Saturday, October 9, 2010

St. Peter's Basilica

The excitement built all morning.  We took the metro from Republica to Octavia.  Walking down the street we were in crowds of pilgrims and sight seers.  Finally we entered the wall and passed through a gate.  Admission was free.  St. Peter's Square was breathtaking.  So expansive.  And a sight known from the dimensions of television suddenly here in real life.  A dream fulfilled. A promise kept.  We stopped to take pictures and then joined the line that swung all the way around the square. A lovely spanish girl with her small child was before us.  As the line came closer to the gate an hour later several people tried to 'cheat' and 'butt in".  I shooed a couple away but two older ladies remained shameless. 
I said aloud to Laura, "I hope they aren't Christians" and added even more loudly  "God truly must know what happens in St. Peter's square."
The Spanish girl, who later told us she was from near the Basque country,  turned and said, "We've had a couple try to cut in front of us too. One woman showed us her watch as if she was too important to wait. In my country we call them  as having 'half a face'. "
Shortly after I was faced with my own dilemna.  A sign said no knives.  I was carrying my little folding Boy Scout Canada knife.  My first thought was to conceal it.    I was thinking this and thankful for the example of the line cutters.  I dropped my knife in the barrel before the entrance which indeed had a metal detector, thinking that as a Christian and a Boy Scout it was best I truthfully forfeit my knife. I told Laura a Boy Scout is supposed to 'always be prepared."  "I don't think you'll need a knife in the Vatican." she responded. 
I watched a girl in a mini skirt using a shawl to fashion a covering for her knees and laughed at a young woman who had high boots that covered her knees though her skirt was decidedly short.  Laura and I were both very presentable. 
Inside the crowd was something. It was a mulling mass.  Laura and I found reprieve by enterring the sanctuary of for prayer. It was quiet and peaceful.  I said prayers for friends and family.  Thanks and gratitude.  It was a special place for sure but I felt a bit like I was supposed to remain apart of the escalator motion aware of the mass of people behind us.  There were shrines to dead popes everywhere and crypts.  Beautiful paintings and ceilings.  A mass was going on in the main area.  We thought perhaps the pope was there. There was that kind of rock star buzz.  A special canonization ceremony was being held later. No doubt the Holy Father would be there but it was most unlikely he was at this earlier mass despite our deepest desires.  I confess a part of me had him doing the moon walk.  I was taking pictures and video working my Nikon D5000 SLR mainly but every once in a while pulling out the Nikon Coolpix and even getting a few shots with the iPhone. Cameras were aloud but no flashes.   It was like working a wedding. Laura was smiling.  A bit beautific really.  I was irritated by the centapedal tour groups.  Unchristian thoughts.  Mind racing, eyes flicking reptilian, here and there, trying not to miss anything, trying to capture everything on film.  I must remember I thought and at times realized I wasn't even present. Cameras do that. Interface.  Then I'd stopped and studied something.  There were such moments. Such awe and beauty. But then there was the motion of bodies all around. The buzz of the human hive. 

Laura and I burst out of the church and headed down the stairs to the crypts. Who would have guessed the church was egyptian in it's pyramid like perpetration of the dead bodies.  Of course we're in a basilica built on the bones of St. Peter. And there was his crypt.  But before that was Pope John Paul's and shivers went up my spine and I choked remembering reading his book and loving his ideas.  I was sad that he was gone.  The dome was closed by the time we came up to the sun.  Laura just had to send post cards. We'd read of the Vatican Post Office and off we went to get the stamps and mail cards to friends. 

Then we were done.  The holy water had just touched our foreheads before the spin dry cycle was on.   Outside we walked into a religious store and I bought the normal trinkets. Catholic prayer cards with prayers I've wanted to know and remember.  Another cross. How many is enough. I think the same about Bibles.  We found the Metro and joined the crush back to Republica. 

 I could  envy the priests and nuns who can come and sit in this church after all of us are gone.  I would like to linger but so would millions.  It was good to be there.  Better than any rock concert and the pope didn't even make an appearance.  Now that's one heaven of a set!

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