Friday, October 31, 2008

The Vatican

Storm gathering behind us

Well, they wouldn't let me see the Pope, can you imagine the nerve? I left him a note so will wait to hear back. The Vatican museum is laden with art and we spent several hours winding our way to the Sistine Chapel, which by the time you get there, is just the grandest of a very grand art collection owned by the Catholic church. I found it very interesting that a church that is so Catholic, which is the perfect word, could have such a challenging, varied and interesting art collection much of which has religious themes depicted as questioning to put it mildly. Much of the art work in the modern collection is profane or "profano" or something like that in Italian. Truly, the hierarchy of the church get the good end of the deal in my opinion as they get to enjoy the intellectual side of Catholicism which includes Salvador Dali and Francis Bacon (in addition to never turning down wine at weddings as my mom always pointed out when I was a kid) while parishioners have the doctrine spoon fed. No offense, I'm just sayin. It's good to be the Pope.

Rafael rooms fresco leading to the Sistine Chapel

There is a huge conference being held at the Vatican honoring the 50th anniversary of the election of Good Pope John. Papa Buono. Thousands of priests and nuns and pilgrims from his italian hometown were in attendance yesterday during several masses at St. Peter's. We saw the beginning of a mass at St. Peter's and returned to our hotel an hour later to find it being broadcast live on television. Pretty weird to know it was happening not a mile away.

Inside St. Peter's Basilica

The sun sets pretty early now so we entered St. Peter's amidst a great thunderstorm gathering in daylight and emerged an hour later at dusk to a washed St. Peter's piazza. St. Peter's gets its point across, whatever it is. It can be thought to honor God and the welcoming arms of the church with its wide arms surrounding the center, or it can be a tribute to the power of Man who can erect such a masterpiece of architecture. I'm enthralled with all gee gaws, Catholic. Crucifixes, medals, prayer cards, rosaries especially. I want to be a Catholic. Chip says no.

Storm has passed, dusk settles on the Vatican

Another fresco, very old but very modern in its content

Within the Catholic tradition, I now confess my sin that while standing inside the Sistine Chapel with my family unwittingly shielding me, I did a bad thing. I tilted my camera up and snapped away. I wasn't trying to get The Creation of Man but I did a little. It will be a shock to them that they were accomplices as they had no knowledge until now. What can I say, when you tell me not to do something, I instantly want to do it.

Needs no explanation

Hallway painted ceiling leading to Sistine Chapel

Hundreds of seminarians awaiting mass inside


  1. I don't know what to say!

    Just wanted you to know I'm still
    reading your blog and think it's
    awesome as are your photos.

  2. Thanks Faye! I finally got the computer at 1am. We go back to Oxford tomorrow. We'll call soon.

  3. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  4. I just got caught up on the Italy trip. Great history and pictures.Also, I agree with Chip, no on the Catholic idea! Good pictures of all the good stuff, but also enjoy seeing the girls.

  5. Okay, I have to ask: why no (in principle) to the Catholic idea? (I am not Catholic. I am not even religious. But some of my best children are, esp. the ones who are absolutely drawn to social justice)

    Anyway, lovely post. Chip's veto and commenter's veto notwithstanding.

  6. When I was in Italy years ago, I saw young people at the opera and Catholic mass on TV a lot. I mentioned this to Francesca, our downstairs neighbor here in our Manhattan palazzo, and she scowled and said, "Noooooooo. Not in ages....Waaaaal, maybe the Mass on TV."

  7. I agree with Chip and George, who ever George is.

  8. Why doesn't anyone want me to be a Catholic? Haven't I just demonstrated what happens when people tell me no?

  9. On being Catholic. I had a good foundation. Lucky enough to identify myself in an early age.
    Raised by Catholic parents and schooled by the Vincetian Order until college. No misses, I devotedly participate in masses and days of obligations. According to news media, I practice "cafeteria catholicism". I don't agree with priests giving homilies about politics on my early morning Sunday masses. I would welcome you to join me especially in a very festive Christmas Midnight Mass. Oops time to go, mass will start in 20mins.

  10. Frankie neglected to mention that his partaking of cafeteria catholicism includes arguing about what's being served up. Today being the Sunday before election day, he will surely stay after mass, politely wait til all the old ladies have had their chance to greet Father, and then confront the priest alone, quietly yet firmly admonishing him for bringing politics--and the wrong ones at that--into the homily. I sleep in, and Frankie brings home a story and a baguette. I respect his efforts to press for change from within...I just don't like how it delays my breakfast.

  11. It's all about the baguette for you, Scott. Always.

  12. So the Catholic thing has me going. Why does everyone feel compelled to tell you "No!"? I'm with you, makes me want to try it out just to see why we shouldn't. (George wouldn't be surprised, he's spent years watching me blunder through life this way.) The Lutheran churches we visited in Germany don't hold a candle to the Catholics...can breathtaking beauty be all wrong? Maybe a few little issues like Frankie's, and some problems with doctrine here and there. . .Roe v. Wade, infallibility of the Pope,etc.etc. My feeling is we would probably be excommunicated for blasphemy before they really got to know us.

    I'm thoroughly enjoying following the blog, sure hope you keep going now that you're back in the UK.

  13. Thanks, Marilyn. Frank can take you and me to church next time we're out your way. I like the idea of Frank confronting the priest weekly. That makes me feel like there could be a place for me amongst the flock.

  14. All right already. Good grief, I was only expressing a personal opinion, albeit a strong one, and trying to keep Julie in that nice little church in Madison. But hey, what ever floats your boat is fine with me. And Frankie, I will probably not go to mass with you (maybe Pierre will) but you can be my tour guide in NY anytime. Thanks.

  15. You started a firestorm, George. Spirited conversation always welcome on this blog.

  16. OK, I'll weigh in on the Catholic thing too. As you know, Michele & I were raised Catholic, and we still practice. I am Catholic "lite" at this point -- to a strict Catholic, I am probably a heretic, but to be honest, the basic tenets of the faith reside strongly within me. I always say about my religion, so rich with hypocrisy e.g. they say to live in poverty and humility, yet look at all the grandiose collections of art (in the Vatican alone, forget everywhere else! You should see the jewels at Notre Dame in Paris!) that, if sold, could feed the world's hungry 50 times over; not to mention that said art was often created in return for a direct entrance into heaven granted by the residing pope at the time, or in fact created at the demands of the residing pope, instead of living piously as is taught... shall I go on? But I digress (someone get me off of my pulpit) what was I saying? Oh yeah, what I always say about my religion -- it is a divinity run by humanity. My faith has gotten me through some very difficult times in my life, and with each curve ball that life throws at me, my faith actually grows stronger, because I can see how He pulls me through. I talk to God every day, and yes, he does answer. I see signs everywhere - maybe not every day, but frequently. And maybe they are there every day, I'm just not tuned in on that particular day that I think there are none. All in all, though, Julie, if you are happy with your church in Madison, as someone said, stick with it, because in essence I believe we are all praying to the same entity, we have just chosen different forms of belief and different names for this being who gives us hope. The part about wanting to lash out against those who say no, of course is true, just ask any Catholic school girl... speaking from expericence, it just makes you want to do it all the more! You'd think the Catholics would've figured that out by now and changed their approach...
    Oh, and don't get me wrong, I loved touring all the beautiful churches, cathedrals, etc. too, and your pictures are beautiful! OK, 'nuff said.