Earlier this year, the Paideia Institute, which also works to promote the study of classical languages and literature, held a contest to write a dedicatory inscription in honor of Fr Reginald Foster, the teacher, mentor, and friend of many of their staff, as also of our own. A winning entry was decided and announced in June, and we congratulate the winner, Mr Jonathan Meyer, one of his students. The inscription has recently been set on a bronze plaque on one of the benches in the garden of the Theresianum, the place where Fr Foster used to hold his sub arboribus sessions. These were the optional extra sessions which he would conduct four times a week during the eight weeks of his annual summer Latin program. Each session started about 8pm, and lasted until there was no longer enough sunlight to read by. Two of the sessions were just spontaneous conversation de qualibet re; I vividly remember someone trying to explain to him at one of these session who the “Grati Mortui – the Grateful Dead” were. This, by the way, was after he had held three ninety-minute sessions over the afternoon, at 2, 4, and 6pm, another example of his extraordinary devotion to his students, and to the study of Latin.
MEMORIAE REGINALDI FOSTER SACERDOTIS CARMELITANI EXIMII LINGVAE LATINAE CVLTORIS OPTIMIQVE MAGISTRI CVI TANTVM ERAT MODESTIAE IN VITA INDVSTRIAE IN AGENDO SOLLERTIAE IN DOCENDO VT NEMO FACERE POTVERIT QVIN EVM DILIGERET COLLAVDARET ADMIRARETVR INSTITVTVM PAIDEIA SVMMA EIVS AMICORVM ET DISCIPVLORVM CONFISVM BENIGNITATE HOC MONVMENTVM PONENDVM CVRAVIT KAL IVL ANNO SAL MMXXII
“To the memory of Reginald Foster, Carmelite priest, extraordinary cultivator of the Latin language, and the best teacher, who possessed so much simplicity in his life, diligence in his doing, and acuity in his teaching that no one was able do anything but love him, praise him, and wonder at him. The Paideia Institute, relying on the supreme generosity of his friends and students, oversaw the placing of this monument. On July 1, in the year of our salvation 2022.”
A good friend of Fr Foster and of VSI, Mr John Byron Kuhner, who has written his biography, studied with him several times over the years, and got to know his style of pedagogy and speaking as well as anyone. On his Medium page In Medias Res, he recently published an explication of this inscription, written as if Fr Foster himself were using it to give a lesson. Anyone who knew and studied with Foster will immediately recognize this as a scarily accurate representation of his manner of speaking. We reproduce this excerpt here with Mr Kuhner’s permission, but do go over to his page and read the whole thing. (The italics represent Fr Foster’s voice.)
“To the memory of Reginald Foster, Carmelite priest.” Fine, friends. Go on. “Remarkable cultivator of the Latin language.” Remarkable — hmm, well, yes. Everyone, look in your Lewis and Short for eximius. See the first meaning there is ‘exempt’! What else do we see? ‘Select, choice, distinguished, extraordinary, uncommon, excellent.’ You see the basic idea is someone who is different from everyone else, in a good way. Then look: they give you synonyms: Egregii Praeclari Divini Lauti Magnifici Linguae Latinae Cultoris. It’s music, that’s what it is!