Although I had studied Latin before, the Veterum Sapientia Latin Immersion Workshop was a whole new experience. The workshop aimed to create a weeklong bubble of Latin in order to let us learn by listening and communicating in Latin, as we might learn any other language. As you might imagine, this was at times challenging, especially for a rusty Latin student—try carrying on table conversation while trying dredge out of your memory Latin words like ‘last year’, not to mention the perfect of disco, all the while realizing that you never learned the word for ‘cup’, and can’t remember how the number ‘two’ declines! In spite of this, by the end of the week, I was carrying on simple conversations in Latin. Speaking also gives you an opportunity to use some of those first and second-person forms that you might otherwise ignore—such as ‘vocāris’ or ‘loquebāmur’. The teaching methods at the seminar were excellent, and used a bit of sign language, gestures, written words, pictures, activities, and other methods to help our memories and to accommodate varied learning styles. While some classes were held in common, we also spent part of the day divided into groups according to our proficiency level, allowing everyone to improve their skills, wherever they might be starting from. One of the tenets we learned in the introduction was to remember ourselves “inter amicos”, and this was certainly true. Everyone tried to help one another learn, with a lot of patience for the beginners!
I would recommend the seminar for those who want to deepen their knowledge of Latin and to learn not only to read, but also to listen, understand, speak and write it themselves.
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.
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!