Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Tuesday's Bit of Latin: Franciscan Humour

Since next Monday is the feast of St. Francis, I thought I would post this in advance so you can tell your Franciscan (and Benedictine) friends about it.
--Dr. Thursday.
There is a joke about a Benedictine monk who used the common grace of Benedictus benedicat, whereupon the unlettered Franciscan triumphantly retorted Franciscus Franciscat. It is something of a parable of mediaeval history; for if there were a verb Franciscare it would be an approximate description of what St. Francis afterwards did. But that more individual mysticism was only approaching its birth, and Benedictus benedicat is very precisely the motto of the earliest mediaevalism. I mean that everything is blessed from beyond, by something which has in its turn been blessed from beyond again; only the blessed bless.
[GKC A Short History of England]
In case you don't get it, the Latin Benedictus benedicat means "May Benedict bless..." As GKC points out in his introduction, there isn't any Latin verb Franciscare or rather Franciscere - but that really is the whole point of the joke. You know, it's when the door isn't a door that it's a jar. Or about getting down from the duck. It's how you get UP on the duck in the first place which is the mystery.... hee hee. Perhaps when you are a Franciscan, you know how.

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