An Update from Austria

I am now immersed in the first week of a six-week course in intensive German here in Innsbruck, Austria. I've taken courses in reading German but have never tried to speak it. Much of my vocabulary is rusty - which I anticipated - but I will admit that trying to eat dinner with a bunch of German-speaking Jesuits is frustrating. An extrovert, I find myself totally unable to enter into dinner conversation.

I guess learning a language is like weaving an ever-growing web that 'catches' more and more of what is said around you. It's humbling to go from being a native English speaker with a rather wide 'web' to being a student of German where my operative vocabulary is easily less than that held by toddler.

Not being readily able to say anything makes me really self-conscious when people ask me simple questions. Invariably I bungle the words, or don't answer right, and I get angry at myself for not having a command of the language. Mary, the cook at the U of D Jesuit Residence, often says, "It's better to be thought a fool than to open one's mouth and remove all doubt." I'm hewing close to this adage these days, trying my best to listen to those around me, nod when appropriate, and hope that the words are sinking into my head somehow!

On a consoling note, I did get to visit the crypt of my hero Father Karl Rahner, SJ. As I prayed in the chapel after dinner (in English!), I prayed for his intercession. Not, to be sure, that he put German verbs into my head. Instead, I asked him to pray with me for the grace of patience, of knowing the limitations of my vocabulary and allowing the words to come to me as they will, not as I'd have them. So often we force our words about God, trying to make them beautiful, rather than allowing them to well up from our hearts and speak of the God we're coming to know and love. I get this with God...I guess...now I need to get it with German!!


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