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 andvocabulary and praying for some spark of enlightenment. I never got past thelikes of "amo, amas, amat, amamus, amatus, amant," the first declension ofthe verb "to love." Learning languages was like being given the box containingthe world’s biggest jigsaw puzzle and being told that once you put the piecestogether you would have mastery. At no stage was I able to fit one piece inplace but I did spend many hours examining the pieces. I didn’t know thefundamentals of the English language and the basic functions of grammar toapply such knowledge to Latin. At the end of the academic year, 1957, I hadvery proudly got off the bottom of the class score card with a final examinationresult of 17%. It would be a disaster to most students, but for me I hadregistered a mark. That was progress. We worshipped in Latin as well as using "Christian Brother" prayers from ablack covered book called "The Exercises of Piety." For nearly all my life I had
served Latin Masses as an altar boy, which required many lines to becommitted to memory. I was at home with Latin prayers if I knew them byheart. Latin put me into a prayerful state for communicating with my God andHis Mother. I loved rattling off the Latin prayers. Strathfield required us to sight read Latin prayers. Of course this skill wasbeyond me. To do so put a log-jam across the stream of my traditional methodof prayer. Learning and prayer do not go together, so I was not comfortablewith 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 offby beautiful music. In many areas of my life at Strathfield and Bundoora I was coming alive but inother areas I lived with humiliation. Pride was never a temptation. Publicreading was my crucifixion. Picture a narrow thirty metre long dining room. There are two rows of tablesdown the sides, six teenage diners at each table. At the front of the room inthe centre of the room is a raised platform on which is a special table for ourfive Brother teachers. To their right was a raised pulpit with a special readingshelf for the book, a reading lamp and a microphone. On the rim of the pulpitwas a little red torch globe, which was wired to a button at the teachers’ table,right near the principal’s fingers.