James LePore: Spanish Steps

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JP Spanish Steps

Spanish Steps, © James LePore


I went to Rome to get away from my life, which I knew was ridiculous. My husband had left me for his secretary, and my sons, both snobs, had decided that their lives would be easier if they sucked up to him and his money. Thirty years of a cheating husband and two shallow, idiot sons. How did I let that happen? I rented an apartment off of Via Condotti, which is Rome’s Fifth Avenue, and spent my days in churches, museums and expensive shops. The churches and museums were just to pass the time in between buying things. I got a haircut that cost $300.00. I bought a pair of Prada sandals for $5,000.00, a diamond pendant for $60,000.00.

I passed a begger woman on the way back to my hotel one day. When I put some loose change in her cup, she lifted her head and thanked me, tears in her eyes. “Grazie, Signora,” she said, “Che Dio nostro padre portare via tutte le vostre paure e preoccupazioni.” May God our father take away all your fears and worries. The thousand wrinkles on the woman’s face were a map of a world I never knew existed. Not the world of poverty or of misery. I knew they existed. The world of purpose, of inner peace.

That next day there was a picture of Mother Teresa in the paper. She had been canonized. Her face had the same map on it. In fact…well, it probably wasn’t her, but then again, it might have been. Thank you, Signora. May God our father take away all your fears and worries.

That afernoon, I cut my hair off down to about an inch, put it in a bag along with the Prada sandals and the diamond pendant, and headed out to the Piazza San Gregorio al Cielo. After I dropped the stuff off, I wasn’t sure what I would do, but I wasn’t going home. Nobody would miss me there, a sort of negative status that I liked. I felt free.

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The Missionaries of Charity is a Roman Catholic Latin Rite religious congregation established in 1950 by Mother Teresa. It consists of over 4,501 religious sisters and is active in 133 countries. Members of the order designate their affiliation using the order’s initials, “M.C.” A member of the Congregation must adhere to the vows of chastity, poverty, obedience, and the fourth vow, to give “wholehearted free service to the poorest of the poor.”

A Sister’s few possessions include: three saris (one to wear, one to wash, one to mend); two or three cotton habits; a girdle; a pair of sandals; a crucifix; and a rosary. They also have a plate, a set of cutlery, a cloth napkin, a canvas bag, and a prayer book. In cold countries, nuns may own a cardigan and other articles suited to the local climate such as a coat, scarf, and closed shoes.

The Missionaries’ house in Rome is located at Piazza San Gregorio al Cielo.


James LePore is the author of several nationally bestselling books. You can stay up-to-date on his blog posts and his photography at his website.

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On February 28, 2015
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