I read in the paper this morning that the Catholic church is putting the Latin language on 'life support', as it were.
AMONG the rank and file, you'd expect a poor show of hands on the question of who could distinguish the Latin vocative from the nominative.
Surely, however, you would get a better showing in a room full of 241 Princes of the Catholic Church, all listening to Cardinal Angelo Scola, Patriarch of Venice, give the opening address at the Vatican's Synod of Bishops last month.
Apparently not. Cardinal Scola's address had his audience quickly reaching for headphones so they could understand what he was saying to them.
Now the church is trying to place Latin -- a language not in huge demand outside the Vatican and rarely spoken fluently even within the church -- on a life-support machine.
One of the Synod's 50 "propositions" to Pope Benedict XIV is that the language should feature prominently in masses at major international events attended by Catholics speaking many different languages.
In Australia, Latin remains in the realm of the better-than- average school pupil, the classics-hungry tertiary student and a handful of the very faithful at churches such as the Maternal Heart Church in Lewisham, Sydney. That is one of several Australian Fraternity of Saint Peter churches, an international order started by John Paul II in 1988 with the sole purpose of keeping Latin mass alive and providing a common tongue among people of different languages.
In the 2001 Australian census, 205 people said they spoke Latin in the home, among other languages. Department of Education, Science and Training figures from last year showed 410 Year12 students across the country were studying Latin.
And every Sunday, about 150 members of the order of Saint Peter take mass in Latin at the Maternal Heart Church.
"They mainly don't speak Latin, but worship in it," Father Laurence Gresser told The Australian. "We find those in the church who are attracted to Latin do so because it gives a greater sense of the transcendent; they feel closer to God.
"We have a wide cross-section of the community -- people from Slovenia, Croatia, Poland, The Philippines, China -- with Latin the common tongue, just as it used to be," Father Gresser said.
"We all get to worship in the same language and no one is excluded."
Yes, I'm sure there are a few people I know (including myself) that come under the category of 'classics-hungry tertiary student'. I'd love to be able to speak it fluently. On Compass a few months ago, they had the Vatican's chief expert in Latin talk about his job and he conducted his entire interview in the language. It sounded beautiful.
*wonders who the 205 people who speak Latin in their households are* Do we have ancient Roman time travellers in our midst? Perhaps a few scholars who've come from the middle ages/renaissance?
And now, I should endeavour to work more on my Very Important Paper. And squeeze in some more study for the ancient history exam tomorrow.
On a final note, I wish the weather would make up its mind about whether it's going to be sunny or pouring rain. *sigh*