I spent part of last summer in our house of mission in Broomfield, Colorado. It was a place that was simultaneously both new and familiar to me. Specifically, there were ranch-style houses and streets lined with trees and parks, like the ones you find in the suburbs of Washington, DC, where my family lives. And yet, just around the corner I found myself in front of a long chain of Rocky Mountains, which won me over Instantly.
Seeing my fascination with the mountains, one Saturday morning Sisters Patrizia and María brought me along to discover one of the closest peaks. From the lowest hills, composed of prairies and coyotes, we climbed up and across a forested canyon, among spruce trees and poplars. Occasionally at our backs a breathtaking view would open up of the vastness of the valley that spread towards the east. Everything was disarmingly beautiful, yet as we climbed upward I started getting a strange feeling of being lost and of solitude. Then I understood: over the last few years, I’ve been living in Italy and I’d gotten use to a land where Christian people dwell. In Italy, while hiking along trails in the mountains it is not uncommon to find a crucifix, a little chapel, or a grotto where a hermit might have lived for some time: all physical traces of a living faith. They remind us of the very origin of the beauty that surrounds us, and they tell us that God, creator of all things, became incarnate and continues to remain present throughout history. They speak to us of a people who walk alongside us, the saints, those still on Earth and those in heaven.
An acute nostalgia was born in me desirous that here on my American soil the Church may also build places that show God’s closeness to man. In the days following that hike, I asked myself, “What could render ‘sacred’ even this land?” Observing my sisters at work in their mission, the answer became clear to me.
A place becomes holy if there, a person lives the sacred relationship that God wants to establish with him or her: the Holy Land is such because Jesus lived this relationship there with his own. Assisi is also a holy land because there, St. Francis lived with Him. Even the places where we live, humble as they may be, can also become holy and remain in history if we live the deepest fullness of the holiness to which each one of us is called.
(In the image, a view of the Rocky Mountains from the house of the Fraternity in Denver, Colorado).