Thursday, September 2, 2010
Lighting a Candle
I’m not Catholic, in fact I’m not particularly religious; at least not in the conventional sense. However, European churches leave me in awe and with a sense of that which I don’t understand. (See my blog entry from March 26, 2008, European Vacation, Day 3: A Religious Experience) Today my husband and I visited the Basilica of St. Mary of Health in Venice. I wanted to go to this church because of a story I’d read about it in the book A Thousand Days in Venice by Marlena de Blasi. We arrived at the church late in the afternoon -- a long walk through Venice’s streets, but located almost directly across the Grand Canal from our hotel. There were musicians playing and singers performing on the steps of the church when we arrived. After listening for a few minutes, I motioned to my husband that I was going to go inside. I was afraid that the church doors might soon be closing since it was getting late. I walked around the inside of the church, again in awe not only because of this sense I get from these European churches, but also because of what I’d read in de Blasi’s book about an annual celebration held in this church. As I approached the exit to the church, there was a place set aside to light a candle. The candle costs 1 Euro – you supply your own prayer.
I know someone who is currently dying. She has ALS, Lou Gehrig’s Disease. I wrote about her last fall (September 26, 2009, ALS) and now, less than a year later, her prognosis is not good. Today, in the Basilica of St. Mary of Health, I paid my 1 Euro and lit a candle for this woman. I know that physical health is not a possibility for her, but my prayer was that she knows mental and spiritual health. I stepped away from the altar and had to find the tissues in my purse (and then I put on my sunglasses).
This church was built as a “deal” with God in the 1600s in an attempt to stop the plague. Today, in 2010, no deals were being made, I was just making a simple gesture of hope, but I was filled with emotions of grief, gratitude and, surprisingly, peace.