Even in this age of smartphones and tablets, I still carry a little old-school notebook with me. In it are the most random of all notes: scribbles from meetings with formation, spiritual, and academic directors, rhetorical notes-to-self, directions to places, digests of bus schedules particular to the certain times of day when I would habitually need them. One of the best recent additions I have made is the absolution formula in Italian.
I don't know why, but it's happened several times that someone here has just come up to me and asked to confess. Maybe it's what they do in Italy. Maybe it's because they can see that I'm a foreigner, probably don't speak the language very well, and will therefore have to be quick about it. Maybe it's what the Holy Spirit arranges for my encouragement and for whatever graces he wills for these seemingly random penitents.
As this happens, it forces a duty on me. I myself have to start going to confession in Italian. It's not because I have to; here in Rome as it was in Assisi it's easy enough to find an English-confessing priest at one of the basilicas. But I realize that if I'm going to hear confessions in Italian I have to go to confession in Italian. I need to know the critical vocabulary of the encounter; the way the words work and flow according to the customs and scripts of that very particular moment, the terms and syntax that are recognized in the naming of grace.
It's like when we were in the novitiate in Honduras and were challenged to share vocation stories with the novices; the most critical term was inquietud; it was a way of talking about a motivating restlessness in the heart. I never would have happened on the word myself, but in that setting it was an indispensable term for speaking of an experience of God.
So, one of the current projects is to prepare for my first confession in Italian.