Wednesday, 11 May 2016

A French Rosary

Today was another multi-lingual day, beginning with the English of the weather forecast and Mezzofanti's Gift, which I read on the train into town. Mass was in Latin, and my listening skills were good enough to figure out that today is "Pip and Jim" even though my missal-flipping skills are lacking. Then I chatted in English with a German translator in the hallway about Mezzofanti's Gift. Next I was addressed en français by a French Guide/Scout leader in the garden. (I understood everything she said, and my first sentence was fine, but I then I got stuck.) Next the German translator and I discussed language-learning in English all the way to Haymarket Station, where I got on a train and opened Mezzofanti's Gift again.  I went straight to Brew Lab, where I reread a Polish letter and wrote a Polish reply. Finally, I went to St. Patrick's RC to say a rosary before Wednesday noon Mass.

Saying the rosary during a N.O. Mass always runs the risk of being interrupted by a woman who very badly needs to shake your hand during the sign of peace. You could be in such a deep meditation that you feel you have been transported into the seventh heaven, surrounded by choirs of angels, about to see some beloved sacred face, when all of a sudden a hand is stuck in your face. The message is not so much one of peace as "You're praying the rosary on your knees apart from the rest of the congregation during noon mass. How dare you???!"

The memory alone makes me very cranky and uncharitable. Fortunately, the Mary Chapel at St. Pat's is right up at the front of the church, up a marble step, and it would take a very, very determined woman to breach that sanctuary during Mass. Nevertheless, I got to the church  early enough to say my rosary while confessions were still going on (St. Pat's is very good about providing opportunities for confessions) although perhaps my speed was a little

However, one new aspect slowed things decently down, and it was that I prayed the rosary in French. This was not as difficult as it might seem, as I learned the dominant prayers of the rosary in French when I was a child in school.

Such is that magic of youthful brain plasticity that foreign language prayers drilled into you in elementary school stick for years and years afterwards. Of "Je vous salue Marie" (Ave Maria), the one word I saw that I had forgotten, when yesterday I copied it carefully from the internet, was 'toutes', as in "Vous êtes bénie entre toutes les femmes" (Blessed are you among [all] women").  "Et Jésus le fruit de vos entrailles est béni" was just as I remembered, even though last week I was second-guessing that 'vos'. (Surely it was votres? But no. Vos.)

Naturally my accent was that of childhood, which is to say, cent-pour-cent pur-laine anglophone Toronto schoolchild. I might be able to pray "Notre Père qui est aux cieux" with ease, but the Rs are not at the back of my throat where they belong. (Bizarrely, not once in thirteen years did anyone make a serious attempt to teach me how to pronounce French R.) The two stumbles are "que ton règne vienne" (May Your Kingdom come), which hitherto I half-thought was "ta règne" and the real tongue-twister "nous pardone nos offenses, comme nous pardonnons aussi/à ceux qui nous ont offensés." Every school day, for at least three years, my whole class stumbled over "à ceux qui nous ont offensés."  The stumble, along with the other words, has persisted through the decades, even though I rarely, but rarely, pray the Lord's Prayer in French.

Apparently Chartres pilgrims take turns leading the rosary through bullhorns, and so if I am asked to do this in French, I am now somewhat prepared.

Yes, preparing for the pilgrimage takes up most of my time. Thank you for asking. Yes, Benedict Ambrose is coping pretty well. I'll tell him you asked.

Actually, B.A. is being a real brick about it. Of course, he completely approves of the whole undertaking and when it comes to the physical challenges, he very much wants me to come home undamaged. (All the hiking guides I've been read warn strongly against doing a 20 mile hike--let alone 70 miles--without training for it first, something the LMS failed to mention on its website.) He is not as enthusiastic about our new tent as you might think; although he is a hiking person, he is not a camping person. I, however, am very excited about the new tent, and today I will practise putting it up and taking it down again.

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