The unique theological word in one’s own language

Last week I taught classes on “Signs of the Times” and “Communal Apostolic Discernment” to some 40 students of Lumen Vitae (Brussels), a Jesuit run international catechetical and pastoral institute. Together we decided to initiate a challenging exercise to show how intercultural and interreligious conversations constitute an opportunity rather than a threat. I had illustrated some weeks ago how important for liberation theologies is the Spanish made distinction between ser and estar, a distinction that is not to be found in English, or in French, or in German, or in Flemish. Each of our languages has words that have a tremendous theological significance but that are not easily translatable in other languages … Therefore, it is important to do theology in many languages, as we can enrich one another precisely with these unique insights. The class counts many nationalities … so each one of us is going to choose such a “unique” word in his or her language, a word with a deep theological significance, but not easily translatable in other languages. And we are going to present that to the others, as a cherished gift that will enrich each one of us, as a universal gift in one another’s concrete and particular languages. Particular languages and context will then appear as a universal gift of God’s Spirit to each one of us.

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