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 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 alterafrom the office of readings and magisterial documents on liturgy. While doing so, the instructor will give a summary of the material presented in the encounters on that day and show how that material is exemplified in the texts considered. We shall typically consider a brief quote from one of Cicero’s letters to friends.

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.

We shall review the following basic elements from the First Experience:

  1. Principles of the Latin language (encounter 1)
  2. The personal endings of verbs (encounter 1)
  3. The functions of nouns and adjectives (encounter 6)
  4. How to read dictionary entries for the groups of nouns, adjectives (encounters 2, 15, 18, 35)
  5. The several English meanings for each time of the indicative (encounter 7)
  6. How to read dictionary entries and four principal parts of each verb (encounter 8)
  7. The relative pronoun, its functions and antecedent (encounter 10)
  8. Two forms of the imperative (encounter 17)
  9. Passive forms (encounters 21, 26: presented while working with texts)
  10. Deponent verbs (encounter 29: presented while working with texts)
  11. Reflexive pronouns (encounters 30, 31)
  12. The uses of the form to-for-from (encounter 33)
  13. Passive and deponent command forms (encounter 34)

After we have completed the above basic review, we shall dedicate greater time to the following elements of the Latin language from the Third Experience:

  1. Comparative and superlative of adjectives and adverbs (encounters 36-37)
  2. Use and difficulties of quam, (encounter 43)
  3. Forms and principles of the subjunctive (encounters 44-45)
  4. Sequence of tenses (encounters 47-48)
  5. Four Latin participles: principles, forms, natural meaning, brevity, + esse(encounters 50-53)
  6. The ablative absolute (encounters 54-57)
  7. Subjunctive: final sentences = purpose clauses (encounter 58)
  8. Subjunctive: causal sentences (encounter 59)
  9. Subjunctive: indirect questions (encounter 60)
  10. Subjunctive and futurity (encounter 61)
  11. Subjunctives depending on subjunctives or participles (encounter 62)
  12. Subjunctives and reflexive pronouns (encounter 63)
  13. Subjunctive: concessive sentences (encounter 64)
  14. Subjunctive in temporal clauses (encounter 65)
  15. Subjunctive in temporal clauses with cum(encounter 66)
  16. Subjunctive: pure result clauses (encounter 67)
  17. Subjunctive: complementary and characteristic result clauses (encounter 68)

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

  1. Reported speech: accusative with the infinitive (encounters 71-73)
  2. Verbs of remembering, forgetting (encounter 74)
  3. Reported speech: in a later age (encounter 76)
  4. Gerund and Gerundive (encounter 77)
  5. Verbs with the ablative (encounter 78)
  6. Ten uses of qui, quae, quod; quis, quid(encounter 79)
  7. Gerundive with certain verbs (encounter 80)
  8. Supine, in indirect discourse and future passive expressions (encounter 81)
  9. Attraction of mood = modal attraction (encounter 83)
  10. Fourteen ways to express purpose (encounter 84)
  11. Conditionals (encounters 86-88)
  12. Passive expressions of verbs with gen., dat., abl. (encounter 89)
  13. The double dative (encounter 91)
  14. The expression fore ut(encounter 92)
  15. Subjunctive: 3% sequence of tenses (results, conditionals, original) (encounter 94)
  16. Verbs of fearing (encounter 95)
  17. Verbs of prohibition (encounter 101)
  18. Interestand refert(encounter 102)

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.
  2. 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)
    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.

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).

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:


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.