Very grateful for this morning.
I’m more conscious of walking around with God in the early morning, at least when I’m in Florence. There are fewer distractions to draw my thoughts away. The streets are relatively clear of traffic, the sidewalks sparse save for a few runners; I don’t have to concentrate on maneuvering my way from spot to spot, from café to cafe. And then there is the heat; even in September there is the omnipresent sun.
Very grateful for this morning.
On this visit to Florence I’ve become aware of how different life has become from what I experienced during my childhood and even my parenting years. Cell phones, selfies, wearing attire, hair styles, tattoos are just the way it is these days. Most would agree that the world is changing exponentially.
The good news, at least as far as I am concerned, is that I have no regrets about the past, nor specific desires for the future. As I sit here writing in this little park, I feel myself accepting things just the way they are, and, as the saying goes, just the way they aren’t. I notice I have very few judgments about people and I’m less apt to analyze situations. It’s just the way it is, not good, not bad. Life is changing and people have to adapt. You might say I have a Zen approach in accepting what is.
However, as a Christian I attribute the calm I feel to my meditation and prayer practice. My moral compass is always shimmering and keeping me on track. I try to be honest with myself and others, and follow the Golden Rule.
This is grace, not of my own doing. I just show up to open my heart.
I did it again. I took pictures of Fra Angelico’s frescoes in the monks’ cells at the Convent of San Marco. Before every visit I tell myself I don’t need another set of photographs; during every visit, I take pictures anyway; at the end of the day, I post them. So, here they are for your prayerful enjoyment.
If you name it a prayer walk, it will becomes one—it happens when t the mind goes to the heart. On this Sunday in Florence the temperature may reach 90, and for sure the streets will be crowded, but right now the early morning is cool and the streets relatively clear. So I start my best prayer walk, inviting my mind into my heart.
My walk began quietly as I wandered across the Piazza della Signoria, along the Arno, over the Ponte Vecchio, and down some side streets. Life picked up at Piazza Santo Spirito, where an antique show was getting underway and where my go-to café was bustling. Final stop, Sung High Mass at St. Mark’s English Church.
It’s been a while since I’ve posted anything more than a Daily Quote or Word & Image. It’s not that I haven’t been praying, but I couldn’t pull together anything I felt worthy of sharing. Maybe I should have told you that I was all over the place mentally and physically getting ready for this moment when I would be sitting in the garden of the art institute adjacent to the Boboli Gardens in Florence. Maybe I should have told you that I was too involved in the non-stop breaking news to ever imagine that I would be taking a two week vacation from it all.
The leaves are turning and there is a soft breeze here in the park. How easy it is to feel God’s presence in God’s natural creation and in God’s people enjoying themselves! I say that I go to Florence to walk around with God, because that is truly what I want to do, although I often forget. When I do remember, however, God is clearly present whether I am walking the streets, visiting a church or museum, enjoy delicious food, or watching people (and their dogs) in the park.
Traveling alone simplifies things; it’s just God and me, no one else. Traveling alone helps me practice what I’d like to have happen all the time—be aware of God. I’m reminded of St. Paul’s suggestion that we pray without ceasing, and the way of the pilgrim repeating the Jesus Prayer.
I am very grateful that solitary travel works out so well for me, but it’s not the only way to travel or to be in solitude, nor the only way to be in God’s presence. When we follow Jesus, however, we see that a little solitude time with God is part of God’s plan. If Jesus traveled off by himself to be with God, why shouldn’t we?
Every time I come to Florence I promise I won’t take pictures of the frescoes that Fra Angelica painted in the monk cells at the Convent of San Marco. I never keep that promise. Here they are again. Pace e bene.
One of my go-to prayer churches in Florence is St. Trinita, a small, gothic style church on Piazza Trinita, and near Ponte Trinita. A trinity in itself.
I sit in a pew that gives me a view of Christ’s life through art.
My pilgrimage to Italy starts April 4th. I’ll spend four nights in Rome, three in Assisi, one in Cortona and six in Florence. Unlike my usual two week stay in an apartment in Florence, I’ll be staying in monasteries-turned-guesthouses run by nuns. The bedrooms are simple, but thankfully ensuite. The public rooms are quiet, but thankfully without TV. Thankfully, the nuns are servants of Christ.
I’ll still be writing and walking around with God, but this trip feels different. What can I anticipate? What can I plan so I don’t treat these convents as just an inexpensive place to stay?
Let me start with a theological question. What does God want me to hear on this pilgrimage and what might I do to listen? Asking what God wants me to hear is a big shift for me. I’d rather set the agenda and tell God the kinds of things I want God to tell me. To listen I need to be silent; to be silent I need to quiet my mind.
Of course the practical response never changes: pray and walk, pray and sit, pray and meditate, pray and gaze, pray and be in the moment. Nothing new here, just a reminder to practice, practice, practice listening to God no matter where I am.
How very grateful I am to be going on a pilgrimage in these places, at this time in my life. How very grateful for help with arrangements through www.monasterystays.
I did it again, something I’ve done on every visit to Florence. I went to the Convent of San Marco and took photos of Fra Angelico’s frescoes on walls of the monks cells.
Christians are encouraged to study and contemplate God’s word as revealed in Scripture. The Dominican monks in the fifteenth century did this by reading and praying the picture on their cell walls—a spiritual experience. Today we read the Bible—an intellectual experience.
My visit to San Marco, however, was a mind, body, spirit experience. My mind drew from my reading and study of the Bible. My spirit was touched by the visual message of the frescoes. My body experience the visceral experience of a monk in his cell.
Santa Trinita is an empowering place to pray. I have discovered the perfect to pew, where at a single sweep of my eyes, I can take in artwork representative of many theological concepts that give power and definition to Christianity.