Happy Multi-Culti Day!

Today is Pentecost Sunday, traditionally known in England (and the Anglican Church) as Whitsun. On this day, the Holy Spirit descended on the apostles and the Virgin Mary, who all began to ‘speak in tongues’.

Theologians argue whether what occurred on that day was glossolalia or xenolalia. The former means acquiring a miraculous ability to speak a divine language that only the initiated know. The latter refers to an equally miraculous ability to speak an existing language previously unknown to the speaker.

The divinely linguistic aspect of Pentecost is one possible aspect to discuss, and there exist many others, such as the holiday’s origin in the Jewish tradition, Pentecost’s interplay with the Old Testament Babel, the working of the Holy Spirit, its representation in Eastern and Western iconography and so forth.

However, I’ll display uncharacteristic reticence by refraining from discussing any of them. Actually, this isn’t so much an exercise in modesty as merely an attempt to follow pastoral guidance.

For the priest celebrating today’s mass at our church didn’t go into those arcana either. This, though one would think his remit would preclude such bashfulness.

Please don’t misunderstand me. It’s not that the good monsignor (such is his clerical title) ignored Pentecost altogether. He didn’t. But he focused on what he saw as its true significance to him and, by implication, his congregation.

Walking through the streets of London, he said, especially the city’s less salubrious areas, one can hear a multitude of tongues spoken, each originating from a downtrodden part of the world. Somali, Swahili, Zulu, Urdu, Pashtu, Arabic – you can hear them all, and some people, presumably including the good monsignor, can even identify them.

Whenever he espies what I once alliteratively called a ‘global glossalalian gloom’, the monsignor’s heart rejoices – since all those are existing languages, he must support the xenolalian school. But that’s not all he supports, which immediately became clear.

Isn’t it wonderful, continued the monsignor, that so many different nationalities are represented in London, and in such admirably high numbers. Just think how they enrich the panoply of life in the capital, what a valuable cultural and economic contribution they make.

Isn’t multiculturalism wonderful? And not just as such. For it also reminds us of the evils of colonial and capitalist exploitation, practised in the past by so many Western countries, including – to our collective shame – Britain.

Well, what did you expect? I did tell you one can talk about all sorts of things on Pentecost Sunday.

However, some may object that perhaps a homily delivered from the pulpit next to the altar may not be an ideal vehicle for carrying such messages to the multitudes. The homily should really have been about the Holy Spirit descending on the apostles in Jerusalem, not the formerly downtrodden masses descending on London in apocalyptic numbers.

Moreover, some dyed-in-the-wool reactionaries among you may even question the validity and factual accuracy of such statements even if voiced at a more secular venue. Such objectionable individuals may argue that the net effect of, say, Somalian immigration is hugely negative.

That group adds much to London’s crime rate and the pressure on its already creaking infrastructure and social services, while adding nothing at all to the city’s culture. And the massive presence of Arabic speakers may in some minds be primarily associated with riots and exploding public transport.

But not being one such dyed-in-the-wool reactionary myself (I thought I had to make this disclaimer to reduce the risk of having my collar felt), I shan’t join those ranks. I’ll merely express a heartfelt hope that we’ll see the day when such priests are summarily unfrocked. God knows Christianity has enough enemies without not to be able also to afford enemies within.

P.S. Speaking of multiculturalism, the town of Carentan in Normandy celebrated the approaching anniversary of D-Day by hanging bunting all over the place.

They hung all sorts of flags, including the EU one, even though that organisation was then merely a twinkle in the collective eye of Franco-German bureaucrats. Even the flags of such countries as Sweden (neutral, but leaning to the German side), Switzerland (ditto) and Ireland (ditto) proudly flapped in the wind. The flag prominent by its absence was the Union Jack.

One may assume that the city council is unaware of Britain’s role in history’s greatest amphibious landing, and of the thousands of Britons killed on and around those Normandy beaches. But that assumption would be wrong: “This is about Brexit,” explained a chap at the town’s tourist board.

I get it. Britain doesn’t deserve to have her vital role acknowledged because on 6 June, 1944, she proved her euroscepticism. Britain did so by violence on that day and again by plebiscite 72 years later.

Say no more. No one thwarts two attempts by the Franco-Germans to unite Europe and gets away with it.

3 thoughts on “Happy Multi-Culti Day!”

  1. When Father Benedict celebrated our Latin Mass (he was transferred to Corpus Christi Priory in Springfield, IL in 2022) he mentioned Babel nearly every year on Pentecost (you can look it up at HomilyHistory.com). Your good monsignor could have focused instead on the fact that so many Muslims appear to prefer Western Civilization (Christendom) to their own. That should help guide them to the one true faith, no?

    As for the citizens of Normandy, I have read that most are still exuberantly grateful to the men who landed by sea and air to free their towns that fateful June. Of course, that is taken from predominantly American accounts, but it would be bad manners to thank only some of the liberators.

    1. I’m sure most people in Normandy, and in France as a whole, are just as you describe them. But they aren’t the ones who hang out bunting or decide which flags should appear there. Such matters are decided by government bureaucrats, and the distance between them and ordinary folk is much greater in France than in either US or Britain.

  2. The Monsignor ought to study the collect for Pentecost, which in my treasured old Roman Missal (published 1880) reads, Deus, qui hodierna die corda fidelium sancti Spiritus illustratione docuisti: da nobis in eodem Spiritu recta sapere…, which Cranmer adapted felicitously in his collect for Whitsunday as, “God, who as at this time didst teach the hearts of thy faithful people by the sending to them the light of thy Holy Spirit: grant us by the same Spirit to have a right judgement in all things….”

    Recta sapere (“to have a right judgement”)! Is the Monsignor confident that he has a right judgement, not according to the judgements of men but sancti Spiritus illustratione (“by the light of the Holy Spirit”)?

    If the Monsignor is unsure, perhaps he might read the homilies of St Sophronius, Patriarch of Jerusalem, who preached in a polyglot city and perhaps sometimes heard the barbarous tongues of Roman and even British pilgrims. In AD 638 the Patriarch surrendered the Holy City to the Caliph Omar. Unlike your Monsignor, he didn’t do so willingly.

    P.S. The miracle of Pentecost is certainly xenolalia, and the “gift of tongues” discussed by St Paul is probably xenolalia too, since he discusses the presence or absence of interpreters. I don’t believe that St Paul would have endorsed the speaking of gibberish.

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