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What a Silly Lash!


Oh, Archbishop Cupich! You’re SUCH a cutie!


My husband, whose conversion to Catholicism was greatly eased by his discovery of the Traditional Latin Mass, is a bit of a Latinist, so he fussed and spluttered when he came across this amusing passage in an interview with His Grace the Archbishop of Chicago:

“In regard to my own pastoral work with people I’ve always tried to understand them. We use that word ‘reconciliation’ all the time. It doesn’t mean giving people forgiveness. It comes from an anatomical root, namely the eyelashes, the cilia, so you begin to see eye to eye with people.”

My first thought, upon hearing this, was Jonathan Swift’s very wicked poem “The Lady’s Dressing Room”, which describes the horror of a silly young man who steals into his adored Celia’s rather messy chamber and discovers that she is, you know, a human being: sweaty, hairy, excretory. It puts the silly young man quite off women.

But my husband was not to be distracted by scatological 18th century poetry. As much as he wanted to believe His Grace was, as doubtless were Archbishops of Chicago before him, an expert Latinist, he didn’t. So he summoned up Wiktionary on his computer, looking up first reconciliation and then reconcilio, and so on.

Verb – reconcilio – first-person singular present indicative form of reconciliar

Latin Etymology: From re- ‎(“back; again”) + conciliō ‎(“unite, connect”).

It turns out that this purported anatomical root of “reconciliation”,  cilia (plural of cilium) are eyelids, not eyelashes, and the word is derived from the Proto-Indo-European word for “to cover.” Is reconciliation, then, a cover-up?


Perhaps to his Grace, and to Luther, who famously thought God’s grace was akin to snow that covered up that stuff so associated with Swift’s Celia.

To Latinists, however, the roots of reconciliation can be found in concilium and  re- (again) and con- (with) and–especially–cieo (to put in motion). Cieo goes back to the Proto-Indo-European key-, and is found in Ancient Greek as κινέω (kineo)–“I move, I set in motion.”

There are no eyelashes involved in reconciliation. No eyelids. No covering. No cover-up. The root of reconciliation is not cilium but cieo, and Wiktionary is positively Old Testament in its discussion of what that means.

Indeed, it means what Catholics mean when we talk about our aching consciences responding to Christ’s invitation to be reconciled with Him and His Father:


It means this: “While he was yet at a distance, his father saw him and had compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him. 21 And the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you; I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’[b] 22 But the father said to his servants, ‘Bring quickly the best robe, and put it on him; and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet; 23 and bring the fatted calf and kill it, and let us eat and make merry; 24 for this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.”

cieō ‎(present infinitive ciēre, perfect active cīvī, supine citum); second conjugation

  1. I put in motion; act
  2. I move, stir, shake.
  3. I summon, call.
  4. I call upon (by name) for help, invoke, appeal to.
  5. I rouse, stimulate, excite; disturb; produce, cause, begin, provoke.

Thus, we see that His Grace the Archbishop of Chicago is not such a great Latinist and therefore may not understand what reconciliation really entails. It does not mean seeing eye-to-eye with the sinner when he or she explains to you why he or she is not really a sinner after all, but moving, stirring, summoning, calling, rousing, stimulating, exciting, disturbing and provoking them into reconciliation with our Lord Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit, and that strangely overlooked Person, God the Father.



15 thoughts on “What a Silly Lash!”

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  3. Peter L. Giamatti says:

    It’s like the old saw about atonement being etymologically “at-one ment” i.e. becoming one.

  4. rkat says:

    The guy is so over-impressed with his own intellect that he doesn’t know how stupid he sounds. Anyone who took a biology class after 5th grade knows what “cilia” are, and they ain’t eyelashes.

  5. johnhenry says:

    Vero, Latine loqui non est difficilissi-mum.
    “Really, Latin isn’t all that hard.”

    But as Rhett Butler once said to Scarlett: “Re vera, cara mea, mea nil refert”:

  6. Mary Kangas Jones says:

    I would like to force him to stare at every photo Hilary posted of the Gay Parade.

  7. Mary Kangas Jones says:

    Hilarious, and wrong. I can’t believe he would write that. Well, yes, I do. I’m a nurse. A study of anatomy would tell you that cilia are the little hairs in the ears, nostrils, and lungs, that sweep out the dust and debris that would otherwise enter our bodies. So, we need those cilia to sweep out the debris of Archbishop Cupich’s nonsense, as well as as Kasper’s. Epic fail, Abp Cupich.

  8. antigon says:

    I beg your pardon, Mr. McLean, but words, sort of like our conscience, mean what we want them to mean, nothing more, nothing less.

  9. Chloe says:

    Oh, I DO like that!

  10. Barbara says:

    Blaise Cupich is an idiot, a possible queer, and an apostate. Were he here in front of me I would slap his face. Better a millstone…..

    Hope this is not too threatening to get past Hilary’s eagle eye but this man gets me riled.

  11. Barbara says:

    HAHAHAHAHAHA! Thanks, I needed that.

  12. Janet says:

    ++Cupich doesn’t know Latin; here’s my shocked face 😐

  13. jcmckeown says:

    eyelashes are also used in Winking.

  14. bosco49 says:

    “…It comes from an anatomical root, namely the eyelashes, the cilia,…”

    Hmmm…I suggest ‘cilia’, based on His Grace’s application of the term, more appropriately derives from the word ‘silly’, and any ‘lashes’ consequent thereto ought be administered to His Grace.

  15. Paul Byrne says:

    Your husband sounds like a very sensible man; would that the same could be said for the current Archbishop of Chicago!

  16. Randi Gordon says:

    After decades of being interested in etymology, and recently beginning to attend the Latin Mass, I have begun to study Latin and I am sharing everything I learn with my children, whom I homeschool and catechize. I had heard Bishop Cupich make this statement about reconciliation, and I was rather taken aback by his explanation of its roots. It seemed more modern in its understanding of reconciliation, and yet it seemed he was saying that was the ancient understanding of the word, based upon its supposed roots. So I very much appreciated your explanation today. Thanks to you and your husband, for investigating the truth of Bishop Cupich’s claim.

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