Sometimes You Just Need to Sit With Jesus

A college-age pilgrim finds refuge and spiritual solace in the Eternal City.

Quality time with Jesus is found at the Sanctuary of Our Lady of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, Rome.
Quality time with Jesus is found at the Sanctuary of Our Lady of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, Rome. (photo: Jack Figge)

“No! Sit!” an Italian grandma yelled at me.

I did not want to sit. 

I wanted my coffee, and then I wanted to go find another church in Rome. I only had so much time in the Eternal City.

But she insisted, so I sat down.

You never argue with Italian grandmas.

Immediately, I became restless. 

But when she delivered my cappuccino and cornetto, I savored it, grateful for the break where all I had to do was be.

For the past few days, as I walked around Rome, I found myself distracted by everything around me: the people, the buildings, the food and the classes I was taking.

I struggled to slow down and moved through the days at a rapid pace, which left me feeling anxious.

But here, in this tiny café, I slowed down. 

And I enjoyed it.

When I left and went back into the streets, I experienced the familiar discomfort and unease that I entered the café with. Quickly, I realized that it was a spiritual unease that no cappuccino or cornetto could fix. 

I felt separate from God.

Here I was, in the heart of the Church, feeling disconnected from God. This should not be happening. I should feel the closest to God here, in all of the gorgeous churches and surrounded by countless opportunities to pray.

So, that night, I decided to take a walk to process these feelings.

Before I knew it, I was standing in front of St. Peter’s Basilica, frustrated and confused.

So, I took a lesson from the Italian grandma, and I sat down, my eyes fixed on the dome’s dominating outline penetrating the night sky.

St. Peter’s Basilica at night
St. Peter’s Basilica at night(Photo: Jack Figge)

And I stayed right there, telling myself that I had nowhere else to be. (Note: There were plenty of places I could be, i.e., Rome has some really great bars.)

But I sat and prayed.  In that moment, I felt safe in a new way, wrapped by the colonnade of St. Peter Square, staring at this unmoving, stable basilica that has withheld the test of time.

I asked the Lord why it was this moment when I felt so at peace and so safe.

Internally, I felt his reply: “Because I created this for you.” 

But why did he give us this gift of a looming basilica and all of the other gorgeous churches?

Because he knew that we would need a place of refuge, a place to flee to when the world becomes too much, a place to pray and a place to worship.

So, there I was, looking at the posterchild of all churches, its light starkly contrasting the impeding night sky.

There, I found peace — a peace unexplainable. But a peace that assured me that God would not abandon me, that I was safe here, in this square, and in his Church.

But I had to sit down to realize this. 

Like most Americans, my natural disposition is to be on the move. I either have to always be working, talking to somebody, or heading on to the next thing.

If I am not doing one of these things, I feel useless.

Here in Rome, though, the heart of the Church, where everybody is moving, I learned the important lesson that I need to stop doing and just be.

So, I took that to heart the next day, as I set out to visit some Roman churches Rome.

And in each of these churches, as tourists gawked at the masterful artwork for a split second, and then rushed on to the next church, I just sat, gazing at the Lord in the tabernacle and reflecting on the artwork.

There, in those churches, I felt that same peace that I experienced the night before, a peace that can be found in any basilica, any church or any chapel.

A peace that negates all the craziness of the world and chaos of daily life.

A peace that is soft and gentle. 

A peace that can only be attained by being with Christ in his Church.

All you have to do is sit.

Jack traveled to Rome from June 17 to 27 to participate in the EWTN Summer Academy, a program that seeks to educate and connect Catholic journalists from across the world. 

Jack Figge Rome
Jack Figge enjoys his time in Rome during the EWTN Summer Academy.(Photo: Jack Figge)