Sunday, March 31, 2013

i hear the sound of wrap your arms around me

John chewed on his McDonalds sedar meal and wished to God that Judas would just dip his bread in the dish already, excuse himself politely, and then make like a banana and split.
He met Simeon's eyes, just as annoyed as his.
Simeon, a stickler for etiquette, deplored uninvited guests who outstayed their welcome.
"I am in no humor at present to give consequence to the histrionics of children," said Jude, just loud enough for half the table to understand; and for the other half to half-hear and wonder what was said.

Peter was oblivious ("typical," thought James the Lesser) to the melodramatic interpersonal squabbling occurring among his dinner companions. 
His brow furrowed, scarfing down french fries, he hung onto every word of his master.
"Where you go, Lord, I will go too," he insisted.
"Can you drink the cup I am going to drink, Peter?" Christ gently challenged.
Peter looked down at the waxed paper cup of diet Coca-Cola, and thought it didn't look all that bad.

Study abroad is the art of fully living out the Chesterton quote, of which I will now quote half, because I'm too lazy to quote all of it: (oops.) an adventure is only an inconvenience rightly considered. (Bolded it, 'cause it's important.)
Sometimes, things happen like, oh, I don't know, hypothetically like maybe getting just a teeny bit lost in Central London at 2am by yourself (this one's between you and me, y'all. Don't tell my mom).
Or, for instance, overnight stays in Rome, Milan, or Zurich airports.
Or my friends' classic story of being stranded in a Pisa café overnight.
As one of my flatmates is fond of saying: "everything's always a disaster; but it all works out in the end."
She is so spot on. 
Although we've been taking trains, planes, and automobiles all over Europe this semester, our numero uno mode of transportation is always the struggle bus.
"This is one to tell the grandkids," I always say after a particularly amusing/hazardous misadventure.

One looks at the cross and wants to cry out: NO. Find a different way, one where you get hurt much less, you idiot. 
For I am pigeon-livered, and cannot bear to see the pain in which I am complicit; his punishment which brings us peace.  
But Mary's response was, from the first moment, always a YES.
I wonder if that Yes came back as a sword to pierce her heart.

As I walked into St. Peter's Basilica, for the celebration of the Lord's Passion on Good Friday, a lump developed in my throat.
This is definitely one to tell the grandkids, I thought.
I wondered if I would ever tell the grandkids this particular story of this particular Good Friday.
I thought of all the stories of Via Dolorosas and Golgathas that are never told.
For all the painful, tearful confessions that reach our ears, for every tale of tragedy and heartbreak, there are five million more that are lost in silence--stories that their owners never get to share.

There is something deeper here than flashbulbs and incense. Something that ipads and flipcams somehow cannot grasp.
The smell that instantly conjures up images of the Easter Vigil is always the smell of candle wax burning.
"pour into me his light unshadowed, that I may sing this candle's perfect praises."
This is the feast for all those lightbearers.

But, maybe, that's why each year, we tell this story.
Because, inside that story are all our stories; clinging to that cross are all our miniature crosses.
Maybe the grandkids will never hear about the sunny Good Friday in Rome, or about the anxious, hopeful, excited waiting in the rain for the Easter Vigil, or for the celebratory Easter morning, sloppy in the sheer amount of joy.
Maybe they'll never hear those stories.
But I hope that each time the paschal mystery rolls around, here in the heart of the year, they learn what it means to die and rise again.
I hope they learn the surprising truth that the Resurrection is the most shocking thing to have happened in the history of the world.
And it's also the most perfectly expected.
Because our own stories play in the same key of that two thousand year old tune of death and resurrection. 

We dived through a cloud, the sunset at our heels, lighting up the cottony gossamer field with sparks of gold; strands and shards of soft snowy cloud-fabric streaming past us; a Via Dolorosa brilliantly baptized in fire.
There are some moments that take your breath away with their sheer magic.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

journey for absolution

Today's Guest Post by My Sister

Often I catch myself thinking or acting like my life is a story about me. I discover I have fallen into assuming that I am the protagonist in my own saga, and my family and friends are the supporting cast. This story has a plot, a climax, and a (currently unknown) resolution, all comfortingly focused on me. Not that I don’t think God is the author, but still, I find myself believing I am playing the lead.

Christianity, however, tells a different story—one in which this life is only half the tale, in which God is the main character. The main action of the story involves His saving work, His trials and His joys. It concerns His ideals and His people. It is human nature that we constantly forget that we are not at the center of things, for it is too humbling for us to entertain the fact that we are not the protagonist of a motion picture but rather one “extra” barely glimpsed in a crowd scene.

In the Gospel today, Christ instructs the Pharisee to do what might make us a little uncomfortable. He seems to be telling us to invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, and the blind into the closest circle of our lives, and to spend our time with them rather than the ones we love. I believe the fact that we tend to think of our lives as our own story contributes to our unease at Christ’s instructions. Naturally, if we are the main character, we will want to be surrounded by our own particular supporting cast. But if we see ourselves as being supporting characters of the Lord, there is nothing odd about spending our time, our money, and our food with those who we are not “invested” in, so to speak. If we are a true supporting character, then everyone, being loved by the Lord, also becomes one of our loves. His concerns become ours; our time becomes His.

In the passage following today’s Gospel, Christ tells His listeners: “If any one comes to me without hating his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple” (Lk. 14:26). This is the message at the heart of Christ’s words in today’s Gospel, and it is a message we can hear again and again without taking it to heart.

It is effortless to say that we should stop considering ourselves to be the focus of our lives and become disciples of the Lord, but it is a monumental task actually to do so. Without the grace of God, we will inevitably remain immersed in our own lives, surrounding ourselves with the comfort of our friends, brothers, sisters, or relatives, and neglecting the work of God. Yet Christ calls us to participate in God’s story, so let us pray to Him for the grace to follow.

Rebecca Roden, ND ‘12

Monday, March 25, 2013

i found my via dolorosa in your love

Pity the gods, 
no longer divine. 
Pity the night 
the stars lose their shine.
-Dana Gioia

A city can harden your heart as quickly as cement on a July afternoon.
You learn to develop a bubble of indifference, to cope with the harshness of the world around you.
There are eight million people here. 
That's enough heartbreak and sorrow to leave your spirit maimed and crippled for good.
You have to keep walking to keep your heart intact.
You don't have time to pay attention to each miniature tragedy, or else you'll never be able to breathe each day.
You screw your callousness to the sticking point, and move on with your life.

Sometimes, you turn your heart to stone and go for a run down the embankment, and run right by the man, cold, and probably very hungry on the side of the road offering nothing but a smile, a wave, and a prayer.

"I have a daughter who's twenty-two," says the man with the miniature bottle of Jack Daniels. But his words smells like alcohol, and you're all alone on a cold street, so you ignore him while you keep writing, whispering pietas under your breath.
You can feel your stony heart weigh heavily in your chest. 

There's a strange aftertaste in your tea. It may be the acidic bite of the Earl Grey, but it may be the traces of your own bitterness.
In my fiery little brain, I heard the words of the priest shatter through the little shell of bitterness: Anger and jealousy are corrosive emotions.
Like acid, they erode your tender heart until all that remains is a rocky little pit.

I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.

One of my favorite chores when I was younger, one that I always loved but always dreaded was weeding.
It's the most difficult chore to do well, because you can easily do it poorly.
You can just pull out the tops of the weeds, clearly the yard of any above-ground traces of dandelions and Creeping Charlies.
But if you don't give the task your full effort, your verdant plot of grass will have the roots of weeds still growing underneath the soil.
You have to dig a bit sometimes to find the very tip of the root.

A little time, and a little tears, and eventually the splinter makes its way to the surface.
You can never remove a splinter from the finger of a crying child if you are not gentle.
Firm, assured, and confident as stone; but as gentle and as soft as Cinderella with a trapped mouse.


If you sit at the large front window of the bus, the entire city is yours. 
You can't see where you've been, but only where you're going. 
But the vista is large enough to enchant and disarm you. 
You are at the mercy of the city's spell.


I watched a mother and her small daughter wait in line for the toilet.
The mother sang a nonsense nursery song with her daughter.
I always sang that one with my mother.
After Daisy, Daisy, the mother and daughter sang a magical little rendition of The Wheels on the Bus; and even "the sexist line" wove a little spell.
The magic of art is that it brings you to a specific moment.
It brings you back to a moment you were crying in the shower, or a moment you were snuggled in your Beatrix Potter sheets giggling with your mother, or the moment that Christ told his Mother goodbye, as he left to die in Jerusalem.
And the wonder of art is that we expect it to miraculous.
We walk up to it, expecting a miracle; we approach art expecting to be transported, expecting have our stony hearts transformed.
And the miracle of art is that it tells us how to approach the rest of our lives.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Loveable Bears at The George

"All supermarket beer should be astronomically overpriced.
That'll force people to drink beer at pubs as they ought, instead of at home in front of the telly.
That's my alcohol platform. 
I could win an election on that."
--Professor Keith

The thermometer is currently dancing around -5000 degrees below zero with a windchill of Absolute Zero.
There are three positives, in this field of negatives (literally negative temperatures)

1) It's Palm Sunday, yo.
One great thing about Palm Sunday/Holy Week thus far: I realized far too late what my Lenten resolution should have been, and am accordingly making it my Holy Week resolution, and it is (naturally): sleeping in my bed.
Anyone who has ever shared a room/house with me is painfully aware of the fact that 95% of the time, I opt to sleep on a couch or the floor instead of my perfectly comfortable, clean, cozy bed.
While this strange idiosyncratic habit is a fun little demonstration of my ability to adapt to any environment, it's also kind of annoying/of dubious courtesy.
I have made my bed, now I will lie in it.

Other great things about Palm Sunday include: heart-wrenchingly, shivers-up-the-spine-inducing beautiful music at Brompton Oratory, which made me miss Lit Choir Easter at school in the best way possible; and, for a split second, made me remember why I wanted to study abroad in the fall so long ago.

Each time the thurifur passed by, it was like a little breeze from heaven.
The incense not only smelled beautiful, it was a warm draft of air in the arctic Oratory.

2) There is a chocolate festival occurring literally (LITERALLY) a fifth of a mile from my doorstep.
I'm one hundred percent okay with this. I am so okay with this, it's not even funny.
Frozen and shivering, we ran across Hungerford bridge to find ourselves in the warm embrace of free samples of chocolate.
There were picture-perfect, colossal, gooey brownies, thick, clean-cut slabs of fudge, and delicate, perfectly-spherical truffles.

3) Despite the cold, the English Pub Culture is alive and well.
There are few things more endearing than a sweet little English pub.
Yesterday, as it the wintery clouds covered the Strand with snow, we were tucked into a snug little tavern by Waterloo Bridge. With plenty of greasy, salty chips sprinkled with malt vinegar, and large pints of creamy, caramel-colored beer, we gathered around a table, laughing our little hearts out.
A pub is one of the most coziest places in the world.
You hop in around four o'clock, and you stand at the bar, chatting, or your find a cozy little nook, and share secrets over a pint, or you stand at one of the tables, and talk about literature.
Pub culture is endearing and marvelous and full of warm smells, and simple music, and happy faces.
It's full of the smell of beer and hot cider, and steak and ale pies.
It's hearty, robust, and the absolute last word in comfortable.
And it is also utterly, positively charming.
(Almost as charming as a gchat convo with my mother, like I am currently having. Almost)

Friday, March 22, 2013

you're a gentle one, said she


My mother is a much greater woman than I.

From the very moment I was born, she supplied me with friends. My first friend was my older sister, first in line to welcome me into the world. From that moment, my mother prepared me to realize that the world was full of many people to love. 
None of them are you, and all of them are worth loving. 
Because they are not you, they will be difficult to understand, which means you have to learn patience. Because they are not you, they often will not understand you, which means you have to learn to speak clearly, think quickly, and stand your ground firmly.
Because they are not you, many of them may hurt your heart, but you love them anyway. 
My mother taught me what it means to be a friend.

My mother brought me into a world full of mirrors and magazines that can warp and twist the way I saw my body. Mirrors that can be clouded by my own frustration, anger, or hurt, and hide beauty in the foggy muck.
But when my mother looked into my eyes, she taught me to look past those other mirrors. She taught me that the other mirrors didn’t matter. 
I would learn to dismiss them—to walk by a mirror without a glance, to forget to compare myself to a magazine cover in the bustle of living a life full of joy.
In my mother’s eyes, I saw myself reflected there. And I saw that reflection for what it was: the image of a woman of worth, a beloved child, a someone who had infinite flaws and infinite virtues. 
A someone who had all the mistakes in the world to make; and would probably make them all multiple times, much to her chagrin. 
But if I looked into the mirror of my mother’s eyes, I noticed that, in there, no matter how frustrated or confused or sad or angry or hurt those eyes were, I never became less cherished or less beautiful in there. 
My mother taught me what it means to be beautiful.

My mother watched as I slowly developed my own wings.
First, I learned to go outside on my own.
I would head to the backyard and swing for hours until my mother came looking for me. 
Then, one day, I was walking to the neighborhood Starbucks by myself.
One thing led to another, and before we knew it, I was driving myself to rehearsal at the theatre downtown.
Then one day I flew down to Texas on an airplane by myself for the first time. 
Before you could say: “empty nest” I was studying abroad in London, traveling solo to Rome, and spending nights in hostels in Scotland. 
My mother sent gentle emails full of concern, and worry, yet she let me go anyways, with a sigh and a prayer and a wry smile.
My mother taught me what it means to be independent.

If I am half the mother to my daughter that my mother was and is to me, then my daughter will be a lucky girl indeed.
My mother is a much greater woman than I.

i solemnly tell you


Secondly, she will never look in a mirror. 
Our post-modern world has been described by many wise people as many different things. Depending on whom you ask, we live in the global age, the Internet age, the information age. 
If you asked me, I would say that we are living in the Fun House Mirror Maze age.  
Everywhere you turn, you will find yourself confronted by a mirror. 

Without giving it a second thought, you examine your teeth, embarrassed to see a remnant of lettuce in your gums. Without a thought, you tidy your hair, frustrated with the strand that always falls out of place. Almost as a reflex, you automatically smooth down the front of your shirt, thinking that maybe you really should work out when you get home. 

Mirrors are a constant reminder to us that the rest of the world is watching, and is this really what you want them to see? I thought not. Please pick up a copy of that magazine over there by the checkout desk and compare yourself to the front cover. 
Notice a difference? I thought so. Put down the chocolate chip cookie dough, and nobody gets hurt. We’re aiming for perfection here, and this is what you decided to go with for today?  

My daughter will not be subjected to corrosive daily contact with warped images of herself. 
I will not allow any reflection to besmirch the truth that she is a glorious creature, destined, if she is courageous enough, to live a glorious life.
My daughter will live in a world without mirrors.


And finally, I will never let my daughter travel on her own. 

My daughter will stay at home, under my watchful eyes. I will never allow her to go out into the dangers of the wide, wide world. 

Where men are allowed to stare and her and make her reach nervously for her phone, but where she is afraid to make eye contact with another human being. Where she stifles her radiant smile, replacing it with an icy frown, in an effort to keep herself safe in a world that seems so fraught with danger. Where her little hostel room is her only protection against the rowdy bachelor party members outside her door. Where she walks across Waterloo Bridge alone at night, with just the Themes, the night London fog, and the lights of the city to keep her company. 

I will not subject her to the perils of flying in airplanes or the dangers of riding on trains, or the horrors of traveling down roads with reckless drivers. 
She will stay at home, safe and sound. She will not have to navigate catcalls, or confusing airport maps, or the worry of losing her passport. 
She will not have to learn how to cross traffic without a crosswalk, she will not have to scrimp and save pennies, she will not have to eat rice and vegetables for dinner. 
And she will most definitely not find herself with tears in her eyes, stuck on the London tube at midnight, an hour away from her safe, warm bedroom.
My daughter will not travel alone.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

my only love sprung from my only hate

Part I.

I am currently twenty-one years old—just legal enough to buy a bottle of nice wine for my parents on their birthdays. 

At twenty-one years old, I am just young enough to take immense pride in the solid two decades of living I’ve achieved and just old enough to realize how extremely much I have left to live and learn.

At twenty-one years old, I am just barely beginning to think about marriage and families and raising children. My heart is just beginning to twinge with envy as I watch mothers pushing chubby little cherubic infants around in their baby buggies; my body is gently nudging visions motherhood into my head; my ever-curious mind is beginning to ponder problems that have plagued the human race for ages. Such as: how exactly does one go about stopping a two-year-old’s temper tantrum? 

At twenty-one years old, I have begun to have daydreams of a miniature version of myself. 
I can see myself holding her after her delivery, a precious little bundle of love.  
(The pains of childbirth, in my imagination, are glossed over and brushed aside. But my mother never fails to remind me of my own twelve-hour journey out of her womb. Sorry, Mom. Slow and steady wins the race, right?)

I already know that this future little daughter is the most beautiful baby in the world. I can see her first Christmas; hear her learning her first words; watch her leaving for her first day of school. I haven’t even met this child, and I already know that I want her world to be perfect. 
Pain, sorrow, and suffering have no place in the world that I will give this little girl.

So I decided that there are three things I will never, ever allow my daughter to do.

She will not make friends. 

Human beings are just plain-old-annoying. They complicate everything
Let another human being into your life, and you’ve just let in a whole lot of frustration, hours wasted on miscommunication, tears shed over misunderstandings, and elevated heart rates caused by the stress of trying to comprehend another human being.
Other humans are so mystifying and frustrating, because they’re not me
They don’t talk like I would, act like I would, or do anything exactly the way I would have them do it. It’s difficult to understand other humans, because none of them look at the world exactly the way I do. Other human beings, on the whole, are problematic. 
And they are hurtful. 
My daughter’s precious, fragile young heart will open itself up to a wide variety of people, welcome them in, and none of them will be able to give her the perfect love she deserves. 
By its very definition, “human love” means imperfect love. 
She will have none of that.

I said goodbye to my friend at the train station, and I thought to myself: if I was my mother, I wouldn’t want my daughter to be friends with you
My daughter, I thought, would be protected from every possible wound to her tender little heart. She will never feel alone while surrounded by a crowd of people; she will never find herself unable to express the secrets of her heart to her best friend; she will never experience the sting of a cold shoulder or a cool word.
She will be protected from the off-handed comment that stings, shielded from any joke that would hit a sensitive spot, guarded against any person who could possibly break her trust.

My daughter will not make friends.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

and you act so deaf, so blind

Earth has not anything to show more fair:
Dull would he be of soul who could pass by
A sight so touching in its majesty;
This City now doth, like a garment, wear
The beauty of the morning; silent, bare,
Ships, towers, domes, theaters, and temples lie
Open unto the fields, and to the sky;
All bright and glittering in the smokeless air.
--W. Wordsworth, 
Upon Westminster Bridge

And then I heard bagpipes floating up into the library--the soundtrack of Trafalgar Square--and I was like: great goodness galoshes, I am living in London. 
And then life was really good and I cried a bit.

Sometimes, when incredible things happen, it's hard to register.
Yesterday evening, I walked into the Royal Opera House, which is only a few hundred meters from my domicile (I don't know how to measure a meter, but Google Maps tells me so).
And I was just one small girl in a purple dress in a very large opera house, watching Puccini's Tosca.
And then, my mind was sort of blown, because the first Act takes place in the church of Sant'Andrea dell Valle, which I had attended Mass in only a short week ago.
Sant'Andrea is like one of my favorite hang-out spots in Rome.
And there was Tosca and her lover, hiding revolutionaries and fighting off dictators, in my little Sant'Andrea.
So I may have cried some more.

There's a psalm I love that goes like this: 
All the ways of the Lord are kindness and constancy to those who fear Him.
Cause sometimes I think that sort of "kindness" is an awful lot like my Mom, who defines "kindness" as sending you to bed early if you're a riotous seven-year-old who refuses to eat dinner, and makes a loud, rude stink about it. Or they'll define kindness as telling you you can't have the car to go to your friend's house, because there are only three cars and eight people, and there are five places everyone else needs to be (being skilled in advanced mathematics is crucial to choreographing life in a large family).
That's sometimes how my mother's kindness works.
Sometimes, I will confess, I think God's brand of kindness is eerily similar to my mother's.
And I think sometimes I need to sit them both down, and say:
Friends/Parental Authority figures, let's do a quick review of this whole "kindness" deal:
Our pal Mr. Webster defines "Kindness" as the quality of being "kind," which he defines as:

1chiefly dialect : affectionate, loving
2a : of a sympathetic or helpful nature
b : of a forbearing nature : gentle
c : arising from or characterized by sympathy or forbearance

When you find yourself constantly living with strongly-willed beings [like God and my mother], what's truly surprising is when they let your will have its way.

Today, I wanted a Reese's Peanut Butter Cup.
Because they are the number one food that I love in the States.
And they are the number one food I do not have here.
But, then, my friend found a pack of three Reese's Peanut Butter Cups in her bag.
And I was so happy.

And then, as I sat down for a lecture, my friend pulls out Reese's Peanut Butter Cups to share.
And I think I cried.
Because there were so many Reese's Peanut Butter Cups. And I hardly deserved them all.
But it was so kind of them to offer.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

a crippled saint against the painted sky

It's not so much what's spoken as what's heard— and recognized, of course. The gift is listening and hearing what is only meant for you. 
And sometimes we proceed by prophecy, or not at all—even if only to know what destiny requires us to renounce. 
- Dana Gioia, The Prophecy

Providence, maybe, is God's surprises to us.

Divine Providence is one of those beautiful, eternal mysteries that rankle our minds. 
As we live in the bizarre yet awe-ful tension between our own agency and the overwhelming mastery of the Author of Creation, we struggle to comprehend that fascinating facet of the world. 
We wrestle to reconcile our own ability to choose with the omniscient all-seeing Lord of Creation.
We wonder how God can accept the gift of our actions if they are never surprises.

As I stood in St. Peter's square this past Wednesday, I was pondering the element of surprise.
I wasn't surprised that I was standing there in the middle of a sea of people, watching a trail of white smoke rise into the velvet, star-less night sky.
In fact, it all felt very expected, and very cozy, tutto apposto, as the Italians would say.
Meaning, everything is exactly in its right place.
Everything is right where it ought to be.

I had no doubt I was exactly where I was supposed to be--which was right there, in the middle of the arms of the Church.
It wasn't really a surprise.

I often find myself confusing gratitude with surprise. 
When you receive an unexpected gift, you are delighted beyond words, and your emotions, unanticipated and unexpected, swell up in one large paean of gratitude to your benefactor.
And we like our gifts given this way--it's fun to receive a Christmas gift in shiny paper, and put forth a thousand different guesses as to what it could be--it heightens the delight when the surprise is finally revealed.

When you receive an expected gift, the gratitude is a different, deeper hue.
When you find yourself, in one of those rare and beautiful instances, so perfectly in tune with the giver of the gift, that you anticipate precisely what the gift will be, your gratitude is tinged with a deeper shade of awe.
You don't have the fizzy foam of delighted surprise bubbling up inside of you.
You are left with a sort of deserted desolation of emotion, and lack the ability to feel anything.

As you find yourself living the moment you'd hope you'd find, all you can do is live in it.
You breathe in and out air you're sharing with hundreds of thousands of others.
You wait.
You listen.
You watch the seagulls hover above the chimney.
You sing along to words that have been the soundtrack of your life for a solid nine months.
Sometimes words become givens for us--they become that out of which we live the rest of our lives.

"Man, you wouldn't believe the most amazing things that can come from...
Some terrible nights"

And then, I was surprised. 
Ironically, I'd always thought that the line was "some terrible lies." Because, if you listen to the song 1.5 billion times (as I have), 1.5 billion out of 1.5 billion times it sounds like they are singing lies.
(This just drives home the lesson that my blessed mother and every director I've worked with ever told me: enunciate, enunciate, enunciate.)

But then I thought of all the terrible nights full of tears, full of anger, full of fear, or frustration, or being cold, or just alone.
And I thought that maybe that wasn't a bad line, anyway. Because night is always what happens before the sun rises.

And then there was white smoke.
And I wasn't surprised.
Just grateful.

Monday, March 18, 2013

The British Hedgehog Preservation Society

One thing I love doing is walking around London. 
I love it so stubbornly, I refuse to not do it.
On my way home from the Victoria & Albert this afternoon, I walked all the way back in the sweet London drizzle.
I love walking so much, I ignored the number 14 bus that literally dogged my steps all the way to Piccadilly.
And that's saying something, because I love the London Bus System.
I love it so much, that if it were a man, I would marry him. 
It would be a slightly haphazard, sort of ridiculous, rather daring marriage. 
But it would have a rhythmic poetry all its own.
And it would be a good deal cheaper than the Tube.

One thing I love even more than walking in London are nature documentaries.
There is nothing more comforting than a good nature documentary.
Mr. Bennet says to Lizzie: 'Next to being married, a girl likes to be crossed in love now and again.' And when she's fed up with being crossed in love, a girl likes to sooth her savage nerves with a good 90 minutes of fish swimming in coral reefs or pumas stalking wildebeasts.

So, naturally, as a lover of nature documentaries, I couldn't resist the siren song of the National Geographic store that was right across from Harrod's. The door was open, and I walked right past, but then I did a quick U-turn, and I walked into the chintzy rainforest-themed store.
I was greeted by a proud little tome, boastfully called: The 10 Best of Everything.
I flipped through a book filled with glossy pictures of the Aran Islands, Cinque Terre, and Costa Rican Cloud Forests.
The ten best of everything, I thought.
And then I thought how silly that was, because I could think of so many of the ten best things that that book has never seen.

Like the time in San Luigi dei Francesi that the small little blonde French girl smiled at me while we were looking at Caravaggios together. Or the time that I saw a sunset from the Spanish steps that turned the whole sky pink and the white church gold.
Or a magical spot on the other side of a lake that reveals to you just how magnificent the place you live is.
Or when you burst out of the Lafun basement like a wild thing set free, and you spinny hug and sing and dance and run around God quad with your friends on a starry night at 3am, and you are delirious with gladness and lack of sleep and too many Rold Golds with Nutella.
Or when you sit above the city of Rome, with your friends by your side, sipping sweet Italian wine, and discovering what fresh mozzarella tastes like (answer: divine).
Or when you clamber out of the cozy minivan onto the rocky coastline, and you feel the fresh ocean water on your feet, and the smiles on the faces of your traveling companions, and you taste the salty sea air on your lips.
Or when you stand in the hushed stillness of St. Peter's square at night, surrounded by the stone images of all the people who have died to ensure that that mammoth basilica is still standing.
Or when you sit on a crumbly brick wall in the midst of an overgrown garden overlooking the Tiber, and you celebrate a liturgy that the entire city of Rome is a part of--the French tourists clambering up the hill, the choleric bus driver honking at the cars, the pack of seminarians heading towards the Vatican--all of them are participating in an event of which they are not yet aware.

Or walking through a cool March drizzle in London, and being surprised by the first crocuses of spring bursting out of the muddy earth in Hyde Park, brilliant deep purples, and bright sunny yellows.
Or running through Trafalgar square with a borrowed green umbrella, your boots clip-clopping on the pavement, and splish-splashing through puddles, with enough change in your coat pocket to buy a packet of Tesco Everyday Value digestives.
The air is warm, the rain is cold, and the sky is a strange creamy green color.
And you are very glad to be alive.

If I ever go looking for my heart's desire again, I won't look any further than my own back yard.
[which currently happens to be the Themes river. Casual.]
--The Wizard of Oz

Friday, March 15, 2013

try again in 21 minutes

Blue tears filled my eyes.
I'm not sure if tears are blue, but they've got to be a color--they can't be "clear." 
Translucence is a quality, not a color,
and it seems that everything that the naked eye can see must have a color.
And to the great chagrin of all who have ever wished to keep their distress a secret, tears are all too painfully visible to the naked eye.

I want to go home, I repeated to myself for the googol-eth time,
 that melancholy mantra that's become the eternal antiphon of my hora media.
But I wasn't sure anymore where home was.

I gave up Nutella for Lent.
A dubious choice.
But I gave up Nutella for Lent, and apart from my relapse in Paris, when I listened to the siren song of a street vendor's crepe stand, I've given up my love completely.
But in a moment of panic, I ordered a piccolo jar of Nutella in Italian.
I opened my schedule, and found the binding was falling apart on the inside,
water-damaged beyond repair.
Roman rain is not kind.
It is not patient.
It is a jealous beast that devours everything it encounters, leaving nothing in its path untouched.

I want to go home.
But I wasn't sure anymore where home was.
But it sure as hell wasn't in that rainstorm.

I think I went to mass in Polish, but I'm not sure.
It may have been Portuguese.
As the kindly sister to my right squeezed my hand and murmured "peace" in a language I did not understand, I had found a bit of home.

Outside, there was a clap of thunder.
The hundreds gathered under the dome of the Rock looked up, but seemed unconcerned.
They quickly turned their eyes downward again to listen to the sweet droning of the man speaking Latin and the radiance of the Bernini Gloria.
We are all safe and snug at home, so let the storm rage.

I wandered into the chapel, guarded vigilantly by men in suits, asking with a challenge in their voice: preghiere?
I knelt on the squeaky red cushion.
And I knew that I was home.
And I laughed, because I am a fool.

You little rascal, I thought.
I've developed a bad habit of winking at the monstrance, with a twinkle in my eye to match His own.
His thirst was not an imagination, but a word, I read.
I guess you are pretty thirsty, I negotiated.
You can keep my water bottle, then, I conceded.
For I would give you more than just a purple water bottle with the
four letters L, O, V, and E.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

rege eos usque in aeternam

“If we insist on being as sure as is conceivable... we must be content to creep along the ground, and can never soar.” 
--John Henry Cardinal Newman

Why did Peter deny Jesus? 

When you sit in a café near Piazza Navona, most of the questions you expect to be along the lines of: "How are you?" "Come va?" "Seen any good movies recently?" 
I recommend bypassing small talk to perform a heart dissection on one of the most fascinating men in ancient history. 
That strange little fisherman, rather stupid and simple and full of bravado who ended up being the first leader of the church that just elected her 267th pontiff. 
Who was this man? 
And whatever made him deny the man who he loved and who ended up selecting him to lead his church. 

That morning,  I brushed the question aside with a breezy: "Hmm, well isn't that an interesting question! Definitely food for the thought." 
 I had spent the evening before stuffing myself with Italian pizza, and my sights were set more on gelato than Galileans. 
 Enter Santa Maria in Traspontina,  one of five hundred fifty bajillion churches in Rome (super accurate numbers provided by our expert on the ground reporter aka moi).

Unsurprisingly, there are quite a few churches in Rome (in this particular instance, "quite a few" is a euphemism for "on every street corner"), and so, also unsurprisingly, the churches often begin to resemble one another, and they all fade together in a kaleidescope of chiesas that makes it difficult to remember how to distinguish between them. 
Usually, however, there are distinctive features that makes each of  them unique in their own way. Ignatius of Loyola has the fabulous faux-Dome. 
San Luigi dei Francesi thinks it's Versailles. 
Maria off of Piazza del Popolo boasts not one, but two Caravaggios and San Dorothea in Trastevere has murals upon murals of the life of St. Francis of Assisi. Down the road from St. Peter's Santa Maria in Traspontina, is slightly dwarfed by its neighbor--the largest basilica in the world.

But her hidden treasure is a collection of some of the most beautiful Stations of the Cross you have ever seen. As I walked through the church, praying each station, I noticed something interesting: Christ fell three times. Peter denied him three times. Interesting. Maybe there was something to this question. 

 When he first denies Christ, Peter is in the crowded, heated square where Christ is being persecuted.
His lord and master, best friend and trusted mentor is being beaten and spatten (a new word for a new era of the church) upon. 
Peter's first reaction is fear. He needs to separate himself from the victim. 
"Who, me? Of course not. Of course I don't know this man." His instinct for self-preservation satisfied, Peter exits stage right in a rush. 
As he leaves the courtyard,  he bumps into a servant maid--a simple young girl--not a threat at all. She asks him: Didn't you know him
Did he, Peter must have asked himself. Did he really know this man?
Maybe in that moment, Peter came to that awful realization all human beings face at some point: that moment when you realize that your world is not as rock-solid as you had hoped. Maybe he felt he had been deceived, and his house had been built on sandy shale instead of marble.
Heartbroken, Peter responds: I do not even know this man. This man, who he had so confidently and courageously acknowledged to be the Son of God was being prosecuted like a common theif. This isn't how the story was supposed to go. 

Finally, when, for a third time, Peter is asked if he knows Christ, his goat is quite gotten. 
He curses; he swears. 
Salt can only be rubbed in our wounds so many times until we decide to snap, because we can absolutely take no more. 
The only thing that hurts more than the initial shock of pain, are all the chafes and gibes we endure, that remind us of the original hurt. The off-hand comment that causes us to bite our tongue, in order to abort our cry of pain mid-gasp; the poorly-timed joke that makes our stomach lurch; the innocent question which we would rather cut off our left hand than answer. 
One can only endure the fear, the pain, or heartbreak for so long until one will snap, explode, or break in anger. 
And then it is finished. 
And before we know it, we have denied the only thing we knew.
And then the cock crows.

Friday, March 8, 2013

calling me to climb the mountain

"Now I'm just a pilgrim beginning the last part of his journey on earth."
--Pope Emeritus, Benedict XVI

I saw a young boy trailing a pigeon around the coach station.
Coach stations are the armpits of the earth.
Like armpits, they're not appallingly disgusting, but they're rather unpleasant. And if they're well-kept they don't cause too much discomfort, but they're just not attractive. They, like armpits, are just rather functional. Kind of annoying, in need of constant upkeep, and just all-around underwhelming.
But useful, I guess.


I woke up this morning and panicked.
My alarm had been set for 5:30am, but it hadn't gone off.
I looked at the clock on my computer: 7:45am, it read.
I had to leave at 8:30 for my bus.
Had I packed?
Of course not. 
I will confess, the first word out of my mouth this morning was a rather colorful four-letter word.
Then, I remembered I had kept my computer on Roman time (why? I have no idea. Probably the same genetic strain of scorn at the arbitrariness of timetables that caused Grandpa Freeborough to refuse to abide by daylight savings time), and so it was actually 6:45.
I checked my phone (which is on London time) to be doubly sure.
6:45PM, it announced cheerfully. 
Mystery of the Stupid Phone Alarm=solved.
Case closed, Nancy Drew.


As much as I love traveling, sometimes it can be a slog.
Last Saturday, almost a week ago, I stood in la Parrocchia Santa Galla, on the outskirts of Rome. Admittedly, I was exhausted.
The last thing I wanted, I felt suddenly, was to return to this city. What I wanted to do was curl up in the arms of Waterloo Station, and stay there forever. I wondered why on earth I'd wanted to come here so dreadfully much in the first place. 
Then, the gentle words of the priest offering his final blessing interrupted my disheartened interior crisis:
"Remember why you are on this pilgrimage."

So I smiled, and I remembered.

I remembered standing in the hot sun with thousands of others during the final papal audience, receiving Benedict's final papal blessing.
I remembered attending the Italian daily Mass in the Basilica, with the sun streaming through the windows.
I remembered hugging my dear friend of the heart in St. Peter's Square at 8pm on Thursday, February 28th, as she said:
Here we are, in the arms of the Church.

Then, I laughed:
I loved to choose and see my path; but now, lead me on.

Quo Vadis is a bootless question.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

no Pall Mall pups permitted in St. James Square

or, TGI Dickens

oh okay. so that's fine

One of my favorite things about London is that they have distinctive blue and red plaques hidden throughout the city.
And by hidden, I mean they are in plain view.
You just have to look for them.

They announce things like: "J.M.W. TURNER lived here" or "VOLTAIRE stayed in a house on this site" or "CHARLES DICKENS worked here." Right over a TGI Fridays.

That is the incredible thing about London--you are constantly being reminded that you are walking the same streets as great men and women who have gone before you.
And when you eat at a chintzy TGI Fridays, you can imagine Charles Dickens as a young boy working there.
Bussing tables, serving strait-laced Victorian gentlemen loaded potatoes, cursing a stingy old Scrooge for leaving a miserly tip. 

There is a very real sense of the past being present here.
As you walk through the streets of this bastard city, a Tudor kingdom built on a Norman city built on an Anglo-Saxon town built on a Roman outpost, you realize that this city has no idea what it is.
It is filled with Benglacity, the Jewish quarter, the little pocket of Polish immigrants.
The "City" of London is made up of the "City" of Westminster and London and Camdentown and Southwark and Lambeth.
The men and women passing me on the street speak Chinese, French, and German.
This place is a metropolitan melting pot of confusion.
But its in that very melting pot non-identity that this city finds its identity.
As it marks the paths and homes of its famous past inhabitants and giants of greatness, London charts its heartbeat, charts its winding, serendipitous journey through the ages.
Londonness is an elusive quality--no one's quite sure what it means. It means so many different things to the myriad divers inhabitants of the city.
To understand London, you can't buy a guidebook, or study a map.
This town (and its tube system) defies augury.
To get to know London, you have to know a Londoner.
And throughout this city, there are little signs introducing you to the most famous of all its children.

It is difficult to speak adequately or justly of London. You can draw up a tremendous list of reasons why it should be insupportable. The fogs, the smoke, the dirt, the darkness, the wet, the distances, the ugliness, the brutal size of the place, the horrible numerosity of society, the manner in which this senseless bigness is fatal to amenity, to convenience, to conversation, to good manners – all this and much more you may expatiate upon. It is not a pleasant place; it is not agreeable, or cheerful, or easy, or exempt from reproach. It is only magnificent. 
--Henry James

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

palm to palm is holy palmer's kiss

"It's an intense place. And intense places have their beauty, and can be difficult at times."
-- Prof. Tamo Chattopadhay

I watched a family of pigeons waddle across the grassy square.
Pigeons are the most charming of animals while they are on the ground.
I feel as though they're, in their hearts, penguins. Birds who belong to the land.
When they take off flying, they become sort of bizarrely out-of-place. But, on the ground, they are adorably bumbling as they waddle all over the pavement like they own the place.
Just like human beings, they are most charming in their utter lack of self-consciousness as they go about their business.


In a city, you have to find a place for yourself.
In the midst of a city of millions, you have to find a spot that is yours alone, where you found your kingdom.
Sometimes, its in the midst of the busiest street in the city.
As I stood on Waterloo Bridge, my beloved Waterloo Bridge, and I couldn't help but feel tears prick my eyes.
There, in front of me, was St. Paul's, glorious in its monstrous greatness.
There was fog hanging above all the skyscrapers, kissing the tops of the buildings.
I could have stayed on that bridge forever.


You receive a lot of kisses in a lifetime.
All of them should be kisses of peace, but very few of them are. 
And the sign of peace, I've found, is always a strange sort of ritual.
It's either a cordial shaking of hands amongst friendly strangers and parishioners and acquaintances or an enthusiastic hug fest amongst college students. 
Both are lovely rituals. But somehow lack the umph that the kiss of peace is supposed to bring.

The sad elderly man took my hand, and grasped it warmly. He leaned over and kissed it gently.
I turned back towards the altar, tears filling my eyes.
I had never felt unworthier of receiving a kiss.

All the kisses of youthful crushes and girlish loves have begun to fade into distant memory.
But I can still feel the soft, gentle, meekness of that kiss of peace lingering on the back of my hand. 

“A kiss is a lovely trick designed by nature to stop speech when words become superfluous.”
― Ingrid Bergman

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

be Iago

It is there, in fact, “in the depths of the heart,” that everything is bound and loosed. It is not in our power not to feel or to forget an offense; but the heart that offers itself to the Holy Spirit turns injury into compassion and purifies the memory in transforming the hurt into intercession.
CCC 2843

In part three of Mere Christianity, C.S. Lewis discusses the distinct challenge of being charitable. Not feeling charitable or feeling good, but acting charitably, despite feeling.

Once a month, many women experience a week or so where our emotions and our bodies rebel against our control. In your lifetime, especially if you have been blessed by God with sisters (and yes, sisters are always the greatest blessing of creation, even when they plague you to death) you may have overheard a particularly mopey female sighing apologetically: "I'm sorry, it's just my Time of the Month," or you may have witnessed a usually mild-mannered woman snapping at everyone who comes within a ten-foot radius of her, or you may (heaven forbid), have been the victim of vitriolic attacks by multiple young ladies, who apologize the next day saying: I'm so sorry, I don't know what was wrong with me yesterday
And they exchange knowing glances with one another, because they know exactly what was wrong.

Once a month, many women experience something quite wonderful:
We are disinclined to feel charitable.
Most of the time, it is pleasant and pleasing to find other people likeable.
Human beings are social creatures, and as social creatures, we love interacting with nice people, and being nice in return. It's just all rather pleasant and feels quite nice. Pleasant behavior is, well, pleasant to be around. We are attracted to people who behave with kindness, and we are drawn to people who smile and say please and thank you and have big, hearty laughs. 
It's so easy to love people when they're nice. It's just sort of an instinctual reaction. 
It feels good.
But once a month, it feels dreadful.

I was talking with a young gentleman about a revelation he'd had about not being in control of his body and his thought. That there is so little we can control over our own human physicality.
I chuckled.
Emotions define us.
We say: I like this author, I love that music, I dislike that person's behavior, I have a crush on the boy who opened the door for me and smiled so charmingly.
We live in a happy illusion where we believe our emotional reactions to events are our true reactions.

But once a month, my emotions--my compass for navigating the world around me--are thrown into havoc, and are about as useful for navigation as typewriter is for sending emails.
It's disorienting and terribly frustrating.
As you walk around with a black cloud over your head, your world becomes washed in deep shades of disdain.
You feel that everyone in your world becomes a bumbling idiot whose behavior is the epitome of all stupidity.
And you know that's not true, but you cannot feel otherwise.
And you know rationally it's just a problem with your own self, but in your attempts to find out what exactly is wrong, you drive yourself mad.
Take the beam out of your own eye, they tell you. 
But how frustrating when you can't find it there; and all you can see are tremendously large specks in everyone else's.

It is not in our power not to feel.
It is not in our power not to feel.
But it is there, in the depths of the heart, past layers of hormones and hysteria, that binding and loosing happens.

Once a month, I am forced to look beyond my feelings and emotions, to that deepest part of my heart, where I discover what it means to truly bind and loose. 

Sunday, March 3, 2013

you may have noticed

I walked into the library one day, and a book caught my eye. 
It was called “The Jane Austen Guide to Happily Ever After” by Elizabeth Kantor. 
Obviously, I was not gonna not pick it up. 
I looked at it briefly, approved of what I saw, and, on a whim, took it home with me. 
Now, in my ignorance, I expected it to be just another star in the dingy constellation of overly-girly-Jane-Austen-enthusiast-literature lite. Which, it being the 200th anniversary of Pride & Prejudice, and, as I was preparing a pilgrimage to Jane’s house in Chawton, I thought: oh why not
(It was also a welcome break from Hobbes, Swift, and Pascal.  Lovely gentlemen, all, of course. 
But a girl cannot live on Enlightenment Philosophers alone.) 

Instead, I was welcomed by a first line worthy of a book about the Queen of First Lines (It is a truth universally acknowledged that a single woman, in possession of a large library, references the first line of Pride & Prejudice ad nauseum.)
 “Why do women love Jane Austen so much?” 
Elizabeth Kantor starts the question that most people gloss over unsatisfactorily. 
A contigent of bodies have decided that Jane Austen is modern, and that’s why the modern woman is obsessed with her. 
But Ms. Kantor digs a little deeper. 
“Jane Austen, I found myself thinking, fascinates us not because we recognize ourselves in her books. It’s just the opposite.” 
(Words: Ms. Kantor, emphases: mine)

We are attracted to Lizzie Bennet, because despite all our liberation, magazines, ipods/pads/phones, and the post-modern brouhaha, Lizzie has something we don’t. 
So does Anne Eliot, Elinor Dashwood, and Emma Woodhouse. 
What makes them so different? 
What exactly do they have that the modern woman finds herself thirsting to have as well? 
Because that’s the point, isn’t it. We have many literary heros—but too few literary heroines to admire. One can swoon over Mr. Rochester or Mr. Thornton as easily as Mr. Darcy. 
But you don’t admire Jane Eyre. She’s admirable, sweet, and virtuous, but no one longs to be identified with Jane Eyre. (If you've always longed to be identified with Jane Eyre, Gentle Reader, then I stand corrected.)
We don’t read Jane Austen for Mr. Darcy; we read Austen for Lizzie Bennet. 
 Ms. Kantor asks: “What is it that’s hard to find in the world we live in, but available in spades in Jane Austen?” 
Ah. There we go. 
In three hundred utterly delightful pages, Ms. Kantor examines what Austen’s England has that we lack. 
True elegance, love without humiliation, taking relationships seriously, finding the middle road between sense and sensibility, respect for female psychology, and most importantly: a genuine pursuit of happiness. 
In Austen’s novels, and in our modern world, there are hosts of Bertram sisters and Lydia Bennets, Wiloughbys and Wickhams who put their dreams of settling down into a happy love on hold, to pursue the bright shiny objects in their grasp—those bright, shiny objects being sex, money, pleasure, excitement, passion—but not happiness
Pursue whatever you want, she says, but realize that if you’re pursuing anything besides happiness, you’ll end up with just that: anything besides happiness. 
Love, to quote Miss Pettigrew, is not a game.
To be skilled at relationships, we can't just dally about like ninnies. We must cultivate the loves and relationships in our lives with a calm, cool rational sense, and with warm and caring sensibility.
With a sharp wit, and sassy pen, Ms. Kantor cuts a lot of our dull modern sensibilities about romance and relationships down to size: 
“The Jane Austen heroine doesn’t try to run her love life like an occasional extracurricular activity, somewhere down the list between chorus and lacrosse practice.” 
We are born into relationships. We can either chose to practice good relationships, or idle away, hoping that we’ll one day get it right. 
So, how do we begin to practice good relationships? 
With a large dose of common sense, sweetness, and delight, Ms. Kantor uses the stories of Austen to illustrate answer that question.  Along the way, Ms. Kantor uses the stories of Austen's characters to reawaken a desire for and a commitment to a simple, but universally enchanting dream: happy love.  

“If we do love the Jane Austen way, we don’t have to give up on either love or happiness. She shows us exactly how we can have both”

Saturday, March 2, 2013


love among the ruins

This is the thing about Italy:
once you arrive, it spoils you.

The sun is warmer;
the sky is bluer;
the air is cleaner and clearer.
It's like Italy is trying to out-do the rest of the world in beauty.
And I have to say, she's doing quite well.

The sounds from the quiet little Prati neighborhood float up through my window as I finish my giant cappuccino. My definition of what a cappuccino is has completely changed. For evermore, when someone says: "cappuccino" I will expect to find a mountain of spoonable froth floating like a cloud over my coffee. As I put the final touches on emails, and catch up with correspondence, and emailing my mother to assure her I am still living (she is a much greater woman than I. When I have a nest of my own, I don't think I'll have the courage to allow my little chickadees to fly away.), I take the last bites of the warmest, sweetest, softest cornetti [like a croissant, and yet so much more] that my mouth has ever had the pleasure of meeting.
piacere is the word for that, I was informed.
Pleasure to meet you.

"I have felt, and I feel even in this very moment, that one receives one’s life precisely when he offers it as a gift," said Benedict on Wednesday.
I didn't understand him, because he was speaking in Italian, which is still a beautiful mystery to my ears.
Although you learn, you pick up bits and pieces along the way.
Such as this morning, when  I walked out of my quiet little neighborhood, into the bustle of Viale Vaticano and into the heart of St. Peter's square, I smiled as the sun rose, reflecting off the white stone.
piacere, Roma.
Pleasure to meet you.
The sweet pleasure comes not from the receiving, but from the offering.

Friday, March 1, 2013

the sun is here, even in wintertime

"Aslan,” said Lucy, “you’re bigger.” 
 “That is because you are older, little one,” answered he. 
 “Not because you are?” 
 “I am not. But every year you grow, you will find me bigger.”
--Prince Caspian

As I walked into St. Peter's this morning, I was struck by how much taller it seemed.
As I walked down the nave, approaching closer and closer to the Dome, I began to shrink, as I felt the ceiling above me grow, higher and higher, like a second sky.
There's a sweet spot, somewhere near the pillar on the far left of the Bernini baldacchino where the height becomes warmth, and I feel like I'm being enveloped in a giant hug.
This year, it felt like an even larger, warmer hug than ever before.

They say that the universe is constantly expanding.
Which always raises the question:
Into what?
Into itself, maybe?

Human beings, like the universe are constantly expanding.
As babies, our bodies expand at an alarmingly rapid rate.
Around the age that I am now, they stop expanding upward. Sometimes they expand outward, sometimes their growth stagnates.
And then comes the time when the water in our intervertebral discs begins to evaporate, and we lose our height, we begin to shrink.
But even then we call that growing up.
Because the truth about being a human being is that you're always being.
You've always actively putting in effort into your existence.
You're always widening your self, even if your body is beginning to narrow. 

Just like the universe, you're always growing.
Into what?
Into yourself, maybe?

Growing is deepening.
It's a fact we forget, but we stumble across (literally) everyday.
I walked by a line of trees, and naturally (like the graceful, coordinated woman that I am), I tripped over the uneven cobblestones. They had been twisted and bent, dislodged by the roots of the tree growing under the sidewalk.
Trees, as they grow upwards, grow downwards.
For a tree, growing means deepening.
For a tree, the farther up into the atmosphere she climbs, the deeper her connection to her little plot of earth grows.
Growing is deepening.

As I expand, I find that St. Peter's has grown with me.
The higher I grow, the smaller I feel, wrapped in the comfortable, cozy arms of St. Peter's.
This is one of those very happy things that we find, to our wonder and dismay, that we don't have words to describe. 
So we call it a mystery.