When it comes to learning Church Latin, we all should imitate what we did as babies. Be a baby listening to our Holy Mother, the Church, at prayer, and learn Latin as you go. I’ve written some lessons I hope can help you learn Latin while praying along with the Church’s ongoing prayer.
Many posts on this blog encourage praying with the regular prayer of the Church, the traditional Divine Office. Praying all of it every day is really only realistic for priests and consecrated religious, since they have devoted their lives to doing this. Lay people can join into their prayers by praying an “hour” or two every day. In my opinion, the night prayer, Compline, is the best to begin with, to be said right when ending the day before heading to bed.
Good sources for traditional Compline prayers are:
- online text, both Latin and English, updated daily here (Click the blue link “Completorium” beneath the pictures, the link farthest to the right)
- info about an amazing free Compline printable is here.
- For those who would like something already printed (and bound), a very nice Compline booklet with notes on the theology of this “hour” can be purchased here.
Do this. Begin tonight. Start small.
- First week: Pray all of the words in English, and do Sunday Compline every night. (This is how the Benedictines pray night prayer each and every night, with these same psalms.)
- Second week: Pray everything in English, following the psalms according to the correct day of the week.
- Third week: Start adding a little bit of Latin, bit by bit. On the first day, make the Sign of the Cross and say:
† Jube, Domine, benedicere. (Yoo-bay, Doh-me-nay, bay-nay-dee-cheh-ray.) Graciously grant, O Lord, to bless (us).
(Blessing:) Noctem quietam et finem perfectum concedat nobis Dominus omnipotens. Amen. (Noc-taym kwee-ay-tahm ayt fee-nem pair-fect-oom cone-chay-daht no-bees Doh-me-noos om-nee-po-tayns. Amen.) A quiet night and perfect end may He grant to us, the Lord almighty. Amen.
(Latin pronunciation has a few simple rules, most importantly that vowels are pronounced ah-ayh-eeh-oh-ooh like in Spanish: find a pronunciation guide here.) After doing this opening bit in Latin, then keep on going in English. Add more Latin over the next days and weeks as you feel comfortable (perhaps using the pacing of the excerpts in the lessons as a guide).
Ah, so about those lessons: when you are ready to start studying, go ahead and read and work through a lesson a day and you will understand more and more of what you pray at night.
I would love feedback on how I can revise them and make all of this more helpful and usable. Get started soon, and pray Compline at night (pray for me!), reading the lessons one per day. Oh, always do those practice sentences, even if they seem obvious. Be sure and let me know in the comments below what would help you out even more.
May God bless you as you begin to praise Him more and more!