Cardinal Giuseppe Caspar Mezzofanti (1774-1849) of Bologna, Italy, was perhaps the greatest hyperpolyglot (one who has mastered many languages) of all time. He taught himself and was able to speak and understand more than 100 languages. Languages in which he was perfectly fluent included Arabic, Aramaic, Hebrew, Coptic, Armenian, Albanian, Turkish, Maltese, Greek, Latin, Portuguese, French, Spanish, German, Swedish, Danish, Dutch, English, Russian, Polish, Czech, Hungarian, Chinese, Hindustani, Wallachian, Algonquin, Amharic, etc. In fact, Mezzofanti was so fluent in multiple dialects that he even taught the famed English Poet Lord Byron how to speak Cockney English.
Mezzofanti served as both priest and professor of Oriental Languages at the University of Bologna. Later, in 1831, he moved to the Vatican where he first served in its missionary organization, Congregatio de Propaganda Fide, and then later as its chief librarian. With other interests in both ethnology and archeology, Cardinal Mezzofanti certainly ranked as Italy’s most qualified ambassador to the world.
Yet this incredibly gifted linguist never set foot outside of his own country. He had at least one opportunity to do so in 1806 when Napoleon invited him to Paris, but he refused. Mezzofanti never left Italy and may have never left Bologna if he had not been called to the Vatican.
How is it that a man capable of speaking the native tongue in almost every country never once ventured beyond his own borders? Historians seem to be silent on the subject.
And we might also ask ourselves why we, who stand before the great ocean of God’s love and wisdom, never venture beyond simply dipping our toe to test the waters. Before us is the Almighty who stretched out the universe. We show interest in the universe and its mysteries, but ignore the Maker behind it all. We have the capacity to commune with the God of all creation. And we have the capacity to know Him personally and to explore the vast regions of His unfathomable wisdom. Yet we hide within the confining borders of our cherished world view. We’re afraid of the God who knocks at the door of our hearts and waits for us to muster the courage to answer.
Jesus gave this notice,
“Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice opens the door, I will come in to him and commune with him and he with Me” -Revelation 3:14
God is not your enemy. He’s your most faithful friend and greatest fan. Go to the door and open it up to Him. You will find that He speaks your language and you speak His.
Dear Father in heaven, I pursue so many things, but ignore You. I pursue so many things, but You pursue me. Please help me to stop hiding, to open the door of my heart and life to You. Help me to take Your hand and begin to explore and experience the vast sunlit regions of Your eternal love. Amen.