Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Both unlettered and uncultured

Cristo dice: y yo, si fuere levantado de la tierra, a todos atrarere a mi mismo. Juan 12, 32

Viendo el denuedo de Pedro y de Juan, y sabiendo que eran hombres sin letras y del vulgo, se maravillaban; y les reconocian que habian estado con Jesus. Hechos 4,13

Mam oh man, I am without words and ignorant. All day long. Very much stumbling over the simplest grazie and molto bella and buona giorno. Drats.

And yesterday was a heaping and overflowing basket of goodness, poured into my lap.

First up to cappuccino and homemade bread and out the door. Marco is trying to develop a relationship with the Muslim community and they had a meeting to gather and figure out how to integrate into the Italian community but not really, so the only non-Muslim they had invited to their meeting was Marco and they had at first asked him to help plan the meeting, and then they changed it to just speaking at the meeting, but then they changed that, and asked to just attend, and he ended up with little "reserved" signs on four seats, but when they saw that two of the guests were women, we were asked, very gently, if we would rather sit in back with the other women. And we draped Nicole's prayer flags around our heads and prayed for this community, while they sangprayed and through the long boring man talks and then for the articulate, passionate woman who spoke afterwards even though it seemed like no one was listening to her except us, and especially for Marco, that he would remain under with patience and grace even when it was difficult.

Then to mass. And as I knelt and prayed and listened to the Scriptures and the sermon about the Ascension of Christ and His command to "go into all the world and preach the Gospel and make disciples, teaching them," while I looked up at the massive marble Christ on the cross, I marveled at this great love, Who would stop at nothing to bring all to Himself.   And Matteo's violin sang over us while we shared the Eucharist.

We then drove out for at least ten minutes into the countryside, to the grandparents' farm for a Sunday dinner of roast chicken and rabbit livers and risotto and bread and salad and marinara sauce and homemade wine and cherries and we admired the chickens and rabbits and the vineyard and fields, and Nicole wrapped her arms around this beloved grandmother and Paulo did the dishes.

Quick quick, we zipped home and then off to Ravenna, the beach town where Dante finished up El Paradiso, and we swam out to the long pile of rocks way out there with some clever friends who then lay on the beach with me and discussed Fahrenheit 451 and the Screwtape Letters that they were reading. And now I am going to have to read the Missingman by Chesterton because reading this book that I never heard of changed the direction of his life. We looked up on his iPhone if he wasn't talking about The Everlasting Man, so there is a Chesterton book that don't know. The lifeguard had to row out on his skiff to ask Nicole not to go out past the buoys.

One has to remember that all of this driving is past field after field of grapes and peaches and corn and sunflowers and poppies and massive tiled stone-and-plastered farmhouses covered with rose bushes and jasmine vines under pointy cypress and flowering fig trees, and that it rained all last week but now the skies are very bright blue. Lest I grow immune to my surroundings.

So Marco has gathered together a community of about thirty people, and sometimes there are fifteen and sometimes just two, but they meet every two weeks at different homes to discuss and plan for justice in the city, so we met at this girl's beautiful villa for warm-from-the-oven pound cake and fruit juice and tangy fruits full of brown shiny seeds that I saved for Alan.

Then the just-stop-by, ten-minute planning meeting at the church stretched on and on, which is what happens when you have six strong, bright, passionate men planning for a day-long excursion to Assisi to learn about St. Francis for two hundred kids. And Marco is all about Inquiry-based learning and open-ended questions, and the priest not so much, and yes, things do sound a little complicated reenacting the battles against the Moors and the conversion moment and the building of the chapel of Assisi, but at long last they agree to release control to Marco, sort of, since I did not exactly understand the specifics, but certainly the dynamics were clear.

Chiara had prepared a beautiful ravioli dinner for all of us, which was a good thing, since it was going to be a long night. And as we took one last spoonful before returning to the tasks at hand, one of the young men asked if we had ever met a truly actualized person who did not know Christ. Marco went with "define your terms," and Nicole told Burning Man stories of sincere and dedicated seekers who saw a light around her Prayer and Blessing umbrella, a Light different than everything else in the clutter of man-seeking-truth.

Matteo Number One built a fire in the fireplace because I had taught him that you don't have to be in winter or cold to have a fire in the fireplace when he visited us in Tucson. Matteo Number Two and I cut strips and strips of yellow and red fabric for wristbands and flags for the game and told stories while Nicole painted paper-covered boxes with scenes of the chapels of Assisi and Lugo to use as huge building blocks, Matteo Number One and Luca planned the music, Matteo Number Three who is about to take his priest vows and still has a lot of preparation after he leaves tonight helped out in the kitchen, while Marco cut holes in long sheets of fabric for a game where the kids wear medieval helmets created out of newspaper mâché and poke their heads up through holes like ground squirrels and people throw things at them that I don't really understand; like I said I am an ignorant person who cut four hundred strips of fabric with a young man asking, "How can I know that God really loves me?"
Towards the end, Marco asked if anyone wanted a little liquor and as we sipped out of small glasses, he told us how he happened to have such fancy stuff in his home, having rescued a hysterical woman from a huge rat with bared teeth, and her grateful husband gifted him from his rich storehouse. Well, once again, that is what I figured out, I think.

And at the end, as midnight of this gift of a day from the very rich storehouses of My Father, I asked the priest-to-be if he would like to offer up a prayer for tomorrow and the children, and he asked me to do it, and Nicole suggested that we all hold hands and we did, and I thanked God for each of these lovely servants and may each of the children know the love of God and what it is to follow Him.

And even though I am unlettered and uncultured, may they know that I have been with Jesus.