Tuesday, September 6, 2016

What Was the Bea, Papa?

Fr. Hunwicke has republished an imagined family dialogue about the Bea psalter between an eager, Latinist youth and his sober father. He is right to point out that the liturgy bears the scars of the Church and that Pacelli was a "weak and foolish pope."

I covered some of the more absurd features of the Bea psalter three years ago. As Rubricarius said, "it's a load of crap!" It's unsingable (I remember the Oratorians forcing collaudate eum at Benediction). It's dullish. It's out of place (if the graffiti at Pompeii is any indication, Ciceronian Latin was on its way out a few centuries before Jerome translated the Scriptures). Thankfully it did not catch on (except it lives on at Vespers Lauds in the 1962 Vesperal Paschal Vigil Mass; then we got the Nova Vulgata, which attempted a more modern Latin translation of the Bible. Uh????


  1. The Vulgate was to be revised. There are some unintelligble parts, such as in II Kings 4:16 where Jerome literally translates the idiom for spring which apparently makes sense in both languages; he then literally but correctly translates an idiomatic way of saying the listener is pregnant. On the other hand, the NV corrects the idiom but uses a completely different style of Latin to preserve the idiom of pregnancy. There was absolutely no need to change the second part.

  2. M.R., Interesting! So, in IV Kings 4: 16 (the more usual way to denote that book when speaking of the Vulgate), there is an idiom for spring (the season), i.e. "si vita comes fuerit"? I'm not following; surely that phrase means, "if there be life" ("if thou art alive"). I'm probably missing something. If you could elaborate?

  3. The Psalms of Nova Vulgata seems to me more suitable for singing than Bea's. In addition some obscure Latin expressions of the Gallican Psalter (Vulgata) are rendered easier to understand ("Latin for dummies").

  4. ah the usual drivel about unsingability...

  5. Unsingable??? the Bea Psalter?? Well I am 82 now (Feb 12, 2018) I pray the breviary for more than half a century now - I have always used the Bea Psalter, even the canons in the cathedral of Lima, Peru, sang the office with the Bea. The Bea psalter is magnificent! Gallican (Vulgata) psalms were poorly translated - a mixup of verbal tenses, lots of non understandable verses! the awful "eructo" everywhere (as in "eructavit" cor meum verbum bonum) In Spanish -the language of more than 50% of Catholics in the world "eructo" is belch. So it's disguting to sing "my heart belches a good word" - or calling God "pervert" ... "Cum perverso perverteria" - only the most fundamentalist traditionalists can uphold the ungainly, poorly translated, 15 centuries old Gallican - or the ackward Nova Vulgata, which is as ugly as the Gallican, only patched here and there with the Bea Psalter, just for cosmetic purposes.

    1. Yeah, "magnificently translated" to Classical Latin idioms, instead of keeping the Church Latin of the common people, losing a lot of its poetry and rhythm. Your bias and prejudices are very evident here! It's not Spanish you're singing, it's Latin! Only "fundamental traditionalists" stick to the Gallican? What rubbish! Most traditional orders use the Gallican, I repeat, because it's far more rhythmic and poetic, whereas the Bea Psalter is a paraphrase. Here is a good explanation of why the Bea Psalter is insipid: http://www.newliturgicalmovement.org/2010/10/compendium-of-reforms-of-roman-breviary_21.html