Tag Archives: Latin sayings


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”:  I also cited in that blog “How’s 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.

* * *

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.

* * *

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. . . .).





By: James F. O’Neilcolored file folders

While going through my notebooks and files, I came across two interesting folders: one red, one the usual “manila folder.”  I knew what they were; I just had not seen them for a while.  The red tab, “Placement Programs,” in manuscript-print (all CAPS).  The other had a somewhat beat-up, dog-eared tab: “Certification Materials,” handwritten by me in my best cursive.

If you have ever sat down in front of your dresser that has a bottom drawer filled with junk, stuff, dead-desiccated prom flowers, old love letters, maybe a vibrator or two, greeting-cards-saved-forever, warranty papers for radios and bicycles and CD players long gone, and so much else, it might be difficult to slide the drawer back in.  Memories flood out from the items as you look to find something. 

Why did you go in there in the first place?  Isn’t this A Sacred Place of Collection?  Does not every item belong?  Have you tried to delete or discard something from within–or something you took out to look at, for no reason, then put back into the right place?  How about those empty watch boxes?  Stones and rocks, collected when you were in the Mojave Desert?  (I still have wrapped in the most-delicate “Saran Wrap” the two newly-marrieds from the top of my/our wedding cake.  Also, a pair of baby shoes, not mine.  A signed baseball, not mine.  An assortment of padlocks, combination locks, keys to nowhere, day-minders/day-timers back to 1973.  A handgun lock.  And more.)

My Bottom Drawer

Those two folders I found are like my bottom drawer: A Sacred Place of Collection: papers, letters, and copies of important information about me.  Letters of application I once sent.  Transcripts from high school and college (even a sealed envelope “Issued to Student” stamped on the seal of one envelope), proof that I completed the necessaries.

My certificates and licenses, proof, to teach, to administer, to sell insurance.  Some certificates for outstanding service, for being a committee chair, or for appreciation. 

Oh, my!  What have I done?  I have opened a “bottom drawer.”  I spent hours going through the two folders: the items contained defined what I was, or prove what I still am capable of (degree to teach).  Each item tells/told where I was at a time in my life, a date and a place of my existence, in addition to what I have accomplished.

These folders, with the classes I took in the grades and in college, open up my life: “Look what he did?”  The transcripts show Latin, Greek, German, science, mathematics, philosophy, history, letters and literature, religion, physical education, geography, music, biology, Bible studies, economics, and even some art.  Proof of my education.

Something more than what is on the papers I liken to the spirits that linger, hang around those items in the bottom drawer.  Something sacred there.  Something special, or it wouldn’t still be there, right?

So, I put the papers back into their rightful folders, knowing that some had to be shredded.  They were old, outdated, non-useful, and unusable.  Someday, I told myself; not now.  Then I sigh, look at my folders, and carefully replace them in the file cabinet drawer–deleting nothing.

“Ah, me.”  Latin and Greek–and philosophy?  Really?  Omne agens agit propter finem.  Nemo dat quod non habet.  But really, Qui nimis probat nihil probat.

 Gallia est omnis divisa in partes tres,…


[Here are a few words of explanation:  “Everyone does something for a reason.”  “No one”–not “Nemo,” the clown fish–“gives what one hasn’t got.”  And this last one I love–really: “She/he who proves too much, proves nothing.”]

© James F. O’Neil 2013



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