The first part of my trip to London was rough.
I had already told you about my journey to the London Priory. Heathrow to Belsize Park to the house. Getting lost and all of that. I’m still wondering about that one man with the glassy look on his face that looked in my general direction, and once I had the courage to ask him where Upper Park was, he kept looking at me as he had walked away.
Who would have thought that London had its crazies too?
The second day of the trip, in some ways, was not as good as the first. After Mass, Morning Prayer and breakfast with the brethren, I packed up my pack and took off. I took a walking tour of Westminster and the West End of London. The meeting point was the Westminster Tube stop. In front of us were the Houses of Parliament and the Elizabeth Tower, Big Ben ringing 10:00 am.
The walking tour concluded in Trafalgar Square. Many things happen here—protests, street performers, the world premiere of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part II. A historic site, indeed.
I had decided to walk back to Westminster and have Evening Prayer at Westminster (Catholic) Cathedral. It was on the same street as the Abbey, and I had seen the belltower from where I stood.
God decided to make it an interesting walk. I ran into languages multiple—Mandarin, Tagalog, German, English, French, I think Italian. (What’s the word for the Polish language?Because I knew I had heard Polish as well!) The dress of my fellow tourists ranged from Seattle Grunge to French cuffs. Juxtapose this to historical monuments, chintzy souvenir shops, double decker buses, black taxis and a healthy armada of pubs and restaurants. I had walked through it all.
Then it started to rain. Then rain, to hail.
But I was already tired. Now I was frustrated. And sleep deprived.
…and annoyed. Fairly annoyed. Okay, very annoyed.
I write this passage, looking out of my room, overlooking the streets of our city, the beautiful bright blue sky and the drifts of wind, the brisk passing of cars…and remember back to how I was only a few weeks ago. I was not the same guy.
No. That afternoon, I was Misery. The physical manifestation of Misery.
The funny thing is that the Cathedral and Abbey are only a half mile apart. Twelve minutes of walking. But if you’ve never been there, are sleep deprived, and by the way, it’s hailing…wanting to love God was an honest struggle.
Once I made it into the Cathedral, I reverenced the Sacrament, sat down, and prayed. I had over two hours between then and when Evening Prayer began, and I was planning on staying there all afternoon. There was no point of going back in the elements.
And so I prayed. And prayed. I probably fell asleep. I had imitated of the men who sleep in the back pews of St. Dominic’s during the week. In a sense, I too was homeless in a strange city.
After praying and doing a self-guided tour, I went up to the guard and had confirmed the time of Evening Prayer.
My voice cracked.
Then, it occurred to me—this was the first conversation I had had since Mass at 7:30 that morning. It was past 4:00 in the afternoon.
Now, some friends have mentioned that this is actually a pretty sad insight. And perhaps it is. However, here’s the thing: Those two hours were great for my spiritual well-being.
Exhausted and sleep deprived, lonely and testy. I hadn’t talked to anyone all day long. Yet…I wasn’t really alone. The time of silence forced me to pray.
I was forced to be reliant on the One who called me to this strange city. I was forced into silence that Facebook or the blog could not noisy-up. I had no one to talk to except to the One.
The Lord would rather speak to us in the silence of our hearts. Though He can speak to us on the BART or Muni, while we are answering emails—He would rather speak to us when we allow ourselves to speak to Him. He would rather us give Him time, rather and Him forcing us to speak to Him. It’s easier for Him to speak to us, I think, when we allow ourselves the time and space to allow Him to speak back. Patient is His love for us.
So yes—there were parts of the trip that were lonely. Tired. Sad. Vulnerable. But it was in these times where I opened myself to the One. And I say this with shame, because now that I am back in the City by the Bay, I go full steam ahead knowing that I will probably not allow Him to speak to me as He had in London. But perhaps. Perhaps I have learned my lesson. Perhaps I will rewrite my daily schedule in order to allow him to speak. And allow myself to allow Him to speak.
Holy Father Dominic, pray for us!