An Inconvenience Rightly Considered
I wondered if I could pass through the airport security of two nations without the engagement ring secured around my neck being discovered and disclosed to my future bride. I also wondered if we would even make our connecting flight to Rome, as we clung to the armrests of the taxi, while the lights of New York flashed past – reminiscent of a Star Trek episode with Scotty shouting “I kint giv ya eny mur pow’r, Cap’n!”
We began our pilgrimage to Italy blessed by the prayers of friends for a grace-filled experience. We ended our journey with graces and blessings “shaken, pressed down, and overflowing.”
The New York cab ride at warp speed was precipitated by a missed connection at Kennedy Airport. This resulted in our being sent by TWA to an Air Italia flight about to depart at LaGuardia. What was the result of this inconvenience? Instead of being packed into a full TWA flight across the Atlantic, we got our first taste of La Dolce Vita. The Air Italia crew uncorked multiple bottles of wine, passed out slippers, and harkened back to the days of commercial air travel when passengers wore their Sunday best to fly rather than their gym clothes and pajamas.
Upon our arrival in Rome, our Italian cab driver made our New York taxi ride seem like a genteel scene from Driving Miss Daisy. Theoretical Physicists claim matter is mostly composed of empty space, so solid objects should be able to pass through one another. We experienced the proof of this hypothesis that morning on a crowded Roman highway.
One of the events we anticipated on our pilgrimage was the pope’s Wednesday audience in St. Peter’s Square. We arrived early, yet were seated many dozens of rows away from where the Holy Father would be speaking. Shortly before the audience was to begin, we were told we would have to move. The portable gates which enclosed our section were opened and we were herded out. John Paul II would not be speaking in St. Peter’s Square that morning, but in the nearby auditorium. We were gently but firmly ushered along to our new indoor seats. We had traded our distant outdoor seating for places less than ten rows from the Holy Father’s chair! “The last shall be first and the first shall be last.”
There is a small door just beyond the left arm of Bernini’s colonnade on St. Peter’s Square which leads to the Scavi office. The Scavi are the excavations under St. Peter’s Basilica which revealed the remains of our first pope. Getting permission to tour the underground site and receive a personal lecture on its history is subject to chance and the influence of the Holy Spirit on the whims of the Scavi office. You are informed there will be no set day or time for the tour. You present the office with your phone number, much like Dickens’ Oliver Twist presenting his empty bowl, and hope you get the call and can make it there within an hour of being summoned. We were blessed with that call a few days later. As we descended into the cool air of the ancient necropolis, we experienced the awesome intimacy of being in the presence of Peter, who knew the awesome intimacy of being in the presence of Christ. “The virgins who were ready went in with the bridegroom to the wedding banquet . . . Therefore keep watch, for you do not know the day or the hour.”
We spent several days in the beautiful city of Florence during our pilgrimage. We toured the city’s cathedral, the Duomo, which is named in honor of Santa Maria del Fiore. While wandering through the stunning gothic structure, Tim and I got separated. I didn’t think much of it until I could not find him anywhere. We each were quietly exploring, so it couldn’t have been anything I said! I found him some time later coming out of an almost hidden door with a great big smile on his face. After peeking into what turned out to be the sacristy of the Duomo, he was invited in and given a private tour of the centuries-old wood carvings lining the walls by a priest who was vesting for Mass. “Why were you looking for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?”
The rest of our time in Italy continued much the same way. What was seemingly inconvenient became a great adventure. One day during the week we headed off to see the Roman Coliseum and made a wrong turn. We ended up visiting the Pantheon instead. Later that week, when attending Sunday Mass at St. Peter’s we arrived to find all the seats taken. So, we quietly stood in the back, behind those with seats. An usher spotted us and we were called forward to the front and given two seats which had somehow become available. That afternoon we took a walk with the intention of visiting the Trevi Fountain. Once again we made a wrong turn. Much to our delight, we walked right up to the place we had missed earlier in the week, the Coliseum! Visiting the Coliseum and the nearby Forum on a Sunday turned out to be so much better than during the week since the roads around it were closed to traffic and a street fair was taking place.
Those are just a few of the blessings and adventures we experienced on our pilgrimage. That ring Tim carried around his neck eventually wound up on my finger. He placed it there as we sat in a ray of sunlight streaming through a window in St. Peter’s Basilica.
“An inconvenience is only an adventure wrongly considered; an adventure is an inconvenience rightly considered.” – GK Chesterton