The quest to speak French is on!
I’m at “level 5” in my Duolingo lessons, translating fascinating sentences like “The boy is rich,” and “He has a small shark.” Benny Lewis, young polyglot extraordinaire I mentioned on Monday’s blog post, recommends daily interaction in the language one is learning. In this regard, my mother is happy to cooperate. Last night, we laughed until we cried as Herman reached over for a third piece of meatloaf. (“Il mange comme un loup.”) Herman doesn’t appreciate being the butt of our French meatloaf jokes and he doesn’t want to speak French. But I love seeing and hearing my mother laugh and I remember the same kind of laughter around my Mémère’s long-ago kitchen table.
(For formal French speakers and scholars, “mémère” is a Quebec thing. Although it may be considered an insulting appellation in other French-speaking places, for New England’s Francos, it is a term of endearment, meaning “grandmother.”)
I’m not sure if I’ll become fluent in three months and that wasn’t really what I wanted to blog about this morning. By way of long introduction, here we are.
Rummaging around in my bookcases the other day, I found my French-English dictionary. I was searching for a word. Stuck between pages 172 and 173 (“planche” to “poirier”) was a yellowed newspaper clipping. A “Thanksgiving Novena to St. Jude.”
A novena is a petitionary prayer, said mainly by Catholics, over a specific period of time. Catholics consider St. Jude as the patron saint of desperate and lost causes, and following a favorable nine-day period of prayer, may publish the novena publicly with the words “I have had my request granted.”
I don’t think I’ve used my French-English dictionary since college; I wonder what desperate cause I could have been praying about in the Eighties? Maybe I was worried about the future, or maybe I was failing a class. I don’t remember.
I still worry about the future a lot. Sometimes, I wake up in the middle of the night and I’m worried. Sometimes I hear a daytime noise in the house, a click or a bang, and I text Monsieur DeeHan and tell him about it. He’ll ask me a few questions about the noise. Then he promises to stop by during the day. He kindly answers my anxious “should I worry about it?” with a firm “Non.”
I know Jesus told his followers not to worry.
Lately, when I’ve woken up at night in a worried state, I’ve folded my hands on my chest and repeated The Lord’s Prayer a few times. It’s not a “Novena’ and I’ve really thought about the words in my mind as I’ve prayed them. No vain repetitions; it’s better than counting sheep. One night, when I fell asleep, I dreamed I was singing the “Gloire a Dieu” from French Mass.
It was beautiful.
This new nocturnal prayer routine comforts me and I worry a little less. Some of my nighttime prayers (“God, take away that little pain in my shoulder-blade because I don’t have time to go to the doctor” or “God, please help Mr. DeeHan fix my refrigerator for under $100”) have been answered.
I’m not outlining a formula or making any promises about prayer. Faith and prayer aren’t part of some cosmic candy machine. In general, I prefer to be private about it, as Jesus also told his followers. But sometimes I forget to be thankful and I forgot how good God has been to me; the cessation of my shoulder-blade pain and Monsieur DeeHan’s frugal refrigerator repair remind me that “sufficient for the day is its own trouble.”