STEWARDSHIP | The best of both worlds

Many of us probably don't need more evidence that God exists, but in case you do, take a trip to Italy. My wife and I just returned from a two-week vacation there. Venice, Florence, Pisa, Pompeii, Sorrento, Positano, Assisi, Rome and Vatican City, the best of both worlds, a little taste of heaven here on earth.

I had no idea what was in store for us. What I thought was going to be a sightseeing trip quickly developed into a religious pilgrimage.

Two things have stuck with me from the trip. First, the beauty of God's creation. Second, the beauty of man's creativity inspired by God.

God's creation — taking a gondola ride on the canals of Venice, viewing Mt. Vesuvius and the Bay of Naples from the cliffs of Sorrento, driving along the Amalfi coast, looking down from the hills of the pristine town of Assisi on the Italian country-side — all absolutely breathtaking. There is no doubt that God made all of this, it's too beautiful for any other explanation.

Man's creativity — the cathedrals, churches and chapels (too numerous to list); the paintings, statues, fountains and sculptures (again, too numerous to list); and finally the food and wine (Mamma Mia!). It's truly awesome to see what is possible when we are inspired by God to use our talents, skills and abilities.

My top three things from the trip:

One, attending the papal audience April 18 in St. Peter's Square. I was looking forward to it, but I had no idea of the profound effect Pope Francis would have on me as he rode by only 12 feet away in the popemobile. You can feel the love, mercy and compassion he has for people.

Two, being inside the Sistine Chapel. Michelangelo spent four years by himself painting the ceiling. He was primarily a sculptor and painting was his second job.

Three, going to San Damiano, the church where St. Francis of Assisi heard the Lord call him to "build my Church." Praying before that crucifix was indeed a gift.

Naturally, I brought home souvenirs. Here are my spiritual souvenirs from the trip:

First, be a better steward of the earth. God's beauty is all around us. Not only do we need to take care of it, we need to enjoy it more, not take it for granted and pass it on to our children and grandchildren.

Second, be a better steward of our talents and use them in the way God intended. We can't all be master painters or sculptors, but we can be a better husbands/wives, dads/moms, sons/daughters, uncles/aunts, friends and co-workers.

My wife and I are grateful for the opportunity to visit Italy, everything we experienced pointed us to the greater glory of God.

Baranowski is the director of stewardship education in the Archdiocese of St. Louis. He and his wife are parishioners at Mary, Mother of the Church in south St. Louis County. He can be reached at (314) 792-7215 or davidbaranowski@archstl.org. 

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