13 July 2017
Michele, Ketty, and I went to Parma and Cremona recently to prayer walk. We started in Parma, which is a little over an hour from Milan by regional train. Parma is the birthplace of both Prosciutto (Parma ham) and Parmigiano (Parmesan cheese). All over town there are shops that sell ham and cheese and other delightful foods that compliment them. Michele wanted to take us to a coffee shop that he had discovered there. But as we neared the place, he started speaking about it like he had a premonition that it was closed. Sure enough, it was closed.
As we walked toward the center of town, Michele kept pointing out all the cheese shops, entering the more promising ones, gazing wistfully at the glass cases, but not buying anything. Finally with a big smile on his face he said: “I just realized that my love language is food.”
Michele taking a picture of the poster.
When we got to the center of town we saw a sign that showed a picture of a cigarette butt and said:
If you throw me on the ground, you’re a butthead (my translation).
It turns out that the city of Parma had launched a campaign to keep the streets free of cigarette butts. A city employee even came out to talk to us. She opened the glass case that the sign was in so that Michele could take a picture of the sign without reflection. She also gave Michele a little plastic butt-holder that they have been giving away to smokers for free.
Michele blessing Parma City Hall.
We prayer walked all around city hall, blessing the city and the mayor and all his staff.
Lighting (and highlighting!) by the Almighty, Himself!
Then we went to the cathedral. There were no pews and no seats, and in the middle of the floor there was a podium with an open Bible on it. Curious, Ketty and I went to see where the Bible was open to. It was this:
The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is upon me, for the Lord has anointed me to bring good news to the poor, (Isaiah 61:1a).
Then we noticed that the light was falling on the Bible, on the open page in a really dramatic way, so we took pictures of it.
Hams hanging from the ceiling.
Next we went to look for a place to eat lunch. Michele found a place called Degustaria (Tasting Room). That sounded promising, and indeed it was everything that we could have hoped for. Cured pork loins hung overhead (prosciutto), and most everything on the menu was appetizer style tastings with cheese aged nine, twenty-four, and thirty months. After a lovely lunch we walked a bit more and found a really special cheese shop. Inside Michele and I simultaneously saw Parmigiano that had been aged 52 months—that’s the most that either of us had ever heard of. Michele went back and forth, wondering if he should get it or not. While he thought about it, I grabbed a shrink-wrapped package and went to pay for it. My decision helped Michele to decide, too. And it’s a good thing because just then they started closing up shop. If he had hesitated any longer, he would have blown his chance and regretted it for the rest of the day.
Next we went to the park, where Parma castle is and prayed there for the families of Parma. The park is enormous, and we had a train to catch, so we didn’t spend much time there.
The Shredded Violin of Cremona.
Next we went to Cremona, the home of Antonio Stradivari, maker of the famous Stradivarius violin. There are violin shops all over the center of Cremona.
The first thing we noticed in town was a violin sculpture near the train station. But this sculpture was of a violin all shredded up. Since the violin is the symbol of Cremona, this spoke to the broken identity of the city. While the atmosphere of Parma had been light, Cremona seemed very heavy. Even the residents seemed weighted down with heavy burdens. Walking a bit farther, we found another violin sculpture. This one was also distorted. We had plenty to pray about in Cremona. And we called back the beauty of music to heal the city’s residents.
The broken, distorted violin.
At Cremona City Hall we met a remarkable young man, fifteen years old, who spoke to us in English. He answered all our questions about the city, and even spoke of the freak hail storm that had damaged the cathedral’s decorations, including a golden orb at the top of a spire. He said with some pride that his dad had repaired the damage to the orb and replaced the golden covering. He also pointed out to us that the clock on the cathedral is the largest in all of Europe: “Larger than Big Ben!” We complimented him on his English, which was very good. He said that he attends the Liceo Linguistico, the Language Magnet High School.
Our English-speaking guide in Cremona.
After he left we prayed for the mayor and for the city, then we walked back to the train station. We noticed that the sculpture of the shredded violin had a name: The Soul of the City. This saddened us, and we prayed that the soul of Cremona would be restored.
The Soul of the City.
As we walked toward the train station we saw a man with a Bible in his hand talking to a couple of men on a bench. We walked on past to go see where to catch our train. Since the train was running five minutes behind schedule, and would be arriving on the closest track, we walked back to the bench. The man had just finished praying with the men. So we introduced ourselves, and told him that we had come to prayer walk in the city. He was excited to hear that, and told us that he’s the pastor of a church in town—obviously one that has a passion for reaching the lost. We promised to pray for him, and then we went inside the station and caught our train back to Milan.
The Pastor shares Jesus at the train station.
It was a long and tiring day. Ketty’s Fitbit said that we had walked twelve kilometers (almost seven and a half miles). But it had been a very good day. Now what to do with this cheese . . . God is good!