Latin-less Priests and Homeschoolers – UPDATED

UPDATE 17 Nov:

I’ve received some interesting emails since this discussion about Latin began in these electronic pages.


Thank you for writing such an awesome blog. I am a big fan. In your recent blog about the future of NO/TLM masses you mentioned Latin resources. I can recommend Getting Started with Latin by William E Linney. It is not expensive and he gives you a website to download audio for the lessons. The audio is in classical and/or ecclesiastical. Both are free. Granted it is for home school but, when you start learning Latin at 55, be humble and childlike. The audio really helps. Finally, this is very affordable and I found it on Amazon.



Am a Latin teacher and want to help!


I just read a post regarding the dearth of Latin instruction for priests. I would consider it an honor to teach any priest – gratis.

Please let me know how I can help!!!

I find these messages consoling.


Originally Published on: Nov 16, 2018

This is amusing, in a relevant and hopeful way.

From a reader:

Just an idea, Father. There are many of us homeschooling families that are instructing our children in Latin. We have many great curricula choices at our disposal. Some even offer classes online. Perhaps we can be of service to any priest that would like to learn Latin!

I’m picturing this.

At the same time I am picturing St. Ignatius of Loyola, after his conversion.

He didn’t know Latin. Hence, he couldn’t go on to higher studies, which were, of course, in Latin. So, in Salamanca at the age of 33, he had to sit in Latin class with children.

Ignatius is depicted on the right (where else).  He is in a sort of trace, probably induced by he sheer beauty of the time shifts of verbs in past contrary to fact conditions related in indirect discourse.


About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. Therese says:

    I smile to think that a humble altar boy would be helping Father with his Latin. What a beautiful image!

    [He also has to say his Confiteor to the altar boy.]

  2. UncleBlobb says:

    It was the same for St. Camillus De Lellis. The boys joked that he was “the late-comer”.

  3. padredana says:

    What are some of these resources? I would be most interested as I am one of these priests who had little and insufficient Latin in the seminary. I can muddle though the EF and basically understand it, but I’d like to pray the 62 Office in Latin, and that is much more daunting.

  4. feeneyja says:

    My 7th and 8th graders have been studying Latin for 6 years. We have had a lot of success with Memoria Press. They have instruction videos and online classes as well.

  5. Gaby Carmel says:

    The new School of the Annunciation at Buckfast, Devon, England, offers courses in ecclesiatical Latin as a one-year distance-learning course, at two levels. If you google “Annunciation” and ” Buckfast”, you can access their website. An excellent course, available from a completely orthodox Catholic institution.

    Incidentally, they have teamed up with Franciscan University of Steubenville to offer the MA in Catechetics and Evangelisation.

  6. HvonBlumenthal says:

    On another thread I suggested that anyone who has Latin could offer classes to any parishioners who are interested.

    Ive been doing this for a year. I have three pupils (1 adult). I make no charge but when they press the subject I ask them to offer a stipend to Father to say a (Tridentine) Mass for a worthy cause.

  7. ddhue says:

    I agree about Memoria Press, it is a great program. We have used many programs over the years as both my husband (very gifted in languages, knows Persian, Arabic, Greek, Latin, Russian… reads the bible in Latin!) and I (not very gifted in languages!) have home schooled our children in Latin.

    We tried Cambridge Latin, it was recommended by a priest friend. It is good, but I think not structured enough in the grammar (this refers to an earlier edition, so I cannot speak to what is available now).

    We tried Wheelocks. This was my husband’s preference. I tried it, but there was no way I could get through it. We used it with three of our children. My one son (gifted in languages, now at a diocesan seminary, said he was very prepared for Latin classes) did well with it. My second son (not as gifted in languages, but now at an Oratory for the Institute of Christ the King and says Latin is fairly straightforward for him so far) did not enjoy Wheelocks, but it worked. The later lessons were very hard for him. My daughter did not do well with it at all.

    We tried Henle. I think that really requires an instructor. So if the priest wants to learn on his own without an instructor, I think Henle is not ideal.

    Then we went to Memoria Press. It is very slow moving, especially in the first year. But it works, and I thoroughly enjoy being able to listen to the Latin at mass and actually understand some of it (I am in third year). It is very methodical. It actually reminds me of learning to play the piano (I started that at about the same time I started learning Latin): the basics of scales and drills prepare you for learning to play the music.

    This is a very long comment, but I wanted to offer a bit of input since we have tried so many courses, and we have people who are very naturally gifted in languages, and then those who are not. In short: if gifted in languages, I think Wheelocks is okay for adults on their own (my husband did this). If not, then I think Memoria Press Latin is a great option. And though it does not offer much in terms of ‘reading’ Latin in the early years, there are many basic readers available on the internet.

  8. Egad_Trad_Dad says:

    St. John Vianney did some initial studies with the parish priest in Ecully, where he was also grouped with children. One tutored him, but at a certain point became frustrated with Vianney’s inability to grasp the fundamentals of Latin and boxed his ears. Vianney is said to have knelt and begged the boy’s pardon.

    The boy was Matthias Loras, who later became the first bishop of Mobile, and then of Dubuque. He and Vianney remained lifelong friends.

  9. Fuerza says:

    Do an internet search for little Latin readers. It’s a product designed specifically to teach Latin to Catholics and, while designed for children and teens, can also be useful for adults. One of the “advanced” modules specifically uses the Mass as a theme. If you would like something a little more adult, then Inwoukd recommend the Lingua Latina series by Hans Orberg. It is entirely in Latin and designed according to the natural method of language learning. It is actually extremely effective, and there are companion volumes available with vocabulary and brief grammatical explanations in English if you prefer some more direct supplementation. If on the other hand you want something much more basic, you could try Getting Started with Latin by William Linney. It is very basic, but is designed specifically for homeschoolers and auto-didacts who are less than gifted with languages. The website also has free pronunciation files in both classical and Ecclesiastical Latin.

  10. leftycbd says:

    I was blessed to take 3 years of Latin in High School in the 1980s. The books were about Julius and Amelia in Rome, who, after the second book, were converting to Christianity. The 3rd year, we read Cicero. The first sentence of the first book was “Roma in Italia est.”

  11. Fuerza says:

    That’s the Lingua Latina series.

  12. jaykay says:

    leftycbd: “The 3rd year, we read Cicero.”

    That is pretty good! We started Latin (compulsory, then) at age barely 11, but 4 years later we were just starting Cicero (it was all Caesar in the interim, although we didn’t even start on him until after nearly 2 years of pure grammar slog). Well, we also had Livy and Tacitus. Cicero was easier, but we still struggled. And we never really learned to speak it. It was totally an intellectual exercise. Every one of my teachers was a Priest, who in those days could actually speak it, because their formation would have called for that, but the school curriculum(designed in the late 19th century) didn’t. So they didn’t. You passed the State exams, and that was it. That was in the 70s. I went on to take it in Uni, and our lecturers did sometimes lecture in Latin, but even then there were so few doing it (and I was concentrating more on my major, Archaeology) that it was a bit slapdash). They didn’t seem to care, and quite honestly I can’t blame them. We got through, and at least could understand the (perfunctory) Oration delivered at the conferring ceremony, not to mention the actual degree parchment itself – a sequence of ablative absolutes. It just seemed like a lost cause, back then.

  13. OssaSola says:

    I’d like to mention the Latin Class I take live online for adults. It is taught by a professor at the FSSP Seminary in Denton, Nebraska two evenings per week. He uses the Orberg Lingua Latina series. He himself is an excellent teacher and has studied with the stellar Fr. Reginald (!) He also offers classes in the Mass readings each week as well as more advanced classes.

    padredana: I have contact details, I’m not sure if I can put my email here, but will if Fr Z so allows.

  14. OssaSola says:

    I’ll put this link here for the class I mentioned above:

  15. Imrahil says:

    Well, the first or somewhat-first lines of our schoolbooks were: “Publius est pater, Cornelia est mater. Delia serva est.” And that was as famous for us as the sentence “Arthur est un perroquet” for our classmates who had taken French instead of Latin.

    7th through 9th grade grammar course from the books (with increasing amount of text to be translated from the classic authors, perhaps in modified form; sometimes even Greek classics translated to Latin: we had Homer’s “Catalogue of Ships”, of course not only translated but also heavily abridged, when the cardinal numers came around as grammatical topic)
    10th grade: Nepos, Hannibal; Caesar, De bello gallico (excerpts); Ovid, Metamorphoses (excerpts, including Daedalus) (if I recall correctly).
    11th grade: Cicero, In Verrem (actio secunda); Sallust, De coniuratione Catilinae, then perhaps some Martial or something.
    1st preparatory semester: Cicero, De re publica, together with looks sideways to Polybios, Plato et al., but we didn’t translate from Greek. And I think that was also the semester where we read Cicero, De finibus bonorum et malorum, which is rather little known, but which I can warmly recommend to anybody.
    2nd preparatory semester: Poetry, including a lot of Catull, Martial and even some Mediaeval Latin. We also read some, very few, excerpts from the Aeneis.
    3rd preparatory semester: We did read some historians somewhen, so I believe it was then; some Livius, some very from Tacitus (the Annals, not Agricola, though we did hear a student-for-students lecture on the latter), and – though less of a historian and more of a philosopher – this might have been when we read Seneca. We certainly did read Seneca somewhen.
    4rd preparatory semester: exam preparation, with somewhat focus on Cicero because he or people like him are the usual choice for the exam tests, and easy enough. (In the exam, we then had Lactantius!! We were all so happy, because all those Christian authors are just like Cicero, only way, way easier.)

    And no, we did not speak a word of Latin beyond “salvete discipuli (/amici) – salve magistra”, but as it comes it is very easy now to read, and I guess with some time to get into, speak all the Latin from the Middle Ages onwards, which is much the easier.

    (Though I was very surprised how much I understood by ear when a priest read the Latin text of the Epistle for a chance, rather than either singing it in Latin or reading it in German, as is usually done. Seems the singing is less understandable, even in plainchant, at least for me.)

  16. Suburbanbanshee says:

    Other than the Classical pronunciation thing, I think the Great Courses’ Latin 101 is very good. Professor Muller is a hoot, and the lecture videos are good. The drawback is that you need to get hold of the “guidebook” (textbook) for full usefulness. The great thing is that he uses both classical and biblical Latin texts, right from the first lecture. You can also review very easily if you have the bandwidth.

    So if you can use the series free on Hoopla, or cheap on the Amazon Great Courses channel subscription, you can always pay money for other stuff later. A lot of other courses demand money right away.

  17. For the priest who wants to learn Latin basically for just Mass and Office, I think the best choice is Scanlon and Scanlon’s _Latin Grammar_ ( The vocabulary is learned in the order of frequency in the Missal and no time is wastes on forms not found in the Vulgate.

    In addition, the priest should read out loud from the Missal for 10 to 15 minutes a day—making sure to carefully observe the accented syllables. And on encountering a hard-to-pronounce word, he should stop, make sure his pronunciation is correct and than repeat the word five or six times. It took me about a month of doing this before I could read the Mass Latin fluidly. Another important goal should be to read the Latin phrasing it for sense, rather that just putting out one word after another. But that means really knowing what the text means. Scanlon and Scanlon can help with that.

    I had Latin from 7th to 12th grade, then a bunch of courses in college. I honestly only learned to read Latin, as opposed to translating it into English in my head, after reading the whole Breviary every day, looking up any word I did not know. Suddenly one day I realized that I knew what I was reading without having to translate it. Picked up my copy of Virgil and could read it, too. The arrival of the habitus was like a light had come on.

    [Right on. Just START somewhere. Read aloud. Do some every day.]

    Fr. Z's Gold Star Award

  18. Spade says:

    I’m just going to point out again that Duolingo is a great resource and it would be pretty cool if some folks who knew Latin could put together a course.

    Like, four people did Irish. And Irish is impossible.

  19. Sconnius says:

    My wife tried to get a Latin and Greek after-school club started at our parish elementary school, but only our pastor and one other student signed up and she wanted at least five.

    We are going to try again next semester, expand it to include one more grade (offered it to 4-8th this last time) and seeing if telling neighboring schools will get the number up.

    Maybe we’ll get so many that we’ll have to ask you to leave the cupboard under the stairs and hop across Lake Monona to help out!

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