Wednesday, August 10, 2011

O ke aloha nui Nou, e Maria


THAT'S HOW YOU SAY IT in Hawaiian. In Latin, Ave Maria; in English, Hail Mary.

One of the small treasures in the Mount Libraries' Special Collections is Lira Katolika, a rare 1935 edition of Catholic hymns translated into Hawaiian.

(The full title is Lira Katolika : he mau himeni ma ka olelo Hawaii no na la hoano o ka Ekalesia, no ka mesa, no ka korona, etc., published by Zech et Fils of Braine-le-Comte, Belgium).

It's not clear how the College ended up with it. It's in neither the online catalog nor old card files, and it lacks the usual donor information in pencil on the title page. However, a small typewritten note from the benefactor is pasted on an endpaper: "This book is rare. Only a few copies were made. I was fortunate to secure one for you. Aloha."

It must have been a pretty big deal when the Mount acquired it, because I came across a black-and-white publicity photo of the head librarian, Sister Catherine Anita Fitzgerald (left), looking it over with another Sister. There's no date on the photo, but Sister Catherine Anita ran the library from the late 1940s until 1971, so the picture could have been taken any time over a 20-year span. The photo might have appeared in The Tidings, The View, or even the Los Angeles Times.

The hymnal (in English, Catholic Lyre) is almost entirely in Hawaiian so it's hard to recognize any Catholic classics. An 1886 version was found among the papers of St. Damien of Molokai, who no doubt sang Hawaiian hymns with his many parishioners all over the Islands before his heroic mission among the lepers.

As far as I can tell, the only other library copy in the world is in the rare books at the University of Hawaii's Manoa campus.
O ke aloha nui Nou, e Maria
Ka mea i piha' i I ke garatia.
Noho pu ka Haku me oe
A, i kona aloha mau, I waena ona wahine,
Ooe no ka pakeu.
If you're a member of the Mount's Hawaiian/Polynesian club, Na Pua O'Ka Aina, and want to practice your Hawaiian, stop by the archives!

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