It is a strange and wonderful and, maybe most importantly, new thing I’m experiencing with the opening today of our first prayer room: spending consecutive hours focused on Jesus. Yes, that means that a couple of people didn’t show up. Yes, I wish more had signed up today, but I’m finding myself drawn to this warm, cozy room; eager to see what new request or poem or picture hangs on the wall. We’re learning how this works. We’re learning the importance of communicating details, of reminding people, of being prepared beforehand, of being prepared for spiritual attack before, of keeping the focus on spending time with Jesus. I had hoped to have more manpower to be able to gather prayer requests from the city – all in time. I like that we are doing it anyway, flawed, imperfect, errors – it is OK, because we’re spending lots more time with Jesus than we normally would.
I spent an hour in the room this afternoon with Jacob after Heather did so with Haven. (Haven gasped when she first saw the room and upon exiting said, ‘Daddy, it was amazing. I loved it.’) It was neat for me to watch Jacob go around the room. On the wall that says, ‘Dio è…’ (God is…) he wrote a couple of notes. He drew a chalk picture of Jesus healing the blind man and scribbled in Italian ‘Now I see’ above it. He played with the guitar, read the story of Jericho from his Bible. We looked at the big cross in the corner of the room and talked about what it meant. He stuck a note to it that says, “Thank you for saving me.”
A Catholic lady named Raimonda came today for an hour and as she came out she marveled at how quickly the time passed. As Anna arrived and went in to replace her I prayed with them. Sandro showed up and joined his wife in the room – and they, too, were encouraged and said the time flew by. I find myself fumbling over how to talk about this with people here, how to explain it, promote it, invite people to it. To a traditionally Catholic mindset, the idea of walking into a church to pray is not foreign – I would venture to say that they make more of a habit of this than most non-Catholics I know. But the idea of a ‘place set apart’ and of signing up for hours and the creative expression all seem to be uncharted waters for most everyone here. I argued with our friend Emanuele this morning (he came to photograph the room before it opened) about how to translate the phrase ‘write down a confession.’ “You don’t do that,” he told me. “Only criminals write down confessions.” I smiled – he’s an aspiring lawyer.
So now, I sit here in the assembly room of our rented location at 1:20 Saturday morning. In the entry room, Massimiliano, who is on-call tonight, is trying to get an hour of sleep on an inflatable mattress and blanket that smells like mothballs. Brian is praying in the prayer room. I occasionally hear him strumming something on the guitar. And through the windows to my left, I hear the laughing, the clinking of beer bottles, the thumping of disco beats from the club below us. Father, do something crazy…starting in me.