Thursday 23rd May 2019

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A Leaven In The World… To A Friend One Knows The Way

May 6, 2019 Our Catholic Faith No Comments


I reached Naples by train from Rome on my recent stay, and Bacoli by means of another train, a bus, and a short walk. After depositing my luggage at my rooms in the casa canonica, or parish priest’s house, I set out with the street address where my road bike had been stored during the years since my previous visit. It had been my plan to get out on it for exercise in the hilly volcanic area around Naples during the final week of my stay in Italy. The first objective, after reaching the shelter kindly provided by the pastor of St. Ann’s Church, was to obtain the bike.
As I say, I had the street name and house number I sought, obtained by a complex series of calls via cellphone of local persons and Facebook messages. I retained a vague idea of the location, as I had been there a few times in the past to meet a friend for cycling outings. This was the home of his parents, however, and he, now married, had moved to an apartment with his family in the Spanish Quarter of downtown Naples. I did not seek a map, but decided rather to ask others along the way for directions. I made a conscious decision to rely upon the kindness of strangers.
The objective of this trek was to reach the bike, for the good of getting exercise and seeing the area again along the way, more than visiting the kind people who had offered the space for storage. I lived in Naples for a couple of years as a Navy chaplain and cycled often then. I looked forward to seeing the sights and getting exercise at the same time that would assist me in working off the delicious local fare I planned to consume. Certainly I looked forward to greeting the people once again, but could not be sure they had time to visit simply because I chose the present moment to take the bike out of storage.
To get underway, I purchased the ticket for both the bus and the train necessary for the vicinity of my objective, from which point I planned to continue on foot. I knew this might involve miles of walking and loss of precious vacation time but, as the Scriptures say, “Where your treasure is there also your heart will be.” When one travels by public transport, one must wait. Repeatedly. One who is not good at waiting or who is impatient will quickly find himself unhappy. I brought my Breviary along, making good use of the time to remain faithful to my promise to pray the prayer of the Church daily.
I first connected by bus to a train from the station in Fusaro, which I knew quite well as it was the closest commercial area to my former apartment, a mile or so away near the Cuma amphitheater. One of the sibyls painted on the Sistine Chapel ceiling, who takes her name from that locale, plied her trade also not far from my old residence. One can see the acropolis there and, below it, her subterranean lair where the Caesars of Rome and other prominent personages of antiquity sought her help in auguring the future.
Some think that gaseous emissions from an underground source gave the sibyl’s voice a strange, supernatural tone and may have also enhanced the “mystical” experience of those who sought out her counsel, a popular objective of pilgrimage for those who could afford the journey in the ancient world. Thankfully spared their superstition by means of faith, I presupposed that proper use of reason, the humility necessary to ask for help of those whom I had the fortune to encounter along the way by means of my fairly solid grasp of the Italian language, would mean I could look forward to road-biking, feasting my eyes once again upon the beautiful environs where Rome’s rich and famous often spent their leisure away from the hubbub of the Empire’s epicenter.
The walking leg of my journey began at the station of Arco Felice, where the train deposited me, a town named for a grand Roman engineering feat. Locals used a spine of the hill which follows the contours of the peninsula stretching from Naples to Bacoli for travel. The Romans preferred the speed afforded by their roads. It caused some local consternation when the plans to cut through the hill to build a road which connected one side of the peninsula to the other were announced. The “happy” arch that holds the hill up over the surviving ancient paving stones takes its name from the magnanimity of the Romans who, by placing additional arches upon the largest and principal arch opening the hillside, replaced the old road above the new one, thus satisfying the people of Cuma.
I asked a lady working at a snack bar for directions. She could only give a general indication. With this I proceeded for some minutes uphill away from the harbor of the town where the station lay. I took a turn indicated as I began to ascend alongside a tall promontory. Finding the gate to a reception venue open and a man inside, I stopped again. He was unsure how to proceed. Further up the hill, I inquired at an office where the kind man there pulled up a photographic image with road names superimposed. We thus established both our own location and that of the objective. I took a picture of the image with my cell phone, offering at the same time a quick prayer of thanks for modern technology.
I returned to show the image to the man at the restaurant in a beautiful garden overlooking the Gulf of Pozzuoli, mentioned as Puteoli by St. Paul (Acts 28). He took a look at the map photo and drove me closer to the destination and deposited me, finally, within steps of the apartment, though the assistance of several more people proved necessary. An interesting insight into the importance of personal relationships is afforded by the conversation I had with the very last man who pointed the way. He did not know the home by its street address, although we were feet away from it. Only upon hearing me say the name of the family who lived there did he disclose the final leg. Or perhaps he wanted to protect the neighborhood from those not there for friendly purposes.
Life is a journey in this beautiful world where we may choose our direction. Certainly we may depend upon the kindness of others who will help us along the way. But not everyone we encounter will know the way or help us. This is not guaranteed, nor is the luxury of time for sifting the bad from the good.
I used the limited gift of time on vacation in which to find my road bike and to use it once again. None of us knows how much time we have to do what we wish; it behooves us to start the greatest journey, toward eternity, now. The Church and the souls who make up her members are the means Christ has left to help us along the way to Himself, to be sought as a treasure with the journey of the heart. “Arise, let us be on our way.”
Alleluia: A blessed Easter to all. Thank you for reading.

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