And here we go, week three. The faithful remainder of Roman station church seminarians continues to slowly dwindle. Lol. Keep praying for me! I have not missed one yet. Although between the priests, seminarians, and college kids abroad / professionals abroad that are doing this with us, I'd say we are still holding strong at about 150 a day. The Lenten station churches have been a great teacher about Christian spirituality and human growth. This is the part where I'm going to use this post to preach to myself because it's late and I'm tired. The basic idea I have found to be true is this: that when seeking to grow closer to God (as we do especially in this Lenten season), the human spirit is not so much deterred by the idea that sacrifice will be necessary, but it is always confronted by the measure of its willingness to suffer.
Uhhh. What? So now let me give you my concrete example; it shall all become clear. During Lent, one may decide to chase after the Lord with greater fervor by attending weekday station church Masses in the city of Rome. In fact, the human spirit is so enamored with hope and so encouraged to 'run the race' and 'win the imperishable crown', that the foreknowledge of necessary sacrifices (like consistently losing sleep and walking an extra few miles every day) do not hinder or dampen its fervor. In fact, one even finds excitement at the thought of doing battle for the Lord and meeting these sacrifices with God's grace.
So then what happens? Well, one is inevitably confronted by the reality of those sacrifices, which slowly but surely attempt to overwhelm the spirit and cause it to turn back from its goal. The plot thickens... It's harder to wake up. The body is sore. The legs are tired. The mind is tired. All the 'fun' is gone. It is at this point that we meet an important spiritual juncture. One sees the true measure of one's own willingness to suffer for the goal it has set before itself, and the drama of nature vs. grace, of conversion and salvation -- that drama unfolds, that battle is waged every morning in the heroic minute when the alarm goes off... again.
Amazing, salvation is won and lost in the simple and oh-so-ordinary moments when one decides, for example, whether to put his feet on the ground, or simply snooze the alarm and roll over. Lol, now is this all just a pinch melodramatic? Probably. But kinda not. The plain-Jane point is that, as with most things in life, there are talkers, and there are walkers, and there is a world of difference between the two. We gotta be walkers. We gotta be. The apostle James calls it being a 'doer of the word'.
And the game changer of it all, the difference between talking and walking, that's love (or as Frankie Sinatra says it, that's amore). Why? Because love is the only force in the entire universe that has the power to transform suffering into something meaningful.
When we love something we are willing to suffer for it, and in fact, in the context of love, a mountain of suffering looks to us like a bump in the road. So when mom gets up at 2am every morning for months to feed and calm baby, that's no small suffering for mom. But mom loves baby so deeply that the suffering of lost sleep and a weary body is nothing in comparison to the joy of holding flesh of her flesh and bone of her bone. So what am I saying, really. Brian, only that it's time you keep on running that race. I love God, and you wanna know what, these station churches have been awesome.
Man oh man I am sorry you haven't heard anything about Saint Mark's today; it was quite nice, the columns in the nave were just beautiful, made from Sicilian jasper. I hope this bit of rambling will hold you over until tomorrow. I'll at least leave you with the pics, which were disappointing because the lighting was so low that I couldn't get a great shot. So actually I'll give you one that another guy took with a better camera. Yeah that works. Enjoy! Oh yeah, and happy vigil of the Solemnity of the Annunciation!