“Behold the birds of the air; for they neither sow nor do they reap, nor gather into barns, and your heavenly Father feedeth them. Are not you of much more value than they? And which of you, by taking thought, can add to his stature one cubit? And for raiment why are you solicitous? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they labour not, neither do they spin; but I say to you, that not Solomon in his glory was arrayed as one of these.”
Sollicitus is a word that clangs and wrangs through the Gospel in today’s (Traditional Latin) Mass. The English “solicitous” does not quite translate this for the modern English reader, whose first thoughts might be of soliciting, or solicitors. The Latin adjective means restless, anxious; agitated, disturbed, troubled, concerned, and in such sense, afflicted. In some contexts it conveys passion, excitement: going off one’s head. We are filled with anxieties about worldly things. Are we not?
I noticed, somewhere on the Internet, a very anxious discussion. Someone had got himself a tattoo with the phrase, “Don’t worry be happy,” translated into Latin, but not very well. Shyness of the imperative, perhaps; certainly poor attention to grammar, and mindless dictionary-sourced vocabulary choices had contributed to a phrase that could be retranslated: “I am not fatigued, one having rejoiced.” … I think the correct Latin might be, Nolite sollicitare, este beati; or, “es beatus” if addressing only one person. But don’t take my word for it! Go to some crack Latinist before you have your own tattoo permanently inscribed.
Yet as we learn, gradually, in the Confessional, what’s done is done. We have made a hash, and we may well have to wear it, publicly, for the rest of our earthly life. Only in Purgatory, can such inscriptions be erased. But this is what tattoos are for, after all: to make one humble in one’s old age.
In the meantime, we have this Mass, for the fourteenth Sunday after Pentecost, which one might call the “Don’t worry be happy” Mass from both Epistle and Gospel. Well, that is perhaps a little too confining. Every Mass of the year is more than its focus. Each, at least before the liturgical desecrations of the 1960s, is also an encapsulation of all other Masses. Each Sunday, the entire Christian teaching passes through the eye of another needle, and the stitching is renewed year after year.
As we are reminded from our Apostle Paul’s letter to the Galatians, there are dos and don’ts.
It is best to avoid fornication, uncleanness, immodesty, luxury, idolatry, witchcrafts, enmities, contentions, emulations, wraths, quarrels, dissensions, sects, envies, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and suchlike.
It is best rather to embrace charity, joy, peace, patience, benignity, goodness, longanimity, mildness, faith, modesty, continency, chastity.
It were better, to give but one passing example, not to have put one’s faith in Ashley Madison, any more than in the Latinity of a tattoo artist. There is such a thing as, “riding for a fall.”
(And if this is so obvious, why isn’t everyone following through?)
Note that each of the activities in that first list is associated with anxiety. Note that each of the activities in that second list is not associated with anxiety.
Of course, “stuff happens,” over which we have no control, and we get anxious about that. For instance, a lot of people today who should surely have better things to be anxious about, such as whether they are going to Hell, worry instead about TEOTWAWKI. But what use is that? Do you think God is such a putz that He will speed or slow the End Time by one mile an hour, because of something we have done? We must in that case have an exaggerated impression of our own individual or collective importance. Our job is only to be ready when it comes, as it will come, and for that matter as it has come, in every human lifetime.
There may be the odd crime in the street we will find ourselves in a position to stop — perhaps even some catastrophe that can be foreseen, and could actually be prevented — without any further injustice on our side. But those present themselves to us; we do not present ourselves to them. There are times, as we should know, when “a man’s gotta do what a man’s gotta do.” But why be anxious about that? Just do it. For remember, the worst they can do is torture and kill you, and even that can go on only so long. (And remember, the great Martyrs were joyful about it. And why not? For in faith, the door had just opened to them, directly into Heaven.)
For the rest, there is not much for the doing, beyond our immediate environment. Not one of my gentle readers has, for instance, to the best of my knowledge, had the misfortune to be elected Pope; and as even the secularoids could say, it isn’t your problem. Stuff will happen, sure enough. But note that we are explicitly told, God will take care of it. Which, in the fullness of time, He will. So why should we want to run interference on His plan?
We are told: spiritu ambulate, to “walk in the spirit.” Et desideria carnis non perficietis, which should be clear enough.
I get anxious myself sometimes; worry myself sick about one darn thing or another. Really, it is time that I thought this through. …
“Do not be fatigued. Rejoice!”