Why You Shouldn’t Be Afraid of Latin

Think Latin is for nerds and/or those with too much free time? No! Join the fun. Here are some reasons why you should:

  • It’s coming back in style, both in and out of the Catholic Church. (Public schools have started offering Latin classes again in droves–I know, I have been tutoring their students!) There’s a Gregorian chant and Extraordinary Form Mass revival underway in the United States, and more and more people are catching the wave. The Benedictine Sisters of Mary, Queen of Apostles and The Dominican Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist have both had albums with many Latin pieces on them rocketing to the very top of the Classical Music charts this year. Latin is the next big thing!
  • Pronunciation is simple, like Spanish, for Church Latin. The vowels are “ah, eh, eee, oh, ooh.” A few easy rules apply to consonants, and presto! you’ve got it.
  • The grammar rules are fairly regular, and that makes the memory work simple–as in, just do it. You really will be able to get it.
  • We English speakers already know hundreds of Latin words from derivatives. You already know adoro (I adore), defendere (to defend), and honor (honor), for just three quick examples.
  • Scriptural and other Church texts use and reuse the same words and concepts. Recently I have found the words from the Nicene Creed “lumen de lumine,” meaning “light from light,” pop up in a verse of a Christmas chant our Schola is practicing for Midnight Mass this year. It was exciting to see that connection!  But it’s not just me–this will happen for you too, once you start making your own discoveries.
  • You’ll get a reputation for being really smart. (Just sayin’!)
  • You can learn a lot of Latin by singing along. The chants of the Church used to be known by all, by young and old, by the literate and illiterate. People heard the words and music repeated over and over again, and they learned the songs and loved them. The Schola group Cantores in Ecclesia (O Lux Beatissima) and artist Kitty Cleveland (Sublime Chant) have chant CDs that are breathtaking to listen to and are excellent learning tools as well.
  • You will be able to pray in the language that your favorite saints did. From the Roman Empire to St. Therese of Lisieux and beyond, Latin has been the universal sacred language of prayer of the Catholic Church.
  • There are great websites to help you out. From this list of common Catholic prayers with Latin translations (http://fisheaters.com/prayers.html) to a website with a forum and free resources including lots of digitized Latin textbooks (http://textkit.com/) to this delightful place devoted specifically to scholars of Church Latin http://ecclesialatina.wordpress.com/, there is something available to help everyone along. 

Latin–it really is for everyone. Certainly no one who speaks this crazy, complex language called English needs to be intimidated, believe me. Now, on your mark, get set–ITE!

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