I just wanted to tell this quick story of what happened for 5 minutes one day when I was in Italy, because it was one of the greatest 5 minutes of my trip! (and a lot can happen in 5 minutes in Europe)
I was in Verona with two Italian friends, and Fabiano loves to go in every church we pass by (keep in mind Italy has Catholic churches like Tennessee has Baptist ones, so this was quickly becoming a very involved past time). We went into this particular one, and my devout Catholic Italian friends did their genuflect routine as they entered the church (the whole bow down, cross themselves, throw in a kiss at some point thing). Normally, I just walk in like a normal person, since I’m not Catholic and don’t feel the need to pretend about it.
But this time was different.
I watched my friends do their bit like usual as we walked in and was prepared to just do my “hey I’m a Protestant” thing, but I glanced to my left and saw that the priest was a foot in front of me! Now, I’m not scared of priests or anything, but for some reason I immediately started to have a mini panic, thinking “Oh no, he’s right there and I’m with these people who just genuflected and I don’t know how it works but he probably expects me to do it, too, and will think I’m a bad person if I don’t and I’m not a bad person and I really do like Jesus, so I should try!” So, before I knew it, I was taking a stab at remembering the order of everything, crossing myself (I’m pretty great at this one, thanks to my dear Catholic roommate) and doing an unsure little half bow… the kissing part was totally lost on me. But, I think perhaps it’s enough.
And then the priest comes over and starts speaking to me, in Italian of course, and making gestures towards the door. He wants me to leave, I think! I am a failure at genuflecting and he wants me to exit the premises. This is unfortunate! So, I get very flustered and summon for my other friend, trying to tell her what I think he said. “Oh no,” she says, “He only wants to know if it’s still raining outside.”
Whoops :) We spoke with him for a while after, too. Fabiano told him I was from Colorado, and he asked to give me a blessing, which I totally accepted and felt awesome about. Turns out he’s 93 years old! What a stud! So we took pictures, chatted for a bit– well, they chatted for a bit–and then we left.
Moral of the story? Priests are nice people. Chances are they don’t want you to leave :)