Sunday, August 16, 2009

On Childhood Latin

Today, as part of his Latin-themed 80th birthday present, I took my grandfather to Latin Mass. It was mostly just a pleasant trip down memory lane for him (not that he didn't pray, but that it wasn't an overwhelming spiritual experience), but I found it delightful to be able to bring someone from my family into this spiritual home of mine, which sometimes feels like it might as well be on another planet. And what stories he told! They were pretty cool. I especially like the one where he challenged an old pastor, asking him when he last used the phrase "fear of God" (the priest didn't really have a response).

Anyway. Back on topic. So my mom, in explaining this happening to the monsignor at our local parish, mentioned that "Claire and Pop-Pop have had a Latin connection for years." When she later relayed this to me, I laughed and asked, "Really?" I mean, I've always remembered that my grandfather had some hobby-like interest in Latin whenever I was studying it in school, but that seemed to be a shorter time than her statement reflected. And then she told me a story (which I actually remember!), and that put it all into perspective.

Pop-Pop and Mom had been in our parish choir for as long as I can remember. And I was pretty much ready to join the choir myself for as long as I can remember (it wasn't available to me 'till 4th grade; since then, however, I've not had a break of more than a few months without singing for Mass). So when, at seven years old, I learned a new choir song from my Pop-Pop, it quickly became my favorite (in my memory, at least, the song was definitely "Pop-Pop's favorite song", which may have influenced my proclivity for it). It was a simple round, with words as follows:
Jubilate Deo
Omnis terra!
Servite Domino
In laetitia.
Alleluia! Alleluia!
In laetitia.
Alleluia! Alleluia!
In laetitia.
"Rejoice in God, all the earth. Serve the Lord in gladness/joy. Alleluia! Alleluia! in gladness/joy. Alleluia! Alleluia! in gladness/joy." That translation comes more from my memory than from my current Latin knowledge. Now picture the scene:

Claire, age 7
Pop-Pop (grandfather)

All three sing the song together, at Claire's insistence. Then Claire tries to conduct them in a round, with forceful directions, like "Pop-Pop, start!" (Mom gets the second part, and Claire takes the third part). Mom and Pop-Pop look at each other, amused, and sing obligingly.

At seven years old, my favorite church song (probably my favorite song, period) was in Latin. And my family was not traddy at all. Who knew?

1 comment:

  1. I didn't know your grandfather is 80. I still remember when he used to sing in the choir. My paternal grandfather died back in 1981 when I was 6 (he was a lot like my father, except he was bald on top).


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