Ralph and Yuri

Fr. Kevin Dillon

Fr. Kevin Dillon is the Pastor of St. Boniface Martyr Parish, Sea Cliff, Long Island, NY.

Their names are Ralph, and Yuri.  They are brothers and they treat all their customers as FAMILY!  They own a barber shop and jewelry store on Willis Avenue in Albertson.  They are hardworking, friendly and devout Jews.  They are my barbers and my friends as well.  One day when I walked in to have my hair cut Yuri was standing behind the counter wearing what appeared to be a prayer shawl and Yakama.  He was saying his morning prayers in Hebrew.  After he saw me walk in, he became a bit flustered and I dare say somewhat startled because I had arrived a few minutes before the store’s official opening time.  I affirmed him by telling him how impressed I was by his deep reverence and devotion to the prayers and customs of Judaism.  On more than one occasion, they have invited me to break bread with them and have lunch at their store.  Lunch is always delicious and the food they share with me is homemade, and kosher.  Eating kosher food is a tradition that is embraced by Conservative and Orthodox Jews.

We as Catholics have customs, devotions and practices as well.  We call it Tradition and unlike other religions, Catholicism is comprised of traditions with a capital (upper case) ”T” and lower case “t”. The fact that only men can be ordained priests is Tradition with an upper case “T”.  Tradition with an upper case to is the words and teachings of Jesus and the Apostles.  Remember, it was many years before Scripture was actually written down, so during the years immediately after the Resurrection, the Apostles communicated the message of Jesus’ resurrection and other articles of faith through what is known as Oral Tradition.  In other words, the tenets of the faith were communicated verbally.   The use of Latin, blessing ourselves with holy water and praying novenas such as the Miraculous Medal Novena that is prayed here on Saturday mornings is tradition with a lower case “t”.   Tradition with a lower case “t” is NOT official Church teaching or dogma.  Pious practices such as novenas, blessings, and the use of Latin are simply devout practices and customs which have evolved through the ages.  One is free to embrace or reject such pious practices.

Many of our devotions, however, are very beautiful and are an asset to deepening one’s spirituality.  In fact, being Catholic is sort of like being in a spiritual candy store or dessert shop.  We know that when we are in a candy store or ordering dessert or some other sweet indulgence we need to eat these treats in moderation or else they become bad for our health and weight, but the great treasury of devotions that the Church offers us, her, members can be feely indulged in as much as we want, and the benefits are beyond this world.  Devotions foster a deeper and richer relationship with God.

Part of our Catholic Tradition has been the use of Latin in the Church’s liturgies and songs.  While I am NOT in favor of celebrating mass in Latin, it is a part of our Tradition.  Personally, I prefer Mass in the vernacular, but some Catholics seem to be nourished more by praying the Mass in Latin, and that’s okay.  I am somewhat puzzled, however, by some Catholics who absolutely and positively want NO Latin what so ever.  Some of our beautiful hymns such as Tantum Ergo, Salve Regina, and

O Sanctissima to name a few are sung beautifully in Latin.  St. Thomas Aquinas has a beautiful saying for ancient practices, Beauty, Ever Ancient Ever New!  Believe it or not Latin is still the Official Language of the Church.  It is a part of our Catholic culture; it is a part of our heritage, and it is a part of our tradition (tradition with a small “t”).

Hebrew is used in many Synagogues and Temples and Arabic is used in Islamic Mosques because it is a part of their rituals and tradition.  We use Latin for the same reason.

While I am NOT in any way advocating for Mass to be celebrated here at St. Boniface in Latin, I do think that once in a while some hymns and chants could be sung in Latin, much like we did Holy Thursday with Mozart’s Ave Verum and St. Thomas Aquinas’ Pange Lingua.  From what most parishioners told me, the celebrations of Holy Week were beautiful, prayerful, reverent and inspiring.  Most of us have customs and traditions in our families; some have beautiful china and dinnerware which are only brought out on very special occasions.  I do not think if people had an heirloom that was handed down from one generation to the next; it would be discarded or thrown away!  The same is true for the devotions and practices of the Catholic Church including chanting or singing a song or mass part (Agnus Dei) for example in Latin.


Fr. Kevin’s letter appears each week in print and online in the St. Boniface Martyr Parish Bulletin.

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