Moments of Grace

Chiesa Dei Santi Michele e Gaetano, Florence, Italy

Chiesa Dei Santi Michele e Gaetano, Florence, Italy

“Safe travels… ciao, ciao!” Antonio shouted with a warm smile and a hug.  The meetings were over, business trip complete and it was time for me to fly back to Atlanta.  After a full week of meetings in Florence, Italy, followed by customer dinners each night, much was accomplished and I was tired.

I walked outside the convention hall; the sun was setting like an orange glow blanketing the ancient city.  The final day was closing and my hotel beckoned before the long journey home. “Maybe I can catch up on some emails,” I thought, as I slowly turned toward the narrow cobble stoned street.  I should have felt satisfied with how everything turned out but I wasn’t.  I stopped and thought to myself, “Something’s missing.”  I wondered what could be missing?  Judging by any business standard, the week was successful and my work cup was full.  I missed home and was ready to see my family, had a great work trip, but something was still not settled deep down.

I heard church bells, dong… dong… dong… signaling Holy Mass.  Then it dawned on me, I was missing Christ.  By any spiritual standard, the week was a miss.  My chalice was empty.  I allowed myself to be too busy to hear God amidst the meetings, dinners and phone calls.  “That’s it, that’s what is missing, this is why I feel empty.” How often do we run on empty but seem full?   How often do we crowd out the whisper of the Holy Spirit by the noise of our chosen lives?  I use the word “chosen” because dedication to faith is a choice.  Faith itself is a gift.   We are never too busy to start every day with prayer and spend a few minutes with the Lord.  I realized this crazy schedule was self-inflicted.

But, with God it’s never too late bells, dong… dong… dong.  The church bells were still booming like an ancient choir singing in the Heavens.  It was the sound of the sages calling, the sounds of the centuries of angels inviting sojourners to come hear the sounds of silence.  Silence is one place where you can encounter God—waiting for us at the Altar.  This Church seemed like a house of the Holy to me but is really a field hospital for sinners.  The Church never moves, we do.

So, I turned toward the bells, hurried up the narrow street and turned the corner and there was Chiesa Dei Santi Michele e Gaetano, a beautiful church nestled in between cafés, restaurants and souvenir shops.  “Now THIS is a church!” I was literally stunned by its the beauty.  I walked in, found the Baptismal font in the shadows, bathed in the glow of candles lit for Mass.  I then turned toward the magnificent view of the Altar and was pleasantly surprised to see nuns walking up the aisle to their seats.  They were dressed in a perfect shade of blue, emanating purity and the image of our Blessed Mother.  They were followed in by a priest and other young, traditional-looking clerics preparing for Mass.  They were deacons who were in formation for the Priesthood in the Institute of Christ the King Sovereign Priest. The Mass was in honor of one of their patron saints, St. Francis de Sales.  As a Protestant convert to the Catholic faith, I count St. Francis de Sales as one of my heroes!

I knelt on the wooden rail and realized this was a moment of grace, a moment of peace, and a moment to slow down and be with the Lord.

I must pray each day to recognize these moment of grace given me by the Lord. To waste them is a great loss.

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About the Author

Mike Carlton Writer

Mike Carlton was born in Buffalo, NY. He married his college sweetheart Laurie and has six children. They were married in Ohio in 1991 and live in a suburb of Atlanta, GA. He is the son of the former NFL football star Wray Carlton. Mike currently works as the Global Vice President of MiMedx, a worldwide orthopedic biologics company in medical devices.

He graduated in 1989 from Miami University, Oxford OH with a B.S degree in Marketing and studied in the M.B.A program at Xavier University, Cincinnati OH. He earned an archdiocesan Catechetical Teaching Certificate for the Catholic Archdiocese of Atlanta in 2003.

Mike was raised Presbyterian and converted to the Catholic Church in 2002. In 2003, he started the apologetics ministry called “Why Catholic” at his parish, St. Peter Chanel, Roswell GA. In addition, Mike and Laurie help start, with Deacon Mike Bickerstaff, MAC “Marriages Are Covenants”, a ministry outreach program of the Integrated Catholic Life for married couples. He has been interviewed on the Sacred Heart Radio Program, the “Deep in Scripture” program on EWTN radio, and has been an invited guest on the “Journey Home” television program on EWTN. A popular speaker, Mike has given his conversion talk around the Archdiocese of Atlanta.

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