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Success, Failure...some of my greatest failures have been a springboard to my greatest successes...the terms are truly fluid.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

32 The Procession

      When Gordon, Spencer, Bart and I were running around Italy that first two weeks before Easter, there were many activities going on everywhere we went since we were touring Italy during Holy Week everywhere. I remember in Siena after dark the town locals emerged with candles and read some sacred sounding texts and the whole crowd knew all the songs that were sung verbatim as they marched in a Procession. I figured I was Latin since I knew absolutely nothing they were saying. A priest was leading them with a large cross in front and above the crowd. He was wearing spectacular clothes of fine fabrics. 

     I was one of the tourists then, wide eyed and quiet as I spied on the families and people of all ages slowly pacing by me down the stone paved streets. The sound of each voice seemed to reverberate with depth and clarity as it worked up the multiple stories lining the roads. It all created a scene of resonance and grandeur for me. I also felt kind of guilty, like I was spying on something. It seemed more like I was watching other people in a private moment….sort of like gawking at them while they were in church. I was painfully aware of not belonging.

     At the beginning of this beautiful town's procession, everyone seemed to appear at a specific time as the church bells started another round of happy peeling. They were all dressed in formal and sunny attire. The priest, who I had met during my experience of sewing on the altar cloth, surprised me by specifically saying hello to Spencer and I in what must have been a very busy moment for him. I felt so surprised since I figured he would not remember me, much less treat me like I was as important. In my mind I had switched to being the tourist I had been while in Siena, since this was now a religious ceremony. Yet he was treating us like we were part of the community, if not the church! I was genuinely touched!

      I felt it was time to turn off the video camera and cover my bare shoulders with my new farfalle scarf that Cherubino’s sister had just given me. I was making my way out of the street and to the side when one of my cooking friends waved Spencer and I over to join her. She firmly grabbed my arm in a loving and tight embrace and now I was in the Procession itself!! I had to bite back tears, I was so moved!! I wasn’t just decorating, but I was in the crowd as we made our way through town with Spencer by my side.

     After we had been walking a bit I couldn’t help but just be part of the experience in every way. I felt like I did when folk dancing. There comes a point when you just have to let the crowd pull you long and soon you just know what to do.

     The next thing I knew I was chanting in Latin and singing along while still clutching my cheerful blond friend’s arm. Spencer in the meantime was oscillating between peaceful calm and making silly faces with one of his friends who was carrying a fancy spoon in a dainty dish.

     We followed the priest as he made his way through town. I was especially touched when he went out of his way to wind around and do a special stop and blessing towards an elderly person’s house where the family stood clustered around the wheel chair. Apparently this person was now too frail and ill to join the yearly happening. The good priest wanted to make sure that they still felt included. What a nice gesture!

     I was surprised that I sensed what was being said next quite often. I think the words might have been repeating themselves or maybe it was so well thought out that I sensed its logical plan. Either way, I was now singing and part of the procession and the spiritual experience unfolding around me.

     My older son told me that Anthropology, his subject at the University, was becoming part of a culture enough to see that the strange is really now your own idea of  normal.

     I realized that while I have been here in this small Abruzzo townfor a month, what had seemed so different before in early April, now seemed like the normal way to live, and I was now living it here and now.

     At the end of the Procession, many filed into the church and for a moment, I really wanted to go in too and just sit in the back row and appreciate the community, the spirituality and the singing. I decided against it in the end just like when I felt it was inappropriate for me to want to go inside the Vatican while so many lifelong Catholics were waiting to go in and celebrate Easter. I chose to side step the service here. I wasn’t even sure if I was allowed to go without a Catholic to take me there.

     Afterward the kindly priest was happy to hear I had been in the procession. He asked what I thought of the service and since he speaks Spanish as well I told him the truth. I explained that I was unsure if I was even allowed to go in and so I did not enter in order to avoid being disrespectful. He laughed easily and told me that the Catholic church is an open place and that wherever I was in the world, I was welcome to enter and join in.

     I smiled after him as he worked his way around easily chatting with children and adults. I think I had just gotten my own personal invitation to attend a Catholic church.

     I always have had this fantasy that it would be cool to pray everywhere I went with the locals feeling the many different languages and expressions of spirit as I circled the globe. I guess in my mind I wanted to “pray around the world.” My friends thought this was particularly funny since I am not always the kind of person who exudes much spirit at all. Sometimes I suppose it would be correct to think of me as exuding a sort of lack of spiritual experience since I am sort of an overly open-minded person who doesn’t like to put down any way of looking at Divine. I can seem like I don’t believe in anything. But it is easy to see here that I believe in the same thing as everyone here does.     


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