BY: JAMES F. O’NEIL
Omne agens agit propter finem. “Every agent [doer] acts for an end.” —Scholastic Philosophy Principle
I bought another Latin book. I couldn’t help it. My wife thinks I am obsessed. “You’re obsessed.” OBSESS = to preoccupy the mind; to have the mind excessively preoccupied with a single emotion or topic [from the Latin ob + sedere: to sit, beset, occupy]. OBSESSION = compulsive preoccupation with a fixed idea or an unwanted feeling or emotion (often accompanied by symptoms of anxiety); a compulsive, often unreasonable idea, or emotion.
I wrote on 11-30-2018 “Everybody’s Dead Language: Latinity” –that I was still Latinized (q.v. = “which see”: https://memoriesofatime.blog/2018/11/30/everybodys-dead-language-latinity/). I also cited in that blog “How’s Your Latin? Or, Sleeping with the Enemy”: https://memoriesofatime.blog/2013/11/08/hows-your-latin-or-sleeping-with-the-enemy/ which I posted on 11-08-2013.
Now I don’t go around in my life obsessed with Latin or searching for Latinity. Really? Mens sana in corpore sano. “A healthy mind in a healthy body” wrote Juvenal.
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I was visiting Pewaukee, Wisconsin, celebrating my sister’s 80th birthday. One thing we did was she had me take her to her favorite re-sale store, Saint Vincent De Paul.
She told me of its generous book section. Oh, yes! I devoured the eye-candy of pages and book covers, shelves, and shelves: fiction, history, geography, biography, and much more.
Quidquid recipitur ad modum recipientis recipitur. “Whatever is received is received in the manner of the receiver.” –Aquinas. I was ready to receive: I was in a good mood, looking through the books for sale. Then, to my obsessive-compulsive delight, I glommed onto Second Latin.
Oooh, I had to have that nearly pristine copy, for $1.09. A second-year Latin grammar course book for those who needed “to intelligently read Latin textbooks of philosophy, theology, and canon law.” I did that many years ago. Why not review for old times’ sake? I looked around for its companion copy, Latin Grammar; but, alas, it wasn’t to be found there.
When I returned home, I searched online: “Used. Like new.” “The aim and scope of Scanlon’s Latin Grammar are to prepare those with no previous knowledge of Latin to read the Missal and Breviary with reasonable facility. Unlike most First Year Latin textbooks, it is not an introduction to the reading of Caesar.” I placed an order.
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Sic transit Gloria mundi. “Thus passes the glory of the world.” –Anon
At home: Once more I pulled out the black cardboard file box from my bookshelf. Once more I fingered the Manila folders: my teacher certification materials; copies of letters of recommendation; hiring letters and contracts. And there my high school, college, and graduate school course transcripts noting Latin Composition, Horace Odes and Epodes, Cicero’s Letters, Patristic Latin, Survey of Latin Literature, and something called Advanced Latin Reading.
Where did all that Latin take me? I read, memorized, and learned. I remember and retain some–enough–to make my way: De gustibus non disputandum est. “There can be no dispute in matters of taste.” –Anon. Memento, homo, quia pulvis es, et in pulverem reverteris. “Remember, man, you are dust, and into dust you shall return.” –Roman Catholic, Ash Wednesday Ritual. Bonum ex integra causa, malum ex quocumque defectu. “It’s good because it is integrally good, but it is ‘evil’ by way of any defect.” Dionysius/Aquinas. Bis vivit qui bene vivit. “He lives twice who lives well.” –Anon. Omnia vincit amor. Amor vincit omnia. “Love conquers all.” –Virgil
Blogging about my Latin experiences has certainly borne out my theme of memoriesofatime. My blogging is a show-n-tell experience, a revealing that is most often a delight, letting others in on the story. But aside from telling about my Life of Latinity, what about these new Latin books? Cui bono? “What good?” Into my library, of course. There they will remain, ready. (“They also serve who only stand and wait.” –Milton)
And that’s it. For, as they say, Quod scripsi, scripsi.
© JAMES F. O’NEIL 2019
In 1993, I found the Latin Phrase Book (1990 Rpt. of 1982 ed.). A Longwood Academic reprint book, a translation (1894) by H. W. Auden of Fettes College (Edinburgh)–not W. H. Auden, the poet–from the sixth German edition of Lateinische Phraseologie by Professor Carl Meissner, organized into seventeen topics, with Latin and English indices. This fascinating book was compiled to “help boys–not girls? –to some knowledge of Latinity in a short time . . .” A most delightful, resourceful, and difficult book to work with–but to have . . .
Jon R. Stone attempted to “exorcise the ghosts of a Dead Language” with Latin for the Illiterati (Routledge, 1996, 2009). A reference work, not a dictionary, but rather “a compendium of words, expressions, familiar sayings, abbreviations, with an English-Latin Index. Pages of abbreviations (which is quite good). This book sometimes shouts out to me, “Fac ut gaudeam!” “Make my day!
A Primer of Ecclesiastical Latin by John F. Collins (Catholic U. of America, 1985) is a book I wish I had in my young hands in 1955. How it makes so much sense to study the language of philosophy, theology, prayer, and liturgy. While we were engaged in those subjects, we were still learning and reading the Latin of Cicero and Horace, not that of Jerome or the writings of Scripture. In this book, the vocabulary, readings, and exercises all are relevant “Church” Latin. “The chief aim of this text is to give the student–within a year of study–the ability to read ecclesiastical Latin.”
Cora Scanlon and Charles Scanlon wrote one text in 1944 (Latin Grammar) for different groups of users of Church Latin: seminarians, religious novitiates, and other daily users of the Latin Roman Missal. The book was reprinted in 1976. That same year they published a reprint of their 1948 text Second Latin. This work is for second-year students who will study Church philosophy and theology. The first text has a 125-page vocabulary-dictionary. Both works make me sad: that I/we did not have them made available to us when learning our Latin prayers and beginning our Latin studies.
My New Latin Grammar by Charles E. Bennett is the 1957 edition. The first edition, “presenting the essential facts of Latin grammar in a direct and simple manner,” dates to 1894. (Allyn & Bacon, 1957 [1895, 1908, 1918]). My third-year Latin book–my junior year in high school. In sophomore year we used a book called the Epitome, a Latin edition of the book of Genesis. (I learned then that the Creation of Adam began in 4004 B.C. . . .).