Charity Among Sinners

My wife and I have been lucky enough to visit Italy about six times. In that country, Christian faith seems to be a tangible thing, built into the very architecture. As the altar is the focus of the nave of a church’s interior, the façade is the focus of the piazza outside. Public space is worship space, with the church at its center.

Leaving Mass in a moderately sized town, on the porch one immediately finds beggars, hookers, tour guides, hawkers, lovers—absolutely everybody—side by side, drawn there because it is the center of gravity, the obvious place to meet, to beg, to find customers, or just gawk. While we were indoors praying, the bells rang for these people too. Worship in some sense never stops. This, more than any doctrine or morality, is the meaning of a Catholic country. Everybody is assumed of belonging.

Continue reading “Charity Among Sinners”

Borgo sansepolcro

My wife and I stood outside the Church of Sant’Agostino in the northern Tuscan town of Borgo Sansepolcro. It was Palm Sunday, a brilliant spring morning. It is a medieval church in a walled city, dating from the thirteenth century. This is the home town of Piero della Francesca, whose fresco Resurrection is one of the world’s great art treasures. We are strangers in the neighborhood.

—I can’t go in there.
—Why not?
—I don’t know what to do.
—Of course you know what to do in any church in the world. Go to a pew, kneel and pray.

Continue reading “Borgo sansepolcro”