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The Latin Conference Every Priest Needs to Know About


“The program of priestly formation is to provide that students also understand Latin well…” (Code of Canon Law 249)

From July 31 – August 6 the Catholic University of America in Washington D.C. will once again play host to the annual Veterum Sapientia Conference. As noted on their website:

Veterum Sapientia is a week-long Latin program for Catholic priests, seminarians, and those men and women belonging to religious orders. This program seeks to respond to the call of Saint John XXIII’s Apostolic Constitution Veterum Sapientia to revitalize the Latin language in the Catholic Church. This full-immersion (Latine tantum) program offers intensive instruction in the language to intermediate and advanced students of Latin.

For over fifty years Rome has been instructing bishops and seminary rectors alike of the necessity to teach Latin. From apostolic constitutions, to conciliar documents, to Canon Law, the Church has repeatedly addressed the importance of Latin as a component of priestly formation.

What has typically been the response by the episcopate to this request from Rome? Far too often bishops have willingly neglected this aspect of formation for the seminarians in their care. Indifference has unfortunately been the norm, as an entire generation of clergy received little to no training in the very language of Roman Catholicism.

That there is real value and a need for priests to understand Latin can be ascertained by simply looking to the writings of Saint John XXIII himself. In Veterum Sapientia, the 1962 Apostolic Constitution from which the conference takes its name, the Holy Father noted:

Finally, the Catholic Church has a dignity far surpassing that of every merely human society, for it was founded by Christ the Lord. It is altogether fitting, therefore, that the language it uses should be noble, majestic, and non-vernacular.

Saint John XXIII continues:

In addition, the Latin language “can be called truly catholic.” It has been consecrated through constant use by the Apostolic See, the mother and teacher of all Churches, and must be esteemed “a treasure … of incomparable worth.”. It is a general passport to the proper understanding of the Christian writers of antiquity and the documents of the Church’s teaching. It is also a most effective bond, binding the Church of today with that of the past and of the future in wonderful continuity.

The conference itself is aimed at intermediate to advanced students of Latin; those priests and religious who have already had two or more semesters of college level Latin. One of the primary speakers again this year is Monsignor Daniel Gallagher, a priest of the Diocese of Gaylord, MI and a Latinist currently serving in the English section of the Secretary of State office in the Vatican. 

The below video provides a good introduction to the conference itself. Additionally, those interested in more information should go to the Veterum Sapientia website for testimonials, registration information, and other general questions.

THIS is the Latin conference every priest needs to know about!


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