Saturday, April 16, 2016

Handle with Care

The Italians have a saying "traduttore, traditore" (translator, traitor). It's not that translators don't try to get it right. Two things make the task more art than science. Firtly, every language is inextricably bound to a culture. There are few words that have an exact match in the other language. Even something as simple a a shirt may have a variety of words depending on the exact kind of shirt you mean. 

Secondly while the translator tries to be objective and  translate the ideas of the author, some of the translator always shows through. Choices of words have to be made and those choices change the shade of meaning. 

I say this because there still exists the mythology that people in the Vatican work in Latin. In fact most including the Pope work in their native language or Italian. St. John Paul II thought in Polish, Pope Benedict XVI in German and Pope Francis in Spanish. Final drafts are then sent to those who are the few true Latinists to be translated, and the act of translating always alters meaning in some way. 

In the current document there are some striking choices. One is the title of Chapter 8 in Spanish "acompaƱar, discernir e integrar  la fragilidad", in English "Accompanying, Discerning and Integrating Weakness". 

Fragility and Weakness  for me are very different words. 

Spanish has weakness (debilidad) and the Pope uses it. But he seems to focus more on fragility, a word that speaks not just about the object but how we handle it. And he is not saying that some human beings are fragile. We are all fragile and should all be handled with care. In the document he speaks of imperfection and fragility. With God's grace we strive to heal the imperfections. The fragility we integrate. It is not something to be overcome. 

Sadly we must admit that at times we treat objects with more care than people. This Pope never says that we are to avoid hard truth. Sometimes the most loving word we can say is "No." But how do we say it? In what spirit do we say it, in condemnation or in love? Do we call to people from a distance or do we go to them accompany them, help them discern, and integrate the gospel into their conscience, and them into our community. This kind of individual care is difficult and cannot be solely the work of clergy. Every single member of the Church, every family must join n the effort if we are to be truly the Church founded by Jesus Christ.