By Tim Norton
“The world is a book, and those who do not travel read only a page.” – Augustine of Hippo (St. Augustine)
I was reminded of this quote over the past week as I was privileged, along with President Kina Mallard and her husband, Steve Dietz, to travel with a band of Reinhardt University friends to Italy. We were traveling alongside the Reinhardt University Chamber Singers starting in Rome and concluding in Venice.
For many of the Singers, this was their first trip outside of the southeastern United States, not to mention the more than 5,000 miles from Atlanta to Rome. And though I’ve not been able to speak personally with them since they arrived back at home, I can assure you their eyes were opened anew, their spirits were encouraged and their lives have been transformed by a week in Italy.
Beginning with their sung leadership at a Mass inside the holiest of Christian churches in the world, St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome; to Cerreto Guidi - a town of about 14,000 located in the foothills 30 miles outside Florence where they sung to a standing-room-only crowd in the Church of San Leonardo; to the Church of St. Moses in Venice where another standing-room-only audience applauded wildly to their penultimate piece, “Ride on King Jesus,” -- these students and their indomitable leader, Dr. Martha Shaw, and everyone who had the pleasure of traveling with them were moved in mind, spirit and soul. Many in the crowd were moved to tears.
Along the way the Singers and the companion group visited many holy sites, including the town of Assisi, where they were treated to a private audience at the library at the Basilica of Saint Francis of Assisi, and viewed a copy of Breviarium Ordinif Memorum Fratrum (a liturgical book of Latin liturgical rites) used by Saint Francis 1224, just two years before his death.
A visit to the Accademia Gallery Museum in Florence housing the magnificent, 14-foot statue of the Biblical hero, David, created between 1501 and 1504 by Michelango, was a highlight for me. Of course, Michelangelo is perhaps most famous for his creation of the frescos on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel in Rome (1508-1512), which the groups also visited.
The Singers’ concerts were certainly the highlight of the trip, but the experience of Italy is one that will resound in my heart and mind for years to come.
A chapter in my book of travels is turned, but the language, beauty, truth, goodness, kindness and more of Italy and the Italians – just like the carefully crafted chapters of my favorite books - will be treasured and remembered for a lifetime.
For images from the Reinhardt University Chamber Singers and friends trip to Italy, please click here.