Sunday, December 20, 2015

Latin Words and Phrases Worth Knowing About: Da Mihi Castitatem et Continentiam, Sed Noli Modo

I herein embark on a new series for this blog. I'll be regularly posting descriptions of Latin words and phrases worth knowing, not because they constitute basic vocabulary, but because they are, in my subjective opinion, culturally and historically important and interesting.

And for that reason, I am not calling this simply "Latin Words and Phrases Worth Knowing." From a frequency standpoint, there are interesting words and phrases that do not contain or instill crucially important words.

I am a big believer in mastering the actual basic and important words of a language. That's why I offer to the Universe for free my basic vocabulary lists for Spanish, Romanian, Arabic, and Latin.

Rather, I call this series "Latin Words and Phrases Worth Knowing About."

Maybe this is a distinction important only to my pedagogical sensitivities. No matter. Let's move on.

First on the docket is a delightful quote from St. Augustine's Confessions. I got to remembering this passage because today, on the astronomically flawed Julian Calendar my Russian Orthodox Church uses, is the Feast Day of Saint Ambrose, who helped to convert Saint Augustine.

Augustine was a sharp young man, living large and enjoying every second of it. His mother Monica was a Christian and was heart-broken that her son was stuck in heresy and debauchery. 

Augustine writes how he did want to live a purer life, while not yet really ready to live a purer life. And so it was that he prayed to God:

Da Mihi Castitatem et Continentiam, Sed Noli Modo.
Give to me Chastity and Temperance, But Not Yet.
(Confessions, 8.7.17)

Who among us does not immediately smile to know the simple authentic humanness of Augustine's prayer? 

Saint Augustine eventually lived what his age called a "Christian life." Sadly, his age involved a regrettable incident.

Augustine had a concubine; he and she had a son named Adeodatus (Gift from God). As Augustine decided to finally transition to "respectability," he ended his relationship with the concubine and sent her back to her native Africa. 

His mother Monica had arranged a marriage for Augustine to an "acceptable" candidate, whose family insisted Augustine put away his concubine. But the candidate was still two years below marriageable age (12). And while Augustine waited for his fiancee to grow up and be marriageable, he even admits in his autobiography that he took another lover after he put away his concubine.

Far be it from me, Sancte Augustine, to judge you for your carnal sins.  But you never at least gave your concubine a name in your autobiography, The Confessions.

For everything she was in your life--the mother of your son, your companion for many years--she deserved at least to be humanized in your story. Instead, all you ever call her is 'illa', 'that one'. 

Rogo pro te, illa. Et quaeso te pro me rogare. Quamquam nomen tuum non scio, te commemoro. Requiescas in pace...

Et roga pro me, Sancte Augustine. Spero te--et illam--in paradiso reconciliavisse.