A knowledge of Latin, however superficial, is not needed for Catholic worship. Millions of Catholics, young and old, without this knowledge assist at Mass and other offices most devoutly and profitably to their souls, accompanying the public ritual with prayers in their own language adapted to their various conditions. Nevertheless, to those whose education admits ot it, an acquaintance with those portions of the Latin Liturgy which are in most frequent public use, must ever be a legitimate and worthy object of interest; and that such an interest largely exists among the Faithful is shown by the multiplication, in various countries, of Missals and Prayer-books containing the Latin and Vernacular side by side.
The aim of the Catholic’s Latin Instructor is simple enough. It does not profess to teach Latin as such, but only so far as the Church offices are concerned, and, as regards these, only up to a certain point. It has seemed to the Author that without setting to work as though a whole language had to be acquired, a sufficient familiarity with this small amount of Latin might be attained by a special course of exercises directly restricted to the end in view, and dealing with grammatical rules and their exceptions as little as possible. And if it be asked what kind of persons might be likely to derive benefit from such a book, the Author would reply that he has chiefly had in his mind the following classes of Catholics. Such are, first, those who form the great body of our choirs, and whose singing, based as it is for the most part on a general notion of sentences as wholes, too often betrays an insufficient appreciation of the several words; secondly, that large class of persons who, while provided with Missals and Prayer-books abounding in Latin text and side-by-side translations, yet from want of a very little practical insight fail to derive from these manuals the advantages intended. Others there are, thirdly, devout persons of either sex, who might greatly profit by the occasional use of Latin prayers; but are restrained (and ladies especially) by an idea that in order to this they must first have a complete knowledge of Latin. Such a bugbear—for it is little else—will, let us hope, quickly yield to a steady practice of the present Exercises.
Fourthly, and most especially, there is the increasing multitude of children now in course of education in our Catholic Mission schools. Very many of these have already learnt to read English with extraordinary facility, and their minds are instinctively on the look-out for some new object. It is to be hoped that, as Latin is one of the extra subjects now proposed by the Education Department, the study of it will soon find a settled place in our elementary school course; in which case Catholics will enjoy, in the living character of the language as used in the Church offices, a great and singular advantage. But in the meanwhile what better food for the mind can we offer to our children than the simple translation from Latin into English—after a method easy alike to girls or boys—of what they constantly hear and often join in singing in church? And if from the dogmatic character of such a selection (which is indeed its best recommendation), it is inadmissible within the school-time proper, as fixed for schools in connection with Government; it would none the less be found serviceable in the time set apart for religious instruction, or as a Catholic supplement to secular Latin. To the Author’s mind it is impossible to reckon up the benefits that would flow to the Catholic Church of our country, from the introduction of Latin thus, or similarly supplemented, into the Mission School; amongst which, considering that so much lies in a mere beginning, not the least would undoubtedly be the increase of vocations to the sacred ministry itself.
The present work, compiled in furtherance of the views here expressed, consists of two Parts: Part I. containing Benediction, the choir portions of Mass, the Serving at Mass, and various Latin prayers in ordinary use; Part II. comprising additional portions of the Mass, Requiem Mass, Litany of the Saints, Vespers, Compline, and other offices and devotions, with a short Grammar and Vocabulary.
The two Parts together are intended to form one volume, although Part I., as being a kind of Catholic Latin Primer, is likewise published separately : and it is hoped that by their aid many who have never had the advantage of a classical education may attain such an acquaintance with the language of the Church, as to be able to follow intelligently not only the selection here made, but also other portions of the Catholic Ritual.