Monday, April 1, 2013

and the treasury of compassion inexhaustible

Prayers, like Shakespeare, are dangerously powerful things.
They shape your vision so precisely so that you find poetry and beauty in each stream of exhaled air.
Sometimes they arrive like little gentle reprimands to find some peace before you find yourself foundering or floundering, little messengers of grace, little rocks of hope to anchor yourself to in a storm.

It's a dangerous business, Frodo, walking out of your door

A kindly Passionist walked up to me in John Lateran, as we were joining the fashionable devotées in church-hopping around the city.
I jumped a bit as he laid his hand on my shoulder and asked why I was here.
After we exchanged a few words in Italian, and a few more in English, he smiled kindly and said, laughing, You're not a lost soul. I'm wasting my time with you
I couldn't help but chuckle, because we were in the city where everyone gets lost.
The best part about the heart of Rome, with its tall, peach-colored buildings and rippling cobblestones is that it forces you to wander aimlessly a bit.
If you leave one of the main arteries, and turn into one of the labyrinthine networks of capillaries of the city, you have to abandon your roadmap for a bit, and let your interior compass guide.
Eventually, you stumble into the sunlight of a piazza, and find yourself face-to-face with a Bernini fountain, famous church, or sometimes even the Pantheon.
You have to trust that even if you get a little lost, if you're pointed in the right direction, you will reach your destination.
Rome does away with the illusion of an easy, straightforward route between point a and point b. 
You take the side streets because getting lost is the only sensible way to make a journey.
There is a corner by Piazza Navona where I never fail to get lost.
In an attempt to be clever, I stubbornly refuse to look at the map.
I tell myself: you've walked through this particular intersection five billion times, Renée. Oh come on. Come. on. You know the right way to go.
But often, to my chagrin, I find I don't. 
I make the same stupid wrong turn up towards the Libreria Antica instead of going left, away from Frigidarium, towards the side-street, hung with strings of glass globes.
It's a rookie mistake, and I should know better.
But, each time, I find myself confronted with the sign for Castel Sant'Angelo, and I know I've done it again.
The beautiful thing about getting lost in the same way multiple times, is that, once you've realized your mistake, you manage to correct yourself much more quickly.
The wrong turn that you took magically ends up leading you to your destination; you learn to recalibrate, to adjust your path to account for your mistake.

The route we plan to go is not always the one we end up choosing.

My friend is fond of telling the story of the one time he went to confession with a little old Italian priest.
As he finished his confession, the reverend reached out, and reached for my friend's hands with his wrinkled, shaking ones, and said:

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