Sermon: The Conversion of St. Paul

The Conversion of Saint Paul by Luca Giordano

I had been working on a house, rewiring some outlets.  The outlets were on the first floor, but the breaker box was down in the basement.  For whatever reason, I could not get this one outlet to work from a switch on the wall, so I would make an adjustment, run downstairs, flip the breaker, run back upstairs, test the switch, and then when it still wouldn’t work, go through it all again.

I don’t know about you, but in the middle of these frustrating projects, I’ll get some less-than-brilliant idea and try something new.  In this case, my less than brilliant idea: “I’m tired of going up and down the dang stairs.  I can make these adjustments without flipping the breaker.”  I was unsuccessful and quickly learned what it felt like to be hit with a cattle prod.

The cattle prod comes in many different forms.  There is the electrical node on the end of a stick used to get cattle to move along, and the bark collar is working off that same principle—a rather unkind way of trying to teach a dog not to bark at everything.  And then there is the ultimate cattle prod known as the police taser, which attempts to teach hardheaded individuals to stop what they are doing.  These devices, especially the cattle prod, are descendants of the ox goad.

The ox goad is a long stick with a sharp metal point on one end.  The farmer, behind a plow, would hold the point of the goad around the oxen’s ankles and use it to guide the animal: a tap on the left, go left.  A tap on the right, go right.  However, the ox—particularly the younger ones—were not accustomed to being harnessed and could become a bit stubborn, so a little prod with that sharp stick was a way to “goad” them and encourage them along.  Not only that, but if the ox got out of hand and started kicking, they would prick themselves. 

In our reading from Acts, Paul, speaking to King Agrippa, says, “I was traveling to Damascus with the authority and commission of the chief priests, when at midday along the road, your Excellency, I saw a light from heaven, brighter than the sun, shining around me and my companions.  When we had all fallen to the ground, I heard a voice saying to me in the Hebrew language, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me? It hurts you to kick against the goads.’”  In other words, Jesus was saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why are you fighting against my church and me when you know in your heart that I am the Messiah?  It hurts you to kick against the goads—it hurts you to continue to be stubborn and to doubt what you know is true.”  Paul knew in his heart what the truth was, but he remained stubborn.

What is the root of such stubbornness, of failing to be obedient?  Pride.  And, like Paul, we can fall into the same error.  We pray, “My will be done,” and not, “Thy will be done,” and we kick against the goads.  We grab the live wire, even though we know better.

A wonderful saying from St. Josemaría Escrivá: “If obedience does not give you peace, it is because you are proud.” (The Way #620)

If we do not feel peace about our words or actions, if we feel the sharp prick of the goad in our spirit, then perhaps we need to consider whether or not we are being prideful, seeking our own will and our own ways instead of God’s; and then remember that the goading is not God’s way of punishing. His ways are teaching and loving, so that we may stay on the path of righteousness.

Sermon: Epiphany 3 RCL B – “Hedonic Treadmill”

Thomas Merton

After a long dry sermon, the minister announced that there would be a brief meeting of the board immediately after the benediction. Following the services, a stranger was the first to meet the minister up front. “You must have misunderstood the announcement,” said the minister. “I announced a meeting of the board.” 

“So I heard,” replied the stranger, “and if there was anyone here more bored than I was, I’d like to meet him.”

To be bored or boredom. A scientist, Winifred Gallagher, says, “[In the English language] boredom has no derivation: That is, it doesn’t come from any other word but was specially created. Moreover, the word didn’t appear in English until the later eighteenth century.” Someone was so bored that they sat around and created a word to express their boredom, and it began with them thinking about a “bore.” Not as a person but as a tool: an augur.  A tool that goes round and round, drilling a hole. 

Lord Byron, in Don Juan, made use of the new meaning:

“Society is now one polished horde,

Formed of two mighty tribes, the Bores and Bored.”

What’s interesting is that westerners are really the only societies that have this idea of boredom. For the rest of the world, tedium/boredom is just a part of life, so they don’t run around saying, “I’m so bored.” They accept that there are times when nothing is happening—and we think we’re the smart ones. Regardless, we get bored. 

We get bored with our work, our hobbies, and our lives. We can even get bored in the relationships we are in. Why is that?

There are many studies on the topic, but much of it leads back to or rewords what is known as hedonic adaptation or the hedonic treadmill. Hedonic relates to those things experienced as pleasurable or unpleasant. 

Think about falling in love. When you first fall in love, you’re always thinking about the person, you stay up late talking, you can’t wait to see them again, you worry over things like keeping them happy, how you look—is the hair nicely coiffed, the beer belly hidden, makeup perfect, and so forth. You pour all your energy into it. You are not bored, but the body and the mind cannot maintain this level of tension and enthusiasm. At some point, you will need sleep. You understand that she will eventually recognize that you don’t have a Jason Momoa body. You have other things that you must do, so the mind and the body work to bring all these emotions back down to a more manageable level, the status quo. When this happens… Liza Minnelli. Love Liza. She has a song, You’ve Let Yourself Go. A few of the stanzas:

And where’s that slender youth I knew
I fear he’s grown an inch or two
Not up and down my joy and pride
But more precisely side to side

You never care the way you dress
You stay unshaven, you look a mess
The smallest thing is too much to do
I even hold the door for you

You see the point. There’s all this excitement, but over time, you return to who you really are. 

The hedonic treadmill demonstrates how this happens with those things that are pleasant and unpleasant. There are highs and lows, but our minds and bodies work to bring about more of an equilibrium between the two. When we hit that equilibrium, we say, “I’m so bored.” I’m bored with my job, my hobbies, my life, my relationship, etc., etc., etc. Put another way, you’ve lost your passion. 

The boredom we experience in our relationships is not limited to our relationships with other people; we can also experience boredom in our relationship with God. It’s not that you no longer love God, but it can be like the Liza Minnelli song, you’ve let yourself go. 

I wondered about this as I studied the calling of the Apostles. Jesus called Peter and Andrew, and we are told, “Immediately they left their nets and followed him.” It was similar to the calling of James and John, “Immediately they left the boat and their father, and followed him.” There it is, the new relationship—places to go. People to see. Excitement. Things to learn. Miracles to witness. The curve on the hedonic treadmill leaps, yet, after being with him for three years, things become boring. “Do we really have to go to Jerusalem again? We were just there.” “I mean, seriously, hasn’t he already healed one leper? Now ten more.” “Hey, Jesus, are we there yet? My feet hurt.” “Do you think you could make a nice Cabernet next time? I’m tired of this Chardonnay.” 

That is not what happened. In fact, it would seem that it was just the opposite. The disciples became more intense and passionate as time passed, to the point of giving up their own lives for the sake of Jesus and the Gospel.

Andrew – crucified

Bartholomew – flayed

James – beheaded

Peter – crucified upside down

Philip – crucified

The list goes on, but living for the Gospel to such an extent that you are martyred in such a way is not the action of someone who is bored. These individuals were so passionately in love and relationship with God that they cared nothing for their own lives. It is this sense of passion that we need to kindle in our hearts—a passion for Jesus, God, and His Church.

Today we have our Annual Meeting. It is a bit like a stockholders’ meeting for a corporation. Those who own stock, the investors, gather with the board members and other executives. Then there are a series of presentations on what the corporation accomplished in the past twelve months, where they are financially, and what they expect for the future. However, at the end of it, no one at a stockholders’ meeting ever walks away, pumping their fists in the air and shouting, “Let’s do this! This is gonna be great!” Maybe they’re not to the point of being bored, but no one ever leaves those meetings feeling passionate about what’s ahead. Based on my twenty-plus years of Annual Meetings, I can assure you that no one walks away from them feeling passionate either. More likely, it’s, “Thank God that’s done for another year.” But… 

For the last few years, my daily meditation (the first thing I read in the morning) has been from Bishop Robert Barron; however, this year, I switched to Thomas Merton (A Year with Thomas Merton: Daily Meditations from His Journals). The meditations are less than a page long, yet, almost every day has provided some excellent spiritual food for thought. At the top is January 12th. It has held my attention the longest. Merton writes: “I am obscurely convinced that there is a need in the world for something I can provide, and there is a need for me to provide it. True, someone else can do it, God does not need me. But I feel He is asking me to provide it…. The wonder of being brought, by God, around a corner and to realize a new road is opening up, perhaps—which He alone knows. And that there is no way of traveling it but in Christ and with Him. This is joy and peace—whatever happens.” (p.12)

“The wonder of being brought, by God, around a corner and to realize a new road is opening up….” It was that wonder and that realization that gave the Apostles the passion that never wained in their lives. It was never about, “We’ve done this before.” It was always, “What is God going to do next?” And not only that but also, “I get to be a part of it.” 

God could have chosen anyone and any church to accomplish the work that He has called you as an individual to and us as a church, but He chose you, and He chose us. He doesn’t need us, but He wants us, and because God wants us, we should be deeply passionate about Him and this work. 

The hedonic treadmill trundles on in many areas of our lives, but we must step off of it regarding our relationship with God. Restore your passion for God and let it burn as bright as the Holy Spirit will allow. The road that God is opening up before us is calling.

Let us pray:
Heavenly Father,
look upon our community of faith
which is the Church of your Son, Jesus Christ.
Help us to witness to his love
by loving all our fellow creatures without exception.
Under the leadership of our Bishop
keep us faithful to Christ’s mission
of calling all people
to your service so that there may be
one fold and one shepherd.
We ask this through Christ, our Lord.
Amen.

Late Night Options

Now that I have this picture, I suppose a… poem is needed.

I watched as the skin of my hand
made these words upon the page
They lied
but they hoped

You are in the corner
where they can’t see you
where they won’t see your face
or know your name

but I know you are there
Yes
The lights in the room and the
color of the message
won’t take that from me

Can you see your life
Can you see the light flowing
from the books
that so many have written
Isn’t it a shame
they’ve all died
and still
we wait
Wait
Wait

I’ll continue to dance alone
in the shadows of my own mind
after all
my shadows dance with me
They know the song
They know your name

We’ll keep silent
for a time
We’ll let the streets flow
And
And

And

We’ll dance

Yes

We’ll dance

Sermon: Epiphany 2 RCL B – “Lost and Anxious”


Mark Twain wrote, “I have found out that there ain’t no surer way to find out whether you like people or hate them than to travel with them.” I think this is probably true and, as most of you know, the day after Christmas, I went traveling again, but this time I went by myself and discovered that I’m not a bad travel companion.

I went to Portugal on this trip and spent most of my time in Lisbon. However, I was able to travel to several nearby locations, including Fatima, the site of perhaps the most significant Marian apparitions.

I left Monday morning and arrived in Lisbon three flights and roughly twenty-six hours later. I want to be able to sleep on planes, especially flights that long, but that is not the case. In addition, the host of the VRBO that I would be staying in gave me a great restaurant to have lunch in when I arrived, so I passed on the last meal offered on the flight. Bottom line: when I got to Lisbon, I hadn’t slept or had anything to eat in quite some time. From there, the situation began to decline.

I had purchased an international data plan for my phone so that I would have access to Google maps and the like, yet, when I arrived, it would not connect, even after I spent half an hour on the phone with the provider. It was at this point that no sleep and no food gave me my first stupid idea: “I can do this. No problem.” 

My host told me the subway to take and what stop to get off at. How hard could that be? The only piece of information I forgot was that, at one point, I needed to switch trains. I rode that train and rode that train, and when it finally came to a stop, and everyone was getting off, a little older lady leaned down to me—and I must have been looking baffled at this point—and said, “This is the end of the line.” I said, “Thank you,” but what I thought was, “No…. kidding.” I then proceeded to make my second mistake: I got off the subway and rode the elevator to street level, the entire time thinking, “Surely I’ll be able to recognize something.” The problem: no Google maps or any map for that matter. In The Fellowship of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien, Gandalf writes a letter to Frodo and the letter includes a poem. A line from that poem reads, “All that is gold does not glitter, not all those who wander are lost.” I got off that train, and I was one who was not only wandering but also terribly lost and—no sleep, no food—did not have the sense to figure it out, so I found a spot in the shade and just stood there, staring blankly into a city I knew nothing about.

A wristwatch used to have only one function: tell the time. After a while, they added the date, then Seiko and the others added calculators, etc., and now, we have the Apple Watch and other similar devices that have more computing power than the first rocket to the moon. This little watch can do all sorts of things, but for the most, it is tied to your phone, so if your phone has no signal, your watch isn’t going to do much. If it is connected, then you’ll be able to get notifications on your watch. 

As I stood there in the shade, staring blankly into that unknown city, my watch vibrated and dinged, and I was suddenly elated. That notification could mean only one thing: I had data services and could find my way out of this mess. However, specific functions on the watch work without data, one of which is the healthcare monitoring functions. Specifically, in this case, it was the heart rate monitor. 

I raised my wrist, hoping to have a data-related message, but what I read was this: “High Heart Rate: your heart rate rose above 120 BPM while you seemed to be inactive for ten minutes.” You know you’re a little stressed when your watch tells you to chill out.

I took a deep breath and slowly walked around until I spotted a police officer. He didn’t speak a lick of English, but we were able to mime communicate enough that I could tell him where I was trying to get; when he realized where it was, I didn’t understand what he said, but it meant, “How in blue blazes did you get all the way over here?”

I asked, “How do I get there? Can I walk?” “No,” he said, wide-eyed. He then indicated he would get me to the train station; I said, “No. Taxi.” He then gently took me by the arm and led me to the street. Standing there with me, he flagged me a cab. He had a conversation with the taxi driver and told him where I needed to go. There was more to the conversation than this, but I didn’t understand any of it other than the grin, and the eye roll exchanged between them. 

I don’t know either of these two individuals’ names, but the police officer I named Angel because, following a fifteen-minute taxi ride, I was deposited in the exact spot I needed to be. 

For the duration of the trip, when I was out and about, I had no data services, but André, my VRBO host, was brilliant and helped me learn how to get around. After a thirteen-hour nap and some tasty food the following day, I set off into that remarkable city and had a brilliant time. I got lost a few more times and occasionally missed a train stop, but I really had no problem getting around after that first day.

St. Augustine of Hippo (d.430) was one of the greatest theologians the Church has known. One of his books is the City of God. In it, he writes of the City of Man and the City of God, where “the earthly city glories in itself, the Heavenly City glories in the Lord.” There are many other comparisons: “The earthly city was created by self-love reaching the point of contempt of God, the Heavenly City by the love of God carried as far contempt of self.” Although there are two cities, they are intertwined, just as in the parable of the wheat and the weeds that grow in the field together. 

Augustine says that it is in this intertwined city that we live, and it is a place where, for the most part, “the strongest oppress the others because all follow after their own interests and lusts.” It is a city where it is easy to become lost, bouncing from one thing to another, never settled, anxious, and not truly knowing where you are going.

It was in such a city, such a time, that Jesus was born and lived. People wandered in the city, lost with no means of finding their way. Anxious, with no knowledge of how to calm their hearts and their souls. But then, like my angel in Lisbon, along came John the Baptist, who took them by the arm and directed them to the one… the only one, who could bring peace to their souls and get them to where they needed to be: “Here is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” So, coming to Jesus, they asked, “Rabbi—teacher—where are you staying?” “Where are you staying? We are lost. How do we get there?” And Jesus responds, “Come and see.” Jesus says, “Come with me, and I will show you the way through this city. I will show you the path that leads to God, for not only can I show you the way, but I Am The Way.” 

If you are anxious and lost in the city, there are many here who can help show you to the one who is the Way. If you know of someone who is lost, be a John the Baptist to them, be an Angel to them, and point them to the Lamb of God, who will give them safe passage through this City of Man to the Eternal City, the City of Our God.

While in Portugal, I had the opportunity to visit Fatima, the site of the great Marian Apparition. During one of the apparitions, the Virgin Mary gave the children a prayer she asked to be prayed at the end of each decade of the Rosary. It is brief but addresses our most profound need while we walk the streets of this City of Man. Let us pray: “O my Jesus, forgive us our sins, save us from the fires of hell, lead all souls to Heaven, especially those most in need of Thy mercy. Amen.”

Sermon: The Baptism of Our Lord

Fra Angelico’s Baptism of Christ

Today is a feria, a word that means weekday and, liturgically speaking, a day when no saint is celebrated, so the readings for the day are the readings we had this past Sunday: The Baptism of Our Lord.

Much of what God continues to do today was prefigured in what he did early on. For the baptism of our Lord, we can begin, “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth,” but it becomes more apparent if we move a little further along in history to the great flood, to when God became grieved because of our sinfulness. “The Lord said, ‘I will blot out man whom I have created from the face of the land, man and animals and creeping things and birds of the heavens, for I am sorry that I have made them.’ But Noah found favor in the eyes of the Lord.”

Noah built the Ark and was saved from the rising waters that covered the entire face of the earth. When the rain stopped, Noah sent forth a raven that found no place to rest, then a dove that also returned. Seven days later, he sent forth another “dove out of the ark. And the dove came back to him in the evening, and behold, in her mouth was a freshly plucked olive leaf.” The waters raged, yet Noah and all with him on the Ark were saved. When God’s wrath was complete, a dove was sent forth and brought back the olive leaf, a sign of peace.

We read today, “When Jesus had been baptized, just as he came up from the water, suddenly the heavens were opened to him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on him.” There are the waters and the dove, but what of the olive leaf, the sign of peace? St. Paul tells us, “For in [Jesus] all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross.” (Colossians 1:19-20) The olive leaf becomes the cross, the sign of peace established between God and us.

The events of Noah prefigured what God would accomplish through his Son and what continues to happen with us. In our baptism, through water and the Holy Spirit, we are baptized into the death—the cross—and resurrection of Jesus.

St. John Chrysostom writes in his commentary, “The dove is a gentle and pure creature. Since then, the Spirit, too, is ‘a Spirit of gentleness,’ he appears in the form of a dove, reminding us of Noah, to whom, when once a common disaster [the flood] had overtaken the whole world and humanity was in danger of perishing, the dove appeared as a sign of deliverance from the tempest, and bearing an olive branch, published the good tidings of a serene presence over the whole world. All these things were given as a type of things to come. . . . In this case, the dove also appeared, not bearing an olive branch, but pointing to our Deliverer from all evils, bringing hope filled with grace. For this dove does not simply lead one family out of an ark, but the whole world toward heaven at her appearing. And instead of a branch of peace from an olive tree, she conveys the possibility of adoption for all the world’s offspring in common.”

“She conveys adoption of all the world’s offspring,” making us the very children of God. God has been working out our salvation since the day of the fall in the Garden of Eden, and it all hinged upon the Cross, the means and sign of peace between our God and us. 

Travel: Lisbon (Day Nine)

It was going to be a lot of walking and train time if it turned out to be closed again, but I made my way back to Belém because I wanted to have a proper visit to St. Jerónimos Monastery. I was not disappointed.

As is the case with most of my train rides, I missed my stop. [insert eyeroll] Most trains have either a scrolling sign or announce the stops; I’m guessing the one on my train was out of service. I told myself when I got on, ‘It’s the third stop. Get off there.’ But it did not look right, so I remained on the train and… yep. It was the right stop. Got off at the next made my way to the other side of the track to catch the returning train. After ten minutes of waiting and no sign, I stepped off the platform and said, “Taxi!” Four minutes and 6€ later I was deposited at the front door of the monastery. It was worth it.

By the time I arrived, most of the other tourists were at supper. I didn’t have it to myself, but when you can capture a photo like this…

There are two self-guided tours: one through the church and another through the cloisters. I began with the church.

Construction began in 1502 and was one of the reasons why the church in Batalha was not completed: there is only so much stone and so many stonecutters. The king decided that after 129 years of construction at Batalha, they had had enough time to complete.

None of the churches are brightly lit, but this was by far the darkest, between fewer windows and electrical lights.

The last entry into the monastery side is 5:30 p.m., and I timed it perfectly.

St. Jerome is most often pictured with a lion. This painting greets you at the top of the stairs leading to the second story, and the proud lion sits at the corner of the inner courtyard.

The Golden Legend says…

One day toward evening, when he was seated with the brethren to hear the sacred lessons read, a lion suddenly limped into the monastery. The other monks fled at the sight of the beast, but Jerome greeted him as a guest. The lion showed him his wounded foot, and Jerome called the brothers and ordered them to wash the animal’s feet and to dress the wound carefully. When they set about doing this, they found that the paw had been scratched and torn by thorns. They did what was necessary, and the lion recovered, lost all his wildness, and lived among the monks like a house pet.

I posted the legend elsewhere, and someone commented that the legend of the lion is based on Jerome’s temper which he had a difficult time containing. It is easy to see that in the story as well: his life of prayer, cloistered with the other monks, tamed his temper and his soul.

Today is my last day in Portugal and I’ve no plan. I still haven’t ridden one of the trolleys, but with such long flights coming up tomorrow, I’m not too interested in spending the day sitting. Maybe I’ll just walk out the door and see where my feet take me.

I forgot to make a New Year’s resolution. I think it will be to travel at every opportunity I can.

Travel: Portugal (Day Eight)

Today was tour day, and it was a grand time

I walked about fifteen minutes to the Barrio Alto Hotel where I met my guide and travel companions. There were eight of us in all—myself, an Armenian couple now living in Las Angeles, a Chinese couple now living in Michigan, and a family of three from Buenos Aries, Brazil (the history of Portugal and Brazil is closely knit together.)

From there, we drove north (our driver averaged 95 mph in the Mercedes van) to Fatima (about an hour). Along the way, the guide explained to us (first in English, then in Portuguese) the significance of the site, the apparitions, the three shepherd children, and all. It is fascinating to hear, even if you are familiar with the story.

When going to Fatima, it is not about the buildings. It is about the location and the events that occurred there. The buildings came much later. The first picture below shows the actual location of the apparitions and the original place of worship that the Virgin Mary asked to be built. The second, the church, was built later as the site grew in importance and more pilgrims arrived. There is now a third church, which is more like an auditorium, that will hold 8,000. I was glad that the Pilgrim’s Mass was held in the first church.

The Vatican has not yet revealed all the messages that were given but have officially declared the apparitions to be valid; this is primarily due to the fifth apparition: the Virgin Mary asked that six individuals be brought on that day so that they could be healed. When the day arrived, there were at least 40,000 in attendance and 500 to 1,000 were healed and… all reported that the sun danced in the sky. I encourage you to read more about this miraculous event.

From Fatima, we travelled to Batalha (means battle) the site of a great battle and the location of the Monastery of Saint Mary of the Victory. Construction began in 1386 in thanksgiving for the victory at the battle of Aljubarrota between the Spanish and the Portuguese (these people still don’t like one another, and our guide tells us that anyone who says differently is lying.) There are some fantastic circumstances regarding the battle, but in the end, 6,000 Portuguese defeated 36,000 Spanish in about forty-five minutes. I would probably have built a church myself. At the far right side of the church you see columns that appear to be incomplete… they are. After 129 years of construction, the government said, “Enough,” and put the resources elsewhere.

A note on paying your artist: the one who crafted the horse and rider (general who led the battle) was never paid properly, so the artist made a few “mistakes” in creating the horse. 1) both left feet of the horse are off the ground. Guess what happens when both the left/right feet of a horse are off the ground. 2) It is a male horse that has three of what it should only have two and none of what it should have one. I’ll let you sort that all out.

Moving indoors…

It is as though they were attempting to enclose heaven itself in such a dramatic space. The acoustics are incredible as the sound bounces off the ceiling (106 feet) and around the columns.

Other images…

On each stone, you will see certain marks. These are the marks of the stonecutter. No mark = no pay. When a stone has two marks, it means that it was cut by an apprentice under the tutelage of a master.

I shared lunch with this delightful Armenian couple who insisted on paying for mine. I protested, but he gave me a look that informed me I would not “win” the argument, so I said, “Thank you.”

Nazaré was next. It is known for its waves and the last three world records surfing have been attained here. Most tourists come for the huge waves, but as our guide explained, it is only about five days out of the year that the massive ones (120+ feet) come in. It was still spectacular.

If you think that the name, Nazaré, sounds remarkably close to Nazareth (my Armenian friend pointed this out), then you would be correct. A wonderful legend. You can find it here.

And then we were off to Óbidos (I’ll never get the hang of the language, but it doesn’t sound like it reads.) It is a well preserved example of early life in the region and is surrounded by the castle walls. It became a part of the queen’s dowry, so she would dictate the color that all the houses must be painted, which was white, but the owners had the option of color for “framing” the house.

You are allowed to walk along the top of the wall and you do so at your own risk (definitely not OSHA approved!) By this time of the day, I was pooped out, so I did not take my chances in going all the way around, but the view…

The van was quiet for the ride home. All of us, including our guide, had a very full day. When I returned to the apartment, I had a couple of boiled eggs and a piece of bread, then put my feet up.

Two more days remaining = two more adventures.

I’m off!

Travel: Portugal (Day Seven)

Today, I spent a good bit of my time simply roaming the streets, watching people, and enjoying vacation time without rushing about. It was good, but I did have one place on my list that I was not going to miss: the ruins of the Convent of Santa Maria do Carmo (founded in 1389).

Most churches are well preserved, even if they have been struck by earthquakes/fire; however, some have reached a stage where nothing more can be done except stabilize the remaining structure and save whatever else is possible. Carmo is such a place.

“The Great Lisbon Earthquake” struck on November 1, 1755, at 9:40 a.m. In Lisbon, it is estimated that 30,000-40,000 people were killed in the quake and tsunami that followed. 85% of the city was destroyed. The royal library—some 70,000 volumes—was lost. Countless works of art were buried under tons of rubble or consumed by the fires that followed and have not been seen since. A loss on many levels, then… you pick up the pieces.

Since the earthquake and through the years, the church has stood as a minder of the tragedy the city experineced, and has also become a museum for treasures that were recovered. And lets face it, every museum should have a couple of mummies sitting around.

Afterward, I stopped for a while in Rossio Square, and after the influencers moved aside to let the rest of us in, I was able to capture a few images of the fountain.

I finally came across one of the funiculars. This is the Elevado da Glória, and it climbs a hill that is a 17.7% slope. You don’t want to walk it!

And, of course, I had to stop and eat: Pinóquio. My timing was perfect. When I arrived, there were several tables free, but for the next hour, there was a line of at least 20 individuals waiting to get in (I did not know that it was a popular place when I arrived. I was just hungry.)

I enjoyed the Prawn Cocktail, Seafood Pasta (lobster—I don’t think there was much, clams, shrimp, and pasta in a thin broth. Very good! This was served with 1/2 bottle of Maria Joaquina red wine and some sparkling water. I finished up with a very yummy café and Creme Catalão—think creme brulé on crack. It was a delicious meal.

Every inch is used for floor space and more tables, so you are essentially having your meal with the people sitting next to you. In this case, I was sitting next to two young Russian men. Well, they were speaking Russian, so I’m assuming here, and for whatever reason, I got it in my pointy little head that these were some of the fortunate young Russian men who were able to escape and avoid military service in Ukraine. I didn’t ask.

Following such decadence, I decided it was time to stop for prayer, so on the way back to the apartment, I stopped once again at St. Dominic’s (the church that was gutted by fire) and prayed a rosary.

Like Rome, being in these places where the saints have prayed for centuries is a truly remarkable feeling.

After doing a bit of complicated math, I discovered tonight was the night that I once again needed to do laundry. It is not that I’m out of clean clothes, but you have to figure in drying time, and I wasn’t up for hair-drying my clothes again or packing a bunch of wet clothes home, so here I am.

Tomorrow… tomorrow is a very full day. I’m finally headed to Fatima, and there are three other stops on the tour. The weather is perfect. It’ll be a remarkable trip.

If, while in Portugal, you need to tell someone to “Get lost!” You say to them, “Vai pentear Macacos!” “Go comb monkeys!” That may work in a sermon someday.

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