In my study of Latin a whole year passed memorising verbs nouns and vocabulary

In my study of latin a whole year passed memorising

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had proper chalk to dust them before gripping the cold steel of the bar. In my study of Latin, a whole year passed memorising verbs, nouns and vocabulary and praying for some spark of enlightenment. I never got past the likes of "amo, amas, amat, amamus, amatus, amant," the first declension of the verb "to love." Learning languages was like being given the box containing the world’s biggest jigsaw puzzle and being told that once you put the pieces together you would have mastery. At no stage was I able to fit one piece in place but I did spend many hours examining the pieces. I didn’t know the fundamentals of the English language and the basic functions of grammar to apply such knowledge to Latin. At the end of the academic year, 1957, I had very proudly got off the bottom of the class score card with a final examination result of 17%. It would be a disaster to most students, but for me I had registered a mark. That was progress. We worshipped in Latin as well as using "Christian Brother" prayers from a black covered book called "The Exercises of Piety." For nearly all my life I had
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served Latin Masses as an altar boy, which required many lines to be committed to memory. I was at home with Latin prayers if I knew them by heart. Latin put me into a prayerful state for communicating with my God and His Mother. I loved rattling off the Latin prayers. Strathfield required us to sight read Latin prayers. Of course this skill was beyond me. To do so put a log-jam across the stream of my traditional method of prayer. Learning and prayer do not go together, so I was not comfortable with that particular form of prayer. I still smile at the Latin renderings of some of my fellow students of Clontarf, Castledare and the Training Colleges of the Christian Brothers. Here are a few. "A day go in my sock." "Me, him are tipsy gravis." "Me a cowboy, me a cowboy, me a Mexican Cowboy." A new Latin motet we learned in Strathfield sent me into raptures: "Ave verum Corpus, natum Ex Maria virginae. Vere passum, immolatum In Cruce pro homine. etc…" God was occasionally still tangible and my heart still soared when touched off by beautiful music. In many areas of my life at Strathfield and Bundoora I was coming alive but in other areas I lived with humiliation. Pride was never a temptation. Public reading was my crucifixion. Picture a narrow thirty metre long dining room. There are two rows of tables down the sides, six teenage diners at each table. At the front of the room in the centre of the room is a raised platform on which is a special table for our five Brother teachers. To their right was a raised pulpit with a special reading shelf for the book, a reading lamp and a microphone. On the rim of the pulpit was a little red torch globe, which was wired to a button at the teachers’ table, right near the principal’s fingers.
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