July 24, 2012

io ti assolvo

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.


fr. Matt, OFM Conv. said...

One of our friars who lived for years in Rome told me that Italian confessions mostly consisted of women who tell the priest "Look at me, I do nothing, now my husband..."

Cloister said...

Praying, dreaming and confessing in another language changed the way I thought about my relationship with God. Forgive a little story:

I remember on the Camino de Santiago there was an elderly priest who stood outside his church on a hill and waited for the pilgrims of the day to arrive. Once he had gathered them all in he announced that he would hear their confessions, it was a slow process, with many penitents, including myself, fumbling through the spanish language, but he was not in rush. He waited every day the same, always for the very last pilgrim to arrive and be confessed. Afterwards he celebrated mass, and then told everyone to come into the parish centre where his sister, also in her 80's had prepared garlic soup and bread. We sat on long tables and ate our meal together. Afterwards, he announced there would be night prayer and bed. It was the earliest night I had on pilgrimage, but no one was complaining. I guess we were trying to understand the grace of the God who put such a priest in such a place to listen to people make their confessions. I am sure the same thing applies to you in Rome when you get caught unawares by penitents on your journey.

pennyante said...

Sixty years ago, I was a teenage girl travelling with my parents to visit relatives in Germany for the summer (their first visit since before WWII). One of the places we visited was Altoeting, a pilgrimage place in Bavaria.

Naturally, we wanted to go to Mass and Communion and that meant I had to confess in German. I was petrified! My German speech was rudimentary though I could understand the language quite well. Somehow, I struggled through it. Afterwards, the priest told my mother that she had a good daughter! (Methinks he did not understand my German Confession!!!) (chuckle)

Brother Charles said...

Br. Tom: drop another comment with your email; I won't publish it.