Training Translators of Latin Liturgical Texts:
Bones of the Latin language

Instructor of the Latin langauge: Daniel P. McCarthy

Brief description

This course is intended for people preparing to translate Latin litugical texts into the vernacular at the service of a national conference of Catholic bishops. This programme is sponsored by the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments and run by the Pontifical Liturgy Intsitute and held at the Pontifical Athenaeum of Sant’Anselmo, Rome, and will be conducted in English.

We shall use the system developed by Reginald Foster, papal Latinist for four popes over 40 years, as presented in the volumeOssa Latinitatis Sola. We shall frequently refer to the: Lewis– Short, A Latin Dictionary.

During our encounters we shall read texts from every era and genre of liturgical Latin for a patient and careful understanding of the Latin text, and we shall render them into clear English. For a basis in classical Latin we shall consider brief texts from Cicero’s letters to friends. Three times a week a brief Latin text or two will be provided for independent, supervised study to be reviewed during the next encounter.


By the end of the course participants will have …

1. developed a clear understanding of numerous Latin liturgical texts,
2. rendered Latin liturgical texts into clear English,
3. understood the ambiguities of each language.


Two daily encounters from 8:30-10:05 and from 10:15-11:50 on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays from 6 May to 14 June, totals 16 mornings or 32 encounters.

Structure of the Course

During our encounters we shall read texts from every era and genre of liturgicalLatin for a patient and careful understanding, and we shall render them into clear English. For a basis in classical Latin we shall consider brief texts from Cicero’s letters to friends. Three times a week a brief Latin text or two will be provided for independent, supervised study to be reviewed during the next encounter.

Learning activities

Participants prepare for each day’s session by completing the independent study from the previous session and by reading the encounters assigned for that day in the volume Ossa Latinitatis Sola.

We shall begin each day’s session by reviewing any lingering questions from the independent study texts from the previous session. Most of our time will be spent considering Latin texts and their English meanings, drawing from: scripture, prayers, musical texts, rubrics, general instructions, the martyrology, the lectio altera from the office of readings and magisterial documents on liturgy. As the texts suggest, the instructor will give a summary of the material presented in its respective encounter. We shall typically consider a brief quote from one of Cicero’s letters to friends.

Participants are encouraged to present a formulary of the proper prayers of a liturgical day, collecta, oratio super oblata, (prefatio) oratio post communionem to the group for discussion and understanding of its Latin expression. Participants may bring other liturgical texts which we shall consider as time allows. At times we may wish to set aside a text for patient consideration until our next encounter.

Topics: We shall move at the pace of the participants as we consider Latin liturgical texts exemplifying elements of the Latin language presented in the 105 encounters of the book Ossa Latinitatis Sola. Because we may have learned Latin in different ways, we shall begin with some basics to introduce this system to all. If we take as much as the first week for review the essential elements from the First Experience in the Ossa book, thereafter we shall have just about one topic to consider per encounter from the Third and Fourth Experiences. Some material may take more than one day such as reported speech.

Foundational Pathway of Study

Here is a proposal for a firm foundation of the basics, the four participles and the usages of the subjunctive.

Week 1, Monday, 6 May: We shall review the following basic elements from the First Experience. We did the following:

  1. OSSIUM GLUDEN: Principles of the Latin language (Encounter 1)
  2. The personal endings of verbs (E 1)
  3. Gloria Patri …
  4. Fidelium animae per misericordiam Dei requiescant in pace.
  5. Orationes ante prandium ac ante cenum.

Week 1, Tuesday, 7 May (2nd session): We shall review the following basic elements from the First Experience. We did the following:

  1. We worked on Ludus domesticus II on the antiphons
  2. English meanings for each time of the indicative (E 7)

Week 1, Wednesday, 8 May(1st session): We shall review the following basic elements from the First Experience. We did the following:

  1. We considered the collect for the Fifth Sunday of Easter
  2. and considered the Divine-Human exchange in the same collect
  3. Relative pronoun, brevity and the relative box (E 11)

Week 1, Friday morning, 10 May: We shall review the following basic elements from the First Experience. We did the following:

  1. Review the teaching of Encounters 2-4
  2. A lovely text of scriputre
  3. A lovely text by Cicero
  4. If there is time we shall consider Encounter 5

Week 2, Monday morning, 13 May: We shall continue our presentation of the encounters of the Ossa volume.

  1. masculine nouns of the second group: nauta, ae, m, a sailor; trapezita, ae, m. a banker: bonus trapezita.
  2. Adjectives of block I: honestus, a, um; liber, era, erum; honestus et liber nauta currit; honestum et liberum natuam dilaudant.
  3. Subject function; object function; of-possession function; by-with-from-in function; function of direct address; to-for-from function; place / location function.
  4. Prepositions with an object; 4 prepositions with motion: in, sub, subter, super.
  5. Review times of verbs and their different vernacular meanings.
  6. Four principal parts of verbs.
  7. Formation of Times 4, 5, 6.

At the end of each day, we shall assess our progress, and then we shall select one ludus domesticus from among the following to complete by our next session, on Wednesday 8 May 2019 when we shall review the ludus together:

Note: download the entire set of ludi domestici from the link provided here, along with the list of corrections here, and the several readings that correspond to specific ludi here. Also note: when the ludus to reverse a word it means to make a plural word singular or a singular word plural. When a ludus appears to say “1.1” it really means “line 1” referring to the quoted Latin text; unfortunately the line breaks are no longer the same as in the original text, so this is only an approximate location of the word to which the question refers.

In addition to the ludus selected by the group, you may complete the other ludi as you wish. Beginning students are encouraged to complete as much as possible and experienced Latinists may find the perspective of the ludi refreshing.

We shall progress patiently and carefully onto the following Latin expressions presented in the Fourth Experience:

Advanced Pathway of Study

A tentative schedule for the third and fourth experiences can be downloaded here. This schedule is yet to be determined fully. It begins on Monday, 13 May 2019 with the ninth ludus of the third experience. Thereafter the participants and instructor may choose to either continue in sequential order or to jump to Experience 3 Ludus 15-16 which begins with the four participles

The ludi for the third experience are available for download here.

Ludi for the fourth experience have not been posted online, and so will be made available for photocopy and distribution in printed form. There are 52 pages, and so a copy costs €5.20.

Evaluation: This part of the programme does not involve any exam or evaluate the progress of any participant. Personal evaluation may be based on one’s participation in class sessions and the completion of the regullarily provided texts.


Each participant must have two essential books:

  1. FOSTER, R.T. – D.P. McCARTHY, Ossa Latinitatis solaad mentem Reginaldi rationemque: The Mere Bones of Latin according to the thought and system of Reginald(Latinitatis corpus 1), Catholic University of America Press, Washington DC 2016.LEWIS, C.T.,- C. SHORT, A Latin Dictionary, Oxford UP, Oxford – New York 1879, thereafter reprinted. The printed volume is advantageous, but the resource is available online in several formatts (not without some difficulties)
    Parsing tool with Lewis and Short Dictionary
    ♦  Latin Work Study Tool with the Lewis and Short dictionary available here: Enter an inflected form of your word in the field under the heading “Dictionary Entry Lookup”, located in the column on the right.

    Lewis and Short dictionary search tool
    ♦ LEWIS and SHORT entry word search: This is another version of the above entry word search. This one is well laid-out for easier reading. Enter the dictionary entry for your word in the field at the top left of the page.

    image of the search page for Logeion

    Even more Latin dictionaries are available on Logeion, including Lewis and Short. Enter the dictionary entry for your word in the field at the top of this page. If the search produces entries from several different dictionaries, they are listed first and you can choose which one you wish to consult.

Recommended: full Latin reference:

  1. GILDERSLEEVE, B.L, – G. LODGE, Gildersleeve’s Latin Grammar, Bolchazy-Carducci, Wauconda IL 2003, reprint of 31985. 

Recommended commentaries on prayers:

  1. Appreciating the Collect:An Irenic Methodology(Documenta Rerum Ecclesiasticarum Instaurata, Liturgiam aestimare : Appreciating the Liturgy 1), ed. J.G. Leachman – D.P. McCarthy, St. Michael’s Abbey Press, Farnborough, England 2008 (information and purchasing).
  2. FERNANDO, R., Deus, auctor pacis et reconciliationis: A Euchological and liturgico-theological analysis of peace and reconciliation in the Missale Romanum, KU Leuven, PhD – STD Thesis, 2018 (available in the Sant’Anselmo library).
  3. McCARTHY, D.P., “Listen to the Word” Commentaries on the proper prayers of selected Sundays and feasts,The Tablet(4 March 2007 – 27 November 2011) available in the Sant’Anselmo library (information).
  4. ________, “Seeing a reflection, considering appearances: The history, theology and literary composition of the Missale Romanumat a time of vernacular reflection”, Questions Liturgiques / Studies in Liturgy94 (2013) 109-143.
  5. Transition in the Easter Vigil: Becoming Christians.Paschali in vigilia Christiani nominis fieri, ed. D.P. McCarthy – J.G. Leachman (Documenta Rerum Ecclesiasticarum Instaurata, Liturgiam aestimare : Appreciating the Liturgy 2), St. Michael’s Abbey Press, Farnborough, England 2011 (information and purchasing).

A complete English to Latin dictionary is: W. SMITH – T.D. HALL, A copious and critical English-Latin dictionary, Harper & brothers, New York 1850, is available in PDF format for download here, and in several versions from the Open Library here.

Contact: The instructor requests that you not phone him. Rather, please contact him via email at: danielmccarthyosb AT mac DOT com.


This course is offered in English at the Pontifical Institute of Liturgy housed at:

Piazza Cavalieri di Malta, 5
00153 Roma, Italia

See map below.


You may purchase our books at the English desk at:

Pauline multimedia
via del Mascherino, 94
00193 Roma
Tel. 06.6872354
Fax: 06.68308093
contact Sylvia:
General enquiries:


You may also purchase materials at Libreria Sole, located directly across the street from the Gregorian University:

Libreria Sole
Via dei Lucchesi 20
00187 Rome, Italy
Tel.: +39 06 679 06 75

Latin resources

I have begun to develop a page of resources for the Latin language including: dictionaries, grammars, resources, texts, links.

© D.P. McCarthy, created on 10 November 2018.