Last Sunday was our Fast and Testimony meeting at church. (For those who don't know what this is, on the first Sunday of the month, we don't eat or drink for two meals. We feel that this makes us more sensitive to the spirit and helps us draw closer to God. In addition, we take the money normally spent on those meals and donate it to the church as a "fast offering" which is then passed on to the needy through various programs in the church. At sacrament meeting, the members take turns going to the pulpit to express their feelings about Jesus Christ and the restored gospel.) Of course many talked about the temple which had just been announced the previous Sunday. Here are a few that I remember:
"I don't know if I'll ever get there, but I'm so happy for those who will." (From an elderly woman who is not sure if she'll still be around by the time the temple is finished, but who is still pretty spunky!)
"I am grateful to have a house of the Lord coming, but I have always felt like I have a home--and a family--with the members here in Rome."
"God lives and answers prayers. I'm grateful he listens. . . . . He's a light in us when we walk in dark paths."
"This (the announcement of the temple) is not the end. We must keep working. We must be full of energy, happiness, and joy. Before it was sufficient to be a good example of followers of Christ. Now we need more commitment. President Monson was inspired to announce the temple here in Rome. Now we must give the part that God requires of us."
"I'm grateful to receive my testimony through prayer."
"I have seen miracles in people's life because and through the gospel of Jesus Christ."
We were so grateful to have been there at that special sacrament meeting. We're sure there were many just like them around Italy.
After sacrament meeeting, we had a bit of time before we would finish fasting, so we decided to go to the temple site. We bring all our new missionaries here between training meetings and lunch so that they can have some time to pray and dedicate themselves to the work here in Italy but the kids hadn't had a chance to wander around the property. (They were in Utah during the youth conference this summer.) The Calabreses (he's our stake patriarch and man-of-all-trades in the mission office, she is perhaps the most beautiful woman in all of Italy) and our friend, Artan, wanted to come along as well. (Remember that you can click on any picture to view it at full size.)
Many have wanted to see pictures of the property. Here are a couple from the front. First, there is a shot on the left side of the property. Next, there is the long driveway to a small villa where the missionaries used to live. The next two shots are to the right of the entrance. The tall trees are called Roman (or umbrella) pines. The smaller trees are olive trees.
Here are some more pictures of the olive grove. Brother Calabrese told us that three years ago, there was a fire on the property and it scorched the Roman pines to the left of the grove, but it came to a line near the olive trees, but would not cross the line. The trees were not harmed at all in the fire.
Marianne wanted a little olive branch and Sister Calabrese pointed out that she might want a branch from the laurel bush as well. The laurel bush is the source of bay leaves used for flavoring soups, lentils, and stews. She said you can also boil the leaves and drink the water (like a tea) for an upset stomach, that the Italians use it to make a crown of leaves for someone who is graduating (the word "laurel" helps form the word "baccalaureate"), and that it was used in ancient Greece for the winner of athletic games (the term "resting on your laurels" comes from this). Wikipedia says that, "In the Bible, the sweet-bay is often an emblem of prosperity and fame. In Christianity it is said to symbolize the Resurrection of Christ and the triumph of Humanity thereby." Interesting!
See what I mean about Sister Calabrese being the most beautiful woman in Italy? And she's just as sweet as she is beautiful!
She told me that when she first visited the property years ago, that there were a lot of vases and pots filled with oil, vinegar, marmalade and such in the villetta and other buildings on the property. She said there was a good feeling about the place and she knew that there must have been a good woman who lived there who knew how to make the land productive and preserve the bounty that came from the harvest.
This is a picture of the back of the villetta. President Acerson is away from the group on the phone--most likely with a missionary. He takes a lot of calls, but he loves it and never complains.
It was a beautiful day and we're glad that we had the opportunity to visit it and make some memories before demolition and construction begin (and no, we don't know when that will be).
For more information on the temple site, click here.