Since arriving in Italy, I have spent a good amount of time visiting churches, cathedrals and even an abbey. It’s not unusual for me to pass a few churches in a single day. My power walks, errand running and shopping have all been interrupted by my desire to visit these peaceful sanctuaries for even the tiniest bit of silent beauty. I rarely walk by without stopping for a moment of quiet reflection. I love small neighborhood churches, and often visit more than once.
I take plenty of photographs, particularly drawn to stained glass, angels and captured light. Naturally I do this to chronicle my journey. I also love sharing the beauty of this experience on social media. Still, taking pictures on hallowed grounds, while permissible, always feels a little strange to me, so I created a respectful exchange. An exchange that has strengthened my faith. I always make a small donation and do my best to learn about the church’s history. I honor my Catholic upbringing by blessing myself and genuflecting before the altar, and then I sit in silence and pray.
I pray for our world, humankind, my most precious peeps, and me. I talk to God, the Virgin Mary, my parents, a cast of great spiritual leaders, and the Universe. Somehow I am sure God doesn’t mind sharing the stage.
My relationship with religion, God and faith has had its ups and downs. I stopped attending mass years and years ago believing I wasn’t good enough, I had made too many unforgivable mistakes to belong. Regret, guilt and shame had a hold on me for far too long. I wanted a change. So, I created a spiritual practice aligned to my beliefs, love first, be grateful, forgive, forgo judgement, have faith, trust God and the Universe, and surrender control.
As simple as it sounds, it required thoughtful and purposeful practice. Loving and forgiving myself were the hardest. I learned to let go of regret and the worn-out stories that held me hostage to a certain kind of life. In the still moments of reflection I grew stronger and closer to my authentic self, proudly acknowledging the gifts I had to share. My mistakes no longer defined me, I’d come a long way.
I am faithful to my practice, sitting in ancient churches far from home grateful for my life and this journey. I give a shout out to God and the Universe to send a little love and light to the ones I love the most. I ask for strength to love and value every human life, even the ones I don’t like because we are all worthy of love and belonging, every single one of us.
Love, gratitude, forgiveness, and faith have been the paths from which I found my greatest strength, the courage to change the course of my life forever . . . to make it better
Keep the faith . . .