This afternoon was the first meeting of Fr. Reginald Foster’s Latin "experiences".
It took place in the new digs for the course. You will remember that he was given the heave ho from the Gregorian University where he had taught for years. Someone came to his rescue with a location (ironically close to the Collegio Romano) for his new Latin Academy. It is now housed at the American Institute for Roman Culture, directed by one of Foster’s long time veterans.
He still won’t take money from students.
Present were a few old vets whom I had not seen for some years and many new students eager to imbibe of his approach. It was standing room, for sure.
Foster was in fine form this afternoon. The first thing he did was read to the standing room only crowd a fax he received from Austria: "Foster having been liberated…."
In the courses, really called "experiences", students are there to learn Latin. The courses are not about God or the Church or anything else. Schools, credits, etc., mean nothing. Just Latin and Latin literature. He wants people to stop talking about how great (or awful) Latin is, and start TEACHING it. If you have had Latin before, as he explained, you will maybe find something new. But the key is to teach more and more people the Latin language, without which we don’t really understand anything about Western civilization.
During the meeting Fr. Foster predictably and understandably shot some barbed comments at the "other place" where he had taught for so long and a few amusing references to the Jesuits of that institution. He talked about reading during the summer the letters exchanged between Erasmus and Martin Luther and St. Thomas More (which in illo tempore I also have done with him) all in Latin, together with documents of extreme historic importance, "the suppression of the Jesuits in 1773 … Dominus ac Redemptor a glorious thing in Latin.. a horrific document."
"I could not stand to be in a classroom today to teach theology, canon law, history, philosophy to anyone knowing that the students know nothing. It would drive me crazy. I couldn’t do it."
Foster rightly deplores is the loss of Latin from educational formation, ecclesiastical formation especially. Still, he sees some hope in the secular realm. The summer course he teaches will be nearly all lay students from secular institutions. He already has dozens of applicants for the intense summer course and, he announced, he just rewrote the entrance exam. It is now much harder.
He explained his approach to Latin and his expectations for the students by way of an old form of contract which he once asked people to use, but which he now uses to make his desires for classes clear. Here it is. Read it and see if you could follow this approach. This old contract form is no longer even proposed for a signature by Fr. Foster anymore, but it is still useful to get it through thick skulls or those not really paying attention what his "experiences" involve. In short: if you can’t do this, don’t do this. "Get out. I won’t miss you."
Foster’s approach is intended to turn out people who can read Latin and understand what it really says. However, there is a strong active component. He teaches you how to write and speak as well.
Former and future students of Fr. Foster will be relieved to know that the "experiences" are back on track and underway in the heart of Rome once again. You can be sure that students will be beating their brains out against his legendary ludi domestici sheets each week. Pray for them. It is worth the effort. Why?
"If you have this thing, you have something, friends. If you don’t have Latin you’re just sitting there looking stupid." Listen.