Word-Play, Word-Pray

Spiritual Reflections by Fr Roderick Salazar Jr SVD (Philippines)

In this our beginning, I have a word in mind.
I wonder if you know it too. Perhaps, you do.

It is a word that makes me smile remembering it.
For though I learned it oh so many years ago,
in the 1960s even, now in 2020 I just googled it
and there it still is in all its length and glory.
And it is associated with a most pleasant experience.

Would you guess what that might be? The word?
With it, in a while, I will tell you my little adventure.

This is a question of general knowledge:
“What is the LONGEST WORD in the English language?”

No it’s not the smartish SMILES (because there is
a MILE between the first and last letters.)

No, it’s not the song from the Mary Poppins film,
“supercalifragilisticexpialidocious” (34 letters)
(it’s nice to know but it is not really considered a word,
or if it is, Oxford English Dictionary defines it as a
NONSENSE word.)

It is not “hippopotomonstrosesquippedaliophobia”
which has 36 letters if your eyes did not pop out or
your tongue did not break trying to read or articulate it.

It is not the long-time holder of the record, with 28 letters,
“antidisestablishmentarianism”.

So, what is it?

Once in the long ago, when a new AM radio station opened
in Legazpi, Albay (DYRC, I think it was), to attract more
listeners, the management cooked up a Quiz show for
the students in the different high schools in the area.

One Saturday afternoon, just for the thrill of it, I thought
I might pit what I learned at Liceo de Albay with what
my friends and contemporaries learned in their schools.
I joined the contest. There were great prizes awaiting.

The quiz show was intense. I answered correctly as often
as my fellow contestants did until the quizmaster had run
out of prepared questions and we were still tied in points.

He then just took the day’s newspaper that was near him
and popped as a question one of the news in the front page.
“What is the longest English word, how many letters in it?”

Aha. I had read the same news that morning and memorized it.

When my rivals could not answer the question, he turned to me,
“Now, Roderick Salazar, if you can answer this, you win!”

With my heart beating doubly fast, and my eyes darting from
the quizmaster to the bag of prizes waiting, I said: “45 letters.”

His eyes widening in amazement, he pursued, “And the word?”

PNEUMONOULTRAMICROSCOPICSILICOVOLCANOCONIOSIS.

“And what does it mean?” “It’s a lung disease affecting miners.”

Ah! Glory Be. Champion! Thanks be to God.
And we had lots of food and other goodies that week at home.

(Now, you have something for your parlor games and quizzes should
you be able to gather at Christmas or on New Year’s eve.)

Long as the word really is, one can dissect it into its different parts which , once you see each one, you know you have seen it somewhere and you know it, after all.

PNEUMONO has to do with the LUNGS.
MICROSCOPIC we already know as tiny.
ULTRA is extreme, so EXTREMELY SMALL.
SILICO is FLINT or SAND or DUST: SILICON Valley?
VOLCANO, we already know, especially with
Mayon Volcano in Albay.
OSIS is the usual ending for a medical disease.
So there. Count the letters. 45.

Our little WORD-PLAY for today.

Knowing the longest word in any language
may indeed win us prizes.

But that, by itself, does not bring us to SALVATION,
which is and should be the greatest gift of all.

We remember Jesus warning His disciples not to think that long words in prayer ensure that God hears them.

Various translations of what Jesus said in Matthew 6:7
emphasize this: “And when you pray,
do not keep on babbling like the pagans;
(do not heap up phrases as the Gentiles do;
do not use meaningless repetition;
don’t talk on and on; don’t ramble; do not be verbose…etc.)
for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking..
DO NOT BE LIKE THEM.
Your Father knows what you need before you ask Him”.

There are times, of course, when we need to SAY our prayers,
or SING them, even SHOUT them out.

But it is not the length or the sound of our prayer
that God our Father wants. It is our heart. Our soul.

So I must really learn to pray. And learning, really pray.
Any time. All the time. Any where. Everywhere.

Not that I pay no attention to people and things before me.
But from the start of the day till end of the night, I live in
the Presence of God. Or try to, at least. Intend to always.
This is the heart of prayer. God in me. I in God.

“In the beginning… ” is the usual way that the Prologue
of the Gospel according to St John opens.

But the version I like the most is by Ronald Knox.
The equality among the Divine Persons he describes
in a phrase so dear to my own family. It goes:

“When time began, the Word was already there,
And the Word was face to face with God
And the Word was God.

This Word, when time began, was face to face with God.
All things came into being through Him
And without Him there came to be not one thing
That has come to be…”

FACE TO FACE.

In our family it meant and continues to mean “frankness”
“no shyness, no fear” — because we are family.
Because we love. Because we care for one another.

Such is prayer. I relate to God in love and trust.
To do this, I must accept that I AM LOVED BY GOD.
Despite my sins and failures. Because I am me.

Only when I live this truth and assurance can I love in return.
I come face to face with God. In Himself. In all of creation.

This WORD who when time began was FACE TO FACE with God
became human so He could come FACE TO FACE with us all.

Only when I come regularly face to face with Him in prayer
and love and serve my neighbor face to face in deed, now
in Time, can I come face to face with Him in Eternity.

Knowing the longest word in the English language
may earn me a medal and prizes galore here in this world.

But it is knowing the Word of God, living, loving, and serving
Him that gives me the Gift of His very self — and eternal life.

MARANATHA. Come, Lord Jesus.

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