“Safe travels… ciao, ciao!” Antonio shouted with a warm smile and a hug. The meetings were over, business trip complete and it was time for me to fly back to Atlanta. After a full week of meetings in Florence, Italy, followed by customer dinners each night, much was accomplished and I was tired.
I walked outside the convention hall; the sun was setting like an orange glow blanketing the ancient city. The final day was closing and my hotel beckoned before the long journey home. “Maybe I can catch up on some emails,” I thought, as I slowly turned toward the narrow cobble stoned street. I should have felt satisfied with how everything turned out but I wasn’t. I stopped and thought to myself, “Something’s missing.” I wondered what could be missing? Judging by any business standard, the week was successful and my work cup was full. I missed home and was ready to see my family, had a great work trip, but something was still not settled deep down.
I heard church bells, dong… dong… dong… signaling Holy Mass. Then it dawned on me, I was missing Christ. By any spiritual standard, the week was a miss. My chalice was empty. I allowed myself to be too busy to hear God amidst the meetings, dinners and phone calls. “That’s it, that’s what is missing, this is why I feel empty.” How often do we run on empty but seem full? How often do we crowd out the whisper of the Holy Spirit by the noise of our chosen lives? I use the word “chosen” because dedication to faith is a choice. Faith itself is a gift. We are never too busy to start every day with prayer and spend a few minutes with the Lord. I realized this crazy schedule was self-inflicted.
But, with God it’s never too late bells, dong… dong… dong. The church bells were still booming like an ancient choir singing in the Heavens. It was the sound of the sages calling, the sounds of the centuries of angels inviting sojourners to come hear the sounds of silence. Silence is one place where you can encounter God—waiting for us at the Altar. This Church seemed like a house of the Holy to me but is really a field hospital for sinners. The Church never moves, we do.
So, I turned toward the bells, hurried up the narrow street and turned the corner and there was Chiesa Dei Santi Michele e Gaetano, a beautiful church nestled in between cafés, restaurants and souvenir shops. “Now THIS is a church!” I was literally stunned by its the beauty. I walked in, found the Baptismal font in the shadows, bathed in the glow of candles lit for Mass. I then turned toward the magnificent view of the Altar and was pleasantly surprised to see nuns walking up the aisle to their seats. They were dressed in a perfect shade of blue, emanating purity and the image of our Blessed Mother. They were followed in by a priest and other young, traditional-looking clerics preparing for Mass. They were deacons who were in formation for the Priesthood in the Institute of Christ the King Sovereign Priest. The Mass was in honor of one of their patron saints, St. Francis de Sales. As a Protestant convert to the Catholic faith, I count St. Francis de Sales as one of my heroes!
I knelt on the wooden rail and realized this was a moment of grace, a moment of peace, and a moment to slow down and be with the Lord.
I must pray each day to recognize these moment of grace given me by the Lord. To waste them is a great loss.