Reposted from my blog Aut Quo Vadis
I have been in Rome, the Eternal City, the City of Seven Hills, for nearly two weeks now, and I have had to do more challenging things in these past two weeks than in much of my life. I have had to learn to be comfortable eating in a restaurant by myself, working through a language barrier, navigating a new and strange city alone with limited street signs and at times poor mapping directions, locating a supermarket and walking back with my groceries, figuring out where to buy various things such as pillows or blankets in a city with no Target, using a foreign ATM, and surviving crossing the chaotic Roman streets as Vespas whiz past pedestrians on streets never intended for modern vehicles. I am learning independence.
Yet in the midst of learning independence, I become deeply aware of my total dependence. As I read shampoo labels in Italian, introduced myself to shop owners, navigated a city with no order, and established new friendships, I knew that I could do none of it. I become more aware of my glaring vulnerability, my inescapable incapability, my distinct dependence. I am drawn deeper and deeper into silence amidst chaos. I stand amidst the grandeur of human accomplishment and as I stare in awe at the vastness of my surroundings, I have a deep sense of my littleness. I kneel in confession eclipsed by the vastness of St. Peter’s Basilica, as the priest asks, “What is God’s will for your heart?” And in that moment, amidst the tomb of St. Peter, surrounded by the majesty of the magnificent Basilica, aware of the saints that had walked those halls, I could only answer: “To love.”
When I boarded my plane to Rome nearly two weeks ago, many had asked me, “Where are you going?” And my answer was simple—”I am going to Rome.” But I knew in my heart that I wasn’t just going to Rome. I knew Jesus was calling me into the desert, into silence, into new life, but I knew not how He intended to accomplish that. And so last night, I found myself going to Santa Maria Basilica to do my usual holy hour—yet something was going on in the Church, and I didn’t feel comfortable praying in the midst of community prayer. I found myself wondering, “Where will I go?” as I remembered another church not too far that had its doors wide open at night. I walked into the Church, and Jesus was there, staring at me in adoration as there was exposition at the time. I had been starting to feel overwhelmed and worn down by all the work independence required, and as I stared at Jesus, I knew where I was going. I knew that I wanted to love more deeply, to pray more fervently, to give more generously. I knew within my heart that I could accomplish none of what I desired, that even the act of breathing required grace, that I was nothing before the King of my Heart, and yet He looked at me with Love and Mercy. I recalled the words of the priest in confession—”What is God’s will for your heart?”—and I recalled my response—”To love”.
To love is to allow Christ to first love us. How can we give what we do not have? And so we are totally dependent on Christ— Author of Life, Source of Love, Fountain of Mercy—to love others. Christ pours out His Love for us at the Cross. His Love pours forth as Blood and Water from His Heart as a fountain of Mercy for us, but we must come to the Cross to receive His Love. The Cross is not easy, and we are continually journeying towards the foot of the Cross with Christ. It is only through a total trust in Christ’s Plan of Mercy and Love for our hearts that we can come to the Cross, which is death to self and renewed life in the Love of Christ. There will be many points of anxiety, numerous occasions where we turn away, moments when we refuse the heavy burden of self sacrifice. Yet Jesus continues to pour out His Mercy upon our hearts, to invite us to do the impossible and walk on water, and when we drown, we drown in His Mercy, our hearts being purified, before Jesus pulls us back up again.
I do not know how Jesus will use my time in Rome, but I do know where I am going. I am continually striving to go to the Cross with Mary at my side. In a city of great accomplishments and human achievement, I am made aware of my littleness. In a city of saints and martyrs, I am made aware of my sin. In St. Peter’s Basilica, I come to know the beauty of the Catholic Church. I know that I will fall many times as I strive to walk toward the Cross with Jesus and Mary, but I know that each time I fall, Jesus will pull me up. I do not need to fear walking alone, for I know that I am little, and my littleness assures me that I continually walk with Jesus and Mary, my Mother.
Aut quo vadis—Where are you going?