Hocus Pocus Go For Brokus | JIM FURLONG

I took Latin for two just years in school. It was through Grades 9-10. I confess that I was awful at it. My mark one semester was 38 out of 100. It is not easy to understand how I wound up taking courses in a dead language like Latin, but it is all tied up in the Christian Brothers of the day who taught us. It is linked to the Roman Catholic Church. The Mass in those days of pre-Vatican Council was still celebrated in Latin. The priests’ words and the responses were in Latin. It all led to the mystery of Holy Mother Church, as she was called by the priests and the brothers and the nuns. Incense, smoke, holy water and strange language. My brother, John, referred to the whole Latin thing as ‘Hocus Pocus Go For Brokus’. That leads me to my Latin fall from grace and what happens when you don’t study your Latin verbs so pay attention.
A few years ago, when my aunt Madge Malone died, I was kind of the chief mourner. I had lived with her after my parents passed and in her old age I sort of looked after her. I handled the funeral over at Caul’s and she was buried at Belvedere in what was the family plot on my mother’s side. Aunty would be the fourth person in there after Grandmother and Grandfather and Uncle Martin. There was room for everyone. So far so good and it all went well. The wake was good and the funeral Mass and the burial went like clockwork.
Then it fell to me to get the inscription on the headstone at Belvedere. This is where lack of success in Latin caught up to me. I contacted the man whose trade it is to write things on headstones and gave him the instructions with the name and date of birth and date of death. Then I added a Latin phrase which should have been “Requiescat in Pace”. It is a phrase that goes back to the 8th century in the church and is a prayer that means – “May the departed rest in peace.” You see it all over Catholic cemeteries and I should have checked.
I didn’t check and told the tombstone man to carve “Requiem in Pacem. He did. Unfortunately, that’s not the correct form. What I had the man carve on the headstone wasn’t a prayer and a plea for eternal life. It was more like an ad for a mattress factory. “Buy your mattress here and have, Rest in Peace.”
I was mortified when I found out about my error but remember now it was carved in stone and not easy to fix. There is no eraser on the chisels. So it is that it stands today out at Belvedere uncorrected. Where at Belvedere? I’m not telling you so you can see the source of my Latin disgrace. Here is the good news, though. Nobody has complained about the grammatical error in the cemetery tombstone. My secret is safe, and my aunt hasn’t haunted me over the error. She rests in peace.