Posted March 16, 2012 in MH Robin Hood's Bay, England:
Corragio! Come!

by Cheryl Ann Smith.

It seems that grace waits for the perfect moment to drop into a heart. And it seems that the perfect moment often springs less from the preparation of prayer than from events which render a heart weak, vulnerable and poor.

I was recently in Rome for a few days attending a meeting of the leaders of ecclesial communities and movements in Europe.

It was stimulating and encouraging to witness the seeds of life and renewal in each country. It was also humbling to realize that the three of us from England were the only ones who spoke only one language, and who were not yet ready to organize a rally in our country.

Madonna House spirituality, calls us to be little, simple, poor childlike, but that’s not a particularly comfortable position.

Yet this humbling experience was but the prelude to my softening for grace.

I had been given the use of an apartment near St Peter’s, so after the conference, I used it as a home base for a few days of pilgrimage.

Blow #1 came on the first day. I rode the subway back from a day praying in the magnificent Church of San Clemente. The subway was crowded, but I had learned how to move safely, or so I thought. My money belt was pinned to my clothing, my backpack was at my feet, and I was standing right in front of tall metal poles.

Even so, my wallet was stolen!

Thankfully, my passport and a little extra money were in another compartment, so I was all right—but a little shaken. My best precautions hadn’t been good enough to prevent theft.

Blow #2, a more upsetting one, was dealt me the next day when I returned from praying in the Basilica of St. Cecilia with its breathtaking frescoes and fascinating crypt.

With another hour of sunlight left, I decided to take my book into the courtyard to read. When I came back to the apartment, I could not open the door. Nor could any of the four other people I enlisted for help.

When they had all disappeared into their own apartments, I was left alone. Safely locked inside the apartment were my warm clothing, phone, and the phone number of the only person I knew in Rome.

What would I do? I had no idea, so I slid down in front of the door and just cried.

A couple of hours later, I tried one last time. This time, the door opened easily and gave me no further trouble. What was that?

Blow # 3: The next morning, I returned to St Peter’s Basilica only to find the doors closed and entry denied even to the square. It was the pope’s weekly address, and I had no ticket. I felt as if I were barred from my own home.

By the time I arrived on my last day for the Pilgrims’ Mass at the main altar in St. Peter’s and found no one there, the perfect moment for grace had arrived. I was feeling poor and vulnerable.

Hearing a bell signal the beginning of Mass in a side chapel, I hurried over and slid into a back pew. Ah, no! In a torrent of Italian words and gestures, the priest invited us to move to the front pews.

Later on, in the same spirit of intimacy, he motioned us to gather around the altar to receive Communion instead of forming straight lines.

At least that’s what I thought he was saying—until I noticed no one following me to the front. Oops.

As I turned to join the others in line, a voice rang out, "Corragio! (Courage!)" I think the good priest was assuring me that I had understood him and he was calling me forward. "Corragio," he cried again. I came, and he reached out and tenderly touched my face before giving me the Body of Christ.

I have to admit, I wept as I returned to my pew. I knew it was Jesus who had caressed me before giving himself to me—Jesus tenderly touching my poverty.

I couldn’t help but think of blind Bartimaeus who would not be silenced by the crowd as he called out to Jesus who was passing by (Mk 10:46-52). In fact, he cried all the louder!

Jesus heard him. He stopped, and called for Bartimaeus to come near. Suddenly the others changed their tune, and encouraged him with these words, "Courage! Get up! He is calling you".

Somehow, I like the Italian corragio better. Corragio! He is calling you. Corragio! Come nearer.

Suddenly all the blows and blocks and barricades I had experienced in the past days melted before Christ’s call, "Corragio! Corragio! Come to Me."

And so I did.


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