Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Teachable moments

A cheerful woman came in our book center the other day, looking for the Spanish-language hymnal, "Flor y Canto." She didn't want the complete version (with the musical notation): "For a second language person like me, it's very hard to follow the lyrics that way." Although we couldn't provide her with a fresh copy of the hymnal (all we had was the singer's edition, with those confounding notes!), I gave her some hints on reattaching the hard cover to the now-paperback book.
Turns out that this woman, whose background is a typical Chicago Czech and Polish, saw the new, Spanish speaking arrivals in her neighborhood as bringing her an opportunity for enrichment. When the local grocery store put up bi-lingual shelf signs, she set herself to learn a new language. Milk: leche; oranges: naranjas; bread: pan.
Then she took it another step. "I figured that when my parents' and grandparents' generation came to Chicago from Poland and Bohemia, they learned English through the Church. So when my parish started having Mass in Spanish, I figured I could learn Spanish through the Church." She's been going to the Spanish Mass for so long, her hymnal fell out of its binding from overuse!
Blessed Alberione used to talk a lot about a virtue he called "studiosita." The Dominicans call it by its Latin name, "studiositas." Even if he took the name from the Order of Preachers, Alberione didn't really follow the Dominican definition to the letter. For him "studiosita" was the commitment to "learn from everything." That's what impressed me about our visitor this week. She could have taken any number of attitudes about the changes in her neighborhood. She chose the approach of "studiosita": as she said when she turned toward the door, "You never stop learning. You can always learn something new."

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