Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
I’d like to use this space for the next few weeks to share with you some valuable lessons I have learned in recent days, particularly, lessons I have learned from children in the parish. The first concerns language and the capacity human beings have to learn.
On Easter, I was approached at the door of the church by a six-year-old boy who showed me a booklet he had about the Mass. He said, “Fr. Sam, this book is old school. The Gloria is the old translation, so that’s how I know it’s old. The Gloria has different words now.” I was just impressed that he knew that the proper name for that particular part of the Mass is “Gloria”! At six years old, I can assure you, I had no idea what the Gloria was! Kudos to his parents for teaching him the parts of the Mass and teaching the correct names! Prior to Holy Week, I gave a tour of the church to our First Communion students. One asked why so many words we use to describe the church – words like “nave” and “sanctuary” – come from Latin. Explaining that Latin is the official language of the church and was the language of the Roman Empire, I was impressed by this boy’s ability to process the information. More than that, I was impressed by his enthusiasm to know the correct terms for the architectural and artistic elements of the church.
These two young men reminded me of an important lesson. All of us, children especially, are capable of learning new things and of using correct language and terms. The only thing necessary is to be taught. The children received this information about Latin and its English derivatives without prejudice. More importantly, they asked questions without hesitation or fear! The great emperor, Charlemagne, is credited with saying “To have another language is to possess a second soul.” Every Catholic has this second soul as part of our heritage. We will always be able to pray in our native language, but the Church gives us language that allows us to pray in union with our brothers and sisters in faith throughout the world. Whether we possess this second soul simply by knowing the Latin or Latin-derived terms for the parts of Mass or church buildings, or we actually speak a second language, as Catholics we are constantly invited to understand that we belong to a faith, a Church community, that knows no geographical or national boundaries. Though unique elements of local culture influence the way we express our faith, the truth is that when we pray at Mass, whether in a language we speak or a language that is unknown to us, we pray in union with people the world over, people of every national, ethnic, economic background.
The Gospel this weekend reflects this. Jesus gives the Apostles a great catch of fish. In this way, He speaks a language they understand, as they have seen this particular miracle before. Peter hauls ashore a net containing 153 fish, symbolic of the known nations of the day, symbolic of the fact that Jesus comes to bring all people into His net, His Church. The Apostles needed to learn this lesson, and so do we. Let us allow the Lord to speak to us. Like children, let us remember that we are capable of learning new spiritual lessons. Let us, with enthusiasm, embrace this knowledge so that our faith can be informed and expanded by God’s grace.