Seeing with New Eyes

“Eyes they have, but see not,” was the refrain that fell from my mother’s lips, when I as a child could not find something that I was looking for. It was obviously in plain sight, but I somehow missed it. Her words have lingered in my mind as I have journeyed through life seeing, and often being blinded to what I was supposed to view with discernment.

Deprived of exploring the world due to Covid’s grip made me rather restless, so when I was casually asked if I wanted to visit Sicily and southern Italy in early May, hesitation flew out the window. The travel booklet captured my attention with the words – Something Great is about to Happen, and did it ever, for me!

As we traveled, I listened to shared stories, and became fully present to people in different settings. I was gradually being drawn into the miracle of life, natural and human.

Paul Tillich said, “the name of this infinite and inexhaustible depth and ground of all being is God” however we have to learn how to see God in all things. So, on the first day, I began a quest into absorbing what Santa Maria Nuava di Monreale with its Byzantine mosaics had to offer, while later walking through and sampling food in Palermo’s local markets. Dining on seafood in a fishing village was just the start of an exotic adventure.

Climbing up the cobbled streets of the medieval town of Erice, munching on almond cookies and tasting Marsala wine, only served to deepen my appreciation of how each day was a God given gift that I slowly unwrapped and savored.

I stepped into history when going through 5th century BC, Sicily’s archeological site of the Greek Valley of the Temples, and a Roman villa. While Noto’s picturesque Baroque town was impressive with its churches and cathedrals, it is sadly frequented more by tourists thmt praying people.

I could rattle off other places we visited like Syracuse and Ortigia, and Mount Etna and the Greek amphitheatre in Taormina, but the highlight of the trip for me was the Aeolian Island of Lipari.

In his masterpiece, The Human Phenomenon, Teilhard de Chardin emphasizes vision, “to see and to make others see.” He goes on to say that, “the whole of life lies in that verb.” Initially I was caught up in my natural surroundings on Lipari, and found myself repeating what I learned as a young student, Gerard Manley Hopkins poetic line, “The world is charged with the grandeur of God.”

On further reflection I realized that little miracles were happening. I am prone to motion sickness, and taking a hydrofoil to the island made me apprehensive. Hearing of my dilemma, a woman in our group loaned me her wrist bands to wear to prevent the problem. When I thanked her, she said, “Your need was greater than mine.” Another woman kindly reached out with ginger candy.

The biggest gift I received was when out tour guide, “guru” decided to stay with me, while the others were on a small boat ride all day visiting Panarea and erupting Mount Stromboli. She walked with me up and down Lipari’s narrow streets, drinking in the island’s beauty, chatting, and making me feel cared for, dare I say “loved?”

Ilia Delio writes, “Love unites and draws observer and observed into a union of life, open to new life. Only a God of everlasting love could do something this crazy.” Talking of crazy, as we got hungry at midday on Lipari, we stepped into a restaurant for lunch. Just when the waiter placed the tablemat down, did I realize that the place we had chosen to eat pizza was called Viola!

When Christian persecutor Saul of Tarsus encountered Jesus on the road to Damascus, he received new vision. Scripture says filled with the Holy Spirit, “immediately something like scales fell from his eyes, and he regained his sight.” (Acts 9:18)

On our Italian trip, whether it was walking among Alberobello’s unique trulli houses, or exclaiming over rich Lecce, and whitewashed Ostuni, I too received new sight. I met God in strangers now friends, and in the glory of creation bursting with new life. Ilia Delio eloquently states, “God is not dead or absent or retired. God is active and alive, here and now, in the very stuff we call matter.” I absolutely agree, for I was blessed like David sings in Psalm 34:9, to taste and see how good the Lord is, in big and little ways.

Viola Athaide, a student of Theology, is actively involved in parish life, leading Bible courses, the Prayer Group, and the Ministry with Maturing Adults.

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12 Comments
  • Mike Hyland
    Posted at 08:46h, 13 June Reply

    What a wonderful trip! It reminded me of my trip to Italy in 2005. “Seeing with new eyes.” Thanks Viola!

  • Lalita Figueredo
    Posted at 12:22h, 13 June Reply

    Viola, your descriptions of your travels almost makes me feel I was there too!
    God Bless You!

  • Peter Bisson
    Posted at 12:57h, 13 June Reply

    Thank you Viola!

  • Sylvia Lee
    Posted at 14:29h, 13 June Reply

    Thank you, Viola for descriptive sharing.

    Your Italian trip was, indeed, filled with the miracle of life, natural and human ~~ Seeing with New Eyes”.

    God bless you.

  • suzanne renaud
    Posted at 15:31h, 13 June Reply

    Thank you Viola!

  • Harriet
    Posted at 20:08h, 13 June Reply

    Sounds wonderful, travelled with you vicariously, imagery was amazing. You really have a way with words. Thanks

  • Lillian M Phelan
    Posted at 22:01h, 13 June Reply

    I was in Italy in 2003 and always wanted to go back. We didn’t visit Sicily however my daughter did 2 years ago and with your permission I’d like to send her your article. She will enjoy it and it will bring back memories. Thank you for taking us there!

  • Doreen Pinto
    Posted at 07:10h, 14 June Reply

    Loved reading your beautiful account of your trip – thanks. You were touched & helped in so many different ways by He who is always by your side.

    Love & God Bless Viola

    Doreen

  • Christine Domingo
    Posted at 09:32h, 14 June Reply

    Wow, what a wonderful article this is, Viola …so vividly and eloquently expressed! I admire your openness and ability to tie every experience in life to Scripture, always bringing His Word back into the relevance of our daily lives. How beautifully you have captured the highlights of your Sicilian vacation! God bless you.

  • Jacqui Hubbard
    Posted at 14:03h, 15 June Reply

    Your writing brings your travels into vivid imagery to those of us who have not been there. Thank you for taking us on the journey with you.

  • mario coutinho
    Posted at 15:57h, 17 June Reply

    Viola,
    Reading your email, I feel like I have been to Sicily. So, if I had any future plans to visit Sicily, you have saved me the trouble of going there. Thank you
    Mario and Olivia

  • Jane
    Posted at 17:38h, 18 June Reply

    Beautifully written, Viola. We, too, have many lovely memories of a wonderful trip and very kind travel companions.

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