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Polis Greek and Latin at Ave Maria University

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Salve! χαῖρε! The faculty members of the Department of Classics & Early Christian Literature at Ave Maria University use this space to share about the life of the department. We also enjoy passing along links and quotations of general Classical interest.

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  • July 24, 2014 9:50 pm

    I was delighted to see the other day in a blog post that Mr. Charles Atkinson had so far taken our ten days together in Rome last summer to heart that he was exploring Rome’s churches this summer in precisely the way that we had then: with eyes and ears open to the Latin all over the City. He writes:

    Yes, Rome can seem a mute pile of incomprehensible ruins, maybe softened by nostalgia’s rose colored glasses (and at the end of the day are we really content with this view?). But if you look and listen closer (and perhaps borrow a Latin dictionary) Rome begins speaking with you: caesars, saints, polemics, popes, even the obelisks themselves. And what she says often runs deeper than just another species of historical artifact. What these Rovere brothers, buried here in the same tomb, want to tell us is an excellent example: the tenderness and concord that unites them cannot be communicated through a historical point on a timeline, but only through the form of this poem and its timeless beauty.
    Do visit his post for the poem and a brief video that he made of his visit.

  • June 18, 2014 11:18 pm

    Day 10: Thursday, June 18, 2014

    St. Thomas Aquinas’ texts for the Feast of Corpus Christi were our focus on this our final day in Rome. While planning for the trip, I had overlooked the fact that our stay in Rome would coincide with the Feast of Corpus Christi. Once I realized what we had in store for this Thursday, I added the rest of Thomas’ Eucharistic poetry (I had already included the Lauda, Sion, Salvatorem for our trip to Fossanova) to the Course Reader. Mass in the evening at Santissima Trinità dei Pellegrini was beautiful, as expected, and the students were also able to see something that they had not witnessed before: a proper Eucharistic procession with canopy, incense, and bells. At Mass, I bumped into an old acquaintance, Jonathan Arrington, who teaches Latin and Greek at the Angelicum. This was a happy meeting indeed, for it was a pleasure to catch up with him, and he steered us to just the right place for dinner. Then, after some gelatto near the Campo de’ Fiori, we walked up the Gianicolo to enjoy a last view of the city by night. As you can see from the photograph above, whether by day or night, the view is impressive!

    Looking back on our trip to Rome, I very much appreciate what one of the students said to me towards the end. She remarked on how helpful ten days of more or less continuous Latin reading had been for growing in her facility with Latin. She also indicated her renewed interest in learning to speak Latin; our conversations with Msgr. Gallagher, Eric Hewett, Cardinal Burke, Jonathan Arrington, and Fr. Giertych had all brought home the value of an active command of the language. To study in Rome, where Latin is ubiquitous and even Latin speakers are not hard to find, gives one a great deal of encouragement. I am delighted that our students were able to experience this and to return home with a renewed zeal for the language at the heart of our civilization and Catholic faith.

  • June 17, 2014 11:25 pm

    Day 9: Wednesday, June 17, 2014

    The priest with whom we are standing in the photograph at top is Fr. Wojciech Giertych, O.P., who is the theologian of the papal household (appointed under the Benedict XVI). He is all sparkling personality and mirth, the kind (as it seems to me) that can only come from great intelligence and confidence. Since we were complete strangers to him, he was the more generous in receiving us into the Apostolic Palace. At first, I did not understand what he was saying when he brought us to his very large apartment with private chapel, for he kept describing himself as a prisoner in the Palace. When we left, I finally caught on: the luminous hall in which we stood in this photograph is locked on the far end (where it joins the public section of the Vatican Museums) and at the near end, where the photographer is standing, is a door, in size proportionate to the hall, that can only be opened by a Swiss Guard with an ancient-looking key. So Fr. Giertych cannot go in or out of this hall without buzzing for a guard to unlock the door for him. But if you must be a “prisoner”, this is quite the hall to have outside your “cell”! The light is incredible, even on a somewhat rainy day as this was. Latin funerary inscriptions—they so gleam that it is hard to credit their original purpose—line the hall from one end to the other. If you saw nothing but this hall in Rome, you would be impressed with how many physical artifacts had survived from the ancient world. I took away two thoughts in particular from our conversation with Fr. Giertych. The first was that he encouraged our students to choose a “master”—his own had been St. Therese of Lisieux—with whom, as it were, they could study intensively, reviewing everything that the master had written or said. And then, it may chance, that after ten years or so, it will be time to move on to another great light, but the period with the first master will not have been superficial and so the insights gained will be the more lasting and profound. The second thought was about Fr. Giertych’s manner of reading the Summa Theologica: he makes his marginal notes in Latin as he reads in the Latin text, desiring to hew as closely as he can to the thought of Thomas himself. Our many thanks to Fr. Giertych for an afternoon of pleasant conversation in the Apostolic Palace! Our thanks on this day also go to Fr. Eric Scanlan, who, after saying Mass for us in St. Peter’s Basilica, gave us a tour of the North American College. The panoramic view from the top of the main building is not to be missed!

  • June 16, 2014 11:35 pm

    Day 8: Tuesday, June 16, 2014

    Today we visited Ostia, which has been described as a better preserved version of Pompeii. This was my second visit to Ostia, but I had forgotten how endless the ruins can seem once one begins to walk through them. The possibility of getting lost is not so very remote! Our particular aim in coming to Ostia was to read from Book IX of St. Augustine’s Confessions about the death of his mother, St. Monnica, at Ostia. A special detail in St. Augustine’s account is that he seeks relief for his grief in a trip to the baths, of which one set, the Baths of Neptune, are easily reached upon entering the archeological park. So we found a sheltered spot in the baths to read and then we listened to the hymn by St. Ambrose, “Deus Creator Omnium”, that reminds St. Augustine of the gift that God has given us in sleep that luctus solvat anxios. Upon returning to Rome at the Porta San Paolo, we ascended the Aventine Hill and spent some time taking in the views of the city from the Giardino degli Aranci next to Santa Sabina as night fell. Strolling down the Aventine to the Tiber, we made our way to Ai Marmi, a bustling pizzeria in Trastevere where the outdoor seating and excellent food always make for a special night.

  • June 15, 2014 11:49 pm

    Day 7: Monday, June 15, 2014

    Monday was off to a momentous start after our audience with His Eminence, Raymond Leo Cardinal Burke, the Prefect of the Supreme Tribunal of the Apostolic Signatura. We are very grateful to Cardinal Burke for the time that he spent with us. He explained to us the rôle of his position within the larger judicial structure of the Church; he talked about the upcoming synod on the family; and he greatly encouraged our students in the study of Latin. Leaving the Palazzo della Cancelleria, we visited Sant’Andrea della Valle before making our way to Santa Maria sopra Minerva. Here we prayed before the tomb of St. Catherine of Siena and, after rain had pinned us within the building, we gathered in a quiet corner to read the saint’s biography from the 1910 Roman Breviary. Having provided ourselves with some umbrellas, we made our way around the corner to the Pantheon. After lunch, we visited San Luigi dei Francesi, reading from St. Thomas Aquinas on prayer for monarchs and indulgences for temporal benefits. The final church of the day was Sant’Agostino, where St. Monica’s remains now rest, and where we read from St. Augustine’s Confessions about his mother. On the way back in the direction of St. Peter’s and our lodging, though I had not planned to do so, I couldn’t let the students pass by Castel Sant’Angelo without an explanation of the angel sheathing its sword that crowns its top. So we paused under its walls to read from the Golden Legend about Pope St. Gregory the Great and a procession that ended a plague and gave the world the hymn, “Regina caeli, laetare”. Our singing of the same was not, perhaps, the greatest of performances, but we could not have asked for a better stage!

  • June 14, 2014 11:46 pm

    Day 6: Sunday, June 14, 2014

    To my mind, this Sunday morning was among the most special moments of the trip. We attended the solemn high Mass at Santissima Trinità dei Pellegrini, consecrated in 1616, where we beheld the glories of the ancient Roman rite of the Mass in their full splendor: Latin was the liturgical language; priest, deacon, and sub-deacon were ranged about the altar; other clergy were in choir in the sanctuary; the whole was beautifully sung by professional musicians; and all this took place in a building finished a mere forty years after the promulgation of the Roman missal after the Council of Trent by Pope St. Pius V with the bull Quo primum tempore. Once Mass was over and we had lunched with Eric Hewett, cofounder of the Paideia Institute, the rain coming down in buckets forced us to abandon our planned walk out the Via Appia to the catacombs. Instead, we resorted to the modern expedient of taxis (which the Vatican’s lexicon of recent Latin tells us should be autocineta meritoria), which took us to the Catacombs of Domitilla. Here we read an inscription by Pope Damasus about the martyrs, Nereus and Achilleus, before winding our way deep underground among the empty tombs of the early Christians at Rome. There in the dim light we better understood why St. Jerome quoted these words from Vergil in explaining the darkness of the catacombs: Horror ubique animo est, simul ipsa silentia terrent. From the catacombs, we set out, braving the rain, for the Ristorante Cecilia Metella. Well filled with its hearty fare, we felt the need of a walk and so decided to hike all the way back to the lodging. This was lovely at night, especially along the stretch of the Via Appia Antica that is completely free of auto traffic. The walk also amply illustrated how accessible the city is to exploration by foot: we covered more than the whole of its breadth in a couple delightful hours after dinner. On our way, we stopped briefly at the church of the Quo Vadis to read Pseudo-Linus on the story behind its name and at the Circus Maximus to appreciate Juvenal’s words panem et circenses in their original context.

  • June 13, 2014 11:59 pm

    Day 4: Friday, June 13, 2014

    We all remarked when this day had come to a close that it would have been impossible to have packed more into it. We saw the Vatican from the very top to the very bottom, beginning with Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica at 7AM with Msgr. Daniel Gallagher of the Secretariat of State’s Office of Latin Letters. Msgr. Gallagher met us outside the sacristy and then offered Mass in Latin (for the Memorial of St. Anthony of Padua) at an altar very close to the mortal remains of Pope St. Leo the Great, who is, perhaps, the greatest Latin stylist of those who have worn the Fisherman’s ring. The students were delighted that Msgr. Gallagher gave his homily in Latin. Later in the morning, we met Msgr. Gallagher at the Gate of St. Anne and entered the Apostolic Palace after a few stops along the way to consider Latin inscriptions written by Antonio Cardinal Bacci. In a small chamber high up within the Apostolic Palace, Msgr. Gallagher explained to our students the nature of his work in the Office of Latin Letters and he gave the students a chance to look over the signed parchment of a recent papal bull for the appointment of a bishop. In the afternoon, we met an Ave Maria University alumnus, David Martinez, who took us on a tour of the excavations beneath the southern side of St. Peter’s Basilica. Here we descended to the first century street level and saw the vibrant colors that once decorated mausolea in the vicinity of St. Peter’s tomb. At the end of the tour, we were able to pray within sight of St. Peter’s relics. Having been on the tour before, I can say that Mr. Martinez did an excellent job; it was a privilege to be there with him and to learn from him. Dinner was a short distance away at Joseph Ratzinger’s favorite restaurant in Rome, the Cantina Tirolese, and we sat at the booth that is supposed to have been his particular spot. After dinner, we made our way to the Vatican Museums where David Martinez again guided our students our élan. Finally, after the Museums closed around 11PM, he lead us to his favorite gelatto place where we seemed to be the only ones who were not Italian. It made for a sweet finish to a long day!

  • June 12, 2014 9:59 pm

    Day 3: Thursday, June 12, 2014

    It is difficult not to notice the obelisks that tower over certain piazzas in Rome; for instance, the obelisk at the center of St. Peter’s Square is impossible to miss with its striking motto: CHRISTUS VINCIT / CHRISTUS REGNAT / CHRISTUS IMPERAT. One this trip, however, I made a point of stopping at these obelisks, not only to read their Latin inscriptions, but also to appreciate the incredible age—at least one we saw would have been contemporary with the prophet Isaiah! The photos above show our first stop of the day at St. Mary Major, one of the four patriarchal basilicas in Rome. Just across the street and around the corner, we visited Santa Prassede, a hidden gem, unimpressive on the exterior, but large and ancient on the interior. The afternoon brought a picturesque walk down the Clivus Scaurus to the Church of Ss. John and Paul, martyrs killed under Julian the Apostate. We could not enter the church itself because of a wedding, but we had the Case Romane, believed to have been John and Paul’s residences, almost entirely to ourselves. For me, the Case Romane were the happiest discovery of the trip: ancient in parts, with a number of interesting commemorative inscriptions to guide the way, they have something of the feel of the catacombs without the crowds or any need for a guide. The photo at the very top of this post shows Lauren Cronin standing in front of three hexameters by Pope Damasus in commemoration of Ss. John and Paul. Leaving the Case Romane, we walked back down the Caelian Hill in the direction of the church San Clemente, the excavations under which allowed the students a glimpse of the first century street level. After Mass, we ate dinner right across the street at I Clementini where the students had ready a bib for me decorated with two of my favorite books: Lewis & Short and Gildersleeve & Lodge!

  • June 11, 2014 9:37 pm

    Day 2: Wednesday, June 11, 2014

    This day was dedicated to St. Paul and two sites in commemoration of him at Rome. When we think of Rome, we may think first of St. Peter, but Rome has the special distinction of claiming a Christian foundation upon the two most important apostles, St. Peter the Rock and the head of the Church and St. Paul the Apostle of the Gentiles. In the morning, at Tre Fontane (“Three Fountains”), which tradition holds to be the site of St. Paul’s death, we read from the canonical record in the Epistle to the Romans and the Acts of the Apostles of St. Paul’s activities in Rome. Tre Fontane is a lovely place to visit because it is free of crowds and the noise of the city. We sat at leisure in the portico of an abbey church given by Pope Innocent II to St. Bernard of Clairvaux in 1140 AD (the original construction dates to Honorius I in 626 AD). In the afternoon, at the patriarchal basilica of St. Paul’s Outside the Walls, we read an account in Pseudo-Abdias about the matron, Lucina, who saw to it that St. Paul was buried on her estate, the site of the present basilica. Here, too, we read an apocryphal account (Pseudo-Marcellus, perhaps fifth century AD) of the encounter between Nero and St. Peter and St. Paul. It was great to see the students readily understanding the Latin text and taking delight in the rather fanciful narrative. The day ended with a stroll past the Colosseum on the way to dinner at La Taverna dei Quaranta.

  • June 10, 2014 11:59 pm

    Day 1: Tuesday, June 10, 2014

    Ave Maria University returned to Rome this June for ten days of intensive Latin language study amidst the glories, pagan and Christian, of the Eternal City. With ancient, medieval, and more contemporary Latin authors as their guides, students encountered the monuments of the past that continue to inspire us today. It was a pleasure to work with these students, both Classics majors and non-majors, all of whom had more than three semesters of Latin study, who were eager to understand every Latin word that we read and who were constantly drawing connections between the sites, the texts, and the ideas previously encountered in other courses at Ave Maria. On the first day, atop the Ianiculum hill overlooking the city from the west, we read Martial’s (d. 104 AD) words: “Roma / cui par est nihil et nihil secundum”, Rome, to whom none is equal and to whom none is second, a truth that we experienced immediately in the church of Santa Maria in Trastevere, lovingly cared for by popes through the centuries, which, among its other splendors, incorporates in its nave Roman columns once used in a temple of Isis on the nearby Ianiculum hill. In no other city of the world can one encounter—and touch, not just in imagination, but with one’s own hands—such a rich variety of cultural artifacts that are not only illuminated by authors of incomparable stature, but remain alive, well used and well loved to this day. Here we heard Mass and then read from St. Jerome (d. 420 AD) about the miraculous flow of oil, on the spot where the church now stands, which signified that the grace of Christ was offered to both Jews and Gentiles. On this day, students also visited the churches of San Benedetto in Piscinula and Santa Cecilia in Trastevere (see the images above). The evening concluded at the excellent Dar Poeta pizzeria in the heart of Rome’s Trastevere neighborhood.

  • October 20, 2013 11:00 am

    Roma 2014: Study Latin in Rome with Ave Maria

    Once again Dr. Andrew Dinan and Dr. Joseph Yarbrough will lead a group of students from Ave Maria University to study Latin in Rome during the summer term in June 2014. This unique summer program has two tracks: students who have passed LATN 102 will begin the summer with LATN 203 online, completing the elements of the language; students who have already passed LATN 203 or a higher course will begin the summer with LATN 304 online, studying texts from those Fathers of the Church who are so intimately linked to Rome. Once in Rome, both groups will explore monuments of classical and Christian antiquity with the help of carefully chosen texts pertinent to each site. Following the trip, students will sit for an oral exam online and complete a term paper based upon a text encountered during their time in Rome.

    See the button in the sidebar or click on the link here for further details and an application.

    Dr. Dinan and Dr. Yarbrough will host an informational night about the courses and the trip to Rome on Wednesday, October 30 at 7PM in Henkels 1012.

  • July 12, 2013 4:04 pm
    "Vehementius igitur admirandam censeo totius urbis inspectionem, ubi tanta seges turrium, tot aedificia palatiorum, quot nulli hominum contigit enumerare." – Master Gregory of Oxford, Narracio de mirabilibus urbis Romae
Photo credit goes to our own Ben Houde. View high resolution

    "Vehementius igitur admirandam censeo totius urbis inspectionem, ubi tanta seges turrium, tot aedificia palatiorum, quot nulli hominum contigit enumerare." – Master Gregory of Oxford, Narracio de mirabilibus urbis Romae

    Photo credit goes to our own Ben Houde.

  • June 14, 2013 6:56 pm

    Rome Summer 2013 Photo Slideshow

    (Flash is required to view this slideshow embedded from Flickr. If you despise Flash as much as we do, you can view the original here. Enjoy!)

  • June 14, 2013 6:42 pm
  • June 11, 2013 7:37 pm

    Day 9 in Rome

    We left Santa Maria alle Fornaci by train for Ostiense where we took the metro for the Colosseum. This is the fastest way to reach San Clemente, a church of unbelievable historical richness that is located only a couple blocks from the Flavian Amphitheater. Here Fr. Matthew Grady was so good as to celebrate Mass yet again for our group – our alumni have been so very good to us on this trip! – and then to take us on a tour of the various strata that make up San Clemente.

    Perhaps “time machine” would be a more apt description for the church of San Clemente! After Mass, once we had descended the stairs into the archeological site, we were transported within a matter of minutes to the street level of the first century anno Domini. We sat in the antechamber of a Mithraeic temple; later we dipped our hands into a spring of water flowing past an early first century house.

    After the visit to San Clemente, we passed through the Roman Forum on the way to Santa Croce, where we met members of the faculty, ate lunch, toured their facility, received a roof-top tour of the city, and visited the church adjoining their university.

    In the afternoon we visited the Basilica of St. Augustine, where his mother, St. Monica, is buried. The evening found us at the residence of the those students that were sent from North America, before the building of the NAC, to complete their graduate studies in various disciplines. Fr. Matthew Grady was, once again, our very generous host, cooking us several courses in the grand Italian style.

    Everyone was delighted with the view from the roof-top, the conversation, and the delicious food. Another amazing day filled with the amazing generosity of our friends and the sights of Rome!

    (For the collection of photos from Day 9 and from all previous days, please go here.)