“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.
How time has been flying by in the few weeks since our kickoff! The enrollments are steadily rolling in and we are moving forward with class prep. Check out this post about our kickoff event.
To anyone who is on the fence about trying this out, I say Duc in altum!
Almost nine years ago, I sweated over buying plane tickets. Should I pay extra for the ability to cancel? I was considering traveling halfway across the country for a conference called Veterum sapientia. If I went, it would be my first time at a spoken-Latin workshop. The famous Fr. Reginald Foster would be there, and it was billed as a somewhat Catholic event. I loved Latin. I loved reading it, hearing it, and occasionally writing it. I wanted to speak it, but there were only dead ends. As a parish priest in the midwest, I was the best Latinist around, which wasn’t to say I was even that good, just that Latin wasn’t on anybody else’s radar.
I bit the bullet and bought the tickets. I even convinced my brother, living in Ohio at the time, to meet me there. I told myself at the time, “This is it. This is the Latin camp you always wanted to try. Now you will have gotten to do it once in your life.” It had been so hard to make room in the parish schedule to be gone even for a week, that I had to make a promise like that to myself, to give myself permission to indulge in something that seemed like a mere personal hobby, that no one around me cared about.
And then I went. And Veterum Sapientia blew me away. Of course I was shy. I’m very shy anyway, but the fear of speaking Latin for the first time made it much worse. Several times I forgot completely what I had said a few words in, butchered the sequence of tenses, and, naturally, didn’t know the words for the most basic items of ordinary use. It still blew me away. The non-judgmental, encouraging environment, and the pedagogy! My whole study of Latin had been the familiar grammar-translation method, with Jenney’s and Wheelock’s. Whatever else I had was inconsistent and on the side.
Most of all, at Veterum Sapientia that first time, I realized that there were other people in the universe who cared about this language. Maybe I wasn’t alone. Maybe I wasn’t so crazy. So I resolved that I would go each year, no matter what. That barring a true disaster, I would leave my parish and make the trip. One year that meant getting up at 1:00am for a flight. Other years it meant leaving a half-day early because I couldn’t get coverage for the weekend Masses. But, no matter what I had to do, I went. And so I have gone to the conference every year for now 8 complete years.
In that time, Veterum Sapientia has only gotten better–and more Catholic. I have become a committed Veterum Sapientia evangelist, and I have seen how helpful it can be. As the world of secular Latinity increases and Church Latin decreases, we need movements like this to reverse the trend. The addition of further workshops, the partnership with the seminary in Charlotte, and now the launch of the expanded Veterum Sapientia Institute, are all going to bear fruit for the Church of 2030, 2040, and beyond. The effective, friendly, Catholic learning environment that VSI creates is unmatched in the United States right now. To anyone who is on the fence about trying this out, I say Duc in altum!
We offer our humble thanks to His Eminence Raymond Leo Cardinal Burke for his warm congratulations of our new Institute along with his endorsement of our work.
…may the Institute which bears the name of the same Apostolic Constitution be the vehicle by which “the ancient and uninterrupted use of Latin be maintained and, where necessary, restored”
Please read the full letter at https://veterumsapientia.org/endorsements/
We would like to extend a most warm welcome to Steve Cunningham at Sensus Fidelium on YouTube for graciously helping us with our VSI kickoff event at Saint Ann’s parish in Charlotte, NC on November 22 after the 12:30 Traditional Latin Mass. He voluntarily brought his own equipment and live streamed our event to his channel, which greatly helps us to increase the exposure of this important work to the greater public.
We look forward to more collaborations with Sensus Fidelium in the near future.
You can view the video here: https://youtu.be/W3LpammSy1c?t=36
Sensus Fidelium YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/c/SensusFidelium/
Veterum Sapientia YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCDfJ5zqc84uVCuiw4EiaE-w/
“Pope John was right. The Church needs Latin. We are, after all, a global community, an ancient community, and an everlasting community.”
We invite you to read this insightful article on the revival of Latin by one of VSI’s own professors.
“Pope John was right. The Church needs Latin. We are, after all, a global community, an ancient community, and an everlasting community.” We invite you