Offering the Wisdom of the Ancients to Catholic clergy, religious, and laity via Latin and Greek language instruction.
Author: James Walther
James Walther holds an associate's degree in theology from Holy Apostles College and Seminary. He was a seminarian for ten years (United States, Italy, France, and Belgium). During which time, he twice assisted at the Veterum Sapientia summer immersion programs. He also earned the Brevet d’Aptitude aux Fonctions d’Animateur (BAFA) from the French Ministry of Education and worked at a summer camp for boys in France for four summers. Then he served as a supervisor and customer relations manager for a private school in Brussels, Belgium. After leaving seminary, he re-enrolled at Holy Apostles College and Seminary, working towards a MA in Dogmatic Theology.
Laudetur Jesus Christus! Registration is now open for this year’s Veterum Sapientia Latin Immersion Workshop, which will be held from July 25-31, 2021 at Saint Joseph’s College Seminary in Mt Holly, NC.
The 1962 Vatican Ordinances accompanying Veterum Sapientia.
January 6, 2021.
Enjoy this sneak preview of what we’re pretty sure is the first-ever translation — into any language, not just English — of a momentous Latin document published in 1962 and, strangely, nearly impossible to find anywhere outside the printed or online edition of the Acta Apostolicae Sedis, the official documentary records of the Holy See.
We’ll call it the Ordinances for short. Its full Latin name is Ordinationes ad Constitutionem Apostolicam “Veterum Sapientia” rite Exsequendam, which is literally, in English, Ordinances for the Correct Implementation of the Apostolic Constitution “Veterum Sapientia” — the great papal defense of Latin from which our new Institute takes its name and mission.
Pope John XXIII, in the conclusion of his seven-page Veterum Sapientia said this: We command the Sacred Council to prepare a curriculum for instruction in the Latin language which is to be followed by everyone with the greatest diligence. (1) He signed VS in a solemn ceremony on the high altar of St. Peter’s on February 22, 1962. Less than two months later, on April 20, his order was fulfilled. On that date, the Sacred Congregation for Seminaries and Universities published twenty-two pages of directions, standards and regulations for making Pope John’s vision a reality in the Catholic schools, seminaries, and universities of the world. These directives are not just specific. They’re positively granular in their level of detail and practicality, right down to teaching method, tests, and even homework assignments.
The Ordinances were to have taken effect worldwide beginning in the fall of 1963. Had they done so, our Church today would be a very different place. But Pope John died in June of that year, and the Ordinances, together with Veterum Sapientia itself, virtually disappeared, though no subsequent Vatican documents dealing with Latin have ever contradicted or negated them.
The document below is still a draft. We’ll be publishing the final version on our website on February 22, 2021, in commemoration of the fifty-ninth anniversary of the signing of Veterum Sapientia. But even in draft form, it’s crystal-clear that Pope John meant business. The glittering vision he articulated in VS was no mere nostalgic ode to the Church’s past, but a bracing summons to build Her future. Here are a few essential quotes from the Ordinances:
… the goal is to make [seminarians] able to use this language to learn their major academic disciplines, to write Church documents and letters, and to correspond with their brother clergy of other nations. Finally, at the highest levels, the objective is to make them able to take part in the sort of ecclesiastical debates on articles of Catholic faith and discipline which occur in councils and meetings… (II.i.§2)
This curriculum is to last at least seven years, for young people beginning their Latin classes in seminaries. They are to have no fewer than six hours per week in the first five years, and no fewer than five hours weekly in the remaining two. (II.ii.§1.1)
… the other academic disciplines will have to be sequenced and abridged (and some perhaps cut entirely or left for later), so that our mandate concerning the time to be given to Latin language study may be obeyed in every respect. (II.ii.§2)
Latin language teaching method ought to cause students to acquire the ability to use it. For this reason, the overflowing philological pot-au-feu which makes up nearly the entire menu in schools of the Humanities, especially graduate schools, will have to be thrown out, since it does not give the nourishment one would reasonably expect from such study. (II.iv.§2)
Any textbook used for teaching Latin syntax shall itself be written in Latin. (II.iv.§7)
Get the idea? There’s plenty more in the document. Read on!
(1) Eidem praeterea Sacro Consilio mandamus, ut linguae Latinae docendae rationem, ab omnibus diligentissime servandam, paret, quam qui sequantur eiusdem sermonis iustam cognitionem et usum capiant. VS. 8. AAS. LIV (1962) p. 135.
VSI was founded with the intent of helping priests, seminarians, and religious to learn to speak Latin and Greek according to the will of the Church. Here is an interesting article by a seminarian on Latin.
As yet another salute to the legacy of one of the (if not simply THE) greatest Latinists of the last century, we would like to share with you an article by John Kuhner on Fr Foster. We note this article in particular because it shows the man as he was: a great mind aflame with his passion for Latin mixed with the full gamut of human virtues and vices.
How could such purpose and passion and love not have an effect on the world, and not have value in God’s sight? Remittuntur ei peccata multa, said Jesus of one of his saints, quia dilexit multum. “For him many sins are forgiven, for he loved much.”
Sent December 26, 2020 Telegram by +Parolin to Fr. Saverio Cannistra OCD, Superior General of the Carmelite order, offering the Pope’s condolences on the death of Fr. Reginald Foster.
Summus Pontifex Franciscus nuntium accepit Patrem Reginaldum Foster OCD de hoc mundo demigrasse ad Patris domum transiturum qui complures annos in secretaria Status exegit quique innumera documenta pontificia Latinae linguae fulgore collustravit quam etiam copiose frequentibus discipulis ac largiter assiduus tradidit ipseque precatur ut meritis cumulatus a Domino ad confertam mensuram recipiat mercedem.
Petrus SRE Card. Parolin
Pope Francis has received word that Fr. Reginald Foster OCD has departed this world on his way to the House of the Father. [Fr. Foster] served for many years in the Secretariat of State and illuminated innumerable pontifical documents with the brilliance of the Latin language, which he also taught fruitfully to a great many students with generous care. [His Holiness] prays that [Fr. Foster], heaped with his merits, may receive from the Lord recompense in due measure.
Pietro Cardinal Parolin
Secretary of State
Comment by Nancy Llewellyn:
Reggie would like this Latin, apart from the regrettable “ad domum” early on. He’d certainly appreciate both the choice of the verb demigrare and its elegantly contracted perfect infinitive form demigrasse (instead of the uncontracted demigravisse). He’d also like the coupling of it with that transiturum – a future participle expressing purpose, which offers a bracing dose of futurity in contrast to the past (demigrasse). In classes at the Greg, Reggie not infrequently would run across some phrase expressing purpose and stop everything to run us through at least seven or eight different ways to say that same thing using different structures.
He’d appreciate the light-filled imagery of Latinae linguae fulgore collustravit and the physicality of that cumulatus combined with such a non-physical thing as meritis. Oh, and did I mention it’s just one huge sentence? He’d like that too.
VSI Vice President and co-Founder Nancy Llewellyn on the passing of her mentor and teacher, legendary Latinist Fr. Reginald Foster OCD.
Requiem aeternam dona ei, Domine. Et lux perpetua luceat ei.
I’m trying to absorb the news of the death of Reggie Foster yesterday morning. Hearing it, I felt at once how fitting it was, and is, that he should have done so on Christmas Day — passing thus to God under THE great sign of hope and of light in the darkness, second only to Easter. My thoughts are scattered, and yet I know I must sit down and put them together now. It’s something I’d meant to do for some years, and especially after seeing him for the last time in November 2019, on his 80th birthday. If I’ve done anything good for Latin in my own career, it’s because of him, more than any other. SALVI certainly would not exist. VSI would not exist. So many works of others — Paideia being one — would not exist. And still other initiatives out there that do not owe Reggie their beginnings nevertheless could not, I daresay, have grown and prospered but that they were peopled and supported by so many Old Fosterians. More to write. More to say. And yet, for this first moment, enough.
“Latin is a dead language.” How many of us latinophiles have heard that ad nauseam as if it were the refrain to the verse “I speak [study, teach, write in, etc.] Latin”? With no doubt, Latin and the classics in general are making a comeback in the academic world.
There is a problem, however. The thing that killed Latin in academia has not been generally corrected and so it will strike again. The problem is learning Latin as a dead language. If you study a language in such a way as to use only your passive knowledge (reading and listening), but not your active knowledge (writing and speaking) then sic, lingua Latina mortua est…in te, sed non in se. It is what you make of it.
The solution then is simple: to recover our former fluency, we need only restore what was traditionally our end, namely, to master Latin comprehensively so as to be able to use it: to think in it, to speak it, to write it, and to read it with native or near-native facility.
Dr Mark Clark
The number of Latinists that recognize the pedagogical necessity of speaking and writing in Latin is growing. VSI is not just making this up or chasing some fancy. Rather, we are trying to facilitate the accomplishment of the goal to which many others are aiming.
It is therefore no wonder that when we come across articles by other and unrelated authors, we are wont to share them as proof not only of the reasonableness of our aim, but also of its practicability. Thus we are happy to share with you an article by Dr Mark Clark, Bringing back Latin, which explores the loss of Latin over the past decades, why we should restore it, and what that will take.