Why Latin?

With gratitude to an anonymous Poor Clare nun.

Does the Devil hate Latin?

Answer: Yes.


Because Latin is inherently divine? No, it’s a human tongue. Because it is intrinsically superior as a language?  Maybe not.  It is certainly beautiful in its unique way, and there are prayers, hymns and sequences that are only as effective as they are because of the succinct Latin drumbeat in which they are composed (e.g., Lauda Sion Salvatorem, Dies iræ, Victimæ paschali laudes, Corde natus ex parentis), to say nothing of the mind-opening secular works of Cicero, Ovid et al. But modern languages, too, are replete with resources for expressing the breadth of what is in the heart and the mind.  On that score, English, with its huge vocabulary and supple grammar, has to be among the most resourceful of all, as the Catholic poet and playwright William Shakespeare would attest. Because of the discipline of mind and temperament that the study of Latin imparts? Perhaps, but some sports can do that, too.

So then, why?

Satan hates Latin because Latin promotes unity, especially the unity of the Church, Christ’s mystical Body.  Unity among the members of His Body on earth, yes, but unity also among the past, the present and the future — in fact the whole Communion of Saints.  Disunity is what the Devil is all about: he divides, scatters and confuses.  His very title means just that (devil, diabolo, from the Greek dia ballein, “to throw apart”), like the old game of “52 pick-up” that children play.  As Screwtape might have taught, anything that serves the principle of unity, especially unity of faith (unless it is faith in him and his empty promises), should be resisted, opposed, undermined.  Latin does that, or at any rate it did.  It promoted the unity of the one, holy, Catholic and apostolic Faith. And it could again.  So therefore…  Denigrate it as “dead,” convince people that it is unworthy of attention on that account, paint ugly caricatures of anyone with a fondness for it; do whatever it takes.

As members of secular society, we are willing to put tremendous effort into learning second languages, or requiring our children to learn them, and for the sake of mere commerce and recreation. But we are members of Christ’s Body first, and the unity for which He prayed does not exist where His members do not — because they cannot — worship together. How much more willing we should be, then, to learn, or at least get familiar with, another language for the sake of worshipping as One in “the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, which is the greatest, the most solemn and the most sublime of all those actions which can glorify God” (St. John Vianney).