I’m home, back to my early morning prayer routine. The good thing about a transatlantic flight west is that I wake up early, very, before 5 AM, which is my best prayer time. In Italy, before the family arrived, I would get up early, 6:30, and take a five mile walk around the city before stopping at a church to pray. Now that I am home, I’m back in the AR (Angel Room) with my Bible and devotionals. There’s no right way to keep connected with God, but a morning prayer ritual gets me going and helps me stay centered for the day.
As I mentioned in my cottagebythesea blog, posting is a challenge these days. For one thing, I’m with family so there is not much time to write, and certainly not about silence, solitude or simplicity. The internet is very slow in our apartment, so offering a slide show takes more time than I have.
Each morning I have left our apartment at 6:30 to walk around the city and stop at one of my favorite churches for prayer. The Badia, just up the street, is a favorite because it is completely quiet unless the nuns and monks are singing. As I walk in I take a little piece of paper with a Biblical saying printed in Italian and English from a box on a table. Here’s the one for today.
We are well aware that we have passed over from death to life because we love our brothers. Whoever does not love, remains in death.
1 John 3:14
I wrote this while on the train to Rome a few days ago. My prayers are being answered. Very grateful!
My morning routine of praying my prayer list in one of the churches in Florence has come to an end now that I am with my son, daughter-in-law, and two grandchildren for the week. I’ll be silently praying ‘the list’ as we visit the sights together. My personal prayer for this trip is that I will be relaxed about what we do and don’t do, agreeable to the sights we visit and the ones left for another time, and accepting what people like and don’t like. I pray that I will lead as the tour guide and then follow when my services aren’t needed.
I’ll never live in a monk’s cell, but these stark, tiny spaces inspire me to find simplicity in my life, to take time to pray, to move more slowly, to get rid of stuff, to live a more God centered life. I continually forget this, but my photos are only a click away on the computer, the images even closer, in my mind.
This morning I returned to the Convent of San Marco for the second time this week. It was more quiet than usual—no school groups, no tours--just a few pilgrims like me. I lingered in the cells and took pictures of a few favorites. I was the only person in the library (designed by Michelozzo for Cosimo il Vecchio). A sacred space, a sacred moment.
I talk about my visit to the Chiesa di San Francesco in Fiesole in my cottagebythesea.net blog (posted below). Here I want to add some thoughts about faith.
I am especially drawn to this little monastery. If I were a monk it is where I’d want to live. But then, when I ask myself, “What if you had to stay here for three months (don’t even consider your whole life) and follow the same daily office and routine every day?” my fantasies disappear. I like routine, but I also thrive on variety and on anticipating future plans, my plans. As a monk, all I’d have would be routine.
The routine life of the monk is being in God’s presence and anticipating a future in the life to come, in life after death. Variety would only detract from this holy commitment. When I think of being a monk in these terms, I am humbled. Silence, solitude and simplicity, yes, but not all the time and not without variety and future plans in here and now.
"One of my favorite day trips from Florence is to Fiesole. Hop on Bus #7 at Piazza San Marco and twenty-five minutes later there you are at the top of the hill overlooking Firenze. The Duomo looms large.
There is much to see in Fiesole but I usually pass by the Roman forum, the local museums and cathedral, and climb the hill to the Chiesa di San Francesco. I can never resist talking pictures, and of course, blogging about it again.
On this early spring day, all was silent. I was in solitude, and yet the few visitors who came along offered a comforting sense of community to this miniature monastic complex. After all, those of us who had ventured to this out-of-the-way place must be kindred spirits in some way!
Every time I climb the stairs to gaze into the fourteenth century monks cells, I picture myself living in one of them. My AR (angel room) at home is not much bigger, but the comparison stops there. These cells are sparse—board for a bed, a desk and chair, Bible and cross. I won’t even begin to describe the AR! I will say, however, that these cells encourage me to simplify, to get rid of things, mainly books that are from another stage of life, books that I will never read again."
I’ve decided to give you a prayer slide show of the Luca, Andrea and Giovanni della Robbia family. Luca (1400-1481) was the uncle of Andrea (1435-1525), Giovanni (1469–1529), the son of Andrea. A collection of their terracotta sculptures are found on the third floor of the Bargello Museum. You can tell their work apart by this general rule of thumb: Luca worked in white and blue; Andrea added some color; Giovanni utilized a great deal of color.
Are these sentimental you ask? I think not. For me they express the message of love, which is void of anger, fear, rage.
I made it with ease to Florence. I am very grateful for this week alone, walking around with God, as I call it, before some of my family joins me on the 18th.
I notice that I am cherishing this part of the trip from outside myself. Rather than putting myself as the lead player, I am doing my best to view what is happening through a God lens, asking God to help me live each moment, each day, with purity of heart.
I call that being in a state of prayer: to live without judgment, fear or anger. When we can do that, even for just a moment, we live in love, which is God’s desire. This week I feel called to walk around this museum of a city in prayer, in love.
I posted the following on my cottagebythesea.net blog about my early morning walk to the churches of Florence. Although I didn’t go inside, I usually do. They are wonderful sanctuaries for prayer, and I spend a good deal of time doing just that when I travel alone. My favorite for prayer, however, was not on this walk. I can’t believe I left it out. Santa Trinita is a beautiful Gothic church very near the Arno. When I take this walk next week, I’ll be sure to include it.
A month ago, on the morning of my last day in Florence, I took an early morning walk (7 miles) to the city’s principal churches. The day was chilly and windy but not overbearing. Signs of spring were beginning to appear. Maybe you can see some of them in the following slideshow.
• Santa Maria del Fiore
• San Lorenzo
• Santa Maria Novella
• Basilica del Carmine
• Santo Spirito
• Santa Felicita
• Santa Croce
• Santissima Annunziata
• San Marco
• Santa Maria del Fiore
This Thursday I am flying to Rome and taking the train back to Florence. Then on the 18th I’ll meet my son, daughter-in-law and two grandchildren back in Rome: we’ll spend two nights there, four in Florence, and one more in Rome before flying home together.
My first week in Florence will be one of solitude. Before I meet the family for this whirl of a vacation together, I will circumnavigate the city and again take pictures of the churches. I trust that signs of spring will be more evident.
Good Friday! Easter! My faith has grown exponentially in the past year and with that, no surprise, I notice myself deeply immersed in Holy Week. The experience is more prayerful than analytic. I find myself walking around with Jesus, not saying much, nor does he. We’re just together in all the sorrow, both his and mine, personal and worldly. We’re walking along, walking through it all, walking with God, walking toward God. In Scripture Jesus leads us to God. Jesus goes to God through prayer, but ultimately via the Cross.
We know God through our difficulties. When we face the truth on our cross, we meet God. It can happen to us again and again; many truth tellings, many crosses. There can be no Resurrection without a Crucifixion, no Easter without Good Friday—for Jesus, for us.