Saint Ignatius College Geelong

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    Faith Matters - Multi-lingual

    Article by Mr Brendan Nicholls

    Faith Matters – Multi-lingual

    At the end of the week a large number of our staff and students will leave our shores for immersion experiences to Kokoda, Timor Leste and a World Challenge expedition to Northern India. For our students in particular these experiences are extraordinary and for many life changing. When we go beyond the ordinary and experience new things we grow and our perception shifts. In a similar way the Apostles experienced this profoundly at Pentecost and through the Spirit were able to do impossible things.

    As our students enter into their adventures they will have a sense of awe and wonder. The world is so diverse and beautiful that initially many will feel overwhelmed. Observing a new place is a revelation, often seeming brighter and more spectacular than it is as our senses struggle to take it all in. These moments are truly special. When we see something new or see something in a new way we are changed and become more whole.

    As our students travel to these places they will also encounter many challenges. The most difficult being a variety of different languages and their inability to communicate effectively with others. From experience I can say that this is the single most frustrating situation you can be in! Speaking loudly, slowly or with an accent suited to the other does not help. Inevitably we fall into a form of pigeon English and a primitive version of sign language, or charades, to bridge the gap.

    If we are persistent and engage in the process with good humour we are able to communicate with those who we do not share verbal language with and in fact find that a stronger bond of friendship is developed.

    When we engage with others what we say and do matters equally. However, when we cannot speak with the other person due to differing languages what is most important is what we do because this is the only form of communication we have. As people made in the image and likeness of God we are called to serve others and love. So in situations where communication is difficult the first thing we do is to show love and friendship through the act of smiling. A smile lights up our face and welcomes the other. Our desire to offer friendship is expressed best in our face and then I affirmed by our actions.

    At Pentecost the Apostles were given the gift of speaking in other languages. Because of this they were able to communicate with others and evangelise. As our students travel to new places and meet new people they may not be able to speak the same verbal language but they are well equipped to speak the universal language of friendship and in turn offer the love of God to strangers. This is a form of evangelisation and an expression of our faith.

    Interestingly when we consider communication we should note that each person has an accent. This accent may be literal or metaphorical in the way in which we form and maintain friendships. As our students travel they will overcome the challenge of verbal language but they will also grow as they form new friendships with the people they travel with. On this level they will encounter challenges as their ‘accent’ and the ‘accent’ of others may hinder the formation of these relationships. What they will learn through this process is that through patience they will in particular become more comfortable with the non-verbal ‘accents’ of others and more clearly understand and value them.

    Verbal and non-verbal languages can cause many problems in our lives. In being patient and maintaining a desire to communicate there is however no limit to what we can achieve in life. To grow and become multi-lingual we need to understand the purpose of communication. The only purpose of language is express ourselves in love and service. This is the Gospel and we all are well equipped to live it and spread it each day.

    We pray for our staff and students as they head off. We ask God to open their eyes so that they may see new things with a sense of awe and wonder. We call upon the Spirit to provide all that they need so that they can communicate with others and build new friendships as happened at Pentecost. And we ask God to bless them and keep them safe, in the palm of his hand, until the return safely to our community and their families. 

    I hope you also enter the world with these thoughts in mind keen to develop new friendships, serve others and work through the ‘language barriers’, and accents that might otherwise limit your opportunities. May you become a polyglot when it comes to ‘speaking’ with others as you journey forward. 

    Yours in Christ,

    Brendan Nicholls  Liturgy Coordinator


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