Veterum Sapientia

After one year of studying Philosophy I skipped the second year because I had already graduated from college.The new year found me as a student in a new class and I was excited to be immersed in the study of Theology and Church History. It was an exciting time in the church because Pope John the XXlll had opened the window and called a Vatican Council to address the needs of a changing church. It was an exciting and hopeful time because all institutions need revitalization and the church was no exception. The church in the opinion of many had lost touch with the primary reason for its existence, service to others. It was not merely the custodian of a series of dos and don’ts but rather a living organism that needed to hear the voices of the faithful. It was a time of promise that we would live in a world that would focus on the vital opportunities for the church to influence the lives of all people. The seminary was abuzz with the hopeful aspirations that so many challenges would be met and the path to living the “good news “would be refreshed and vital.
The elderly pope was a compromise candidate who had been chosen to safeguard the deposit of faith as though it was some stagnant set of rules and beliefs. Those who voted with that belief had badly miscalculated this pope. He threw caution to the wind and let a fresh vital wind of the spirit to enter the Roman Church. I was thrilled and the Seminary took on new meaning for me.The rigidity of the place seemed to be hopefully becoming more in tune with the times. I had great reverence for tradition but I struggled with the absolute unchanging dogma that was being taught in the Moral Theology class. The professor droned on endlessly reading from “Herve” the textbook that was probably used at the time of Columbus. On the contrary our History Professor was absolutely magnificent. He taught Church History in the context of art, politics music and every facet of life.His classes were vibrant and so telling that when the bell for the next class rang there was always a tinge of disappointment.
The council may have been somewhat radical but those in charge of all seminaries were still holding fast to ancient rituals. In order to send the message that they were still in charge Rome issued a document entitled” Veterum Sapientia”.The meaning focused on the ancient wisdom of Latin and why it should govern curriculum.
The news that all courses would now be taught in Latin in the seminary caused a great deal of anxiety especially for American seminarians.
The day after we were notified of this impending doom the first class of the day was Church History. Being fluent in Latin and Greek we knew our history professor Monsignor Beck would immediately implement the frightening new document that came from the bureaucratic side of Rome .Monsignor Beck came to the next class after the dictum had been received and said”Gentlemen the Holy See has spoken.We will begin immediately. “Nos Habemus bannae hodie. Nos habemus bannae hodie. “For those of you not familiar with the mother tongue I have said twice in Latin we have no bananas today. That will suffice for the semester. If Rome does not like it they can lump it.” We howled with glee and had another reason to love Monsignor Henry Beck.

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