Many people are seeking to serve God in this modern society, but do not know how. The truth is, the world is becoming smaller and smaller every minute. The boundaries that once existed have been shattered by computers, the internet, cell phones, airplanes, and other developments of modern technology. It has become quite easy to make contact with all people living all over the world and from all over the world.
Whether they are poor, middle-class, or rich, the opportunity to make contact with these people is just a click of the mouse or a knock on the door. These people are souls that God may potentially want to help through a “missionary”. Perhaps, there is no one who speaks their language in their area who is a faithful Catholic, which is why God is willing to give them this “missionary”. However, one key element of a missionary is to have good communication skills, and language is the means by which people communicate. In the United States, it is English. In China, it is Chinese. In Honduras, it is Spanish.
The opportunities for coming into contact with people who speak these other languages are everywhere. In a pizzeria, on a website, or in a book are all places where we may meet people speaking other languages. What is the most common action people do when meeting such souls? Nothing. They do nothing because they cannot communicate with them. This unfortunate situation is not considered to be unfortunate by many, because they think the lack of communication capability is unavoidable. The truth is, the possibilities for oral communication are endless if one prepares oneself well.
Preparation is key if one is willing to serve the Lord. Think of a man who does nothing but watch TV out of boredom in his free time. He becomes unhealthily weak in strength from performing his hobby day after day. Now, imagine this person is walking around outside and discovers a person who has fallen into a hole in the ground and needs help getting out. The man tries to pull the helpless person out of the hole but cannot do it. Shall we say the man is not to blame simply because he was not strong enough to do it? No, he is to blame. He wasted his time. He did not prepare himself well for the situations he may have faced in the future. He had plenty of opportunity to become a strong, healthy man but chose to be an unhealthy one. His choice led to him not being able to help someone in need. God does not want this.
While the situation of learning foreign languages is not necessarily exactly the same as this, it is still an important means by which one can help one’s neighbor who is in need of God’s love as much as those who speak one’s own language. One may say, “There are plenty of people already who speak my own language who need help. Why shouldn’t I just focus on helping them?” The truth is, one can do that, but running into other languages in the future is bound to happen in some form. Keep in mind how international the world has become. Even if no one in your neighborhood speaks Arabic, someone on the internet might.
In addition, when one meets someone who speaks one’s own language as a second language, the interior feeling one gets is quite unique. Seeing someone who has worked so hard and successfully accomplished the learning of one’s own language makes one often feel respect and gratitude to that person. Thus, the opportunity for spreading the Gospel in this situation is ripe. If one has made an extra effort to do something, people will listen, and if not, people will not.
One should keep in mind all of the faithful who have learned other languages for the sake of serving God. Look at Saint Paul, for instance. He was a Jew, and so he was undoubtedly fluent in Hebrew and Aramaic (the spoken language for Jews at the time). Paul was also a Roman citizen, and so the possibility of him knowing at least some Latin is not all improbable. Finally, the letters he wrote to the Gentile Christian communities were in Greek. All of the languages with which Paul was familiar were noticeably different, containing far different alphabets, grammar, and vocabulary. If Paul could do this nearly two-thousand years ago with limited resources, then so can people today.
Granted, not everyone is equally gifted when it comes to language learning. However, everyone is capable of learning basic phrases, numbers, animals, and other fun vocabulary that may be used at some point. Often times, one does not realize how capable one is at something until one tries. Do not be afraid to try; God may bring some new waters into the horizon.
Choosing a language may be a point of conflict for those who have never studied one. One may say, “There are so many languages to choose from, many of these languages seem so hard, even impossible, and many of them are probably totally useless to learn.” One should not let these issues bring about discouragement. Choosing a language, first of all, requires prayer and discernment. The reason for learning the language is to serve God, and so one must ask Him. If a language does not quite seem to fulfill a yearning in the heart, it is probably not the right language. Nevertheless, lack of motivation and laziness are no excuses for quitting. Experimentation, therefore, may also play an important role in the discernment process.
The resources available are endless, and so: the wasting of time must stop; the wise use of time must begin. Popes Saint John Paul II and Benedict XVI each spoke around ten languages. This did not happen by accident. They understood the importance of communication. Saint Jerome translated the Bible from Hebrew and Greek into Latin more than fifteen-hundred years ago. He understood the importance of language. If God is willing to speak to others in their own native languages, so should we. Be a missionary.