When people think of Rome, they often think of its seven hills, but after today I will always think of it as a mountain–my personal mountain. This may make you think of my post from Monday when I was talking about the uphill climb I’m having learning Italian, but I have a totally different meaning in mind this time. As Fraulein Maria would say, “Let’s start at the very beginning, a very good place to start.”
This morning I told my landlady that I could not believe it was my last day at school in Rome. As I walked the familiar streets to school, I thought about what I would do on my last afternoon in Rome. Perhaps I would go to visit the churches I couldn’t see with Katie a couple nights ago. She had gone with some friends yesterday morning while I was in class. Maybe I could take some time this afternoon to make my own visit. It’s always nice to go back and visit old friends.
But when I got to class this morning, I quickly discovered that my plans would have to change. Only one other student was there. By the time the teacher arrived, only three of us students were in the room. The teacher then explained that there was a strike going on today for bus drivers and Metro operators, so probably a lot of students would be late or not show up at all.
Uh oh. So much for visiting those churches on the other side of town.
During our morning break, I got my last Roman cappuccino at the best bar (a.k.a. coffeeshop) near school. After downing it quickly (it’s a very busy place during the school’s break time), I walked to the piazza in front of school to eat a snack. I was kind of sad. My plans for the day were ruined.
Suddenly, a voice deep inside me said, “You don’t have to run all over. You can find me close by.”
Visiting old churches is like visiting old friends, but I don’t have to go to them to find God. He is everywhere–in the churches far from me and in the churches close to me; in the people I see in class and in the people I pass on the street; in the museums and in the coffee bar.
Then I began to wonder if this meant I shouldn’t have traveled to Italy at all. I can meet God at home, too. But then I remembered that even Jesus had to take time away from his friends and family to go off alone on a mountain to pray. He needed to be away from the ordinary, away from the crowds that always wanted his attention in the cities or along the shore, away even from the people He loved so much. He went to the mountain to talk with His father, to have that close relationship that comes from time dedicated solely to nourishing that bond.
Rome has become my mountain. It is the place I go to when I need to reconnect with God in a way that is different from my ordinary prayers. I can’t spend forever here, just like Jesus couldn’t remain on top of the mountain, but it is good for me to come here occasionally (and I’m extremely blessed to be able to do so), so that I can have that experience away from the ordinary.
In the months leading up to this trip, all my free time outside of work was spent on marketing for my book. I’d been warned that the real work for authors comes *after* writing the book. It was exhausting to be sure and consumed much of my time. This trip forced me to take a break from all that marketing, a break I think I really needed. It’s easy to get caught up in Goodreads reviews and Amazon rankings.
Today’s bus strike forced me to take a break from playing tourist, too. I spent a long time in Chiesa Nuova this afternoon (a church near school). Partly I just sat, partly I prayed. I wrote a good amount in my prayer journal, and for a while I just listened to some music on the “meditation” playlist on my phone.
When I hit “shuffle,” the first song that came up was “Oceans” by Hillsong United. It was a song my spiritual director had recommended to me last year when I was learning to trust in God’s plan, and it was the perfect meditation song in the church. And God was there–in the church near school. I’m sure if I had traveled to those other churches, I would’ve found Him there, too. But it’s nice to know it’s okay if I don’t make it to the Scala Santa or Santa Maria Maggiore on this trip.
Tomorrow I head to Siena, and God will meet me there, too. 🙂