They say that you can worship very well at the Latin Mass without knowing a word of Latin, if you reverently pray in your heart as the priest is praying through the words of the Mass. This is true, and it’s another reason that the Latin Mass is the best way of worshiping God. But…the riches of liturgy, theology, history, philosophy, music, literature, (not to mention science, law, and medicine of course!) are for those who know the Latin language.
Why wouldn’t you want the map and the key to the buried treasure?
It’s not easy, but it is possible, and definitely worth it, to learn to read the Latin language. Still feel like it’s not for you? Here are some common objections to studying Latin, with some proposed solutions.
I am too busy. You have at least five minutes SOMEWHERE. Use the time you do have and fit study into it. Bit by bit every day you will learn Latin. Five minutes of work with, say Latin by the Natural Method or another reading-based text, will get you going very quickly in that short amount of time!
‘A small daily task, if it be really daily, will beat the labours of a spasmodic Hercules.’Anthony Trollope
I don’t want to spend more money on this. You don’t have to spend money to get a very good Latin education! The series I recommended in the paragraph above, and suggest ad infinitum, is available for free download. Besides that, you can find many other great free resources, and this site lists them here and there. Just get digging!
I was never good at languages. This is probably only voiced by my fellow Americans–many of you dear visitors are reading this in your second or third language! Fellow English-speakers: with the right approach, pacing, and persistence, I believe 90% or more of people can learn Latin. Which means you.
It takes too long: I’m too old. As they say: in five years, you will indeed be five years older–would you rather be five years older and know Latin, or not know Latin? Your choice, today.
It’s boring. Think about learning to read as a child. If that was boring, make the Latin-learning experience different. Use the right tools. Honor your learning style. Prioritize fun. Experience success right from the beginning, and make steady progress which will keep you interested and persisting. Again, right method, tools, and (maybe) teacher will get you going and keep you going!
I always quit halfway though my projects. Establish some kind of bench-marking systems and accountability standards. What works for you: check-marks on the calendar at the end of each day of studying a little Latin, or telling your friend on Saturday that you read through three lessons during the week? Think of something you are proud of that you have completed. Whatever ingredients made that success happen, replicate that recipe with your Latin studies.
Perhaps there have been other reasons that have discouraged you from tackling Latin. If you don’t mind a bit of a “tough love” approach, I’ll try and brainstorm some solutions for yours in the comments section below. Learning Latin, your prayer will be richer, your knowledge and wisdom will grow, your Catholic sensibility will deepen, and you will have the key to thousands of years of goodness. Go for it!
Great motivating post. I thought of another way to begin. It probably won’t take one far, but it might take the edge of unfamiliarity off Latin: using your Sunday or daily missal, read the prayer in the vernacular (in my case English) and then actually read over the Latin printed next to it, instead of ignoring it. One can learn to recognize a lot that way. As I said, it isn’t comprehensive, but it will get one started (until the Latin texts arrive!).
Thank you! I do that every Sunday, especially finding the Collects and Postcommunion prayers helpful for this! Which are your favorites?