House of the Virgins

Everything you need, at any moment, is right in front of you.

You just haven’t been taught to see.

We are born into this life thinking our salvation comes from attaining. We must get toys and houses and bigger cars with televisions in the back seats. And when that doesn’t work, some of us turn to spirituality. We go to yoga retreats and get certifications or sign up for classes that are going to make everything better. Even in that regard, we might strive to “attain” some greater knowledge.

All of that is fine, for a while. But the external is a far cry from the richness of the Inner Life.

What is different about the Light (which is Truth, and God, even though God has become a dirty word) is that it does not suggest we must have more, or that acquiring objects and accolades leads to happiness. Instead, it reveals the beauty and depth that is already within, the perfection in front of you which you were too blind to see.

Stop living in a dark room. Flip the switch.

On my trip to Rome (a blessed experience!), I carried a guidebook of travel recommendations. I knew I wanted to see the Colosseum, but when I got there, the lines were long, the people grasping, the sun very hot. I decided I didn’t need to go in—I’d seen enough of the outside. The next stop on my journey would be the House of the Vestal Virgins, some early Christian/pagan group of women who prayed to maintain a sacred flame, or something. It sounded cool. But in trying to get there, I kept getting turned around. The city felt like a labyrinth, and the GPS on my phone was not working, because the road in real life and the road on my map were very different. Luckily, I got to walk through some of ancient Rome, but I eventually became tired and flabbergasted. Even a cab ride led me right back to the place I started from. Where was this place? I kept asking. What am I missing?

I finally looked up to the Above. That’s what I do when I’m confused and turned around, because it’s there that I usually find comfort. Something usually happens that shows me all is well. And I’ve learned that no prayer is too small, too insignificant, to be answered in its measure. I just need a place to rest, I said. To recoup. To get my bearings.

I assumed that would be in a cafe with a cappuccino and a cigarette, but there were none around.

So I opened my ears to the angel who speaks to me sometimes, and she said in an almost-whisper, Look around you.

What, at the big busy street? But yeah, there was this kind-of park-ish thing across the way, some greenery tucked behind a gate. It wasn’t a cafe, but I’d give it a try. When the angel speaks, I try to listen.

I crossed the busy highway and made my way up a flight of stairs toward a square building, and as I walked, my soul quieted.

What was this?

A monastery. San Gregorio Magno al Cielo.

Good for rest? The angels laughed.

The tension in me quickly melted away. I walked around and finally settled into a shady spot to relax. Behind me was the noise and gnash of the Colosseum, but here were small trees and butterflies and the calls of birds.

I asked, and I had received. And so quickly!

But that wasn’t all.

As I rested in the shade, I soon heard the childlike laughter of young women walking up a nearby pathway to a door I hadn’t seen before. They wore white linen clothes with blue stripes around the bottom. There was such a lightness in their energy, so much sun around them as the door opened and they went inside, I had to follow.

The sign on the door said, Missonarie Della Carita: Visiting Hours for the Room of St. Teresa of Calcutta: 4:30-6:30.

The women I saw belonged to an order of nuns in the way of Mother Theresa.

God was like, You were looking for virgins, right?

Plenty of people would say this sort of thing is a coincidence. When magical things happen in their lives, they attribute it to chance, or luck, or just some weird, strange occurrence.

I am more humble than that.

I know there is a higher order to the universe. I know that a lot of people have messed with our perceptions of this, and we live in a world now where God is a scary thing. We worship our own egos, our own limited understanding of things. It has been this way since the beginning of time. We are brought into this world as the complicated, beautiful children of a Divine Creator, and we spend our lives muddying the radiant gem of our souls. It is only a few, by and large, who make the concerted effort to push back the curtain, to see what’s inside, to believe in the magic and mystery of the universe. These are people who open their hands. They are the ones who receive.

I vowed to come back to the prayer room after lunch. Now that I had rested, I had more energy to make the trek toward restaurants, where I indulged in salad and pizza and an Americano. (Yum!)

When I was finally able to meet the sisters, a few hours later, they were so light-filled and beautiful, so welcoming of me. Light streamed in from the ceiling and the portico as they showed me Mother Theresa’s bed, and then the simple room where they prayed. A Bible was open to Proverbs 24:

By wisdom a house is built,
    and through understanding it is established;
through knowledge its rooms are filled
    with rare and beautiful treasures.

On a chalkboard were the words, “The Lord is merciful and kind.” Against the open windows were simple wooden chairs. On the walls were an array of simple wooden crosses above simple pictures of Jesus’s stages of the cross.

This was a far cry from St. Peter’s Basilica, or the other churches I’d ventured into, with their gold ceilings and elaborate paintings.

I prayed for a time, and felt so full.

On my way out I asked one of the sisters if she knew where I could get a rosary for me and my daughter. She nodded happily. “I can give you a rosary. Is plastic okay?”

Of course, I said. “Also, can I donate money?”

“No,” she smiled. “We don’t accept.”

I nearly fell to my knees.

As I waited for her to return from a back room, I looked at the chalkboard in front of me, where visitors had written names of loved ones they wanted the sisters to pray for. I wondered if there was anyone I could write down, because I knew that any attention these sisters brought to a soul would be special, healing, life-giving. But there was no one I could think of who seemed worthy enough of the sisters’ time, attention, purity. I realized, as I stood in such a presence of the Divine, that there was nothing I wanted, nothing I could imagine even asking for. My feet were planted right in the beauty of everything that had been and ever was.

Finally, as the sister approached with my rosaries, I knew what I wanted to write on the chalkboard. I did it quickly, so she wouldn’t see who had written it.

For the sisters here, may they always remain a beacon of light. 



Categories: spirituality and faith

Tags: , ,

2 replies

  1. Another adventure and thought filled day in the reflective, but highly active life of Janatude.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s