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Introduction

The Thesaurus Precum Latinarum is a collection of Latin prayers and Latin hymns with English translations and brief commentaries. The commentaries outline the origins, history and use of many of the items with the prayers themselves being drawn from the entire 2,000 year history of the Church. The collection contains a wide range of items, such as basic prayers (Gloria Patri, Pater noster, Ave Maria), creeds, prayers before and after Mass, Eucharistic Adoration, Litanies, Hymns, Little Offices, Marian devotions, the Rosary, the Angelus, prayers to the Angels and Saints, and prayers for various occasions.

The goal of the Thesaurus Precum Latinarum is to provide a resource to help people develop an appreciation for Latin prayers and liturgy and an appreciation of the 2,000 years of their use in the Church.

Why Latin?

As Cicero once said, "it is not so much excellent to know Latin, as it is a shame not to know it." Latin is the language of western civilization. For nearly two millennia, Latin was the tongue in which the educated communicated. It was the language of the western Church, governments, scientists, nobles, musicians, and even poets.

To be ignorant of Latin is to be cut off from a great deal of history and civilization. Latin was the language of such ancient authors as Vergil and Caesar. It was the language of the great lights of the Church such as Ambrose and Augustine. It was the language of Medieval Europe and greats such as Fortunatus and Aquinas. It is the language of the tender Stabat Mater Dolorosa and the stern Dies Irae that have moved Christians for nearly a millennium. It was not only used by the Church, but it was also the language of science. Sir Isaac Newton's Principia, the foundation of classical Physics and Mathematics is in Latin, not English, his native language. As to recent times, we see the recent encyclical of Pope John Paul II, Fides et Ratio , not to mention the official version of the Catechism are all in Latin.

Indeed, to know Latin is to have access to some 2,500 years of literature. There are few languages that can make a similar claim. One major reason is that Latin literature had over a 1,000 year head start on any of today's vernaculars. A second major reason is that Latin, unlike the vernaculars, has been a very stable language over the millennia. While new words and expressions have been added to Latin over the course of time in order to express new ideas and inventions, the language itself has not greatly altered. A good example of the evolution of the vernacular versus the stability of Latin is the Lord's Prayer (Pater Noster). The Latin words to the Pater Noster has not changed in nearly two millennia, but the English words to the prayer from even as little as several centuries ago is nearly unintelligible to the average English speaker. Here are some samples from the last 800 years:

From a 13th century MS in the library of Caius college, Cambridge:

Fader oure that art in heve, i-halgeed be thi nome, i-cume thi kinereiche, y-worthe thi wylle also is in hevene so be an erthe, oure iche-dayes-bred 3if us today, and for3if us our gultes, also we for3ifet oure gultare, and ne led ows nowth into fondingge, auth ales ows of harme. So be it.

From a 14th century MS, No. 142 in St. John's college library, Cambridge:

Fader oure that art in heuene, halewed be thi name: come thi kyngdom: fulfild be thi wil in heuene as in erthe: oure ech day bred 3ef vs to day, and for3eue vs oure dettes as we for3eueth to oure detoures: and ne led vs nou3 in temptacion, bote deliuere vs of euel. So be it.

From a 15th century MS, Douce 246, Bodleian library:

Fader oure that art in heuene, halewed be thy name: thy kyngedom come to thee: thy wille be do in erthe as in heuen: oure eche dayes brede 3eue us to daye: and for3eue us oure dettes as we for3eue to oure dettoures: and lede us no3te into temptacion: bot delyver us from yvel. Amen.

From an English and Latin prymer, Paris 1538:

Our father whiche art in heuen, halowed be thy name Let thy kingdome cum unto us. Thy wyll be fulfylled as well in erthe, as it is in heuen. Gyue vs this daye our daylye breade. And forgyue us our trespasses, as we forgyue them that trespas agaynst vs. And lede vs nat in to temtacyon. But delyuer vs from euyll. So be it.

The above are from Monumenta Ritualia Ecclesiae Anglicanae, William Maskell, M. A., Clarendon Press, Oxford, 1882.

Lastly, while it is true there are vernacular translations of many Latin works, it is equally true that an even greater number of Latin works have no translation available. Moreover, and more importantly, reading a translation means that one is at the mercy and whim of the translator and not free to read the document as it was written.

Here is what some recent popes, Vatican II, and Canon Law says about Latin.

Translations

Translation is more of an art than a science in many cases. The problem of rendering one language into another is always fraught with choices. In my case, unless there was some overriding factor, I have tried to choose as literal translations as possible. My motivation for literalness was that this seemed to be the best way to show off the prayers. At one time Latin was the language that all learned. This is not the case today and it seemed that a literal translation would be more useful to those whose Latin was not perfect. They would have a means to match those parts with which they were uncertain or unfamiliar with the translation directly and thereby have a better appreciation for the texts.

A second choice I made was the use of what might be called Elizabethan English. I chose Elizabethan English for two reasons. First, it can render the Latin a little more closely than modern English usually can. Secondly, an informal survey I conducted indicated that most people prefer the thee/thou to you/yours in prayers.

Indulgences

Indulgences are regulated by Canon Law (see CIC #992- 997) and only approved texts are indulgenced, be they in Latin or the vernacular. Moreover, prayer books for public or private use that list indulgenced prayers require an imprimatur by the local Ordinary (#822 - 832). Since this site does not have such an imprimatur (at least not yet anyway), the listing of indulgences here must be viewed as being for informational purposes only.

Having said the above, I have always striven to use the canonical Latin as best as I can determine it. However, the Enchiridion of Indulgences (Handbook of Indulgences ) is the final authority in such matters and should always be consulted. As to the translations, I have generally stuck with the old, approved translations for the more popular items and this includes indulgenced items as well. However, in as much as the list of approved translations evolves as do my translations, it is best to check with official documentation as to what is or is not an officially approved translation.

Caveat lector!

A.M.D.G. et Ecclesiam sanctam eius



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