Much of what I am going to share here, I wrote on the fountain next to the Basilica di Santa Chiara (Basilica of St Clare) in Assisi, on the final day of my honeymoon. My honeymoon was an incredible experience in my life, and awoke in me a sleeping desire to come to know and understand my origin, my beginning, my identity.
To put this in perspective, I had never been to Europe in my life. Maddie was so excited for me to see the beautiful churches and the colours of Autumn (which we really don’t experience in Australia) that at times I wondered whether she was more excited to marry me, or to spend a few weeks in Europe with me! I’m joking of cause. This is a fragment of my honeymoon journal…
“Tomorrow I leave for Rome, and the following day I get on a flight back to Sydney. Assisi has been a beautiful and spiritual way to end this honeymoon. I began my honeymoon in Malta, where Maddie and I spent 8 days. I wish to recount some of the major spiritual experiences I was blessed with on this trip, before I forget the beautiful gifts and graces God showed me during this time!
The first European Catholic Church I ever saw was St. Paul’s Cathedral in Mdina, Malta. (St Paul is very famous in Malta, and I hope all of you are familiar with Acts 28, where St Paul gets shipwrecked there! It’s nice to know that St Paul would have evangelised my ancestors, I am very grateful to him of cause.) I was so taken aback by the beauty of the art, the size of the Church, the detail of the columns, the stunning windows, that I cried tears of joy and appreciation. I realized in that moment how proud I was to be a Maltese Catholic. It struck me that these churches were the result of the love and devotion towards the faith that my ancestors had when they were alive.
I was blessed to be in Malta with my Nannu (grandfather), and he showed me the church that he and Nana got married in. I never got to meet my Nanna, as she passed away two years before I was born. But for the first time, in a very real way, I felt close to her. Seeing the aisle that she walked down over 60 years ago filled me with emotion. My Nannu had always spoken words of great love and admiration about his wife, and with his eyes filled with tears, he recounted to Madeleine and I the joy of his Wedding Day. I have always appreciated that Nannu loved his wife so much, I hope to love Madeleine with the same forever love that he did.
Malta was my first real appreciation of natural beauty. God made the world a beautiful place, and he showed me Malta first. My heart’s eyes have been opened to the concept of beauty in a way they have been closed to until now. The churches taught me how to read a new language. Not a language written with a pen, but a language written by the strokes of a paintbrush, written in the stain glass windows, written in the columns of the churches. In the times before reading and writing were common to most, the real authors were the artists, who shared the Bible stories through beautiful art in its various forms. My eyes had been opened and I began to read the “language of beauty.”
I share this because for years I have been blind to beauty. Although in Australia we are certainly not blessed to walk into Catholic churches like those in Europe for mass everyday, I have been ignorant to the beauty around me. Since coming back to Sydney I look harder at the detail in the churches I have grown up in, and I am noticing things I’ve never seen before. Familiarity can cause blindness- never think, “I’ve seen this a thousand times, what more could I learn?” be recaptured by the beauty of your parish, be recaptured by the tree outside your window, listen to the birds wake you up in the morning, feel the grass you walk on and praise God for the wonders and signs he is working around you each and every day! Open your eyes to Beauty, God is speaking to you.