Greek and Latin Instruction as Complements to Adult Catechesis?

Should catechumenal and adult Catholic catechetical programs include classes in the Greek and Latin languages?

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The recent restoration of broad outlines of the historical catechumenate in the RCIA program has better prepared converts for the sacraments of initiation or full communion with the Church. In addition, many “cradle” Catholics have also found that catechetical instruction intended for catechumens enriches their own intellectual and spiritual development.

While numerous catechetical programs for the RCIA exist, few if any Greek or Latin textbooks exist to prepare catechumens and adult Catholics to appreciate, read, and understand late antique and medieval commentary, homily, liturgy, and scripture within an integrated Catholic approach. While these four categories encompass a very broad literary and liturgical range, a knowledge of koine (New Testament) Greek and late Latin grammar and vocabulary unlocks participation in liturgies celebrated in these languages. A greater knowledge of these languages also affords a catechumen or adult Catholic a source-language-level appreciation of critical doctrines and dogmas. In turn, a discovery of two ancient yet still critically relevant Christian liturgical and theological languages will certainly enhance catechumens’ and cradle Catholics’ spiritual and theological growth. Dogma and doctrine, then, will not merely be placed before the initiate or adult learner in dissected and translated portions. Rather, the student will learn through struggling to unlock the meaning of the source text.

The resurgence of interest in the 1962 Missal (the ‘extraordinary form’ [EF] of the Roman Rite) contributes greater urgency to the development of a liturgical Latin curriculum. While the “traditional blogosphere” has witnessed an explosion of interest in the ceremony and material artistry associated with the celebration of the EF, less effort has been devoted towards liturgical Latin instructional syllabi. The cultivation of a knowledge of Latin liturgical language, for both the extraordinary and ordinary forms, dovetails with Greek and Latin instruction for catechetical knowledge. A fuller participation in Latin-language liturgy requires comprehension of the Latin language within the frame of liturgical celebration. This participation in turn underscores the importance of participation in the scriptural and theological allusions which course through all liturgy. These allusions are best understood through a mastery of the languages in which they were originally composed.

The Greek and Latin of the first half of the first millennium of the common era share many grammatical similarities. Despite the different alphabets, the morphology (conjugation, declension) of these languages in the aforementioned time period is quite similar. While I have long wondered if it would be best for those without any knowledge of either language to learn both simultaneously, even a separation of the languages into two instructional streams should reveal a synergistic pedagogical effect. Acquisition of grammatical knowledge in one language should enhance grammatical knowledge in the other.

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I must clearly state the following points as a necessary part of my proposal. These points must be emphasized, as they not only contribute to interpersonal charity but also allow for the coexistence of different subjects within one Catholic instructional program.

1) Participation in Greek or Latin classes is not necessary to become a Catholic. Classes in Greek or Latin are meant to enrich the belief, faith, and knowledge of a catechumen or confirmed adult Catholic. The Catholic faith can be fully lived without a knowledge of Greek or Latin through participation in sacraments celebrated in the vernacular.

2) (by corrolary) The Catholic Church does not favor one form of the Roman Rite over another. Both are equal, full, and valid expressions of the sacramental mysteries of the Church.

3) Participation in the extraordinary form of the Roman Rite does not require a reading knowledge or verbal comprehension of Latin. There are many means to assist at Mass which are just as fruitful as listening to the spoken Latin of the liturgy or reading a Latin text of the liturgy.

Perhaps the greatest peril of holding optional Greek and Latin classes concurrently with catechesis resides with the possibility that certain persons will feel excluded if they do not wish to participate in the language classes. Exclusion might be particularly acute for those who struggle with language acquisition. The greatest sensitivities must be exercised. Despite every good intention, I do wonder if optional Greek and Latin instruction would drive some catechumens away from initiation into Catholicism, or alienate confirmed Catholics. The salvation of souls and the unity of a parish certainly supercedes language instruction.

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45 comments

  1. Knowledge of Latin and, to a lesser extent, Greek, should be a presumed part of a Catholic education, and of any catechesis. That large, very large, numbers of Catholic people and clergy cannot even read the words of the liturgy is astonishing and appalling. This is a situation that is NOT Vatican II, for the council stated explicitly that the faithful throughout the world should know the mass in Latin. Knowing Latin at some level is part of being Catholic. That it is not a required part of every school and university curriculum defies comprehension. And, I speak as one who prefers English liturgy and who, regardless of language, would energetically prefer the Pauline mass. A poor and shabby mediaeval peasant knew and understood more Latin than a highly educated priest or bishop of today, as did any school boy of a century ago. This is laughable!

    1. You say: “A poor and shabby mediaeval peasant knew and understood more Latin than a highly educated priest or bishop of today, as did any school boy of a century ago. This is laughable!”

      Really – very few peasants knew how to read or write. That is why stained glass was used; so it could tell a story and the people could see and remember those stories. Same with statues and at times music/chant that could be easily heard, remembered, and repeated – e.g. responsorial psalm style.

      As Rahner said about Vatican II – we are now a *world church* and if we understand VII, then the metanoia that must happen is identical to the shift from Aramaic to Greek and Greek to Latin – even more so, the shift from a Jerusalem church to an Antioch, Greek, and Rome church. Per Rahner, if we fail to take up this challenge of metanoia we will become an isolated, regional, and narrow church of the Western Rite.

      (That being said – as a teacher, agree that language study is important part of education; just not sure it has to be latin – spanish, a chinese dialect, arab language)

      1. BdH –
        You are, of course, correct that ordinary mediaeval folk did not read nor write – this is as true of them that dwelt in castles as well as of them that lived in hovels; but, I would have hoped that you might have thought a little further along before discounting my statement. There is ample recorded evidence that the textual content of quite a variety of chants, antiphons, psalms, parts of the ordinary, and so on, made their way into much folk music, many carols, and other music sung by the populace both in and out of mass, not to mention into poetry and everyday speech and idiom. Even at the Reformation, many of the reformers merely translated Latin texts into the vernacular and sang them to tunes that were already quite well known. That the content and meaning of a degree of Latin was not at all functionally familiar to common folk would be difficult, I think, to maintain. Otherwise, you are absolutely correct.

      2. Agreed, MJO – that is why I added the part about music in the style of responses not unlike what the slaves of the 18th/19th century US did with music – they had no hymnals and so a cantor would lead the song/hymn and the folks would repeat and respond.

        Not sure that tells us much – you can repeat and respond without necessarily understanding much about where the words, roots, orginals came from or meant.

        But, thanks.

  2. I have directed catechumenate and adult confirmation programs for almost 30 years. I had three years of high school and then college Latin (and even wrote a thesis once on a Latin text.) I never took Greek. That being said, I can make my way through the Latin of the liturgy just fine, and I can teach adults and children what some of it means. But, after decades, I doubt I could read a Latin text of something unfamiliar. (For example, I can read the Bible, the liturgy and sometimes canon law in Latin, because I already know what they say, but almost nothing else.)

    I’m pretty smart, and I had six years of Latin. How much Latin (or Greek) could we possibly teach to new converts and have them retain any of it, if I can barely make my way through it myself?

    Actually, if I was going to pick a language to teach all the new Catholics (presuming that they didn’t know it already), I would pick Spanish. At least then they could converse with a substantial number of their confreres. (Oops! French!)

    1. I had an extensive Latin background and two years of Greek.

      I do not know Spanish, but I would second the importance of Spanish. The reality is that we are loosing the Anglos and gaining the Hispanics through immigration (and some higher birth rates).

      All parishes should know and sing the basic greeting and responses, Kyrie, Gloria, Sanctus, Agnus Dei. Hispanics may be concentrated in certain areas and parishes now, but they are likely to spread widely throughout the country over the century.

      Greek is essential for people who want to study the Bible; the two years I had has been sufficient to use a scholarly tool like BibleWorks.

      While I appreciate the Latin and still often pray the Monastic Office in Latin, I think B16’s emphasis on the EF has basically doomed Latin to become something of interest to only a very small minority. It might have gone differently had he promoted more Latin and chant in the OF.

  3. My years in Latin class were useful and happy, so I have no agenda against the beautiful language. The long list of exquisite music composed for the Church in Latin over the years continues to open us to the presence of God.

    But, please tell me; should we put so much effort into promoting the use of a language that is spoken by no one in the world today? That often unites a modern worshipping assembly in its LACK of understanding? Has Latin become a way of setting an elite apart from the greater body of Christ?

    The 40% of children in my neighborhood who go to sleep hungry, the millions of people in the world who have no potable water, the Christians who are dying at the hands of their government officials; these concern me more.

  4. CS –
    Surely, you are not suggesting that the current ingnorance of Latin is easing the needy for whom you (and all of us) have concern? Nor, surely, are you suggesting that requiring Latin as a part of every educated Catholic’s formation would make the poors’ burden heavier. There is a noticeable connection between concern for the poor and the use of resources for things that are not important on the agendas of many people: to wit, what would the reaction be if I suggested that the money spent on school sports should be given to the poor, or that when resources were desired for a new gym, someone would interject that those who go to bed hungry would somehow be better off if we didn’t have a new gym. No, it’s always music, education, and liturgy that are somehow thought of as robbing people of food. This is a false premise and is not tenable.

  5. Jordan,

    this is one of the most preposterous things I have ever heard. RCIA is filled with comments like “formation, not information” and “no greater burden than neccesary.” The first years of language study are about learning information, and it takes some time to get to the point where the new language can be used effectively to prmote a deeper understanding. Inquirers, catechumens and neophytes generally are not at a stage where starting to learn Latin or Greek will help them.

    Now if you propose that catechists learn Latin and Greek, I might understand that. The deeper understanding that they gain can sometimes be conveyed to catechumens. But even among catechists it privileges one type over other types whose expertise is in areas of Christian life other than liturgy.

    Besides, as long as catechesis is handled by volunteers, language requirements will make it harder to recruit catechists and would probably change the understanding of what is being conveyed away from faith and toward knowledge. And that would be a real loss imo.

    1. re: Jim McKay on June 15, 2012 – 7:18 pm

      I apologize for not making clear that Greek and Latin instruction would be concurrent with, but not a part of, RCIA. Participation in language instruction would ideally be offered at a different time and perhaps even a different location than catechism classes. It is likely that the language teachers would not also teach catechism. The ability to teach either Greek or Latin would never be a requirement for participation as an RCIA catechist. Those who know these languages and would like to volunteer their instruction would be welcome to do so. I would think that any person would be welcome at language instruction regardless of their enrollment in catechism classes or volunteer work as a catechist.

      Jim: But even among catechists it [Greek and Latin instruction?] privileges one type over other types whose expertise is in areas of Christian life other than liturgy. (my addition in brackets)

      Wouldn’t the presence of catechists with different areas of expertise enhance catechetical instruction? I do not at all think that the presence of different levels of education among catechists in a certain program detracts from the quality of instruction or the dignity of instructors. I know of two priests, both with theological doctorates, who also teach catechism classes in their parishes. One of these priests also provides introductory classes in liturgical and scriptural languages outside of catechism class time. Should either priest resign from teaching catechism precisely because he is perhaps over-educated in the eyes of some? If anything, false egalitarianism among educators reduces the chances that a collaboration of individuals with different strengths could produce a more comprehensive educational program.

  6. Sign me up! I’ve been wanting this kind of instruction since I started singing sacred music. But I don’t see a strong reason to link it to RCIA. If it’s serious instruction, it’ll be too advanced for most Catechumens.

    1. Amen and amen!!! I have been part of the RCIA team for 20 years. When I think on the folks ( some wonderful, some not so much…..) who have been received into the church over these 20 years, I don’t believe that 1% would have continued on to be baptized if they had to master the intricacies of Greek or Latin. Particularly when there is no use for it on a regular basis. Our liturgies are in English and we are very happy about that ( at least we were before RM3) They are working people who come to an evening class/service after working all day. Piling more esoteric information (necessitating more time) onto their plates would seriously discourage most catechumens.

  7. There’s no link.

    I think Latin has great value for it’s own sake and to assist a student better understand English or Romance languages. My own experience is that it improved my grasp of English grammar and was a help when I studied other languages.

    Latin has a value for literature. A few years in college will gain a student the ability to appreciate the original works in that language. Heck, it wasn’t until my fourth semester that I had a glimmer of being able to read and appreciate Brecht, Goethe, and Kafka in German.

    I think Americans are woefully ignorant of other languages, not to mention cultures.

    The purpose of the catechumenate is to apprentice seekers in how to be a believer, not to teach them things we wished we knew more about.

    We have enough problems cultivating liturgical spirituality without throwing dead languages into the mix.

  8. With all due respect, you’ve got to be kidding. That seminaries would offer such courses so students can make their way through primary sources makes good sense, but parish based courses? Makes no sense to me.

      1. SJH –
        What a fine point you make! At the top of this discussion I opined that the non-knowledge of Latin amongst clerics and lay alike in our day was laughable. As you suggest: yes, the clergy should be able to read primary sources in their original tongues. The laity should at least know the mass in Latin (especially those who pride themselves so much on being ‘Vatican II’), and have at least a basic knowledge of Latin grammar and vocabulary. I speak as one who could not hold a conversation with some of the Latin scholars on this blog… but I am not proud of it – I envy and respect them. Of course, neither can they play Bach and Messiaen or direct choirs… but I still consider myself deficient because it is all I can do to translate a psalm or such with reasonable accuracy and with a tinge of poetry.
        We really need to consider seriously, profoundly, what it means to be genuinely educated in the 21st century. Especially what a Catholic education means. Being educated and having learned how to make a living are two different things. And, with education being almost universal in the western world (and, much of the rest of the world, too) of today, there is no excuse for that education not to be ‘genuine’ – complete. In our justified pleasure at the advances we have made in recent centuries, we should not lose that deep, deep, respect and reverence that lingered for many more centuries for the learning and languages of antiquity, the cultural and spiritual seed from which we spring and have our existential identity. And, yes, this is the heritage of all true 21st century persons, not just the clerical order.

  9. I think Jordan was flying a deliberately provocative kite. In RCIA the “language” formation required is how to be Catholic, the acquisition of the Catholic ethos and knowledge of its terminology/jargon.

    1. re: Paul Inwood on June 15, 2012 – 11:55 pm

      I did not intend provocation at all. Rather, I now know that I do not understand the purpose of RCIA and the role of a catechumen. I agree with all here who have noted that Greek and Latin instruction are not appropriate for a RCIA curriculum.

      I am convinced, however, that Greek and Latin language requirements for ordination are often not stringent enough. This problem is compounded by a lack of regularly offered higher-level Greek and Latin courses at many seminaries and theological colleges. As a result, a not insignificant number of new priests have little or no Latin proficiency. Not a few have not even had the chance to learn any Greek.

      As Jonathan Day points out [June 16, 2012 – 2:16 am], many laity have expressed an interest in more advanced liturgical and theological education. If laypersons are now permitted to attend courses with seminarians and earn degrees equivalent to what seminarians earn in cursu, then laypersons should also be not only permitted but indeed encouraged to learn Greek and Latin alongside seminarians. Subsequently, the fusion of seminarian and lay language education would generate not only priests literate in the source languages of apostolic Christianity, but also a more literate laity who might bring their language education to other educational ministries, such as the catechumenate.

      It is also important to remember that Greek and Latin education need not only take place within a formal curriculum. One of my parishes hosts informal patristic reading sessions for persons with a basic grammatical knowledge of Greek and Latin. There is no “graduation” from language education. Language education is a lifelong pursuit that should be fostered within our parishes, and not feared.

    2. In my admittedly limited experience, I think some laity are more like to draw into study organized not around patristics and dogmatic documents, but instead the Sunday readings (including psalter) that includes study of Greek and Hebrew and comparison to different vernacular translations.

  10. I can’t see the point in pairing language lessons with individual instruction or RCIA. There is enough to learn, if the instruction is thorough, that adding a language course will either deter potential converts or get in the way of their absorbing more critical matters like the Catechism.

    And, quite a few cradle Catholics have no Latin either. Why limit it to RCIA?

    But I think that Latin instruction could be a useful addition to a parish adult education programme. In my area there are roughly a dozen parishes with an ordinary form (Novus Ordo) Sunday Mass that is either all or part in Latin. Papal Masses generally have significant parts in Latin.

    The Renegade Trad wrote a long piece on what he calls “lay clergy” — a religiously literate laity who learn about liturgy, canon law, theology. These “lay clerks” may know Latin already but would most likely find it enjoyable and useful.

    I struggle to see a similar case for Greek. Useful, of course, if you want to read the NT and some of the fathers, though there are fine translations available for both. Useful, I guess, if you are interested in Greek liturgies. But, for most Catholics, far more marginal than Latin.

  11. I love Latin. After studying Latin at school and for two years as a subsidiary subject at University I can read the Bible in Latin fairly well, but I must admit that I am quite unable to understand the Latin proper prayers of the Mass when I first read them. If I ever went to a Mass in Latin (which I don’t) I would get no more than an inkling of the meaning on hearing them read out. Frankly it is hard enough to understand the Latglish translations in the new Missal.

    In the “good old days” before Vatican II how many Catholics could understand the Latin of the Mass? At that time there was a lot more Latin taught in schools, but I doubt if one in a hundred could read Latin fluently. The great majority had no idea what any of it meant. About forty years ago I used to ask older people who had spent most of their lives going to Mass and Benediction in Latin what some phrases meant. I never met anyone who knew the meaning of “Gloria in Excelsis Deo”, “Sursum Corda”, “Ite Missa Est” or “Tantum Ergo”.

    The time and effort required to learn an amount of Latin that would help someone understand their faith is for most people totally out of proportion to the benefit they would gain. Learning New Testament Greek is much more worthwhile – essential for anyone who wants to fully understand the Gospels.

  12. It’d be nice to offer Latin for those with the time and interest. It’d be foolishness beyond belief to require it!

    1. Exactly. In what alternative universe are people who want to become Catholics going to be required to learn Latin? What is going on in the mind of anyone who should propose such a thing?

      Perhaps three years of serious Latin study followed by an exam should be compulsory before those who wish to attend the EF are allowed to do so. In an ideal world the other 99% of Catholics who want to hear Mass in the vernacular should be able to go through their Catholic lives without ever hearing any Latin at all. Deliberately setting prayers and chants in a language that we know people do not understand should be banned.

      1. able to go through their Catholic lives without ever hearing any Latin at all

        May we also demand that “Hosanna”, “Amen”, and “Alleluia” be translated, along with “Kyrie eleison”? These are Hebrew and Greek words which Catholics occasionally hear (or say!) in the liturgy despite their lack of knowledge of Hebrew and Greek. I dare say that some Catholics who say these words don’t know what they mean.

        Deliberately setting prayers and chants in a language that we know people do not understand should be banned.

        “No Catholic would now deny the lawfulness and efficacy of a sacred rite celebrated in Latin…” (GIRM 12)

      2. Rom Kiul said: “In an ideal world the other 99% of Catholics who want to hear Mass in the vernacular should be able to go through their Catholic lives without ever hearing any Latin at all. Deliberately setting prayers and chants in a language that we know people do not understand should be banned.”

        Does this apply to all languages? I’ve been at Masses where parts were purposely set in Spanish, Polish, and Italian with full knowledge that many in the congregation would not understand them.

        I think all Latin Rite Catholics should have a passing familiarity with the Latin used in popular prayers and the Mass even if they choose to attend all-vernacular Masses. Those with more interest in learning Latin in-depth should be given educational opportunities to do so.

  13. The on-line OED tells me that “hosanna”, “amen” and “alleluia” have been part of the English language going back to Old English and far longer than most other words.

    As for “Kyrie eleison”, in the early sixties I asked my parents and grandparents, who had more than a hundred years of weekly mass attendance between them, what those words meant. They had not got the slightest idea.

    I do not deny that a sacred rite in Latin can be lawful and efficacious; my point is that it should only be used with a congregation that understands Latin.

    1. “Hosanna”, “amen”, and “alleluia” are part of the English language by way of direct importation. But that doesn’t mean people know what they mean. Just like “consubstantial” is a part of the English language but people might not know what it means.

      Does the congregation need to “understand Latin”, or is it sufficient that they understand the Latin that is being used? Is it sufficient to know what the Agnus Dei means (and how to pronounce the words), or must one also be able to read Dante?

  14. Initialy, I thought this was a joke. Is this really important in the midst of the crisis of credibility and bleeding of members the Church faces? How many of the 37 million US EX-Catholics would still be with us if only they had had a little Greek? Fiddling on the deck of the Titanic.

  15. This is one of the most ridiculous things I have ever read on this blog. It is obvious Jordan that you have absolutely no experience with the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults. I also think your equating of the EF and OF in terms of liturgical formation is problematic.
    And yes, we do favor one form of the rite over another.
    It is called the ordinary form.

  16. Before requiring advanced study of Greek or Latin in seminaries, I would require all seminarians who are preparing for parish assignments to earn an MBA from an accredited business school, including courses in strategic planning, human resource management, legal contracts, risk management, public relations, fundraising, etc. Pastors spend half of their time performing these administrative duties, often with little or no training. Sublime knowledge of philosophy, theology and languages doesn’t balance the budget, build the school addition, or manage a staff of 50.

    1. Maybe it’s time to ask if the charism for servant-leader includes the charism for business manager/architect/fund raiser/building manager/etc. Until then, your comment makes a lot of sense!

      1. I’m with Brigid on this one. People with MBAs have been screwing up higher education for a couple of decades now (witness the recent debacle at UVA — where, incidentally, the MBAs wanted to eliminate the Classics Department). Why unleash them on the Church?

        Hire an MBA as director of operations, by all means. But let the pastor be a pastor, not a manager.

      2. Agreed, to a point. While effective pastors hire good people and work with them as professionals (as opposed to hired hands), strong parish leadership has to come from the top. I’m sure we’ve all seen a highly motivated pastor build up a parish, only to be replaced by a new pastor who quickly or slowly undoes all of the earlier progress.

        If the pastor has vision, energy and drive to build up ministries, improve worship, and expand facilities the parish can go up, up, up. But if the pastor is satisfied with the status quo, or sees a slow decline as inevitable, or gets sidetracked with pet projects while the parish is adrift, the community suffers.

        If we are moving to the model of mega-parishes with million-dollar budgets and huge staffs, these need strong leadership which necessarily includes business knowledge. Not just dollars and cents, but being a mission- and vision-driven leader who effectively builds up the community.

        Unless you are prepared to give primary leadership to professional lay people, with the clergy serving a limited role as spiritual and worship leaders, pastors-in-training need to learn how to manage these huge organizations.

  17. Here indeed lies the justest and most plausible objection against a considerable part of metaphysics, that they are not properly a science; but arise either from the fruitless efforts of human vanity, which would penetrate into subjects utterly inaccessible to the understanding, or from the craft of popular superstitions, which, being unable to defend themselves on fair ground, raise these intangling brambles to cover and protect their weakness. Cha[s]ed from the open country, these robbers fly into the forest, and lie in wait to break in upon every unguarded avenue of the mind, and overwhelm it with religious fears and prejudices.

    — David Hume, “An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding”, Enquiries Concerning the Human Understanding and Concerning the Principles of Morals (Oxford, 1902) 1.6; (Project Gutenberg) [correction in brackets]

    For many liturgical Latin was and is Hume’s “robber” — a “bramble” of mumbled prayer designed to alienate the faithful from a truer knowledge of liturgy.

    When Catholics razed the Tridentine fortress and set out to be a pilgrim people, we unwittingly cultivated a profound and self-imposed naivety. After fifty years’ of travel this naivety remains. Many of my fellow-pilgrims falsely trust in a liturgical naturalism not unlike Hume’s natural empiricism. This reliance on empiricism over liturgical heritage might sustain until the exhaustion of the slashed and burned Latin bramble ash soil from which liturgical empiricism has arisen. We Catholics will one day wish to cultivate liturgical Latin again. By that time, a knowledge of the language will be almost unknown. We will then know that the so-called brambles were not dead thornbush but trees of sustaining ancient prayer.

    I always desire to share Latin with my brothers and sisters despite those who wish to destroy its memory.

  18. I think of “superfluity” to be a kind of truly Catholic virtue. The gray materialistic and stiff-lipped humanist look at a grand cathedral, a priceless work of pious art, listen to a well performed polyphonic piece etc. and bellyache about how the money spent on all this “fluff” and “excess” could have been better spent on “the poor” or whatever pet project they prefer. In displaying their addled eye and tin ear, they also join the ranks of the rest of the joyless Judases that came before them. Our rite’s primary sacred language is the same way with its rich history, cultural and sacral value. When people want to imply that a “return” to a Latin culture in the Latin Rite is somehow detrimental to the formation of Catholics (since there is oh-so-much to do afterall) I wonder what kind of “Catholics” really get turned out of RCIA programs these days.

    Every Latin Rite Catholic should know at least a smattering of Latin. They need not have a conversationalist or academic mastery of it, but they should know how to keep going if someone starts of a Pater or Ave and should be able to at least say what some basic common church Latin phrases are.

    1. Every Latin Rite Catholic should know at least a smattering of Latin.

      Why?

      Understand, I am very glad some people study Latin. Several of my children studied Latin in high school and have gone before the school board to testify to the benefits of that study. Obviously, we need people who are experts in Latin to bring us new translations of the early Fathers. However, I for one am a Latin Rite Catholic because there isn’t much of an option otherwise is I want to stay in communion with everyone else who is in communion with Rome. It’s not the Latin or Rome itself that holds us together.

      1. As members of the Latin Rite, the Latin language is our patrimony. No, it is not strictly useful and such but I did only say a smathering. Latin Rite Catholics should be able to sing some simple Gregorian Ordinary parts and say some simple Latin prayers since its part of the Latin Rite. They should know some of their history and inheritance. You are correct that it is not merely the language that holds us together, but it is one distinctive part of our ecclesiastical culture.

      2. Dominic

        Another way to put it is to say it is our birthright heritage, and it is our right to be given the opportunity not to be strangers to it, as it were. This approach is, I believe, faithful to the goals of the liturgical reform without getting too mired in universalizing the details.

  19. Unless you are prepared to give primary leadership to professional lay people, with the clergy serving a limited role as spiritual and worship leaders,

    I happen to think of the “limited” role of spiritual and worship leader as being a full time job in and of itself if done properly. Unfortunately, I think we have too many priests and bishops who do see that as a limited role. They don’t do a good job as spiritual leaders, and they certainly don’t do a good job as quasi-architects, musicians, decorators, roofing contractors, accountants, real estate magnates, investors, etc.

  20. Perhaps the best way to preserve the Latin Rite in it’s fullness is to allow the contemporary formation of additional Rites. I would suggest there is more of a difference between the average Vatican II Catholics and the Reform of the Reform Catholics then there was between Rome and Egypt back in the day. If we’ve managed to accommodate both Latin and Coptic Rites all these years, surely we can accommodate more diversity now.

  21. Of course, if someone wants to learn Latin or Greek, it would be nice if there were an opportunity to do so. However, in the grand scheme of things, there are many more important things for a parish to spend their time arranging.

    However, we do use Latin and Greek in our liturgies and we have to do a much better job helping our parishioners know what they are saying. What sense in the world does it make to sing a song in Latin that no one understands. I talked to a member or our choir who admitted she didn’t know what the Latin text in the song meant. What sense does this make?

    I had 4 years of Latin many years ago, and I took 2 years of Greek recently. Our parish arranged the Greek training through a local Baptist minister. I was the only catholic in the class—everyone else was Protestant.

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