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On The Importance Of Knowing Latin

Mexican Comboni Fr. Manuel Casillas, who is now working in Pietermaritzburg, South Africa, served for six years in the General Administration of the Comboni Missionaries in Rome some years ago.

Having to make an official visit to the German-speaking province, he sent a short, simple, fraternal fax to the community of Brixen, the first stop of the visit he would make with Bro. Guillermo, another General Assistant. The fax read: “I am sending you these few lines to inform you that, Deo volente, Bro. Guillermo Casas and I will arrive in Brixen on November 2 at 3:00 PM by train.”

On November at 3.00 PM sharp, the fast train IC Michelangelo from Rome arrives at the station of Brixen (Bressanone), in South Tyrol. The confreres are there on time to pick them up with two cars. They exchange greetings and pleasantries and move towards the cars parked in the car park. 

The visitors cannot help but notice the furtive and inquiring glances of the two drivers. Eventually, one of them asked, “Where’s the third confrere?” Surprised, Fr. Casillas replies, “I said clearly in the fax that we were only two.” “I don’t want to contradict a General Assistant, for heaven’s sake, but the fax we received spoke explicitly of three people.” It was weird! Arriving home, they went to check the fax and clarify the matter. “Here it is! You should have been three. Where is Deo volente?”  The source of confusion: Deo volente is not a person. It is a Latin expression meaning “God willing.” 

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