b y Fr. D a ni el Mc C ar thy
I brought the August heat with me
from Kansas to Rome when I arrived in 1999 to study liturgy. As I settled into my room at Sant’Anselmo, I looked out the window and saw the majestic Cedars of Lebanon with their long arms giving shade to the buildings below. Although in the heart of the city, the trees hush any noise on the Aventine hill so that I heard only the chatter of pedestrians. On a clear day I could see the distant Apennine mountains running down the spine of Italy. The view reminded me of our Abbey in Atchison, which sits high on the bluffs of the Missouri River. There my room overlooks the lush valley to the distant bluffs opposite, and the silence is broken only by people chatting at the overlook. I began with a preparatory year of studies in Italian, Greek, and church architecture so that I could prepare for the full course load in liturgy taught in Italian. Soon after arriving, I first heard about Fr. Reginald Foster, said to be the best Latinist in the world. For thirty years he had served as the personal Latin secretary of Pope Paul VI, then of Popes John Paul I and II and later Pope Benedict XVI. After completing his morning duties in the papal office, Reggie, as his students call him, would take the number 64 bus from the Vatican to the Gregorian University where he taught Latin to generations of students, including current American bishops who studied in Rome. I became convinced of studying Latin with Reggie while attending his organizational meeting at the beginning of the academic year. He encouraged people like me who had already studied Latin in college to start over and to learn according to his method from the beginning. He also laid down the law and handed out contracts for us to sign. Reggie taught for free but only for those students willing to apply themselves. If not, he supplied a sheet of paper people could sign to receive a passing grade if they promised never to show up again nor detract from the learning of others! Twice a week I walked down the Aventine hill past the Circus Maximus (imagine Charlton Heston in the chariot races) and past the temples of Hercules and Minerva. I walked over the Capitoline hill and through the ancient Roman forum to arrive at the Gregorian for our Latin encounters. Walking through this archaeological park brought history to life, just as studying Latin with Reggie brought the language to life. I continued studying with him in successive years in addition to my full course load in Liturgy. I was set back when my father died in 2001, shortly before the September 11 attacks. My mother had already passed away in 1988. Missing both parents, I returned to my studies with some longing. I don’t know why, but only Latin would rouse my interest. So I decided to write all of my homework papers in Latin, knowing that none of my teachers would suffer the embarrassment of rejecting a paper written in Latin. Latin became the mainstay of my research and the key that opened up to me the inner-workings of the Second Vatican Council. My license thesis consisted principally of my own English translations of speeches given in Latin at the Council and during its preparation and implementation. I had to put it all into Italian for my doctoral dissertation, but I am preparing an English edition. Abbot Owen attended my doctoral defense in June 2008 and wanted to meet Reggie. We went to Reggie’s summer school, but, when we arrived, it was empty, because earlier that same day he had collapsed due to illness and was taken to the hospital where we found him, and there I introduced these two Latin scholars. For the next two years I taught at the Beda Seminary before I left Rome in 2010 to help Fr. James Leachman, OSB, found the Liturgy Institute London at his Abbey in Ealing. At that time Reggie succumbed once again to illness and left Rome for his native Milwaukee. Fearing that his life’s work might be lost if it wasn’t recorded, I went to Milwaukee for a month so that we might begin writing a book that would present Reggie’s method of teaching the Latin language. That July I returned to London to teach Latin, but every day after lunch I would phone Reggie and he would dictate to me another of the 105 encounters-chapters of the book, which I then revised. Over these past five years I have spent three to four months annually working with Reggie in In 2008 Fr. Daniel, accompanied by Abbot Owen Purcell (above at left), Milwaukee. Reggie and I were requested to present a defended his Doctoral Dissertation at the Pontifical Institute for Liturgy. draft of the first volume to the Catholic University of Abbot Owen passed away in November 2013. 10
Published on Oct 5, 2015
Published on Oct 5, 2015
In this issue of Kansas Monks we remember Fr. Kevin Bachmann, the monks tell us why they serve, Fr. Daniel McCarthy talks about his new book...