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Communication: Words and gestures

Contemplative Corner:

Communication: Words and gestures

 In the book of Genesis, Chapter 11, we read:

“Throughout the earth men spoke the same language, with the same vocabulary.  They said to one another, “Come let us build ourselves a town and a tower with its top reaching heaven. . .  Let us make a name for ourselves.”

   “Then Yahweh came down to see the town that the sons of man had built.  “So they are all a single people with the same language!” said Yahweh.  “This is but the start of their undertakings!  There will be nothing too hard for them to do!  Come let us go down and confuse their language on the spot so that they can no longer understand one another.”

            “Yahweh scattered them thence over the whole face of the earth.

 And that’s where we are today.

I will not make an exegesis of the text (being quite incapable of it) but the fact is that this Biblical passage is trying to tell us something.  Each one has to discover its profound meaning. 

 Rome, the center for our congregational government, is a place where all the world news comes, all the appeals, a place which evokes life, sharing, etc.  And then arises the language barrier.  The understanding of the heart is there but it still needs to pass through words. 

 There is need to reflect on the implications of having different languages through our lived experience. 



            My own experience maybe divided in two modes:


-     communication in general assemblies using translators


-     communicating in ordinary conversation without translators


 Communication with translation

In the first mode, I always ask myself, “Have I understood what I expressed?  And do I understand what has been translated?”  In the beginning such an experience felt a bit abrasive.­­­



A most important thing is one’s confidence in the translator.  There is also the simplicity of relationship which allows us to ask for a repetition of what was said, and to express our response in the form of a question regarding our own comprehension which can then lead to an adequate response. 


I greatly appreciate the work of the translators and give them my full confidence.


 Communication without translation 


 Communicating without translators can be quite limited.  A few words learned, gestures to try to express the words… all this makes the relationship quite superficial.  It is a difficulty and a poverty, because outside the “official” meetings, there are the informal encounters in which I like to express many things and to have a greater knowledge of one another for better service to the congregation. 

 That in general, is what I can say, and I greatly regret not having the gift of languages, for each country has its own culture which expresses itself in all its richness in its own tongue. 


 Sr. Agnes Baron, CGS

(Sr. Agnes of France is a member of the Commission on Contemplative Good Shepherd Life that met in Rome  May 17-26.)