The True Language of Prayer

Traveling in Rome is a blessed spiritual experience in this excerpt from Daily Guideposts.

- Posted on Jul 19, 2015

Praying in Rome - rainbow over the Vatican

Blessed are your eyes, for they see: and your ears, for they hear. Matthew 13:16

One time many years ago I was bustling along an alley in Rome when a lady who looked to be about 500 years old stared at me and grinned and said quietly, “Cosa c'è?”

I didn’t know what it meant, so I stopped, thinking that maybe she needed assistance.

“Cosa c'è?”  she said again, very gently. “No Italian,” I said, smiling but feeling stupid. Her face was so attentive and solicitous, though, that I started to pour thoughts out, in my own language, and I bet we stood in that alley for 20 minutes as I explained my muddled love life and dull job and bleak prospects.

All the time she was gazing up at me with the sweetest care, as if I were her own son. Finally I finished, feeling silly that I had unburdened myself so, and she reached up and patted my face and said tenderly, “Stai zitto.”

That broke the holy moment, and off we go down the years. For a long time I thought she’d granted me benediction of some kind, offered some subtle prayer in her language, until a friend told me recently that Cosa c'è? means “What’s the matter?” and Stai zitto means “You’re crazy.”

But maybe I’m a little wiser now that I’m ancient, because I believe with all my heart that she did grant me an extraordinary blessing that hot day in the alley near Via Caterina. She listened, she paid attention, she was wholly present as I opened a door in myself. Isn’t that an enormously powerful and haunting form of prayer, to listen with all your might? Isn’t that one of the greatest gifts we can possibly give each other?

Dear Lord, for our eyes and our ears that sometimes open to the astounding gift of Your music, grazie.

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