One of my friends who, among other things, has suspected that he is completely tone deaf, posted this on Facebook:
[Friend’s name] is learning Gregorian Chant. We’re all gonna die in a gutter…
At first there was just some pleasant back and forth through which I happily found out that he was doing this through our local FSSP parish where one of my other friends is already in the schola. Anyway, the best part is when someone else commented, ” ‘We’re all gonna die in a gutter…’ I’ve never heard this particular Gregorian chant.”
I rubbed my hands together in glee. Well, I would have, if I were that stereotypical, and if my hands weren’t already busy pulling out my inestimably useful copy of 201 Latin Verbs Fully Conjugated in All the Tenses. (Yes, it’s a real book, and that really is its title.)
So together with William Whitaker’s Words and a heavy dose of Wikipedia, I put on my best troll hat (the one with all the bells) and replied thusly:
Oh [commenter], you’re missing out. “Cunctus in fossa moriemur”, composed in the late 1340s, supposedly by a novice monk known for his rather unstable emotional outlook. Somewhat of a Cassandra of his time, legend has it he fled the abbey just a few months prior to, in fact, all the other occupants dying and being flung into a gutter to be carted away.
After becoming rather obscure in later years, largely due to its complicated musical structure and general dreary theme (one of five extant copies is simply scribbled out with the word MAESISSIMUS inked over the title), it enjoyed a short-lived revival in the late 1500s under Queen Elizabeth’s repressive reign in England, but proved to be much more popular and long-lasting in Ireland during the Cromwellian invasion and conquest.
Thereafter, it cropped up in limited instances particularly in the United States, such as during the anti-Catholic policies of the early American colonies, the persecution of Catholics in the 1840s, and the heyday of the Ku Klux Klan. Some historians seek to explain this peculiar American Catholic affinity for this particular chant by pointing out the relatively dramatic whininess of the idealistic American culture as opposed to the grimmer nature of Old World Catholics who, by and large, were far more accustomed to and therefore fatalistically accepting of a hard life ended by a knife, a club, or a rope.
History lesson aside, I think it’s very interesting that [friend] is learning Cunctus in fossa moriemur at [FSSP parish]. I wonder if it’s going to regain popularity now that all this fussing in Washington, as well as murders and torchings of Catholics and their churches in the rest of the world, seems to be on the rise.