Sant’Anselmo is offering residency options in Rome for the “Latin in English in Rome” program during the Academic Year 2021-22. The program is open to everyone who would like to attend for the first semester or for a full year; no prior knowledge of Latin is necessary. More information can be found here.
Professor Daniel McCarthy OSB, from St. Benedict’s Abbey, Atchison, Kansas, will teach the program. He answers some questions for us.
Who can benefit from learning Latin?
Everyone who is curious. Learning Latin can teach us about history and how ancient culture continues to influence our modern society. Obviously, academics can benefit: university and post-graduate students, scholars, liturgists and linguists to name a few.
Language immersion is said to be the best way to learn a new language. Is there a modern solution to immersion in the Latin language?
Yes! Live in Rome, the birthplace of Latin.
For example, just outside the front gates of Sant’Anselmo on the Aventine Hill, we find Latin engraved on grand marble slabs, columns, paintings, sculpture, and even walls. It is still a vital part of the daily culture here, and knowing Latin imparts a deep understanding of what you are seeing. It makes the ancient city come alive.
And, obviously, there is no better repository of the Roman language than the libraries and museums.
Why study Latin at Sant’Anselmo specifically?
We think Sant’Anselmo has a particular advantage: Located in central Rome, on our Benedictine campus, we sing Gregorian Chant in Latin, three times a day, at Ora Media, Vespers and Compline. Students are welcome to join us. This gives them the opportunity to actively participate in the most effective methods of learning: reciting, listening and reading.
In addition, the Pontifical Athenaeum Sant’Anselmo has an in-house library, which has many books and liturgical documents written in Latin.
How did you come to learn Latin?
I arrived at Sant’Anselmo in 1999 to study liturgy, so I needed a good knowledge of Latin to have access to liturgical history, rites and prayers. Historically, Latin has been taught only in Italian at Sant’Anselmo, which I had yet to learn. I heard about Fr. Reginald Foster OCD, papal Latinist for four popes. In the afternoons he taught Latin at the Gregorian University for free. So I sought to study with him in English.
This led to publishing?
After ten years of studying with Reginald and completing my doctorate in sacred liturgy, I began publishing with him and my colleague, Fr. James Leachman OSB, commentaries and even translations of the prayers of the Roman Missal in preparation for the publication of the new official English translation. When Reggie, as we called him, left Rome due to illness, I suggested we begin to write down his method of teaching Latin – a method he developed while teaching for over 40 years.
In our series Latin’s Body we have just published the second volume, The Bones’ Meats Abundant, about the letters of Cicero, which we shall present in person and online live from Sant’Anselmo on Wednesday, 19 May. You may watch it here: https://anselmianum.zoom.us/j/5010393297 – Meeting ID: 501 039 3297
The final four books of our series have yet to be published, so only I am able to teach from the draft texts we prepared before his untimely death on Christmas morning 2020, during the pandemic.
Who is sponsoring this program?
This year, the president of the Pontifical Institute of Liturgy began a new initiative to teach Latin – and Greek as well – in English, and has asked me to teach the Latin course. I’m using the method developed by Reggie.
This course is part of the preparatory year of linguistic study at the PIL. We have expanded this course into a program in order to welcome people outside of regular enrollment. Students need not have any prior knowledge of Latin.
Can participants receive academic credit for this?
Sure. Participants may enrol for the first semester only or for the entire academic year 2021-2022. Successfully completing each semester confers 15 credits under the European Credit Transfer System (ECTS), for a total of 30 ECTS for the academic year.
You said this is an immersion program. How so?
In addition to the Roman milieu and the daily Gregorian Chant in our church, this program is immersion in a significant way, and quite unlike other programs. For us, learning Latin is like jumping into a stream of thought, a mighty river which has been flowing for the past two millennia and more. Each session, we work with full Latin texts which are well beyond the participants’ abilities to understand. And, no prior knowledge of Latin is required to begin this program because, from the first day, I present one small element of the language at a time, which participants come to see in the context of a full human thought expressed in Latin. Even as they are learning small bits at a time, from the first day they begin to see the larger structures of the language. In this way I invite people to dive right into this mighty river and begin swimming with what they know, as they gradually accommodate themselves to the full language.
Some people think an immersion course requires speaking only Latin. Do you?
From the first day, participants are working with the Latin texts to produce their own statements in Latin as their understanding of the language grows within them. Their Latin compositions are based on full, authentic texts. Because I teach in English, the participants develop a clear understanding of the Latin expressions. There is no guess-work, no intuiting, no trying-to-figure-out-what-the-Latin-means-in-English. Just clear, direct knowledge, sound and secure.
Can people enrol in both the Greek and the Latin courses in English?
Yes. The program is designed for people to do so. The Greek course will be conducted in English by Fr. David Foster OSB, three days a week, whereas Latin will be held five days a week, every day of the academic term 2021-2022.