Come to me… for I am meek and humble of heart;
and you will find rest for yourselves.
I am one day home from the gift of a very unexpected trip to Rome in this year of Mercy. As I approached the designated door of St. Peter’s basilica I stepped aside for a moment before entering, wondering if there had been a necessary preparation I might have missed. And then thankfully I came across the sign that stood by the door that gifted a simple, direct invitation. “As you pass through the holy door remember that Jesus is the door who introduces you to the embrace of God’s mercy.”
Once inside, the basilica was abuzz with as one passing person said “a sea of humanity.” Wall to wall people in such a number that much effort was required to stay attuned to the flow so as not to bump into people gathered with a multitude of intentions – cameras, selfie sticks, tourist group leader flags, candles. It was a buzz of voices. On a certain level it felt like a bustling museum.
That is until I stepped behind the heavy dark grey curtains in the quiet of a hidden side chapel to find Jesus waiting in the Blessed Sacrament. Instantly I found the space transformed by the gift of quiet stillness and a sacred silence. In this space of complete and real Presence with the exposition of the Blessed Sacrament I was gifted with a deep sense of coming home with the chance to find rest in the love and mercy of God. No matter how frazzled the journey was to get here or how much we will be swept back into the whirlwind of a life after, in this moment of meeting Christ, the Bread of Life, we always have this opportunity to be steeped in the Peace of His humble, always welcoming Presence.
Another day I headed to the church of San Pietro in Vincoli at someone’s suggestion. It is known for Michelangelo’s sculpture commissioned for Pope Julius II’s tomb. A giant Moses holding the tablets of the Law.. As the doors opened I entered along with a flood of tourists & pilgrims who had gathered in anticipation. Looking for the flicker of a candle in a red holder I headed towards the left side of the church; the only area with chairs and kneelers to pray in front of the tabernacle. From the silence of this spot I turned to see the fullness of the crowd heading towards the statue of Moses. Guidebooks and cameras in hand. A buzz of sounds. Deep rows of people pushing close just as they had in front of the Pieta at St. Peter’s vying for spots to see and adequately capture and experience this unique work of art.
With so much attention concentrated at the other side of the church I realized in a way I never experienced before how quietly humble Christ’s invitation and His Presence truly is. This treasure of His presence, unmatched by any other, waits with a patience and love beyond any human comprehension. From behind a closed hidden spot in a tabernacle where only the keys of faith supply the map, it asks nothing but our own focused return of presence and surrendered love. I write this knowing that I can find myself as both/and. Consumed with a camera trying to capture some version of “must do or see” and as in this moment, arriving with an open heart content to be filled with whatever it is God wants to teach or show me, desiring and tasting the relief and sweetness of His invitation.
M. Walsh, is a retreatant and friend of the Mater Dolorosa Retreat Center and the Passionist community.