Wednesday, February 10, 2010

De Latina

This morning I finally found my Liturgia Horarum, vol. III, which has been missing since the beginning of Ordinary Time. Boy, was it a pleasure to finally be able to pray in Latin again!

Latin is a singing language. It can make the most prosaic thought sound like a song. It is also the key to the western heritage of Catholic thought. Even those who wrote in the vernacular, such as Shakespeare, reflected their knowledge of Latin. It also teaches us to think more clearly and understand language better.

Although, as Sr. Miriam Joseph points out, other inflected languages, such as Greek or Russian, can help us see grammar more easily than can English, Latin is the one that is most accessible of the heavily inflected languages. The main advantage Greek would have is that the New Testament is written it it (no small advantage). On the other hand, it is a harder language to learn, and less influential on Western Civilization. On the other hand, all nineteenth century intellectuals knew both Latin and Greek. A friend was telling me a story about Jesuit formation in the 1940s. Apparently the Eastern Province of the Jesuits in the United States required competency in Greek before entering the novitiate. They turned many potential candidates away, which were picked up by other provinces that had somewhat less stringent requirements.

I am not one of those who thinks that Latin is a divine language, therefore if the Church does not use it, it is betraying the Lord. On the other hand, I do think that God has providentially given the Roman Church (and therefore the entire Church) this beautiful treasure and that we need to cherish it. The only way to adequately cherish it is to study it, learn it, and use it. I do believe that as many Catholics as can ought to learn as much Latin as they can. Seminarians especially ought to have as good of knowledge of it as they can reasonably acquire in 4-6 years. I also think that Latin is one of the treasures and Western Civilization and therefore ought to be preserved and used even by non-Catholics

I note that there has been a surge in the number of students who study Latin in the past few years. The Wisconsin Junior Classical League exploded in size over the years so much this year they had to limit the number of delegates from each school! My son is a classics major, and some of the other home schooled kids I know are seriously considering it. Here is a link to our home school group's Latin Club, the Dead Language Latin Club. HomeschoolConnections will be offering it next fall.

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