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Faith and Life: Letting Italy lead the way

September 01, 2010|By Kimberlie Zakarian

And so I return from monastic life. It was an experience that I could not have anticipated. Monasteries these days are still places of peace and prayer. But my experience of fellowship with new friends, food and drink were not quiet.

The moments I had in community were loud and full of life. I took Italian lessons, wrote, prayed and had many unique experiences and distinct lessons from God.

This was not my first trip to Italy. I worked there some years ago and traveled to an island a few years back for lots of sun, relaxation and water sports. I did not experience beaches this time. Instead, I viewed Italians and travelers in the city of Florence strutting their fashionable attire and admired the many churches (dormas). I walked the tiny, cobbled streets and found treasures everywhere I looked. I felt that this was a place I could live.

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I was also keenly aware that just a bit away lay Rome, where Paul the Apostle once walked. I felt the presence of God and the secular society. Extremes were strong and experienced simultaneously. I felt neither complete holiness, nor absolute evil. Yet, I was strangely at peace everywhere I traveled.

And then I traveled to Tuscany. It was here that I was refreshed in my call to help people, and at the same time I strongly felt my own humanity. As I traveled from city to city, the familiar feeling of adventure coursed through my veins — it literally felt this way. This has always been a part of my being, yet often squelched because of my many responsibilities.

I experienced fearlessness as I drove the unfamiliar, winding roads in the darkness. I felt God with me, allowing this time of reprieve and approving it. Yet, years ago I may have been scared to venture out alone as a woman.

Learning more Italian taught me — who is often the teacher — the humility of learning unfamiliar material again. I do not know if my professor was religious, but to end our lessons he took me to see the churches of Pienza and we spoke only in Italian about me being a pastor, a therapist and learning the Italian language.

It was not until the last day that my professor discovered I have three children. I do not know why, but this tickled him and he laughed — beautiful laughter — for about five minutes straight, only to gain control and giggle again. He could not believe the many hats I wore and the fact that I have three children.

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