Achievement Course: Latin
Recommended Ages: 10-18 years of age
Approximate Completion Time Frame: 6-9 months

St. Jerome was born around the year 342 in Dalmatia and was brought up in the Christian Faith. St. Jerome was sent to Rome at an early age and quickly became a scholar. He learned to speak both Latin and Greek languages. While in Rome and surrounded by pagans he struggled to hold close to the Christian Faith. Although, in 360 he was baptized by Pope Liberius. After his baptism his faith continued to deepen with studies and over the time spent with the monks in Antioch. Pope Damasus turned to him for counsel and dealings concerning the Antioch schism. While in Bethlehem, he undertook the difficult and laborious task of translating most of the Old Testament from Hebrew into Latin. This translation set into motion the pathway for the Vulgate, which is the Catholic Church’s Latin version of the Old Testament. He is one of the Catholic Doctors of the Church for defending the Divine Word and is the patron saint of librarians and translators.

“The use of the Latin language prevailing in a great part of the Church affords at once an imposing sign of unity and an effective safeguard against the corruptions of true doctrine.” Venerable Pope Pius XII, Mediator Dei, 1947, Sec. 60

“The day the Church abandons her universal tongue [Latin] is the day before she returns to the catacombs.” Pope Pius XII

Objective: To learn the basic level of spoken and sung Latin with proficiency.

Latin is the official language of the Catholic Church, and the sacred language of the Western Catholic Churches and Rites (Roman, Ambrosian, Dominican, etc.). It is the language of the official Bible of the Church, the Latin Vulgate. Many Popes and Saints have urged Catholics to learn, use, and love the Latin language. It is truly a Catholic (universal) language, spanning the entire Church around the globe.

As the Troops of Saint George are both an international and a Catholic movement, we wish to respond to the calls of the Popes and inculcate a love of the Latin language into our Cadets and Tribunes. This Achievement Course is designed to introduce a basic level of spoken and sung Latin proficiency. Because of this focus, you won’t find any requirements here dealing with grammatical concepts like declensions and conjugations. By introducing Latin in a less formal and academic way, we are aiming to instill a love of the Church’s language, with the hope that many of our Cadets and Tribunes will go on to pursue a deeper study of Latin.

Prayer to Venerable Pope Pius XII
O Venerable Pope Pius XII, who had on earth great courage to preach the word of God, vigor to repel the enemies of the Church, and zeal for the Holy Name, pray for us poor sinners. May we, O Pius, have a double portion of thy righteous qualities in defense of our holy Church. May we never abandon our duty to defend the faith, with fortitude, wherever we are and in whatever state God hath put us. Venerable Pius, may we, like thee, show the radiant glory of our Holy Lord in everything we do and say. And this, through the graciousness of the Divine Majesty, to Whom we humbly ask thee to pray for our benefit and protection. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.

“Latin is the immutable language of the Western Church.” Pope Saint John XXIII

“For the Church, precisely because it embraces all nations and is destined to endure until the end of time … of its very nature requires a language that is universal, immutable, and non-vernacular.” Pope Pius XI, Officiorum Omnium, 1922

Note that there is a lot of memorization required for this Proficiency Course. We recommend that Cadets not attempt to memorize everything at once, and that they incorporate some of the prayers and songs into their personal and Troop prayer traditions to help retain what they have learned.

A full course with video lessons is forthcoming, but in the meantime a pronunciation guide and many of the prayers and songs listed here can be found on the Thesaurus Precum Latinarum (


  1. Read Pope Saint John XXIII’s Encyclical Veterum Sapientia (in English translation), and write a 2-page or longer essay (in English) on it, addressing the following points:
    • Why do you think Pope St. John XXIII wrote this Encyclical?
    • What are three reasons St. John XXIII gives for the importance of Latin to the Church?
    • What are three actions commanded by St. John XXIII to preserve and promote Latin in the Church?
    • What does St. John XXIII say the relationship between Latin and Greek is? What part of the Roman Rite is in Greek (hint: it’s one of the 4 below in requirement II.)?
    • What can you do to help promote the use and study of Latin:
      • In your home
      • In your Troop
      • In your Parish
  2. Recite from memory these parts of the Roman Mass:
    • Confiteor
    • Kyrie
    • Sanctus
    • Agnus Dei
  3. Recite, without stumbling and with the text in front of you, the following:
    • Gloria in excelsis (from Mass)
    • Symbolum Nicaenum (Nicene Creed)
    • Symbolum Apostulorum (Apostles’ Creed)
  4. Recite from memory all the prayers of the Rosary, namely:
    • Signum Crucis
    • Pater Noster
    • Ave Maria
    • Gloria Patri
    • O Mi Jesu (Fatima Prayer)
  5. Sing (yes, sing) the following traditional Latin songs in their traditional plainchant:
    • Salve Regina (from memory)
    • Regina Caeli (from text)
    • O Salutaris Hostia (from text)
    • Tantum Ergo (from text)
  6. Perform a short dialogue in elementary Latin, either alone or with another, and answer simple extemporaneous questions (“what is that?”, “Do you have it?”). An actual dialogue that can be memorized is forthcoming, but you can use:
    • Common nouns like baculum (stick), rosa (rose), and calamus (marker)
    • Simple adjectives like meus (mine), tuus (yours), magnus( big), albus (white)
    • Use the simple verbs sum (I am), volo (I want), habeo (I have), do (I give), carpo (I take) in the present tense.
  7. Know and define the following Latin phrases by defining each of the following in the presence of your parent or TSG officer. Have your parent or officer read the Latin phrase and respond by translating and/or explaining what it means:

Latin Phrases

a posteriori from the latter  – knowledge or justification is dependent on experience or empirical evidence

a priori from what comes before – knowledge or justification is independent of experience

acta non verba – deeds, not words

ad hoc – to this; improvised or made up

ad hominem – to the man; below-the-belt personal attack rather than a reasoned argument

ad honorem – for honor

ad infinitum – to infinity

ad nauseam – used to describe an argument that has been taking place to the point of nausea

ad victoriam – to victory; more commonly translated into “for victory,” this was a battle cry of the Romans

alea iacta est – the die has been cast

Alias – at another time; an assumed name or pseudonym

Alibi – elsewhere

alma mater – nourishing mother; used to denote one’s college/university

amor patriae – love of one’s country

amor vincit omnia – love conquers all

annuit coeptis – He (God) nods at things being begun; or “he approves our undertakings,” motto on the reverse of the Great Seal of the United States and on the back of the United States one-dollar bill

ante bellum – before the war; commonly used in the Southern United States as antebellum to refer to the period preceding the American Civil War

ante meridiem – before noon; A.M., used in timekeeping

aqua vitae – water of life; used to refer to various native distilled beverages, such as whisky (uisge beatha) in Scotland and Ireland, gin in Holland, and brandy (eau de vie) in France

arte et marte – by skill and valour

astra inclinant, sed non obligant – the stars incline us, they do not bind us; refers to the strength of free will over astrological determinism

audemus jura nostra defendere – we dare to defend our rights; state motto of Alabama

audere est facere – to dare is to do

Audio – I hear

aurea mediocritas – golden mean; refers to the ethical goal of reaching a virtuous middle ground between two sinful extremes

auribus teneo lupum – I hold a wolf by the ears; a common ancient proverb; indicates that one is in a dangerous situation where both holding on and letting go could be deadly; a modern version is, “to have a tiger by the tail”

aut cum scuto aut in scuto – either with shield or on shield – do or die, “no retreat”; said by Spartan mothers to their sons as they departed for battle

aut neca aut necare – either kill or be killed

aut viam inveniam aut faciam – I will either find a way or make one; said by Hannibal, the great ancient military commander

barba non facit philosophum – a beard doesn’t make one a philosopher

bellum omnium contra omnes – war of all against all

bis dat qui cito dat – he gives twice, who gives promptly; a gift given without hesitation is as good as two gifts

bona fide – good faith

bono malum superate – overcome evil with good

carpe diem – seize the day

caveat emptor – let the buyer beware; the purchaser is responsible for checking whether the goods suit his need

Circa – around, or approximately

citius altius fortius – faster, higher, stronger; modern Olympics motto

cogito ergo sum – “I think therefore I am”; famous quote by Rene Descartes

contemptus mundi/saeculi – scorn for the world/times; despising the secular world, the monk or philosopher’s rejection of a mundane life and worldly values

corpus christi – body of Christ

corruptissima re publica plurimae leges – when the republic is at its most corrupt the laws are most numerous; said by Tacitus

creatio ex nihilo – creation out of nothing; a concept about creation, often used in a theological or philosophical context

cura te ipsum – take care of your own self; an exhortation to physicians, or experts in general, to deal with their own problems before addressing those of others

curriculum vitae – the course of one’s life; in business, a lengthened resume

de facto – from the fact; distinguishing what’s supposed to be from what is reality

deo volente – God willing

deus ex machina – God out of a machine; a term meaning a conflict is resolved in improbable or implausible ways

dictum factum – what is said is done

disce quasi semper victurus vive quasi cras moriturus – learn as if you’re always going to live; live as if tomorrow you’re going to die

discendo discimus – while teaching we learn

docendo disco, scribendo cogito – I learn by teaching, think by writing

ductus exemplo – leadership by example

ducunt volentem fata, nolentem trahunt – the fates lead the willing and drag the unwilling; attributed to Lucius Annaeus Seneca

dulce bellum inexpertis – war is sweet to the inexperienced

dulce et decorum est pro patria mori – it is sweet and fitting to die for your country

dulcius ex asperis – sweeter after difficulties

e pluribus unum – out of many, one; on the U.S. seal, and was once the country’s de facto motto

Emeritus – veteran; retired from office

Ergo – therefore

et alii – and others; abbreviated et al.

et cetera – and the others

et tu, Brute? – last words of Caesar after being murdered by friend Brutus in Shakespeare’s “Julius Caesar,” used today to convey utter betrayal

ex animo – from the heart; thus, “sincerely”

ex libris – from the library of; to mark books from a library

ex nihilo – out of nothing

ex post facto – from a thing done afterward; said of a law with retroactive effect

fac fortia et patere – do brave deeds and endure

fac simile – make alike; origin of the word “fax”

flectere si nequeo superos, acheronta movebo – if I cannot move heaven I will raise hell; Virgil’s Aeneid

fortes fortuna adiuvat – fortune favors the bold

fortis in arduis – strong in difficulties

gloria in excelsis Deo – glory to God in the highest

habeas corpus – you should have the body; a legal term from the 14th century or earlier; commonly used as the general term for a prisoner’s legal right to challenge the legality of their detention

habemus papam – we have a pope; used after a Catholic Church papal election to announce publicly a successful ballot to elect a new pope

historia vitae magistra – history, the teacher of life; from Cicero; also “history is the mistress of life”

hoc est bellum – this is war

homo unius libri (timeo) – (I fear) a man of one book; attributed to Thomas Aquinas

honor virtutis praemium – esteem is the reward of virtue

hostis humani generis – enemy of the human race; Cicero defined pirates in Roman law as being enemies of humanity in general

humilitas occidit superbiam – humility conquers pride

igne natura renovatur integra – through fire, nature is reborn whole

ignis aurum probat – fire tests gold; a phrase referring to the refining of character through difficult circumstances

in absentia – in the absence

in aqua sanitas – in water there is health

in flagrante delicto – in flaming crime; caught red-handed, or in the act

in memoriam – into the memory; more commonly “in memory of”

in omnia paratus – ready for anything

in situ – in position; something that exists in an original or natural state

in toto – in all or entirely

in umbra, igitur, pugnabimus – then we will fight in the shade; made famous by Spartans in the battle of Thermopylae and by the movie 300

in utero – in the womb

in vitro – in glass; biological process that occurs in the lab

incepto ne desistam – may I not shrink from my purpose

intelligenti pauca – few words suffice for he who understands

Invicta – unconquered

invictus maneo – I remain unvanquished

ipso facto – by the fact itself; something is true by its very nature

labor omnia vincit – hard work conquers all

laborare pugnare parati sumus – to work, (or) to fight; we are ready

labore et honore – by labor and honor

leges sine moribus vanae – laws without morals [are] vain

lex parsimoniae – law of succinctness; also known as Occam’s Razor, the simplest explanation is usually the correct one

lex talionis – the law of retaliation

magna cum laude – with great praise

magna est vis consuetudinis – great is the power of habit

magnum opus – great work; said of someone’s masterpiece

mala fide – in bad faith; said of an act done with knowledge of its illegality, or with intention to defraud or mislead someone; opposite of bona fide

malum in se – wrong in itself; a legal term meaning that something is inherently wrong

malum prohibitum – wrong due to being prohibited; a legal term meaning that something is only wrong because it is against the law

mea culpa – my fault

Meliora – better things; carrying the connotation of “always better”

memento mori – remember that [you will] die — was whispered by a servant into the ear of a victorious Roman general to check his pride as he paraded through cheering crowds after a victory; a genre of art meant to remind the viewer of the reality of his death

memento vivere – remember to live

memores acti prudentes future – mindful of what has been done, aware of what will be

modus operandi – method of operating; abbreviated M.O.

montani semper liberi – mountaineers [are] always free; state motto of West Virginia

morior invictus – death before defeat

morituri te salutant – those who are about to die salute you; popularized as a standard salute from gladiators to the emperor, but only recorded once in Roman history

morte magis metuenda senectus – old age should rather be feared than death

mulgere hircum – to milk a male goat; to attempt the impossible

multa paucis – say much in few words

nanos gigantum humeris insidentes – dwarfs standing on the shoulders of giants; commonly known by the letters of Isaac Newton: “If I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of giants”

nec aspera terrent – they don’t terrify the rough ones — frightened by no difficulties, less literally “difficulties be damned”

nec temere nec timide – neither reckless nor timid

nil volentibus arduum – nothing [is] arduous for the willing

nolo contendere – I do not wish to contend — that is, “no contest”; a plea that can be entered on behalf of a defendant in a court that states that the accused doesn’t admit guilt, but will accept punishment for a crime

non ducor, duco – I am not led; I lead

non loqui sed facere – not talk but action

non progredi est regredi – to not go forward is to go backward

non scholae, sed vitae discimus – we learn not for school, but for life; from Seneca

non sequitur – it does not follow; in general, a comment which is absurd due to not making sense in its context (rather than due to being inherently nonsensical or internally inconsistent), often used in humor

non sum qualis eram – I am not such as I was; or “I am not the kind of person I once was”

nosce te ipsum – know thyself; from Cicero

novus ordo seclorum – new order of the ages; from Virgil; motto on the Great Seal of the United States

nulla tenaci invia est via – for the tenacious, no road is impassable

obliti privatorum, publica curate – forget private affairs, take care of public ones; Roman political saying which reminds that common good should be given priority over private matters for any person having a responsibility in the State

panem et circenses – bread and circuses; originally described all that was needed for emperors to placate the Roman mob; today used to describe any entertainment used to distract public attention from more important matters

para bellum – prepare for war; if you want peace, prepare for war—if a country is ready for war, its enemies are less likely to attack

parvis imbutus tentabis grandia tutus – when you are steeped in little things, you shall safely attempt great things; sometimes translated as, “once you have accomplished small things, you may attempt great ones safely”

pater familias – father of the family; the eldest male in a family

pecunia, si uti scis, ancilla est; si nescis, domina – if you know how to use money, money is your slave; if you don’t, money is your master

per angusta ad augusta – through difficulties to greatness

per annum – by the year

per capita – by the person

per diem – by the day

per se – through itself

persona non grata – person not pleasing; an unwelcome, unwanted or undesirable person

pollice verso – with a turned thumb; used by Roman crowds to pass judgment on a defeated gladiator

post meridiem – after noon; P.M., used in timekeeping

post mortem – after death

Postscriptum – thing having been written afterward; in writing, abbreviated P.S.

praemonitus praemunitus – forewarned is forearmed

praesis ut prosis ne ut imperes – lead in order to serve, not in order to rule

primus inter pares – first among equals; a title of the Roman Emperors

pro bono – for the good; in business, refers to services rendered at no charge

pro rata – for the rate

quam bene vivas referre (or refert), non quam diu – it is how well you live that matters, not how long — from Seneca

Quasi – as if or as though

qui totum vult totum perdit – he who wants everything loses everything; attributed to Seneca

quid agis – what’s going on? what’s up, what’s happening, etc.

quid pro quo – this for that; an exchange of value

quidquid Latine dictum sit altum videtur – whatever has been said in Latin seems deep; or “anything said in Latin sounds profound”; a recent ironic Latin phrase to poke fun at people who seem to use Latin phrases and quotations only to make themselves sound more important or “educated”

quis custodiet ipsos custodes? – who will guard the guards themselves? commonly associated with Plato

Quorum – of whom; the number of members whose presence is required under the rules to make any given meeting constitutional

requiescat in pace – let him rest in peace; abbreviated R.I.P.

rigor mortis – stiffness of death

scientia ac labore – knowledge through hard work

scientia ipsa potentia est – knowledge itself is power

semper anticus – always forward

semper fidelis – always faithful; U.S. Marines motto

semper fortis – always brave

semper paratus – always prepared

semper virilis – always virile

si vales, valeo – when you are strong, I am strong

si vis pacem, para bellum – if you want peace, prepare for war

sic parvis magna – greatness from small beginnings; motto of Sir Frances Drake

sic semper tyrannis – thus always to tyrants; attributed to Brutus at the time of Julius Caesar’s assassination, and to John Wilkes Booth at the time of Abraham Lincoln’s assassination; whether it was actually said at either of these events is disputed

sic vita est – thus is life; the ancient version of “it is what it is”

sola fide – by faith alone

sola nobilitat virtus – virtue alone ennobles

solvitur ambulando – it is solved by walking

spes bona – good hope

statim (stat) – immediately; medical shorthand

status quo – the situation in which or current condition

Subpoena – under penalty

sum quod eris – I am what you will be; a gravestone inscription to remind the reader of the inevitability of death

summa cum laude – with highest praise

summum bonum – the supreme good

suum cuique – to each his own

tabula rasa – scraped tablet – “blank slate”; John Locke used the term to describe the human mind at birth, before it had acquired any knowledge

tempora heroica – Heroic Age

tempus edax rerum – time, devourer of all things

tempus fugit – time flees; commonly mistranslated “time flies”

terra firma – firm ground

terra incognita – unknown land; used on old maps to show unexplored areas

vae victis – woe to the conquered

vanitas vanitatum omnia vanitas – vanity of vanities; everything [is] vanity — from the Bible (Ecclesiastes 1)

veni vidi vici – I came, I saw, I conquered; famously said by Julius Caesar

Verbatim – repeat exactly

veritas et aequitas – truth and equity

Versus – against

Veto – I forbid

vice versa – to change or turn around

vincit qui patitur – he conquers who endures

vincit qui se vincit – he conquers who conquers himself

vir prudens non contra ventum mingit – [a] wise man does not urinate [up] against the wind

virile agitur – the manly thing is being done

viriliter agite – act in a manly way

viriliter agite estote fortes – quit ye like men, be strong

virtus tentamine gaudet – strength rejoices in the challenge

virtute et armis – by virtue and arms; or “by manhood and weapons”; state motto of Mississippi

vive memor leti – live remembering death

vivere est vincere – to live is to conquer; Captain John Smith’s personal motto

vivere militare est – to live is to fight

vox populi – voice of the people