Andreas asked us if we wanted to go to pray in his monastery's private chapel. Last night, Stefano, Francesco and I went to the Palazzo Vescovile (the Bishop's palace) where Andreas and his brothers reside.
I didn't realize what a special place he lived in! I guess I was assuming a more humble sort of monastery somewhere behind the Cathedral, but the building that he lives in is actually an Early Baroque palace! Before taking us up to their private chapel he showed us the audience chamber which had beautiful frescoes on every wall (including the ceiling!) of saints, biblical subjects and contemporary architectonic embellishment. There were many almost double life-size altarpieces of saints and martyrs and scenes of sacre conversazioni (contemplative paintings of holy figures in discussion with one another, regardless if such a thing would have been historically possible or not).
We toured through parts of the palace, entering each room in darkness, waiting while Andreas fumbled for a light, then all of a sudden seeing these beautiful liturgical objects in dim illumination, after a few minutes we would make our way to the next door and experience the same sequence all over again, only to find ourselves in yet another room full of Baroque frescoes and dark wooden choir stalls, and so on.
Once we got to their private chapel Andreas showed us some material that he had specially prepared for us, including all the prayers that we would say together, written in German, Italian and English! He had three of his own handmade Rosaries laid out on the chairs where we would pray. He also selected a passage from the bible in both English and Italian, it was Matthew 15:21-28, the story of a Canaanite woman who begged Jesus to heal her daughter, who was possessed by a demon.
Andreas left the chapel a moment and came back in with his white vestment and then prepared the monstrance by inserting the consecrated host from the tabernacle. He slowly rotated the monstrance towards us and then lit a little spotlight onto it. He knelt by the altar then joined us for silent contemplation during the adoration of the Blessed Sacrament. We prayed the rosary together, alternating in languages, and also read the selected scripture and meditated upon it. During my reflection I remembered that Andreas had his moment of conversion during Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, and how special it was that he had arranged this very intimate prayer session for us. Our time together in prayer was very intense yet peaceful and above all, beautiful -- more beautiful than all the Baroque treasures that the palace held.
Afterward we went to his refectory to drink some water. We told him how thankful we were to have the rope-like rosaries that he made by hand. He said that the material was nothing special and almost embarrassedly explained that the rosaries require so much string that he bought a whole reel of cord -- the kind that is used to make fishing nets -- in a little town outside of Rome. I pointed out the great theological beauty in using the material of fish nets for rosaries, and how it reminded me of Jesus being a fisher of men. He liked that.
Again we talked about many of the same themes from the last visit, the importance of not being angry with God, of not losing faith, and of offering up our suffering to the Lord. At the end of reminding us of these things Andreas looked at me and said once again "You are on the right path. Stay on it. You need to be writing these things down."
In preparing this blog entry, I went back and reread the passage and contemplated why he selected it that night. I found an exegetical study on line that was very helpful to me, the link is below. Of course I knew it was selected for the subject of a person praying to Jesus for a miracle of healing, and its emphasis on the importance of not losing faith.
What I did not realize until now is that there are other aspects of the story that are especially relevant to our situation. For example, the petitioner of mercy was not the one who is ill, but rather a family member full of faith, and it was her very faith that prevailed upon Jesus' grace. Another pertinent aspect is that the woman was asking Jesus for a miracle with a heart full of faith, not as a person seeking a magic trick, or one who thought "What the heck, it can't hurt." In the recent past some members of this family have sought magical cures for what seemed to them to be an evil curse, even going as far as visiting exorcists, magicians and psychics. This bible passage seems to remind us that all we need for miracles to happen is a heart full of faith and God's grace.
Here is the link I promised: