Bonjourno! What an amazing, spontaneous adventure I’m having! I am so exited to share with you what I discovered today. About two weeks ago, my husband told me that he had been asked to meet with his company’s administrative team at their headquarters in Rome to discuss their upcoming budget. After checking, he realized he had enough frequent flyer mileage to take me with him (so long, empty nest back home). The only catch was that he would be working ten-hour days, so I would be on my own most of the time. Alone in Rome with nothing to do…how would I fill my time?
Of course, I have found plenty of ways to fill my time! And I can’t wait to share with you the best experience I’ve had in a long time.
Ken and I spent Sunday in Anzio, the site of the Allied invasion of Italy near the end of WWII. It was a quaint town that we’d like to go back to when we aren’t so exhausted from a red-eye flight! On Monday, I explored some hidden treasures of Rome–The Catacombs of St. Domitilla Church, the Knights of Malta Keyhole, and the majestic view from the Orange Garden at the Church of St. Dominic (check my facebook page for the pictures I’m sharing this week). It was a fun day, and I loved trying to find these off-the-beaten-path gems.
Today, was an amazing experience outside of Rome, one that reminded me of a very important lesson. When Ken and I talked about what I was going to do during this trip, he suggested I take a train out to Castel Gandolfo, the summer residence of the Popes. Closed to the public, for over 500 years, the house (referred to as the Pope’s Palace) and the gardens are temporarily open for tours. I say ‘temporarily’ because Pope Francis has chosen not to use the residence and decided it should open to the public. Presumably, his successor will go back to spending a few weeks each summer there, and it will no longer be accessible to the rest of the world. I have to tell you, Ken might just be brilliant. Visiting Castel Gandolfo was one of the most amazing things I’ve had on my travels, not just because of the grandeur of the home and the indescribable acres and acres of beautiful gardens, but because of the people I encountered there.
From the moment I set foot on the property, I was greeted with a smile. It was not obvious where the entrance was, and I ended up trying to go in through the exit. The security guard tried to explain to me, in broken English, where to purchase a ticket and enter the residence. Because of the renovation being done to parts of the outside, I completely missed where he told me to go. When I did not show up inside the complex within a few minutes, he set out to find me! When I realized I had gone too far, I turned to go back up the hill, and there he was, hurrying down the hill, waving to me with a huge smile on his face. He apologized and walked with me all the way back up and over to the secured area. He waved goodbye and wished me a good day.
The security guard, who checked my bag, greeted me with a gregarious, “Bonjourno” as he waved me through the temporary checkpoint and showed me where to go next. The woman at the ticket counter smiled the entire time she explained the procedure and sold me my ticket. She jovially called, “Arrivederrci” as I left. The security guard at the entrance said hello, asked if I was doing the house or garden first, checked my ticket, showed me to the bathroom, and then told me, “When it’s time for your garden tour, come right back here. I will make sure you get on the bus. Just meet me here at 1:20.” He said all of this with a smile, asking if he could be of further assistance before he pointed out where I should begin the tour.
Rather than tour guides, security guards take you through the residence, each one passing you off the to the next one when you reach the end of that section of the house (the tour is done through an audio device in your native tongue). Each of these guards was warm and friendly, asking if I had seen this or that and making sure I didn’t miss a single room or section of the house.
When I was finished, the same guard who helped me when I first arrived told me goodbye. With a big, friendly grin, he thanked me for coming and bid me a good day. It was as if we were old friends, saying goodbye after a heart-felt visit.
As I was walking back down the mountain (oh, yes, the village is at the top of a high mountain, and you have to walk up and back down–quite the hike), it occurred to me that all of those people either loved their jobs OR they truly took the Holy Father’s orders to heart.
Ever since he first became Pope, the Holy Father has been instructing us to be a people of joy. While he may be addressing the Catholic faithful, reminding us that Catholics should be a “People of Joy,” I believe he intends for his message to be heeded by everyone. Here are just a few things he has said to us:
“A Christian is one who is invited… to join in the feast, to the joy of being saved, to the joy of being redeemed, to the joy of sharing life with Christ. This is a joy! You are called to a party!”
To young people:
“Dear young people, Jesus wants to be your friend, and wants you to spread the joy of this friendship everywhere.”
To all Christians:
“A Christian brings peace to others. Not only peace, but also love, kindness, faithfulness and joy.”
To those serving the Church:
“Wherever there are men and women who have consecrated their lives to God, there you find joy.”
To everyone seeking Heaven:
“If we wish to follow Christ closely, we cannot choose an easy, quiet life. It will be a demanding life, but full of joy.”
There are dozens and dozens of times that Pope Francis has reminded us that we are called to be joyful, to show joy to others, and to lead all people to joy.
That is what struck me over and over today. These people, who are part of the Pope’s inner sanctum, are filled with joy! The effect it had on me was profound. I discovered that each person I encountered shared their joy with me, making me more and more joyous with each step I took, wanting to share my joy with everyone, including you!
I don’t know about you, but that’s the world I want to live in. No, not the summer residence of the Popes, but a world in which each person we meet strives to impart some of their inner joy to everyone he meets; a world where, no matter what sadness or loneliness or feelings of despair we may have, we can still find the joy within, a joy worth sharing with everyone around us. That is the joy that accompanied the suffering on the cross–the joy that we are loved, the joy that we are saved, the joy that this life is just a time of passing through until we all reach our perfect summer residence where the sun (SON) always shines beyond the cross, in spite of our trials, into eternity.
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What I was writing about a year ago this week: Turning the Night into Day.
Amy Schisler is an award-winning author of both children’s books and sweet, faith-filled romance novels for readers of all ages. She lives with her husband and three daughters on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. Her books, Picture Me, Whispering Vines, and Island of Miracles are all recipients of Illumination Awards, placing them among the top inspirational fiction books of 2015, 2016, and 2017. Whispering Vines was awarded the 2017 LYRA Award for the best romance of 2016. Island of Miracles has outsold all of Amy’s other books worldwide and ranked as high as 600 on Amazon. Her follow up, Island of Promise is a reader favorite. Amy’s children’s book is The Greatest Gift. The suspense novel, Summer’s Squall, and all of Amy’s books, can be found online and in stores. Her latest novel, Island of Promise, was recently awarded First Prize by the Oklahoma Romance Writer’s Association as the best Inspirational Romance of 2018 and was awarded a Gold Medal in the Independent Publisher Book Awards 2019 for Inspirational Fiction. It is the 2019 winner for Best Inspirational Fiction in the RWA Golden Quill Contest, Best Romance in the American Book Awards, and a finalist for the Eric Hoffer Award of Fiction. Amy’s 2019 work, The Devil’s Fortune, is based, in part, on her family history and is garnering many five star reviews.
Book Three of the Chincoteague Island Trilogy, Island of Hope, is now available! Order your copy today of the “book that was a joy to read!”- Ann on GoodReads.
Amy’s books: Crabbing With Granddad (2013), A Place to Call Home (2014), Picture Me (2015), Whispering Vines (2016), Island of Miracles (2017), Stations of the Cross Meditations for Moms (2017), The Greatest Gift (2017), Summer’s Squall (2017), Island of Promise (2018), The Devil’s Fortune (2019), Island of Hope (2019).