By Oswald Sobrino, J.D.; M.A. (Econ.); M.A. (Theo.); M.L. (Master of Latin), doctoral student, University of Florida.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Fr. Reginald "Reggie" Foster

I had the pleasure over the weekend of meeting and learning from the famous Latin teacher Reginald Foster. He has good advice for those of us who have embarked on learning Latin--I say "embarked" because Foster asserted the undeniable truth that students of Latin never finish, they just stop until resuming again.

1. He advocates using primary texts--he goes to great lengths to cull interesting passages from the entire body of Latin literature, from ancients to moderns.

2. He emphasizes precision in identifying the function of each Latin word. I would call his approach to translation both literal and sensible.

3. He thus approaches the language inductively, not by presenting grammatical forms as foremost in the learning process, not by means of a deductive approach that depresses and drives away too many potential Latin-lovers.

But what makes Foster a great teacher is his personality. Personality is a gift (gratia or charism). He's got it: enthusiasm, irreverence, not taking himself too seriously. He is the opposite of the dour, semi-neurotic, obsessive-perfectionist (and in Catholic terms, he is the opposite, in opinions and personality, of the typical neo-traditionalist). That gift of personality is what makes his teaching method effective. His personality is what connects the dots. There lies the mystery of great teachers: they combine sound strategies with personal magnetism. That's why great teachers are rare.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

The Ides of March

Yes, in 44 B.C. Julius Caesar was assassinated on this day. Were his assassins the bad guys or the good guys? Frankly, I think they made a big mistake. But it's no use second-guessing history.

(Public Domain Image)

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Pope Francis at One Year

Thank God for Jorge Bergoglio. From him, we have learned that Catholicism:

1. Need not be incessant harping about ritual or canon law (harping often based, to boot, on superficial or one-sided analyses of the topics at hand);
2. Need not be about who can win a "pious practices" arms race in which OCD becomes the model of spirtual maturity;
3. Need not be neo-conservative in either economics or foreign policy;
4. Need not be about spiritual elitism;
5. Need not parrot a Renaissance court;
6. Need not be distant from a messy world;
7. Need not have the face of the European or the U.S. hierarchies, regardless of their pocketbooks;
8. Need not be narcissistic or isolationist;
9. Need not be impressed with the rich or with the invisible hand;
10. Need not be fearful of anything at all in our always changing world.

But, most important of all, we have learned that Catholicism can and must smile.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Why Study the Romans

Here is an eloquent answer from classicists Nancy and Andrew Ramage:

Studying ancient Rome provides an unparalleled opportunity to understand the basis of modern civilization in the West. Nearly everything that came after the fall of Rome has been affected in some way by its history and traditions, whether positively or negatively, and the political and cultural milieu of the twenty-first century, two millennia after the height of the Roman empire, is still richly dependent upon it. Studying the Roman world is rewarding in countless ways, and helps those curious about the roots of culture, language, or image to achieve their goals.

Ramage & Ramage, The British Museum Concise Introduction to Ancient Rome, p. 174 (2008).

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Both Example and Words with St. Francis of Assisi

In my graduate class, a student pointed out to me that no one can find evidence that St. Francis of Assisi said these eloquent and insightful words: "Preach the gospel always and, if necessary, use words."

As usual, I follow up on any lingering questions raised in class. Here is the result of my research:

1. Indeed, no one has yet found these exact words in the writings of St. Francis of Assisi or of those recording his words.

2. But most seem to agree that this eloquent phrase is true to the teaching of St. Francis. It is a "Franciscan" saying, if not one directly quoting the saint himself.

3. Below is what I found at the Franciscan Archive and in an old online translation of The Little Flowers of St. Francis. All source links are found below so you can freely make up your own mind on whether the popular saying matches the saint.

4. My personal conclusion: The famous saying above eloquently and accurately paraphrases what St. Francis says below in The Little Flowers. But you are free to differ!

5. I do not interpret the popular saying as telling us that words are not to be used, or are not necessary. That would be an uncharitable interpretation of the saying which would create a straw man in any discussion.

Rather, the popular saying is telling us that you can always preach the gospel, even when you are not proclaiming it in words. Et . . . et: both example (deeds) and words at different times, as necessary. The saying reminds us that deeds are the necessary background and context for credible and effective proclamation with words, and that deeds themselves speak loudly. To interpret the saying as signifying that you never use words to preach the gospel is an absurd interpretation possibly motivated by extraneous polemical factors.

Below is what I found at the Franciscan Archive website (it is not an official archive):

Preaching without Words

according to St. Francis of Assisi

Many sayings are attributed to St. Francis, but were never actually written by him. One of the more famous of these has to do with preaching without words. This one is based on what St. Francis said and taught.

What St. Francis said about giving good example, and how this was more important that preaching with words comes from a variety of sources, on[e] of which is:

The Little Flowers of St. Francis: Chapter 50

At the end of this chapter, in the English translation by T. Okey, which appeared in the Everyman Library edition of 1951, Philosophy and Theology, n. 485A, p. 295, St. Francis is quoted to have said:

But as for me, I desire this privilege from the Lord, that never may I have any privilege from man, except to do reverence to all, and to convert the world by obedience to the Holy Rule rather by example than by word.

"The Holy Rule" is the Rule of St. Francis.


Source link to web excerpt:

Franciscan Archive

You can read the book quoted above at this link (the entire book is available free online; go to p. 223, Ch. L, last sentence, in the online book and the quote matches what I found above at the Franciscan Archive):

Translation of Little Flowers of St. Francis.

(The image of St. Francis of Assisi stripping to signify his abandonment of riches is in the public domain.)