Gaudete,’ cried ‘old Huw’, retired Latin master and
regular customer for books, when I chanced upon him in Whitstable’s Wetherspoons. ‘Yes Huw, Swansea City’s doing well this season.’
‘That too, but mostly the fact that the Pope’s set up a Pontifical Academy encouraging greater use of Latin.’
‘Why are you so excited, Huw? You’re a good lapsed Baptist.’ He replied, ‘Indeed, Alan, but I’m as keen on the promotion of Latin as real ale – and, by the way, my cup is no longer overflowing.’ I bought him another pint. He continued. ‘Had a problem with the driving licence people – they’re at Swansea too, you know, and…’ I interrupted before he sidetracked to lengthy memories of his home town and how he used to out-drink Dylan Thomas, another ‘Swansea Jack’.
‘Wrote to the vehicle people, in Welsh as well as English, of course. No joy. Just threats to take me to court.’ I was puzzled. ‘Huw, what’s this to do with Latin?’
‘Coming to that. Then wrote to them in Latin telling them they’d made a mistake, and also saying that, if they took me to court, I’d conduct my own case, also in Latin. Result? Immediate reply, full of apologies, saying I’d been right all along. That shows how useful Latin can be. So, God bless our Pope.’
It then dawned upon me that Huw had provided the reason why Forward in Faith, Reform and other orthodox groups are not able to win arguments in Synod. They don’t present their case in Latin. The sorry consequence of the removal in the Sixties of the requirement that ordinands be found ‘learned in the Latin tongue’.
Readers, forget pullovers and necklaces in your Christmas present wish-list. See if your local adult education centre offers ‘Brush up your Latin’, and ask Aunty Flo for the cash for the course fee instead.
Meanwhile – Sit iucundus tibi dies.