For our last full day in Italy, we went to Pavia. It started off with work duties and then we went to the bus stop. Unfortunately, once we got there, the man who we’d been buying from all week didn’t have any of the right tickets!
Time to step out in faith.
Thankfully, God provides. When the bus finally arrived, we explained the situation to the driver and he let all of us ride with the assurance we would buy tickets when we arrived (which, for the record, we did). On arrival we bought both our tickets for the ride we’d just taken and the one back and then headed outside, most of us seeking out patches of sunlight since it was so cold outside. Also, as a side note, one of the teenagers we’d finally talked to the previous night was there at the stop. He was there for the day with his girlfriend, so some of the guys from our group he’d clicked with stopped to say hello. It was awesome.
Anyway, after getting all of our tickets, we started out for prayer walks. The first place we stopped was a really old church. It was kind of cool at first, even though it was falling apart, but then we got inside.
So, I don’t know how many of you know this, but there are such things known as incorruptible bodies, corpses of saints that, after death, refuse to rot. It’s kind of a big deal in certain Catholic traditions (possibly others, I don’t know that much about them) because of the verses that talk about God not letting his holy ones see decay (Psalm 16:10, Acts 2:27), and this church was definitely in that vein. At first it was kind of cool because I’ve heard about these bodies but never seen one, but then as we went further in, I started to see and feel more. This church was full of dead bodies. Skeletons in golden boxes, the incorruptible one, jars with bones and ashes. Each was meticulously labeled and carefully laid out, rows and rows of candles for prayers and offerings lined up before each.
And where was Jesus you ask?
Well, there was one statue of him next to an altar and I think over some remains. The other was tucked behind a massive, curtained altar, the contents of which I’m not sure we ever really discovered. It was the largest of them all, roped off (Chris wasn’t even allowed to touch the Bible on the table in front of it, despite being a pastor), and if you didn’t walk all the way up the steps to purposefully look behind it, you wouldn’t see Jesus at all.
And that’s not to say we should worship or offer prayers to a statue of Jesus anymore than we should remains, but it made it pretty clear where the real focus of this church was.
We spent a fair amount of time praying at that church (including stopping at their terrifying portal-to-hell sounding bathrooms), and when we got outside, we made sure to pray again. It felt so dead inside (go figure), it made me more thankful than I’ve ever been (or at least in a long while) to serve the Living God. Thank you Jesus for being alive!
Anyhoo, after the church, we stopped at a few other places of interest in the city, like statues, universities, and a castle before stopping for lunch. Then we prayed at the university for a long time, some of the youth from Casorate joining us.
Something of note that happened personally while I prayed was the arrival of birds. Pavia has a very subdued, quiet feel about it, to the degree that all the colors seem muted and you just want to yell. Because of this (and because God told me to), one of the things I prayed for was more noise and vibrancy of color. And apparently when I did, especially for greens and yellows, two green birds with yellow by the faces (they look like parrots really) flew into the courtyard chirping, the first that had been there since we’d shown up. I didn’t quite make the connection in the midst, but Ole told me about it after the fact. Really cool!
The afternoon was spent on slightly less heavy things. We walked by the river for a while (Italian rivers are so much cleaner than English ones. Even if the bottom is muddy you can still see it. So strange.), and then for the last time–after a nice little misadventure of getting separated from the rest of the group with Chris, Gabby and Eric, got some gelato. This time I got raspberry and a flavor called Sacher, which is kind of like dark chocolate with this weird brownie-like goop which is needless to say delicious. They also put melted chocolate in the bottom of the cones there, so I got white chocolate in mine. After a quick stop at the grocery store we ran for the bus, and then I spent the ride home talking video games with Jenn while sitting uncomfortably close to an Italian dude’s thigh.
On the plus side, the sunset was amazing, probably the most diverse and colorful one I’ve seen in all of my life. Gold-rimmed clouds in corals and yellows, others from pink to baby blue, periwinkle, purple. The sky was a rainbow of hues covering mountains in purples and blues. Cranes stood under navy clouds in darkening fields, tall trees lining the landscape in perfectly planted man-made rows. It was amazing.
Nothing much else happened after we got back to the church. Some of the staff went out to the cafe one last time and some of us watched Wreck-It Ralph before finishing Indiana Jones 3. One of the heavier days we had the whole trip, it still ended strong.