Thanks to Language Log, it didn't take me long to dig out several examples of an old (possibly apocryphal, but definitely old) story:
Prof. Adolphe Cohn of Columbia University recently, in discussing the teaching of French and German in public schools, said that the attitude of a good many people on that subject was explained to him very aptly by a remark he had once overheard in a street car. Two elderly Irish women were talking about their children, when one remarked: “I won't let my child be taught Frinch.”Makes sense. I mean, it's not as if we're better than St. Paul, now are we? As we know, St. Paul is a great figure in Christian history, the bachelor saint who gave tons of marital advice to those who chose to marry rather than burn. He's the saint that denounced the Judaizers for their continuing espousal of the practice of circumcision—not required for followers of Christ, he insisted—and then promptly turned around and sliced off Timothy's foreskin. No doubt Timothy's guard was down.
“Why not?” inquired the other.
“Sure,” replied the first, “if English was good enough for St. Paul to write the Bible in it's good enough for me.”
—New York Time, January 15, 1905 (Sunday Magazine), p. 8
But Paul is not really the subject of this post. Ray is. I mean Ray Guarendi, a clinical psychologist who is a fixture on Catholic Radio and is usually called “Dr. Ray.” I recently heard him featured as a guest on Marcus Grodi's “Deep in Scripture” program. Grodi and guest were trying to parse St. Paul's teachings on love, as embodied in the apostle's first letter to the Corinthians (1 Cor. 13:4-7). Guarendi was stressing the difficulty of Paul's statements with some mocking banter: “Love is patient? Where? Love is kind? When?”
That, however, is not what caught my attention. I startled chuckling at a statement in Guarendi's amazing preamble, which immediately reminded me of the old “good enough for St. Paul” story. Check it out for yourself. At 6:45 in the video below, Guarendi offers this startling pronouncement: “You're familiar, Marcus, with the inadequacy of language to express truth. We have these infinite truths that God wants to give us, and he binds himself to the English language.”
The English language? Ha!