Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Learning Prayers in Latin

by Mike Chapman, M.M.

Today I learned something that validated a practice that I began almost two years ago. I knew at the time...somehow...that it was for a purpose, and had real meaning and power behind it. The practice? Learning prayers in the original Latin language.

Father Chad Ripperger, in one of his homilies, advised that His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI once urged all Catholics around the world to learn the most common Catholic prayers in the Latin language. The reason he cited, was that learning these prayers in Latin, as well as one’s own language, would help the Christian faithful of different languages to be able to pray together, especially when we gather in special circumstances.

However, Father Ripperger adds another reason why Catholics should learn these prayers in Latin, and I agree with him completely: “It (Latin) is also more efficacious than any profane language because of the fact that it is a sacred language. And by virtue of it being sacred, it is in the eyes of God, more precious and therefore more meritorious. Therefore, Catholics should know the more common prayers—for instance, all of those prayers that go into making up the Rosary. They should know the prayers for those. I would suggest that you do this so that your prayers are more efficacious.”

Efficacious means “having the power to produce a desired effect.” So, he is saying that Latin can help bring about what it is you are praying for, more so than prayers in your local language. The language itself is more powerful and compelling, because Latin is a sacred language. Think about it. There is a reason why the Church uses Latin. It is not just an “accident.” (By the way, I also believe this would be true for Greek in the Christian East. I have had two years of Koine Greek in seminary.)

About two years ago, I was moved in my own spirit to begin memorizing and learning the most common prayers—especially those associated with the Rosary. So, I diligently learned the Latin Signum Crucis, the Our Father (Pater Noster), the Hail Mary (Ave Maria) and the Glory Be. I also learned the prayer to St. Michael the Archangel in Latin, because he is my patron saint.

Additionally, I began to study ecclesial Latin, mainly focusing on vocabulary rather than grammar rules. I have practiced reading longer prayers and texts in Latin, and have listened to online lessons in pronunciation and so forth. As someone who also prays minor prayers of exorcism in homes and on paranormal cases, I somehow instinctively knew in my spirit that these prayers in Latin were simply more powerful than those in the vernacular. Now I know why. I have friends in Georgia and Connecticut who do exactly the same practice.

Latin has been used so long by the Church that the evil powers fear it. I know that Father Gary Thomas, mandated exorcist in the Diocese of San Jose, even told me that he does NOT use the old 1614 Rite of Exorcism in English because he was told by the Congregation of Divine Worship and Discipline of the Sacraments that the English translation of that older Rite has not been officially approved. Instead, he prays the new 1998 Rite in Latin because it is of course, official. He further advised me that the U.S. Conference of Bishops is supposed to be working on an official, Vatican approved translation of the Rite in English. I say all of this to point out how important the Latin is, in maintaining the authority and veracity (efficaciousness) of the prayers and Rites. Even the Mass in America, though now said in English, has been translated carefully from the Latin and has been submitted to and approved by the Vatican for use. The same is true around the world.

Knowing the above and now armed with the information from (now) Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI and Father Ripperger, I am going to additionally learn the Latin: Nicene Creed, the Gloria, the Fatima Prayer, and the ending prayers of the Rosary; as well as the Sanctus and a few others. I will also redouble my overall Latin studies.

I encourage you to do the same, at least one.

The Ave Maria is very short, and is in the top left corner of this blog post. There are plenty of online places you can go for the correct pronunciation.

See this YouTube video for all the prayers of the Rosary in the Latin Language:

See Father Chad Ripperger, F.S.S.P., at his website:
I recommend this website, and its teachings wholeheartedly.

By the way, since you need to be learning Latin, “Sensus Traditionis” – the name of Father’s website, translates as: “The Sense of Tradition” – conveying the idea that traditional Catholic orthodoxy makes the most rational and reasonable sense. I agree.

From the About page of the site:
”This website is dedicated to the defense of the orthodox Catholic faith as well as a promotion of serious academic thought in the areas of Catholic theology and philosophy. One of the tragedies of modern Catholic thought is that it lacks the depth given by previous generations of the same issues. It is for this reason that this website was started, i.e. to aid the Church in recapturing the intellectual rigor it once had. The heresy of modernism has begun affecting the members of the Church by making them content with a superficial approach to and an explanation of their religion. One of the ways to combat this problem in the Church is to promote studies that draw the students into the depth and richness which Catholic thought can provide. However, none of that is possible without a deep sense of our indebtedness to tradition as well as a strong developed sense of the value of those traditions.” 


  1. I found this blog as recent Catholic convert, actually still undergoing RCIA. I have started to pray the Rosary in Latin. Now I credit all success I've had so far to the Rosary which been a powerful prayer form the start, but seems even more so when prayed in Latin-- even my very poor and butchered Latin. I was dubious of the thought that this is because it is sacred language because it was the language of Pagan Empire after all. Even your explanation isn't totally edifying. However the thought has occurred to me that based on the authority Christ gave to St.Peter that the language had at some point been consecrated by some Pope or another through the ages, and that this is where it gets it power from.

  2. Well congrats on going through RCIA, I hope you enjoy the process, learn a lot, and follow it through to becoming Catholic - and confirmed into the Church. Good job on praying your rosary prayers in Latin - bravo. My explanation of Latin as a sacred language is only an introduction to the topic (this is only a BLOG - not a treatise or scholarly treatment on the subject!). You should follow through with your own research if you are interested in the topic further than just a mention - which is the purpose of this blog. A sacred language is not made so because it is brought into existence that way from its beginning. All languages now considered sacred were made so - once merely common and "profane" languages but then sanctified for use (meaning "set apart") by the Church. Having said that, I do believe these languages were meant (destined) to be sanctified at some point, because of what they bring to the table in certain unique ways.

    Koine Greek (koine means "common") was the street language of its day - nothing special - until the New Testament writers used it for very practical reasons (but also realize that it was in place for "such a time as this" for God to use it - as it was explained to me in my first lesson in Koine Greek in Seminary). You can begin your exploration into the three sacred languages of the Catholic Church (Ecclesiastical Latin, Ancient Hebrew and Koine Greek), by going to this link:
    Blessings to you,