I finally had the chance to go to the Vatican City after years of just reading about this place in books and online. I was so psyched for all the wonders that I am to see and experience, afterall, this is the centre of the Catholic faith, the place where the Pope lives and where a friend of mine has said that my faith will be renewed and strengthened.
We woke early in the morning with only one place to visit in mind…the Vatican City. We have purposely left it for a whole day visit as recommended by most tourists who have been there before. I was prepared to be awed, amazed and filled with religious fervor. However, like most things that people gets so hyped about, my visit didn’t live up to expectations.
I have been to Lourdes, France some years ago and that visit made me feel like a renewed Christian in my heart but when I went to the Vatican City, the Holy See, the centre of the Catholic world… I felt like a tourist. Let me break it down to more comprehensible language. I do understand that there will be long queues for everything there because afterall the Catholicism is one of the major religions of the world, hence the busloads of followers. I do understand that everyone wants to go to the audience with the Pope. I do understand and expect that St Peter’s Basilica will be amazing and filled with beautiful religious art. What I don’t understand is why my heart wasn’t filled with spiritual fervor.
I stood there with open mouth watching in amazement of the beauty inside St Peter’s basilica. I wanted to take pictures of all the walls, statues and domes then I caught myself wondering what exactly was I supposed to be doing here. Shouldn’t I be kneeling down in a pew somewhere,offering my prayers or lighting a candle? Yet I got caught up in the ‘tourist’ atmosphere within this beautiful curch and acted like one and not like a Catholic should inside a church. I cannot even remember genuflecting in front of the Sacristi. I marveled at the beautifully made marble statues and think to myself about the past wrong doings of my Church. What countries have been subjugated in the name of my religion? How many wars were fought to help establish and build this great city? I know that the present Catholic Church is not responsible for the wrongdoings of its predecessor and has evolved so much from a millenia ago but staring at these lovely works of art made me sad. It made me sad because I am now struggling to grasp my own religious faith.
I wanted to be just be still and feel God’s presence in this beautiful basilica. I wanted to just zone out all the flashes from the cameras and the mutterings of everyone else. I wanted to find that Catholic girl inside of me. I wanted to search for God, not in the paintings on the wall or the intricate altar or in the marble images… I wanted to search for God in my heart. In that short moment of reflection, I remembered one Christian Living lesson in elementary that explained that God’s church is not the physical building itself but the people who believes in Him and lives according to Christ’s teachings. This beautiful basilica in all its grandeur and glory is but a physical representation but do not, should not define my faith.
So I snapped some pictures and smiled at the camera. The pictures will remind me that I have been to that beautiful place but that little flicker of light in my heart reminds me of where God and faith truly are.
written in September 2010