So I thought it might be a good time to talk about the type of pastoral work I get to do in Rome. I'll admit, it's nothing like the states where I was able to work with youth, confirmation groups, and young adults.
But nevertheless, the Lord always seems to provide that which He has asked you to take up. Actually as I was praying about which apostolate to do, I had these grand visions. I wanted to run tours of St. Peter's or teach little kids about the faith. Or I could just do the easiest of all and often so rewarding, prepare food and serve in one of the many soup kitchens in Rome.
I did NOT really want to work in a hospital talking to patients in Italian. I do not really like hospitals and Italian is not my forte or so I have been told. But the Lord had other plans. That's why sometimes I say I do not like praying because I get told these ridiculous things. Go be a seminarian. Say yes and go to Rome. Go minister in a foreign language. GAH!
So back the story. We don't do ministry our first semester to help with our adjustment. But the second semester I felt called to do hospital ministry. The year is long over but I still remember those first few weeks. I was completely overwhelmed. I realized this ministry was so beyond me and I was just flailing in these conversations with the patients. I had no good words to say and there would be these awkward pauses. Sweat would roll down my face. I'd look away. And then mumble some words goodbye. Yikes, I was not good at this. But I kept praying.
Things got better. My Italian came, very slowly. I started having better conversations. I realized they did not really care how my Italian was. They simply cared that I was there. Plus they liked talking to an Americano. :) But I began to realize that this ministry was not at all about me and much of my stress and worry was thinking that it was. Coming into a hospital as a man of faith, a religious, who is authentic and honest in the desire to simply be with people and be Christ for them in their moment of pain and suffering was all I needed.
There are still difficult days. But then there are days, like the last day of ministry for this year, when someone shares amazing news. This woman approached us towards the last minutes of our time there and simply shared her joy in God's love in the midst of suffering and sorrow. She got it. She understood God's love for her and the constant abiding presence He has in her life. Amazing.
Somehow, in God's great humor, He assigned me as the new capo for next year. All that means is I am in charge of the 4 of us who go to the hospital on a regular basis. But nevertheless, it's another step along the path that I do not choose but from which I am grateful to have laid out before me. I am never ready but I know one thing, God's grace is always enough.