June 5, 2012

Beginnings Useful, Pious, and Funny

Living in a foreign-language environment is a good school of humility. You don't know how to say what you might say, ask for what you might need, or tell the joke or story you feel inspired to tell. Certainly one could say that the protection of religious life softens or domesticates these challenges, but on the other hand perhaps the safety of the friary encourages one to bear the challenges fruitfully.

Today I was grateful for a few of my first practical uses of the very simple Italian I've picked up so far. First, at supper tonight a guest appeared at the friary. When the friars discovered that he was an American, he was given to me so we could speak with each other. It fell to me to discover who he was and what he was doing in Assisi, whether or not he was a friar and/or a priest, etc. If you're wondering why such things weren't known about a guest who must have been pre-approved in some way or other, then you have an idea of religious life as a much more organized enterprise than it actually is. I don't think I knew how to explain everything to the friars' satisfaction, but at least I managed the basics, and did enough to make the man feel comfortable and received.

Second, I was approached tonight by one of the authorities in the house and asked for what intention I have been offering the Mass on the two mornings I have been here now. I answered that I had offered those Masses for the intentions of the guardian of the house, proud to seem like a properly trained religious.

Third, as I was working through emails, a couple of the young friars appeared here in the "Sala Computer" and I could see that they were intrigued by my desktop wallpaper. It got to be very funny as I tried to explain Hans Memling's allegory of chastity.

No comments: