Suffer the little ones to learn Gregorian chant and Latin

Liturgical liberals usually run down the intelligence of people in the pews, saying among other things that Joe and Mary Catholic will not be able to understand the new, corrected translation, or quod Deus avertat, LATIN.

“It’s toooo haaard!“, they whine.

B as in B.  S as in S.

Common sense and experience teaches quite the contrary.   This is especially the case with children, who take to hard language, heck, other and foreign languages, with a facility that we oldsters cannot rival.

When a willing teacher tell kids they can do something, and they usually can.

Thus I tip my biretta to my good friend the great Fabrizio, father of four children all of whom are learning Latin prayers like the good Catholic children they are, for this video he in turn picked up from The Curt Jester.

Listening to these children sing and then talk about what they are doing, might give you a sense of how we found a long term “new evangelization”.


About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
This entry was posted in "How To..." - Practical Notes, Brick by Brick, Just Too Cool, Lighter fare, New Evangelization, Our Catholic Identity, The future and our choices and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.


  1. mezzodiva54 says:

    Oh, where was a school like this when my son was little???????

  2. benedetta says:

    Good for that school, teachers and children! And, if there is no school willing where you are, DIY! I saw this at the Curt Jester and thought it brilliant. How valuable are the prayers of little ones, they sing with heartfelt beauty, reverence, honor, enthusiasm!

  3. Legisperitus says:

    They’re also doing it at the FSSP apostolate in Kentucky:

  4. APX says:

    It makes me feel exceptionally dumb when little kids know more Latin than I do. Alas, the only school that teaches Latin in my city is the University, which offers two intro half classes for classical Latin, which I don’t doubt are on the intense side, and expensive too.

    Already being a full-time student, I don’t have the time to add two university level classes to my schedule to learn another language, but I’d still like to learn enough that I can at least read something in Latin knowing that I’m pronouncing words correctly. Does anyone direct me in the right direction?

    I do thunk it’s rather ridiculous we don’t have schools teaching Latin, when there are Greek schools for Greek orthodox children and Ukrainian immersion catholic schools for Ukrainian catholic kids.

  5. KAS says:

    This is AWESOME! I can remember back in college talking to future teachers and saying Latin should be taught in the early grades–only to be universally shouted down as if I had spoken evil things– children could not learn Latin they said– so I asked how then did people in previous generations learn not only Latin but other languages too before the end of grade school? And was told that the kids were beaten if they did not learn and only because of the abuse did they learn…. yet John Holt showed clearly that true learning as seen in days gone by is only possible when the student is willing and desires to learn– so their argument against teaching Latin to children did not hold up– and this video is further evidence.

    Perhaps SOME ADULTS are too inflexible and wedded to the idea that they cannot learn– but children are not so rigid in their thinking and so they learn, naturally as will the majority of adults provided instruction is given.

  6. And there’s the old story about an irate nun storming into a children’s choir practice and dismissively asking a little boy, Do you even know what “Kyrie, Eleison” means?

    Sure, Sister, he replied, it means “Miserere me, Domine”.

    At any rate, here’s a picture taking five years ago of the Knoxville Latin Mass Community’s children’s choir (since somewhat grown up), after a Mass in which the children had chanted the whole Latin ordinary of the Mass-Kyrie (Gr), Gloria, Credo, Sanctus, Agnus Dei–plus a couple of Latin classics for the offertory and communion:

  7. Tom in NY says:

    Allow me a few observations:
    a) temporibus antiquis (annis MCMLX) large numbers of 9-13 year old boys memorized their parts of the TLM. And, since there were large numbers, id est, more than 30, I can conclude that there was a normal distribution of intelligence in that population
    b) some public schools teach Latin in the middle years
    c) by my own experience, students who speak Spanish outside school recognize the similarities to Latin very quickly and correctly
    d) “prep” boys of ancient times learned their own grammar (Latin) plus Greek, logic (mostly geometry rather than philosophy) and rhetoric, in cursu nominis Trivii
    Qui dicit pueros/puellas litteras Latinas discere non potest?
    Saluatationes omnibus.

  8. Alan Aversa says:

    Wow, they are very good! It reminds me of today’s gospel which Fr. Z quoted as the title of this post.

  9. Ygnacia says:

    There was a time when children learned chant from the womb on – by hearing it every Sunday at Mass. Many people at least learned the Ordinary for Mass 8, along with the Salve Regina and others. Yes, chant can be learned – may it return to it’s ‘pride of place’.

  10. jaykay says:

    Rings a bell! Back in 1971 we started learning Latin and French at age 10/11. It was just a school tradition. But we’d already been learning the Irish language since age 4. Kids in Ireland still do. Choir was pretty much compulsory with the simpler chants and the Bendiction hymns etc. It didn’t kill us. And if some didn’t like it well, in those days you just had to get on with it. But most liked it. Although the “inducements” such as outings to the cinema and to the local cafe i.e. fish ‘n chipper (oh, simpler days!) undoubtedly played a part. Good kid psychologists, our Priest-teachers were!

  11. elaine says:

    Our parish here in GA has a Gregorian chant youth choir to which my 8 year old son belongs. The choir was started by our pastor who is dedicated to revitalizing sacred music & giving chant pride of place. While the choir is open to all youth, it just so happens that all the kids in the choir are home schooled at the moment. Once, the choir director asked one of the choristers to read aloud the words of the Ave Regina Caelorum for the purpose of pronunciation. The girl misunderstood what the director was asking and started translating the Ave Regina Caelorum from Latin into English!

  12. o.h. says:

    Via New Liturgical Movement, here is the Ward Hymnal for children, using solfege notation (more familiar to some as karaoke notation) for those who can’t yet read music:

    I wonder if Fr. Z. would consider one of his “bulletin board” posts for where children can learn chant and/or solfege singing in various towns and cities?

  13. benedetta says:

    I read as well that it is tres en vogue for wealthy celebrities, actors/actresses, musicians, to hire personal tutors for little ones in order for them to learn Latin at early ages. In addition to its beauty, learning Latin has educational and cognitive benefits. Everyone wants to give their children what is good in life.

  14. Jenice says:

    My husband starting teaching Latin to me and our homeschooled daughters when they were in third grade. In our experience, it is great to start young, concentrating on the grammar, doing it every year, just like math, till it is overlearned. For those adults and children wanting to learn but not having a class available, I would recommend materials by Memoria Press. They have all levels of Latin courses, and they have DVDs so that you can learn the pronunciation and have a teacher. I do think Latin is difficult to learn without a teacher.

    Another book that I like is Primer of Ecclesiastical Latin by Collins. It is a bit difficult if you haven’t had any Latin, but if you have had even an intro, you can probably get through this book. We have used the Henle series for high school level. My husband taught Wheelock Latin once, but didn’t like that book as well.

    Studying Latin sharpens your minds, your analytic skills and teaches virtue; it takes both patience and perseverence to learn.

    And, absolutely teach chant and prayers in Latin to your children. You will be embarrassed at how much more quickly they learn than adults. And you don’t even have to read music to learn the well-known chants. Just have them repeat after you, or even just sing them frequently and the children will learn them, in the same way that they learn TV commercials or songs on the radio.

    And badger your diocese to offer Latin classes. It is the mother tongue of western civilization, and the language of our beloved Church.

  15. Tom in NY says:

    Erratum: potest; corrigendum: posse.
    Cogitandum ante scribendum.
    Causa patientiae gratias ago.

  16. nfp4life says:

    Thank you Father for this great post. Here is a way to help bring chant to a wide audience at WYD, and listen to another great children’s schola. Please keep our St. Mary Children Schola in prayer, and if possible, donate to their worthy cause. They have been asked to sing Gregorian Chant at WYD for the Holy Masses along with the Sisters of Life. They need to raise a lot of money to get them and their parents there. This will bring the true music of the Church to a place where it needs to be heard- to those at World Youth Day. Their choirmaster, David J. Hughes, is a regular conductor at the Colloquium. Here is the link where you can read more about them, and donate.

  17. RichR says:

    In my men’s gregorian chant group, the Brazos Valley Schola Cantorum, we were asked to sing at the funeral for the first Texas Aggie grad to fall in Iraq. We had not gone over the Requiem before, but agreed to do it only days in advance. So, we buckled down and learned the Requiem (OF). You can imagine the pressure to learn. So, I was walking around the house constantly singing the chants, one of which was the In Paradisum/Chorus Angelorum. My 2 year-old was listening and watching. A month after the funeral, I walk into the boy’s bedroom and see him playing with some matchbox cars while chanting In Paradisum. I got it on tape, him singing the whole thing without help, by memory.

    Kids generally like this music better than the tripe out of the Gather Hymnals.

  18. AnAmericanMother says:

    My mom was a music prof when my kids were little, and cut a video of my then 2 or 3 year old daughter singing chant, art songs and a Mozart aria to prove to her music ed students that little children could learn and sing fairly complicated music. Of course she HEARD it all the time, the Magic Flute was carried into Labor and Delivery for my benefit as much as hers . . . Parents, take note.
    Our Episcopal parish started the kids in primary choir at age 4, then promoted them to the “big kids choir” at 8. Royal School of Church Music ribbons and the whole thing.
    Btw, the RSCM is a GREAT program that any Catholic parish could adopt – it’s not particularly Anglican in flavor. With this sort of training, Daughter had no problem auditioning into a selective touring chorus as a college freshman. In other words, if the parents seem hesitant you can sell it as a resume enhancer . . . . sometimes you have to use worldly arguments to get them in the door to reap the spiritual benefits . . . .

  19. DonMiguel says:

    My two year old knows the Pater Noster, Ave Maria, Adoro Te Devote, Salve Regina, and Magnificat. I can’t say that she understands all of the words but she understands that we are saying our prayers every night before going to bed and she understands that the music we use when we are praying is different from nursery rhymes or the music on cartoons. This weekend she picked up the hymnal at Church and said “the Salve Regina is in here!” hoping we could sing it. Sadly, of course, it was not.

  20. Geoffrey says:

    Springtime of the Church…

  21. Supertradmum says:

    Thank you for this post. I started learning Latin at age eight. All through elementary school, I was in a Gregorian Chant choir. Latin was not difficult to learn. In addition, I taught Latin to junior high students who had no trouble learning the language. Liberals consistently underestimate what children are capable of doing and, of course, there is the Liberal bias against classical education for ideological reasons, such as the trashing of Christendom and Western Civilization.

  22. NonSumDignus says:

    Deo Gratias!

  23. LaurenHoeds says:

    @APX: I learned Latin using Wheelocks, and I found it to be pretty straightforward, as far as grammar books go. Going through Wheelocks (or some other grammar book) is a good thing for a student to do over the summer. If you have the desire and the discipline, you can get through that bad boy in 4-6 weeks if you work on it full time. Then just be sure to read Latin texts regularly to keep it fresh in your mind. Or space out the work more over the summer, or the year–but you can definitely master the major grammatical structures in a matter of several weeks if you’re serious about sitting yourself down and doing some work. Many universities offer intensive summer courses in Latin that meet for 3-4 hours/weekday and last 4-6 weeks, and students do get through an entire textbook in this time–so, so you can you, on your own, for free, if you don’t happen to be dependent on the structure that the classroom offers. (This could also be a great exercise in self-discipline.) Good luck!

  24. RickMK says:

    About 20 years ago, there was a Kindergarten class that I taught to say the Angele Dei prayer in Latin. I wanted to have proof that anybody can pray in Latin. If a bunch of Kindergarten kids can do it, how can anybody in his right mind dare to say he can’t do it? I taped them saying it, so I’d always have that evidence available:

    I even took a picture of them as they stood around the tape recorder saying it. It’s just a pity that was before I got my first video camera!

  25. Banjo pickin girl says:

    apx, McInerny’s Let’s Read Latin takes you through the basic prayers and has a CD. I listen to it in the car and have found that I have learned some things from it that are not in the book. I am trying to slow myself way down at lectio divina by reading the Gospel of John in Latin. McInerny’s book was a good start for me.

  26. AnAmericanMother says:

    I think it was Eliott (the president of Harvard back when it was actually an institution of higher learning) who said the very best way to learn a new language waa to sit down with the Bible and go at it.
    I’ve tried it myself and it works, whether to learn something new or just keep in practice.
    And you can get parallel versions that make it still easier.

  27. Prof. Basto says:

    Wonderful video! Simply WONDERFUL! It made my day! Those children rock! Their understanding of the necessity to honour God with appropriate chants is impressive. An excellent new generation of Catholics, is what I see in this video! Deo gratias! THIS is the real new springtime!

  28. BanjoPickingGirl,
    Amen. I have over the years used all the books and approaches mentioned in this thread, but probably got most page per page from McInery’s “Let’s Read Latin: An Intro to the Language of the Church”. It’s available from Amazon, and I habitually recommend it as a Latin self-starter to TLM newcomers because it introduces Latin syntax and vocabulary using the fundamental prayers that are already familiar to all Catholics.

    Incidentally, those who enjoyed the video of this post will enjoy the 3-minute preview at
    of the DVD of the 2010 telecast of the solemn pontifical TLM at the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington. (And WDTPRS viewers will recognize the melodious voice of the background commentator!)

    I thought it was a stroke of genius to open the telecast with the children’s choir singing Latin hymns with such evident joy. Setting the tone for such a rousing TLM success that one can see why some of the powers that be did not want it repeated for the the whole world to see on television again this year.

  29. o.h. says:

    A question on McInerny’s book & CD; a review on Amazon remarked that McInerny had several errors regarding grammar in the book, and a review on the Traditio website complained that the tape used incorrect pronunciation, including vowel endings that were simply wrong grammatically. Does anyone know if these errors were corrected in the new version, with the CD replacing the tape? It looks like a good resource, but not if my children are going to be learning prayers and Gospel readings incorrectly.

  30. irishgirl says:

    Ex ore infantium! This is so cool! I love it!

  31. Catherine L. says:

    They have a great summer camp at Holy Family Cathedral in Anchorage, Alaska. They teach kids to sing, including some Gregorian chant. The kids also learn about the liturgy in general from the Dominican friars serving in that parish.

  32. Prof. Basto says:

    “But now we are trying to, like, get more Latin in”.


Comments are closed.