A reader sent four versions of the above bookmark to me and asked if I’d be willing to share them. It’s always interesting to point out to people that one of the greatest advocates of retaining Latin in the Sacred Liturgy and in the study of theology was Pope St. John XXIII. His apostolic constitution Veterum Sapientia is a brilliant exposition on why Latin is the living language of the Church, and why it must be retained as such. Many people assume that as the pope who convoked the Second Vatican Council, he was all about promoting the vernacular, but a read through of VS will put that notion out of your head:
The nature of Latin
Of its very nature Latin is most suitable for promoting every form of culture among peoples. It gives rise to no jealousies. It does not favor any one nation, but presents itself with equal impartiality to all and is equally acceptable to all.
Nor must we overlook the characteristic nobility of Latin for mal structure. Its “concise, varied and harmonious style, full of majesty and dignity”4 makes for singular clarity and impressiveness of expression.
Preservation of Latin by the Holy See
For these reasons the Apostolic See has always been at pains to preserve Latin, deeming it worthy of being used in the exercise of her teaching authority “as the splendid vesture of her heavenly doctrine and sacred laws.” She further requires her sacred ministers to use it, for by so doing they are the better able, wherever they may be, to acquaint themselves with the mind of the Holy See on any matter, and communicate the more easily with Rome and with one another.
Thus the “knowledge and use of this language,” so intimately bound up with the Church’s life, “is important not so much on cultural or literary grounds, as for religious reasons.” These are the words of Our Predecessor Pius XI, who conducted a scientific inquiry into this whole subject, and indicated three qualities of the Latin language which harmonize to a remarkable degree with the Church’s nature. “For the Church, precisely because it embraces all nations and is destined to endure to the end of time … of its very nature requires a language which is universal, immutable, and non-vernacular.”
These bookmarks feature an image of Pope St. John and a quote from VS in four different languages – English, French, Greek, and of course, Latin. If you want to print them out, you can download them here (PDF link).
Steve Skojec is the Founding Publisher and Executive Director of OnePeterFive.com. He received his BA in Communications and Theology from Franciscan University of Steubenville in 2001. His commentary has appeared in The New York Times, USA Today, The Washington Post, The Washington Times, Crisis Magazine, EWTN, Huffington Post Live, The Fox News Channel, Foreign Policy, and the BBC. Steve and his wife Jamie have seven children.