What happens when somebody asks you to do something you’ve never done? Depending on what it is, to respond with nervousness can be quite natural. This is at least true for me, because of my personality. For example, some weeks ago a good friend asked me to meet a young married couple from South America, and lead them through the Vatican Museums. I got very nervous.
Although I live in Rome, and I certainly know the place after having visited it several times, I don’t really consider myself an art expert. Moreover, it would be my first time being a tour guide for the Vatican Museums. On the top of all this, they were people I had never met. I had to prepare myself in two fields: increasing my artistic knowledge and finding a way to overcome my shyness. My time frame was three days.
I asked the help of a pious Colombian brother, emailed the couple, and made arrangements to meet in St. Peter’s Square at 9 am. On the eve of the encounter, after several hours studying art history, I decided to spend time in prayer before our Lord. As I was entering the chapel, I thought to tell Him how tense I was about the tour the next day. His consolation came from the tabernacle directly to my heart: “You’ll be a good guide if you show to them how much I love them”. There I had it: the orders from my Captain. Art for its own sake lost its importance. I realized that my principal duty, rather than chiefly explaining the works of art, was to share the meaning behind the art, which ultimately leads us to God. Art is a manifestation of God’s love for us. This was what He asked me to make evident. Although it didn’t entirely disappear, the anxiety diminished, for I grasped that the protagonist would be God, not me.
The next day I attempted not to fret. Suddenly God began his work. Not only did the tour go very well, but also external circumstances seemed to collaborate and facilitate a deep encounter with God. (Even the weather was great!) I realized that God wanted us to meet. He was preparing the morning, and using my very basic artistic knowledge to trigger in them the desire to deepen their relationship with Him.
Looking back, it seems to me like a metaphor of life itself. As a seminarian, and even as a mere Christian, my duty is to show others how all things point to God. In a certain sense, the priest is like a tour guide. He is a man that deciphers life’s events and shares their meaning, inspiring this encounter between each one of us and the Lord, intensifying their desire for eternal life.
As a one-time guide of the Vatican Museums, I learned that it is not necessary to know or to explain everything. Knowledge of textbooks and the hours of study, although not useless, where not the main source of what I said and showed. Neither did I explain all I learned about the various works of art. The same is true in life. If our goal is to show God’s love, we cannot (and must not) remain focused on little secondary means. God calls us, both as seminarians and as Christians, to be good guides of men and women on their path towards eternal bliss. And all we have to do is show how much God loves them.
Photo credit: Stefanto Costantini