Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Castel Sant'Angelo and Revelation

Castel Sant'Angelo
On the statue-lined bridge leading from Castel Sant'Angelo
Castel Sant'Angelo
This cylindrical castle has a colorful history.  It was built in 130AD as a family mausoleum for the Roman emperor Hadrian, but it has survived almost 2000 years as a fortress, a refuge, a grand castle, and today a museum.

But perhaps the most intriguing piece of history is that this castle was used as a hideout for popes during sieges and wars, being accessible by a secret underground passageway called the Passetto (800 meters long) that links the Vatican to the Castle.

Fun Facts:
Ron Howard used Castel Sant'Angelo and the secret passageway in the movie Angels and Demons (from Dan Brown's book by the same title).  In Puccini's Opera Tosca, Flora Tosca desperately throws herself from Sant'Angelo's rooftop to escape capture.

Angel Bridge
Pope Clement IX commissioned Bernini in 1669 to adorn the bridge leading to Sant'Angelo, so he designed 12 angels, each bearing a symbol from Christ's crucifixion.  I took pictures of just some.

"Make yourself familiar
with the angels, 
and behold them frequently in spirit; for, without being seen, they are present with you."
Francis de Sales

Though Bernini designed all 12 statues, he actually sculpted only two of the angels personally: the one holding a banner and the one with the crown of thorns (left).

Michael the Archangel atop Castel Sant'Angelo
Michael on Sant'Angelo grounds
Fun Fact:
Legend says that
Michael the archangel was seen atop the mausoleum sheathing his sword.  They took it as a sign that the plague of 1590 would end.  It did.  That's when they renamed the tomb Castel Sant'Angelo (Castle of the Holy Angel).

Permesso in Palermo
Me and Sorella Marsh
We went down to Palermo Tuesday and Wednesday for my permesso paperwork (visa stuff) and ended up receiving it in record time.  It was a nice trip.  We stayed with the Andersens, who fed us well, and kept us safe.  Sorella Marsh is doing great, even speaking Italian now!  While I did permesso, Sorella Kippen went on scambio with the sisters of Palermo and got to taste some of Sicily's finest.

"I Used to Be a Good Man"
But at the Questura for permesso stuff, we had an interesting conversation with a man from Bangladesh.  He spoke broken Italian, but understood some English.  He approached us, pointed to our tags, and we introduced ourselves.  He was Muslim, but taught religion back in his home land and had been away from his family for 5 years.  His intention for leaving was to make money, thinking he could find a better life, but instead he felt like he lost it.  He shared that to be considered a good, spiritual person in his religion, one must pray 5 times a day at the mosque.  He had done that faithfully in Bangladesh, but since leaving he hadn't.
     "I'm not a good man," he lamented, "I used to be, but I have not been praying and attending mosque.  I have shaved my beard.  I am not a good man any more.  I thought it was important to make money.  I did not understand.  I made a mistake."

My heart went out to him.  We shared the truth of being able to pray anytime and anywhere, and how God wants to talk with him.  We gave him a mormon.org card, but then we were called away for permesso paperwork.  I wish I had the chance to say more, to testify of God's love for him, to assure him that he was a good man, and share how he could pray wherever, whenever and have a personal relationship with God.

As I thought about my not being able to do much to help this poor man, I noticed a really great quote on the Andersens cupboard from L. Tom Perry.
Carving detail on Castel Sant'Angelo Bridge
"When we look at all the Lord asks of us,
it can sometimes seem overwhelming.
Of course, where much has been given
much is expected.
I believe it is helpful when faced
with an enormous challenge
to view it as a step-by-step process.
We begin by taking the first step,
then continue by taking one step at a time.
I am certain that the Lord is pleased
even with our small beginnings,
because in His infinite wisdom He knows that
small things often become great things."
(United in Building the Kingdom of God, April 1987)
"From our small beginnings," it says He can make great things come to pass.  Hopefully some small word of testimony or bit of encouragement will stir in this man's heart and bring him a well spring of peace.

Power Hour on the Streets of Rome
Kippen with leaf from neighborhood trees
The rest of the week was full of cancelled appointments and setbacks. What helped refresh the work was a Power Hour of Finding - an idea from our Zone Leaders, Duffin and De Caro. Saturday afternoon, we set out to find someone in this city to teach. Despite Kippen feeling a little down and finding ourselves in a thunder-lightning storm, I did my best to pump her up, and what do you know, we had a few good contacts.

Metro with Graffiti
Who needs city benches when you have ancient ruins to lounge on?
We placed a copy of the Book of Mormon with a Muslim man from Morocco named Nassar who said he'd try out Moroni's Promise.

We talked with a Filipino woman named Ness who said she'd like to meet with us since she has met with missionaries in the past.  Then on the bus, there was Damiano, a Catholic young man who was a hospital volunteer with disabled kids.  He took a pamphlet on the Restoration, and upon passing the Temple and seeing the image of the temple on a card we gave him, asked about the angel Moroni statue - perfect segue to introduce the Book of Mormon!

And others have been popping up: member referrals, a girl coming back from an exchange program in Utah with interest.  There is so much potential.  Sorella Kippen and I feel like we are on the cusp of something great. So we are doing our best to make great things happen.

Saying a lot of prayers and relying on the Lord!

Sunday we went to Church all dressed cute and hair done, when we went outside to help a less active find the Church building and found ourselves caught in a sudden storm that rolled in and drenched us.
Rome storm season. Sudden thunder-lightning every day.
Like Zion's Camp - "God is in the storm"
How do you say Drowned Rat? Ah, Annegati ratto

The members were a little shocked by our appearance at first, but we dried pretty quick.

We are over 2 wards - Rome 2 and Rome 6, and we decided to attend Rome 6 which started with Relief Society. I translated for an American woman during that hour, and then for Gospel Principles.  The 3rd hour of church, instead of going to Sacrament meeting, Rome 2 ward asked for our help in Young Women's.  We found that the help was for Arianna!

Arianna Given the Ok!
Apparently her parents are aware she is coming to Church and while not happy about it, are at least allowing her to come.  Bishop Teodosi (such a good man and full of the Spirit) told Arianna he was planning on talking with her parents.  She was happy about that.

Dinner with the Gillespies
Dinner Sunday evening was spent with Bishop Gillespie and his family (of Rome 6).  It was lovely being with an American family.  You don't realize how much you miss until you are there.  We ate Hawaiian Haystacks and brownies and chitchatted.  Because we weren't able to take the Sacrament during church (helping in other meetings), the Bishop and elders administered the Sacrament to us right in the home.  The Spirit was strong.  It was very cool.  I've never taken the sacrament other than at Church before.

Restoration and Revelation
My thoughts have been dwelling on Revelation lately - how revelation is the defining difference between us and everyone else.  That's what the Restoration was all about - a boy asking God a question, and God answering.  That one question opened the heavens.

We listened to a talk by Elder Jeffrey Holland this morning on the Restoration.  He said that the Restoration is the second greatest event in all of human history after the Atonement because without it "almost all of God's children would have been lost - past, present, and future."  He talked about how only a very, very few number of people in this life were able to enjoy the blessings of the Atonement and the ordinances of the gospel, and that the burden of making sure God's children are saved is upon us here in this time to do the ordinances for those who have passed on, to preach the gospel to the living, and proclaim the gospel and advance the Church for future generations.
"We testify of God the Father and Jesus Christ,
but you cannot testify of them without testifying
that they have appeared in our day,
and you cannot testify of their appearance without testifying also
of the boy that became the Prophet Joseph Smith...
Joseph Smith is the apostolic link that connects us back to the Savior."
Elder Jeffrey R. Holland
The Atonement is the most important thing - it is the gospel.  But the Atonement cannot be intimately personal or completely effective without the Restoration.
Palace of Justice, built by Guglielmo Cauldrons in 1888
We bear testimony of the Prophet Joseph Smith because all the truth we have - everything that distinguishes us from everyone else - comes back to the testimony that he saw God the Father and Jesus Christ and they answered his prayer.  

The Bold Claim
The Book or Mormon is key to our testimony of the Restoration and our vehicle for receiving personal revelation.  Why?  Because it tells us specifically to:
"Ask God the Eternal Father, in the name of Christ, if these things are not true"
Moroni 10:4
And then testifies powerfully that the Holy Ghost will:
"Manifest the truth of it unto you."
"And by the power of the Holy Ghost, ye can know the truth of all things."
Moroni 10:4-5
That's a pretty bold statement for a book to make, wouldn't you say?  That is what is so great about the gospel.  You don't have to take my word for it.  You can hear from God Himself.  Just pray anytime anywhere and then listen.  

That's what I wanted to tell our Bangladesh friend.  You don't have to wait to pray in a church or in a mosque.  The Heavens are open.  God still speaks.  Angels still minister to people on the earth.  Simply talk to your Heavenly Father and the Spirit will answer.  That's what we call personal revelation.

Love to you,
Sorella Ashley Nef

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