the Psalter and the Song of Songs and St. Luke. The words I hear are mine to keep, and they are simple. I am free to explore other religions, keeping only those values which are essential to me. Best of all, I am free to see the love and joy of God in others.

Sunday night, when I was listening to the silence in my heart and God revealed that every breath of life is sacrament, I again felt Magnificat anima mea Dominum…
On Monday, determined to retain Mary’s song of glory, I dug through several translations in four different sources to find the English equivalent to the Latin. None of them sounded right. Even St. Paul failed me. It is always difficult to translate feelings, even into English, with the written word. I wonder about the Hebrews and the original Greek and how they would sound, were I gifted enough to understand them.

On Tuesday, determined to retain what Latin I can recall, I began to record the words, through what is in the memory unit I call my brain and through what I own in musical arts, onto paper. I am rusty, but willing.

On Wednesday, having decided that the original Latin will outlast everything else that lasts at all, I decided to go into Word and begin my memory book.
Today, Thursday, it is painfully obvious to me that computer technology may, in time, control everything.

‘MAGNIFICAT ANIMA MEA DOMINUM’ I invoked as a title. Word went nuts! It underlined all four words in green squiggles. When I got that corrected, it went right back and underlined all four words in red squiggles. Red means (usually) that a word is not recognized. I typed every Latin word I know. I used eight single-spaced pages and I did not punctuate or use proper paragraph format. I just wrote.
I turned on spell check and I let it run. It went through all eight pages, word by word, and it let me have it in red and green. I could have used the printout for Christmas wrapping paper. Slowly and deliberately I pushed the "Add to" key. Immediately, Dominum was recognized. Then my software recognized Anima, and finally, all of those words, all eight pages of Latin phrases.

I turned on my edit program and began structuring for prose and for poetry and for something new that (I think) I invented called ‘psalming.’ Word doesn’t like ‘psalming’ but it recognizes it as a part of the way I say things. I have taught Word some Latin, but no grammar. It also recognizes French, and my personal dictionary is full to capacity.

I am happy! I have God and I have His Word. I have the Sacrament of Life to live and to share. I have what I believe to be this world’s most magnificent love song, and in Latin. My heart invokes: "Magnificat anima mea Dominum" and my soul, strengthened by the light, warmth, peace, joy and love that is God, hears Him in the silence.

Editor's Note: Ultimately, Goodnow left Catholicism because she had been abused by the Church. See her writings elsewhere on this site.

Facets of the Resurrection

Here I use fiction to understand the Resurrection by imagining the reaction of some of the witnesses. This has been read in congregations world wide.

I keep returning to this place and time. A large boulder, golden in the sun, stands beside the open entrance to a tomb.

I saw Him! At first, I couldn't believe my crying eyes, but He is alive! The man who saved my life has reclaimed His own!

I wanted to touch Him, I wanted to throw myself into His arms for joy, but he stopped me. He said He wants to meet us in the hill country north of here. And then He vanished.

But I did touch Him. Just before he went, I knelt and touched His sandal.

Now, I don't know what to think. The past few days have been so nightmarish, and now they are ended by this simple glory — He is alive! How can I tell the others so that they will believe me? May the Lord give my mouth the words to speak, and them the ears to hear.

I have to go. I have to see Him again. North, in the hill country.
— Mary Magdalen

The women are convinced that they saw Jesus alive this morning. I understand how people can see what they want to see, if they want it badly enough. Our hearts can lead our eyes to deceive.

Still, God knows I wish it were true! But I have to do more than see. I need to hear him, to touch him, before I can believe it.

If he hadn't killed himself, Judas would have died of heartbreak this morning, hearing the women.
— Thomas

I tell you I don't know what happened. I passed out, see. And no, I was not the worse for drink. I hadn't had a drop more than usual. I just passed out, and when I came to, this boulder was moved and so was he. He was gone. How the boulder got rolled, I don't know. The only new footprints about are small, like ladies' sandals, and not enough of 'em to roll that.

Anyway, he was dead, and now he's dead and gone. What's it to you?
— A Roman soldier
 Resurrection? Only the pagans believe in resurrections, and promiscuously so.

As for us, our prophets Enoch and Elijah were taken up, but they did not die. If and when they return, it will not be from the dead, because the Lord took them to Himself, rather than sending them to Sheol, the Place of the Dead.

If these rabble-rousers sincerely believe this falsehood, then not even the threat of death will stop them, and the hard choice I made in getting their leader executed may have been in vain. They could bring the wrath of our occupiers down upon us, ending the official toleration of our religion, destroying us as a people. Surrounded by enemies, occupied by enemies, and now enemies within.

May the Lord preserve us!
— Caiaphas, Head Priest
 My cowardly silence at his trial, and again when the Procurator offered to release him, helped his enemies kill him. The least I could do was to give him the tomb I had built for the day when I would leave this world. And now they say he is risen from the dead. That he just got up and walked out.

I feel as if the awful drama, in which I and so many others sacrificed his life to save ours, has been undone, taken back, blotted out. I feel forgiven.

I must find him, if I can, and beg forgiveness from him. Then this feeling will become real.
— Joseph of Arimithea
Now this is too much! The guy preached a false Torah, claiming that the relationship of all Israel to the Lord is as nothing — that we must each relate to the Lord as individuals. Ha! To be the Chosen People, we must be all together one people, Israel. His cult of hyper-individualism could destroy us from within!

His just punishment should have put an end to that. But now his followers claim that he is come back from the dead! These cultists will stop at nothing. I suppose it's my job, my calling, to knock them off their high horse.
— Saul of Tarsus, Pharisee
 My Roman masters will say that Rumor has run through the city, whispering that the seditious faith-healer, whom Pilate crucified, has sprung back to life as if he were one of their gods! Then they'll say that the Pantheon's too full to admit a barbarian whose wretched ghost couldn't keep his friends from scaring a drunken guard and stealing his corpse.

Perhaps I can convince the real powers of this world that if we eliminate his followers, the mob will take them for martyrs, and become even more restless. Best to leave them alone to make fools of themselves.

It is ironic that this man's followers now preach a message that is heresy to both my masters' religion, and my people's. I suppose it would be heretical to me, too, if I could still believe.
Ultimately, it will not matter. Time will snuff this out, as it does all things.
— Herod Antipas, Tetrarch of Judea
 These Israelites all look alike and have the same names. On the one hand Jesus of Nazareth, who called himself the Son of Man, and apparently also the Son of God, and King of the Jews. On the other, Jesus Bar-Abbas, Jesus the Son of the Father. No wonder some people think the one executed has risen from the dead. They confuse him with the one I freed.

It seems there is no way to keep order among these confused, contradictory, and stubborn people. You do what they ask, and they hate what you do. Ye gods, shorten my stay here, and send me back to civilized Rome!
— Pontius Pilate, Roman Prefect of Judea
He is risen, the rumor says. Maybe he was God. Maybe the other rumor is true, that his followers stunned the guards and stole his body.

I say the proof will come with time. If he is risen, let him come back with power to free us from these foreigners. If we are not freed, then, risen or not, he is not the Messiah.

And whatever happens, May God have mercy on me, a sinner.
— Anonymous bystander
This changes everything! At first I thought the women were addled with grief, but then I went and saw the tomb myself.

No, the movement which experienced it's leader's death is not ended — because its leader is no longer dead, but lives! This movement is just beginning. And it will live because its leader has power over death itself. The movement shall live because we shall not die, but live. With Him! For surely, if He raised Lazarus, and raised Himself, He will not forget us?

Now I know that He is the Messiah! What wonderful things must come! I can hardly wait to go north tomorrow and find out!
— Peter

Facets of the Cross

 Here I use fiction to explore the meaning of the crucifixion by imagining the reactions of some of the witnesses. It has been read in congregations world wide.

I keep returning to this place and time. Under a darkening sky, the man hangs from a wooden stake, the intervals so long between wrenching gasps, that each one threatens to be his last.

Thus ends the career of another country bumpkin preacher. That's what they'll all say. God knows, I would have killed for him, or even died in his place. But I won't get myself or anyone else killed just to die along with him! That would be a fine thing — the leader dies, so let the led die, too.
The thing to do now is to gather the movement and get out of town until things quiet down. But how to keep the movement together without him is beyond me. Until now, I didn't realize how much a cult of personality this thing had become.

Even I thought he was practically God! Why does nothing happen? Why do the heavens not tear open and roll up like a scroll? Why does the world continue in the face of this?

Because in the final analysis, he's just a guy like any other guy. And like any other guy, he is overcome by death. God help him. God help us all.
— Peter

"You cannot crucify this man," I want to have said, "unless you crucify me with him." And maybe another would have said the same thing. And another, and so on, until the list of victims became so long and included so many influential people, that they couldn't have crucified any of us. But I was afraid no one else would join me, leaving me to sacrifice myself horribly, to no purpose. And so I left him. Only two justly condemned robbers share his misery. After him this day, they are the most innocent of us all.

"Give us Bar-Abbas!" the crowd had shouted, naming the prisoner they sought to free. As for Jesus, "Crucify him!" The voices calling to free Jesus were few, and quickly cowed into silence. How neatly we divided into those calling for his death, and those not resisting it. No, my gambit wouldn't have worked. But there is a gray zone between the persecutors — the Roman Governor, the Chief Priest and council, the angry crowd, the Roman soldiers — and the victim, Jesus. And I am in it — made less human because I did not stand up for what makes me human.

I stand with others like myself, and Peter, alternately a bully and a coward, who wounded the priest's slave when Jesus was arrested, and then lied about even knowing Jesus when someone asked him. But I can take no comfort from that. I am responsible for my own inaction. I want to feel that I am better than Judas, the betrayer. But without unresisting people like me, corrupted by our simple desire to survive, his betrayal would not have brought Jesus to this.
— Joseph of Arimithea
The man is guilty, so they say. If he is not God, he is guilty of making pronouncements that only God can make. If he is God, he is guilty of leaving his people oppressed by foreigners. If he were God, he would have changed all that by his coming. If he is God, what is he doing on this cross? So they say.
Life is hard, and death takes those we love until it comes for us. And our politics is like chicken soup — the scum rises to the top. If it is not God's will, then God is not omnipotent. If it is God's will, then God is not good. If this man is God, then maybe he is paying the price for our lives being so hard. Maybe this is God's way of being sorry for kicking us out of Paradise.
May God have mercy on this man, and finish him off quickly. May God have mercy on my soul.
— Anonymous bystander
It was perfectly democratic. The people were given their choice between this man and the other. They chose this one for death and the other for life. I did no more than their bidding. My hands are clean.

Both men were leading movements inimical to the peace, and opposed to civil society as we know it. Lest we be deemed to be too harsh in suppressing such uprisings before they reach the full flower of violence, we have developed the custom of setting one of their leaders free each year during their holiday. This year it was going to be the other man anyway, until this one came along. He seemed to me a dreamer, rather than a man of action. I would have preferred freeing him rather than the one the people wanted, because he seemed to me to be the lesser threat. The people must have thought so too, and in their perversity, seeking to undermine the civilization that gives them so much, they chose to have the more dangerous fellow released.

The people have spoken, and in Roman magnanimity I carried out their choice. May the powers protect us from the fellow I freed.
— Pontius Pilate, Roman Prefect of Judea
 I had no choice. We are facing extermination as a people. Only purity and unity of belief can keep us together. Yet this man tried to pollute our belief with subtle, seductive, but false teachings. Moreover, he undermined the authorities arrayed against us so publicly, that if we tolerated him, he would have brought their violence down upon us all.

No, it is better that this one man die, than the whole nation should perish. I would like to have protected him, but I had to think of all the people for which I am responsible. The essence of leadership is decision.

Besides, the whole council concurred with me. If I had been in error, surely someone would have dissented. And in any case, I had no choice.
— Caiaphas, Head Priest
He had it coming to him. He alienated everyone who could have helped him. You know, sometimes to get along, you have to go along. Telling people to their face that they committing the moral equivalent of adultery by merely looking at a pretty girl, or getting a divorce; telling honest people trying to make a living by changing profane money for sacred money that may be offered within the temple precincts that they are thieves; telling the priestly classes that they are children of hell — none of these is likely to win a man friends.

He goaded the powers that be until they got him. And he knew they would get him. He had it coming.
— Saul of Tarsus, Pharisee
 I never thought they would kill him. I only thought they would rough him up, and talk some sense into him. After all, he and his followers roughed people up in the temple courtyard to drive home his teachings. Most of his teachings are fine, but some of his teachings are wrong — he stresses individual morality and an individual relationship with God. But ever since Moses, we have recognized a communal relationship with God, with our community built upon our individual relations with one another. Therefore God gave us the Law, to guide us in our dealings with each other, and in our worship, so that we can continue to be the People of God. Because if we stop being the People of God, we will be no people at all, like the Lost Tribes.

I never meant to betray him, not like this.
— Judas Iscariot
 This man maintained that he himself was the truth. The priests claim they have the truth. My Roman masters claim their way is the true way. It is pretty clear that the truth is whatever some group claims it to be, or whatever some person can convince some group that it is.

What is the truth? There is no truth. There is just existence, and our groping our way through it until we, like this man, cease to exist. He thought he was the truth, with a capital T, like so many other demagogues, some benign, some murderous. Anyone so convinced of their own rightness can't be trusted with real power, and this man was becoming powerful, at least with the mob.

It's a bad end. But what else could have happened? This man fell afoul of the restoring forces that maintain stability in societies. That's all.
— Herod Antipas, Tetrarch of Judea
He saved my life. They were going to beat me with stones right in the public square because they had found me with a man I did not know was already married. And he stopped them with just a few words.

"Let one among you who is without sin cast the first stone at her," he said. And the angry mob melted away.

Why can he not do that now? What evil is this that stops his mouth so that he cannot speak? That stops my mouth so that I cannot cry, "He saved my life?"
— Mary Magdalen
 Lately, I've begun to hate watching them die so slowly. It's bad enough to set 'em up — ye gods how they scream when you put a nail through each wrist and and the long one through both heels! But then you have to watch while the pain builds up everywhere — arms, legs, chest. Eventually they suffocate because they can't breathe like that after they finally pass out. After doing so many, you'd think I'd get used to it, but it gets worse each time. If it were up to me, I'd cut off their heads, like we do to condemned citizens.

This guy was a rabble-rouser, those two were robbers. It's all the same — barbarian troublemakers disturbing the gods' peace. If we didn't kill 'em as we catch 'em, they would eventually start new provincial wars, and then we would end up killin' way more people than these few. But I wish that it didn't take so long. You know, just get things over with. One justice for all, citizen and barbarian alike. It's too progressive for these times, I'd say, but someday it will happen. You wait and see.
— A Roman Soldier