T WOULD come as a surprise to many, but one of the strongest endorsements ever given to the Church’s use of Latin was written as recently as 1962. That year, Pope John XXIII issued the Apostolic Constitution Veterum sapientia (VS), available in Latin or (if one dares) English.
Among the many extraordinary things it says, VS asserts that Latin must be given, in the life of the Church, “a primary place” among the variety of vernacular languages. It praises the fittingness of Latin for ecclesiastical purposes, noting that it is universal, immutable, and—importantly—non-vernacular. The Holy Father describes himself as “fully determined to restore this language [Latin] to its position of honor” and pledges to do all that he can “to promote its study and use.”
In its concluding directives, VS stipulates that knowledge of Latin should be considered a prerequisite for seminarians and that professors of the sacred sciences in seminaries and universities should either “speak Latin” or “gradually be replaced.”
To be sure, the vision of Veterum sapientia is miles from where we generally find ourselves today. But there is at least one wonderful organization working to fulfill the mission of immersing Catholic seminarians, priests, religious, and interested laymen in Latin and Greek (VS has a section on the value of Greek, too): the Veterum Sapientia Institute.
If you’ve been looking for the opportunity to brush up on your ancient languages, you’re in luck. There is still time to join some of the introductory courses on offer this spring.
Omnis lingua confiteatur, quia Dominus Jesus Christus in gloria est Dei Patris! (Phil. 2:11)