Latin, The Language of the West

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By:Jerry Salyer | March 29, 2018
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For generations Latin was the backbone of Christian civilization, and served as the basis for political, intellectual, and religious discourse during the most creative periods of European history. And, as a number of scholars have pointed out, the relatively recent abandonment of Latin by educators coincides rather strikingly with American culture's collapse into vapid superficiality. Others have pointed to the spiritual consequences to the Catholic Church of the attempt to relegate Latin liturgy to a dark obscure corner—it seems that replacing Agnus Dei with “Listen To The Flower People” has not proven quite so attractive to the earnest seeker of the divine as some liturgical innovators anticipated. All that suggests that if we are serious about effecting positive change in the world, we will accept that Latin needs to be restored to its rightful place. But how?

One possible approach is exemplified here in Kentucky by a secular project, the Conventiculum Lexingtoniese, which I had the privilege of attending for the first time this past summer. While a week of immersion in an all-Latin environment has hardly turned me into a classicist, I can testify that my facility with the language has improved thanks to the experience. Not to wax existential, but I will even say that there is something life-changing about having to listen rather than speak for a change, slow down one's thoughts enough to filter them through another tongue, and follow Renaissance arguments about education in their original form.

Recently the program's director Terence Tunberg released a short yet illuminating video account of the Conventiculum, with subtitles, so the interested reader can see for himself. Those who want to participate in the Latin revival may look into the program. For that matter, if they are affiliated with some tradition-oriented institution—one of the new Catholic liberal arts schools, say—they may consider starting a similar program of their own. May a thousand flowers bloom.

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