Acting upon my instructor's suggestion, I purchased a copy of J. K. Rowling's Harry Potter und der Stein der Weisen. Yes, that's right, I'm reading it in German. It's proved a helpful, if frustrating, exercise: I must read slowly, looking at each word, trying to sound it out and uncover its meaning. On some pages, it seems as though I need to look up every other word. This makes my progress tremendously slow and can, at times, be extremely annoying.
Three hours and fifteen pages later (of a book I could easily polish off, in English, in a few hours), I rushed down to celebrate the Eucharist with members of the Jesuit community. In the Gospel, Jesus praises God:
"I give praise to you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth,
for although you have hidden these things from the wise and the learned,
you have revealed them to the children."
This summer, I am barely a child in a new language. There's much that I want to say, things I try to understand, but it seems as if the "Big Person" world is out of my reach. I feel inadequate much of the time, because I feel like I should know things already, I feel like I should be better at this or that I should learn faster. It is easy to forget the excitement of childhood, of being open to learning new things, of experiencing the world with an innocence and openness that is easily erased when we grow up.
One great benefit to this experience is that it has forced me to confront a lot of feelings in my own prayer. I can easily be the "wise and learned" in prayer and tell God a great deal of things. These last three weeks, I've become painfully aware of how little my words can presently accomplish so I spend a great deal of time listening. I'm learning how to listen better this summer, externally to foreign voices and internally to the voice of the God I, too easily, block out with my own ramblings.
I'll admit it: I do get excited as I "get" certain words and figure out long sentences, sometimes even finding two or three whole sentences pretty clear. It reminds me of being a kid and reading late into the night, flat on my stomach, trying to get in "one more chapter" before I had to go to bed. I miss being so enthusiastic about reading! I count it, likewise, as a great grace that the excitement I have to read Harry Potter is mirrored by my excitement to pray each day. In listening with childlike wonder, I feel as if I'm on the cusp of great growth, learning anew the vocabulary of prayer, a vocabulary list that begins with one word: Listen.