Florence: Saints and Sinners

It’s All Saints Day, and also the day after Reformation Day, when Martin Luther posted his 95 Theses on the door of the church in Wittenberg, which makes Halloween also the birthday of Lutheranism, the faith which I practice. So the philosophy that we’re all saints and sinners is on my mind this time every year. I’m also remembering the saints in my life who I no longer see, but who live on in my memory. In greeting time at church this morning, our worship leader Pat had us share with each other the people we’re looking forward to seeing again in heaven. My grandparents Ruth and Phil Moore are a clear answer. I also look forward to seeing my great-grandparents Gladys and Milton, after the special reunion we had this summer in Tahoe remembering their spirits. All Saints Day has become one of the most meaningful days of the year to me. I’ll get to that more in a bit – first, my trip.

I returned from Europe just over a week ago. I wrote last on Oct. 15 about the work portion of the trip, which went very, very well. The Big Bead Show was another smashing success. This time, I felt comfortable being there knowing what was going on. I met world-class beaders who I’d been hearing about for months, like a Swedish woman named Anna Lindell. She beaded a VW Beetle!

Then, of course, we headed for Florence, Italy – me, Sara, David, and Elizabeth. I already miss that city terribly. Everywhere I looked, there was history waiting to be read. Stunning churches hid themselves away within the narrow streets – we just had to look inside. I got up early and meditated at one of them one morning. We walked everywhere, as it’s not a huge surface area. I can’t say I’m a fan of Italian drivers now. So many people walk about, that they can’t all fit on the sidewalks, and the cars just drive right through. You have to be careful. As you walk around, you’ll find plaques by the doors of buildings indicating their significance. And the street names help you find what you’re looking for – for instance, Via Dante Alighieri is where the museum about that man’s life is. The magnificent Duomo cathedral is not hard to find. I did get inside there, although I didn’t go up to the top because I was a little sick. Popes of ages past lie memorialized there. Perhaps most importantly, we visited the Uffizi art gallery, which is chock full of Renaissance and medieval art, with large rooms dedicated to Leonardo da Vinci and Botticelli. It’s more than you could ever look at in one day. I enjoyed it very much though! We also attended a performance of Cosi Fan Tutte at the new opera house, ate gelato, and drank prosecco on the roof of our beautiful hotel. And too many cappuccinos. 🙂

At the Uffizi gift shop, I bought a book on one of Florence’s characters, Catherine de Medici, by British author Leonie Frieda. She was Queen of France in the 1500s, the wife of Henri II, and obviously part of the ubiquitous Medici family, who dominated Florence beginning in the 1300s. This family of bankers was the driving force behind the Renaissance and made Florence the center of flourishing art that it’s known as – they made themselves into nobles by their entrepreneurship. They not only became dukes and duchesses, they became cardinals and popes… and unfortunately did not live up to the standards of the job. I’d known about the corrupt religious officials from my previous classes, but it’s another thing to read about it within the city where all this took place. I don’t know if Martin Luther ever visited Florence, but he certainly visited Rome and saw what was going on. The papacy not only controlled spiritual regulations, but also possessed land all over Italy – it was effectively a political entity. (You’ll see details about this in Machiavelli’s The Prince.) What ticked off Luther was the sale of indulgences, where parishioners could pay a sum and be told they were absolved of their sins, which meant more money and power to the church. He wasn’t a fan of these men – these Florentines – who were supposedly saints walking the earth, yet openly committing sins by having illegitimate children and seeking temporal power unjustly. Luther sparked a revolution of thought by noticing what was wrong in the church. I think he’d be happy to see a pope like today’s Francis I, who’s at the other end of the spectrum from the greedy Medicis. Being in Florence made me think about this… I haven’t finished the book yet, I’ve been a bit distracted since getting back. But I will. At least we know now that it doesn’t fly to call yourself a perfect saint and then corrupt yourself in sin. It’s better to recognize yourself as both.

I had another big musing from today, which was quite a busy day, playing at church, a concert with the Oneota Valley Community Orchestra in Decorah, and rehearsing for the Polar Express with a dance company here in Rochester. I’ve been reading articles on my Facebook news feed about grief this week, just because they’ve caught my eye. I’m always striving to be empathetic to everyone – we all have struggles, and I find empathy to be the best way to help, rather than cliches and platitudes. We know that losing someone you love is hard. It sucks. But we hate to see each other suffer. These articles gave insight into better ways to help your loved ones with grieving. They also made me think – grief is an emotion that’s feared. We don’t want to spend time feeling it because we want to move on with our lives, as we’ve got things to accomplish with our jobs and families. That’s why empathizing with grief is hard too. But it’s a natural human reaction. It’s okay to be sad when you lose someone! This isn’t just death, either – breakups cause grief also, with a friend or with a romantic partner. I was realizing earlier today that I didn’t allow myself to grieve my breakup two and a half years ago. I’d been with the guy for nearly four years. I felt like I shouldn’t be sad because I chose to end the relationship and knew that it was the right thing, but I was still saying goodbye to someone who’d been a mainstay in my life for so long. That’s never going to be easy, no matter how necessary it is to move on from them. Not wanting to admit my sadness made senior year a little harder than it needed to be. Only recently do I feel like I’ve processed it the way I wanted to. It will never be pleasant, and I pray I don’t experience it again, but there are no guarantees.

Thinking about grief on All Saint’s Day seemed fitting to me. This day is meant to remind us of those we love who have passed – the connection is clear. These dear ones aren’t with us anymore, and we have the right to grieve that. We grieve because these people moved us and shaped our lives. So we will, and we will carry forward their legacies. That’s why the Milton and Gladys Anderson family reunion continues. We still grieve for them a little. We love them and miss them. They are our saints. Ruth and Phil Moore are our saints too. That’s what this day means.

I’m glad to unload my thoughts a bit after this busy week. I got back to work and Minnesota life, put out a new issue of Bead Me, taught cello, played music at church, had my concert today… no stopping to rest just yet. I have a hard decision to make coming up. My job at Ashdown is only becoming more energizing, which I love, and I have to make sure I can live up to that. I’m at the point in life where I have the time and space to do what makes me happiest, what makes me be the light to the world I must be. So here’s to more self-discovery.

Cheers,

Brita

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One response to “Florence: Saints and Sinners

  1. Another thought-provoking article. Milton & Gladys always welcomed us whenever we visited Holdredge. You are fortunate to have so many saints to remember.

    Like

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