Catcus, Pizza, and Listening for God. Day 3/30
|The Cypress Forest on Monte Pellegrino|
I stopped for just a second to take a picture. The sun was setting beyond the horizon of the small mountain that was maybe a quarter of a mile away. The wind was sweeping up the hillside from the Mediterranean below, whispering through the cypress trees. The last rays of light caught a small cactus by the side of the road and turned its needles to gold. It was quiet, and when I looked up I saw that the group that I was with had moved on and were already 200 yards ahead. There in the quiet, on Monte Pellegrino, high above the noise and confusion of Palermo, I found a moment of peace, and it was like a salve to my soul. There in the whispers of the cypress and the golden needles of the cactus I sensed the presence of God, and it was all because I stopped for a second to take a picture.
|The Cactus by the side of the road.|
Often enough in each of our lives we have invitations to these moments, and it doesn’t need to be in an exotic location. Sometimes in my house I walk by one of our small side chapels and feel drawn in. Other times I could be walking to school and stumble across a quiet, empty, beautiful little piazza in Rome. When I lived in Boston, it would often enough be the in the sun rising in the morning over Dorchester Bay, lighting up Umass Boston across the street and turning what I thought was otherwise an architecturally ugly building a bright rose color. At my parent’s house it can be something as simple as looking up at the stars as a fire is burning in the fire pit. Sometimes we just have moments where we’re invited into the quiet, and we need to relish them, particularly in our noisy world.
I often brag to people back home about being able to see the Campodoglio out of my bedroom window, or that I live right in the middle of Rome. The truth is, though, that despite the ideal location, it is very noisy. When I was in high school and college I would fill every spare moment with noise. When Napster came on line, and before I was self reflective enough to know it was stealing, I was one of the first to have filled their computer’s hard drive with music, which would be playing all the time. (All of it has long since been deleted.) When I went out around campus, I would almost always have headphones on, or want to be talking to someone. Now, in many ways I have discovered that I can be jealous of those moments like the one I had on top of Monte Pellegrino, spaces of quiet, where I can just listen. St. Rosalia left Palermo, found a cave on the mountain, and lived and died there as a hermit, in the silence with God, and I understand why she might.
|This is actually a picture that I took in that moment with my|
old camera by Lake Casenovia.
Rewind to a moment in the summer of 2003, in Casenovia, NY. After having just made the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius of Loyola, having just spent 30 days praying in silence along the Atlantic Ocean in Gloucester, MA, I was just learning how to appreciate these quiet moments. Sitting by a beautiful lake at sunset, I was soaking in the silence and listening for the voice of God when I heard: “ROGERS!!!!! PIZZA’S HERE!!!!!” Rather than hearing the voice of God I heard the voice of another novice yelling down to me to come up and get dinner. I have to admit that in that moment I was annoyed with my brother in the Society, but later that night I realize something important. The dinner that I ate with those guys that night was wonderful. We laughed; we talked for hours, and all of this over a few slices of pizza that could have been eaten quickly. The truth is, I enjoyed that night more than I might have otherwise. Communion with God draws us into communion with others. If we can take those moments to enter into the silence and listen to God, we can find the way to embrace that same silence with others so that we can genuinely hear them and listen.Back to the present. Ignatius prayed on the roof of this house, in the dead center of Rome even back then, every night. Even with the bustle below, he heard the voice of God when he would go out of the door from his room on to the small balcony that was over the roof to pray. Now I often go to a spot nearby to do that same thing, and when my phone rings and it is a friend inviting me to go watch a movie or sit and talk for a while, I can do so knowing that I am being drawn into much the same reality I had just been enjoying.