Friday, December 23, 2011

Latin Revival?

Wednesday, in the National Catholic Register, we read that Latin Makes a Comeback. Here is an excerpt:

While the revival of Latin may be welcome on purely academic terms, the language has special meaning for Catholics. “Latin per se didn’t attract me, but it was Latin as the language of the Church that drew me,” said Halisky, a lawyer, who speaks Latin fluently.

Llewellyn is convinced that the renewal of Latin is crucial for Catholics. “It’s essential for the strength of Catholic identity to get our Latin heritage back,” said Llewellyn.

“We are attempting a revival of Latin,” Owens said, “not a revival with cobwebs, but a revival of our language, the Church’s language, as a living language. How better can we show that we love the Church than to learn her language?”

Llewellyn and Owens both studied spoken Latin in Rome. As a college student, Owens spent his summers studying in Rome with Father Reginald Foster, a Discalced Carmelite and now retired from serving many years as papal Latinist. Father Foster was once responsible for the Latin in documents coming from the Vatican. He was also a staunch advocate of spoken Latin. “I am part of an unbroken chain,” Owens likes to say.

Llewellyn, a graduate of Bryn Mawr College who holds a doctorate in classics from UCLA, has a Licenza in Christian and Classical Letters from the Pontifical Salesian University in Rome.

When Wyoming Catholic College was being established, those involved got in touch with Llewellyn.

“The main reason I took this job was that I learned to my joy and astonishment that they wanted an active Latin approach. I knew this was the place for me because we were on the same page,” she said.

All Wyoming Catholic College students take at least two years of Latin, but advanced courses — conducted only in Latin — are also available. Students are invited to defend their senior thesis in Latin. Those in the more advanced classes are accustomed to writing papers on the works of such Catholic theologians as Thomas Aquinas or the patristic writers entirely in Latin.

Reading a work in the original Latin rather than in translation can have a powerful effect, Owens said. “Our students sometimes end up falling in love with authors they thought they hated and hating authors they thought they loved,” Owens said with a chuckle. The college teaches the works of both classical and Christian writers.

One of the most popular exercises for his sophomores, Owens said, is writing letters in Latin to bishops. “Cardinal [Raymond] Burke, along with several other bishops, recently responded to letters, which individual sophomores wrote in Latin,” Owens said. “Cardinal Burke replied in his own hand with beautiful Latin.”

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