Latin Finally Gets A Taste of Latin With Father Reggie Visit

Eleanor Pontikes In this day and age, where words like “YOLO” and “Cliffnotes” get added to the Oxford English Dictionary, it may come as no surprise that the Vatican needs a little help adding new words and ideas to their Latin vocabulary to stay up-to-date. This was Father Reginald “Reggie” Foster’s job during his time working in the Vatican. As a Latinist since 1960, Foster translated documents into Latin in the Latin Letters division of the Roman Curia. On November 31st, the Latin School had the honor of hosting a release party for Foster’s new book OSSA and the opportunity to chat with him during the day’s lunch blocks. Besides being the Latin School, our school established a connection with Father Reggie during our Latin in Rome trips every other summer. Up until a few years ago, Father Reggie was one of the coordinators for the trip, where students get to explore Roman art and culture with tour guides Ms. Landis and Ms. Legendre. Father Reggie was also a teacher at the Gregorian University of Rome for over 30 years, teaching the Latin language to mostly clergymen and nuns. Prompted by his own love of the Latin language and his philosophy of teaching, Father Reggie opened the class up to non-paying students as long as they met his classroom requirements: working alone on all assessments, including homework, and sharing his love of the Latin language. This went on until 2004 when the school discovered the lack of paying students in his class (four or five, compared to the amount of non-paying students attending: a number close to a hundred). Some of these students from Father Reggie’s last years of teaching at the Gregorian University attended the lunch at the Latin School and attested to Father Reggie’s love of Latin– and his humor. Father Reggie and his old students had a few conversations entirely in Latin at the lunch. Although I’m in my sixth year of taking Latin, I could barely understand what they were saying; Latin has evolved into a language for translating ancient works, not for conversation– except for the Vatican and classicists, that is. But the men were kind enough to explain what they were saying. One of my favorite moments from the lunch was hearing a description of a man named Frank who wasn’t particularly great at speaking or using Latin, a “modern man,” so to speak. With some help from Ms. Landis, I figured out that Frank was Father Reggie’s nickname for Pope Francis! Father Reggie also acted like his health issues were miniscule, but upon further examination (help from Ms. Landis), I learned that Father Reggie was pronounced as legally dead at least four times, extending his humor to a lightheartedness as well. Although our school holds “Latin” in its name, the language often doesn’t receive much acknowledgement other than the 12 Days of Hercules and events hosted by the Classics Club. But Father Reggie’s visit brought some attention to the seemingly “dead” language and showed me that the Latin language lives on through famous works, conversations, and of course, its students.  ]]>